Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Requiem for a Modern Marriage

Matthew Fray’s marriage fell apart. His wife left him. She did not leave him for another man. She did not leave him because he had cheated on her or had gambled away the family fortune. No, she left him because he failed to put a dirty glass in the dishwasher.

One is reminded of a line from Shakespeare: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.” 

So, he pontificates on his lost marriage in the Atlantic, as he had done in The Daily Mail, and concludes that he failed because he did not appreciate that little things matter, and, bye the bye, that he lacked empathy. 

In other words, he was a bad husband because he had not gotten in touch with his feminine side. Now he feels guilty about it.

One gleans, because it is not overly clear in the articles, that his wife was the primary breadwinner in the family, and that she was also the mother to a toddler. One understands that the situation was unstable, because role reversals are generally unstable, and one does not know whether his wife would have been less cranky about the glass he did not put in the dishwasher if he had been earning a good living and could afford to hire someone to deal with kitchen chores.

One notes, with some regret, that, in the two articles I have read, young Matthew Fray does not once uses the word feminism. You can tell that he has been completely whipped and is now full of guilt for his sexism. It makes him look and sound pathetic, and it also makes his analysis of the situation feel rather lame.

He is perhaps too young to recall the time in our not-so-recent cultural history when feminists decided that women should make their kitchens into war zones, that they should turn their marriages into battlegrounds where they rebelled against the oppressive powers of the patriarchy.

This is what Fray’s wife was enacting, whether she knew it or not. Apparently, he did not know it, but clearly feminism cost him his marriage. Or, at least, whatever version his wife had contracted in Women’s Studies. 

So, while we all consider that putting a glass in the dishwasher is a minor inconvenience, one is also obliged to note that to the suitably indoctrinated feminist mind, it is an oppressive action, designed to consign one’s wife to enslavement.

As for the warped logic that dooms this effort to live one’s life according to feminist ideology, one remarks that if the issue is so important to said wife, that can only mean that she has a special relationship to her kitchen. She is asserting ownership over a space that feels like hers. And this implies, like it or not, that she is asserting her authority by forcing her husband to do something that he does not want to do and does not feel in any way inclined to do. She is treating him like a child, and he refuses to play along.

That she destroyed a marriage over such an issue does not, incidentally, speak very well of her. One can only make sense of it by thinking that she is performing an ideologically correct action, rebelling against patriarch male privilege. You think it's trivial. I think it's trivial. Fray thought it was trivial. But, to the feminist mind, it is cataclysmic, a good reason to destroy a family.

Sadly, Fray himself seems to believe that she could not have done other than she did.

None of these thoughts enter Fray’s account, but, in fairness we should examine his thinking.

Here is his opening, from The Atlantic:

The things that destroy love and marriage often disguise themselves as unimportant. Many dangerous things neither appear nor feel dangerous as they’re happening. They’re not bombs and gunshots. They’re pinpricks. They’re paper cuts. And that is the danger. When we don’t recognize something as threatening, then we’re not on guard. These tiny wounds start to bleed, and the bleed-out is so gradual that many of us don’t recognize the threat until it’s too late to stop it.

Now, he had always thought that marriages end because one or another spouse committed a serious infraction of the rules. Fray does not recognize that, by the terms of feminist ideology, he had committed a major infraction of the new rules:

I spent most of my life believing that what ended marriages were behaviors I classify as Major Marriage Crimes. If murder, rape, and armed robbery are major crimes in the criminal-justice system, I viewed sexual affairs, physical spousal abuse, and gambling away the family savings as major crimes in marriage.

Being a good woke American male, Fray blames himself, and flagellates himself and feels really badly for his lack of empathy:

The reason my marriage fell apart seems absurd when I describe it: My wife left me because sometimes I leave dishes by the sink.

It makes her seem ridiculous and makes me seem like a victim of unfair expectations. But it wasn’t the dishes, not really—it was what they represented.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of times, my wife tried to communicate that something was wrong. That something hurt. But that doesn’t make sense, I thought. I’m not trying to hurt her; therefore, she shouldn’t feel hurt.

We didn’t go down in a fiery explosion. We bled out from 10,000 paper cuts. Quietly. Slowly.

She knew that something was wrong. I insisted that everything was fine. This is how my marriage ended. It could be how yours ends too.

Again, he never affixes any blame to his wife. Besides, since the question involves how he was not very good at being a housewife, we will surmise that the real problem was that he was not very good at being a breadwinner. Naturally, we are not allowed to say this, so Fray regales us with his guilt.

Each time my wife entered the kitchen to discover the glass I’d left next to the sink, she moved incrementally closer to moving out and ending our marriage. I just didn’t know it yet.

As for what he really feels-- I am sure you are dying to know-- here he states them:

I, personally, don’t care if a glass is sitting by the sink unless guests are visiting. I will never care. Ever. It’s impossible. It’s like asking me to make myself interested in crocheting or to enjoy yard work.

And he also has these feelings:

You want to take an otherwise peaceful evening and have an argument with me over this glass? After all the big things I do to make our life possible—things I never hear a thank-you for (which I don’t ask for)—you’re going to elevate a glass by the sink into a marriage problem? I couldn’t be that petty if I tried. If you want that glass in the dishwasher, put it in there yourself without telling me about it. Otherwise, I’ll put it away when people are coming over, or when I’m done with it. This is a bullshit fight that feels unfair.

Of course, he is not really allowed to feel these feelings. He must blame himself for being inconsiderate:

It was about consideration. About the pervasive sense that she was married to someone who did not respect nor appreciate her. And if I didn’t respect or appreciate her, then I didn’t love her in a manner that felt trustworthy. She couldn’t count on the adult who had promised to love her forever because none of this dish-by-the-sink business felt anything like being loved.

These are the correct feelings, imbued, one suspects by an ever-so-empathetic therapist. But then, Fray lets slip what he really feels about his wife-- that she was an insufferable nag who was insisting on getting her way. Naturally, therapy has relieved him of said thoughts, but still, they count as one of the precious few moments in his confession when he sounds real:

My wife didn’t flip shit over a dish by the sink because she’s some insufferable nag who had to have her way all the time. My wife communicated pain and frustration over the frequent reminders she encountered that told her over and over and over again just how little she was considered when I made decisions.

Anyway, Fray’s guilt tripping extended even to the Daily Mail. Where else? There he shares the lessons he learned from living with an insufferable nag. The real lesson was that he lacked empathy, that he was insufficiently feminine:

The reason we can’t see this is because far too many of us lack the number one ingredient for a lasting marriage.

We lack empathy.

I didn’t realise my wife was moving incrementally closer to ending our marriage every time she saw that glass, because I stubbornly refused to look at the world from where she stood.

At root, I didn’t value her feelings. On the contrary, I treated them as silly, ‘girly’, an inconvenience. On autopilot, as a matter of habit, I defended my point of view and effectively called hers wrong, overemotional or crazy.

Empathy is certainly not the number one ingredient for a successful marriage. Clearly defined roles are more important than feeling someone’s feelings, but that is for another day. Besides, his wife was angry at him. Wouldn’t empathy have taught him to feel her anger?

And besides, he refused to allow her to push him around. One does understand that this is a losing game. If he had been thoroughly empathetic, she would have disrespected him and would have found him unmanly.

Anyway, Fray concludes that he was sexist-- the horror of it all:

What she wanted was for me to apply all my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our household. In the back of my mind, the thought was always there: I’m a man. She’s a woman. She’s good at this stuff, I’m not. Therefore she can handle it and I should stay out of her way.

But that’s just sexism. I was perfectly capable of doing many of the things I abandoned my wife to do alone. Blind to how mentally and emotionally frazzled she was, I effectively checked out of the marriage.

And then, Fray blames all men for his wife’s insufferable nagging.

And it’s my firm belief that male behaviour is mostly responsible for the current crisis in the divorce figures. Divorce is a problem of men’s making.

It must feel very manly to take all of the blame, but, truth be told, marriages have been failing across America ever since feminists decided to make the kitchen into a war zone. Why not give these strong and empowered women credit for the mess they have made, and which they want someone else to clean up.


Anonymous said...

She was probably eyeing the neighbor's stallion. White yentas are into that.

jmod46 said...

It seems neither partner was sufficiently mature enough to make this marriage work. Otherwise a dirty glass would not have been a deal-breaker.

Walt said...

It’s never about the glass in the sink or the uncapped toothpaste or the board left up, it’s always about everything, though in this case, not what the guy thinks the “everything” is. (And the cure for those things is, “Darlin’, I know this is really petty but it just drives me nuts so would you please put the fucking glasses in the washer?” ) Sounds to me, unread, as though it’s about the discomfort of role reversal—her discomfort as much as his. She doesn’t like being (or having to be) the big breadwinner; that’s what the man’s supposed to be, and she doesn’t know how to carry it off. Being it threatens her femininity and simultaneously makes her contemptuous of him. And he’s similarly threatened by her occupying the traditionally masculine role and rebels at the expectation that he should be taking the feminine one. Glasses in sinks will never in this world be a masculine concern, Oscar and Felix aside.

IamDevo said...

I am torn between laughing at this schmuck's astronomical level of denial, rising to the rankest self-delusion and crying at the state of the world he occupies and of which he is the apotheosis. That he took to the pages of not one, but two outlets in which to expose his shame reveals his utter lack of masculine virtue.

RNB said...

So every time he left a dirty glass by the sink, the road to "That's it!" and divorce ratcheted forward an inch. No forgiveness. No redemption. No reconsideration. Just grind-grind-grind.
Friend of mine was married to a very unpleasant woman. One day, he came home from work to find she had packed up all her 'stuff' (and some of his 'stuff') and moved out, no forwarding address. In the seat of the recliner (too heavy for her to move, I guess) was a notebook listing EVERY SIN, ANNOYANCE, AND SHORTCOMING HE HAD EVER COMMITTED AGAINST HER!
A couple of years later, my wife and I attended the wedding of this friend to another woman, also a friend. (And a lawyer.) They had two sons (now grown), bought a house, and built a life together with all the joys and agonies inhering in that.
A few years after her sudden departure, the ex-wife figured out that her ex-husband was not the source of all her unhappiness.

Anonymous said...

That guy got the win when she walked out.

markedup2 said...

I think you may be reading too much into this. The crazy be strong with these two. Who gets divorced over dirty dishes in the sink, let alone one glass?!? After the first argument, buy a package of plastic cups and just throw the stupid thing away after you've used it. Marriage saved! Better living through plastic! Buy more glasses so you can have one drink, toss it in the dishwasher, and get another one - ten times per day.

If it had been me, my response would have been, "fine, I'll stop pouring the beer into a glass, first."

There was much, much more going on here about which we have not been told.

BTW: Yard work does suck - and way, way more than opening a door and putting a glass on a shelf for the automagic machine to wash it later.

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