In The Rising Podcast

Episode 137: This is How Your Marriage Ends- Matthew Fray Shares Habits that Erode Marriages

April 05, 2022 Bettina M. Brown/ Matthew Fray Episode 137
In The Rising Podcast
Episode 137: This is How Your Marriage Ends- Matthew Fray Shares Habits that Erode Marriages
Show Notes Transcript

Many people want to have fulfilling long-lasting relationships.

Many people get married each year.

Many people get divorced each year as well.

This is a sad fact, and yet, we continue to look for "the one."

But, what if "the one" would stay that way if we knew how to better behave and validate their feelings?

Matthew Fray is my guest today and he shares his insights as a person who has gone through divorce,  become a relationship coach and author.

Two relationship-damaging habits “invisible” to many people are especially harmful because we often don’t notice them or the paper-cut wounds that build up because of them — our tendency to invalidate others’ emotional experiences when we disagree with them; and our frequent failure to consider a partner’s emotional wants and needs when making decisions due to thoughtlessness or forgetfulness.

Learn more about Matthew Fray at his Website:
This is How Your Marriage Ends book @ Amazon.

I invite you to listen!

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Speaker 1:

I wanna validate habitually. I don't wanna accidentally invalidate the experiences of someone else.

Speaker 2:

Hello. Hello, and welcome to in the rising podcast, my name is Betina brown, and this is the platform I've show was to talk about living a life that's in alignment with your hopes, your dreams and your goals. And you know what? One of the main goals for many of us is to have a fulfilling relationship and a fulfilling

Speaker 3:

Marriage. Well, thank you for your time, Matthew, and it's a pleasure to have you on my podcast, but it's also, I'm saying that out of both sides of my mouth, because you're here because you are now kind of a relationship coach you're, you're not kind of, you are, you're a writer because of a traumatic event in your life, right? Yes. And you have just written this book. This is how your marriage ends. You have a blog, but I would like to just start with where came up with the idea of being so verbal. You mentioned it in the book, but I'd like you to, to highlight how you went from I'll just journal to, I'm gonna put this public.

Speaker 1:

The most honest answer is that I felt really like really bad. The, I , I didn't know, a human body could feel as bad as I felt like I'd never had any frame of reference for that level of like pain before. And this was like nine years ago, nearly to the day she , uh, she moved out on April 1st, 2013 . And so the following two, three months I was struggling a lot and I don't wanna make it seem like I have a problem. Not that I'm judgy about people who use substance to feel better, but I was drinking like vodka to like numb. And one night I drank a little bit too much. I called a phone, a therapist via my HR. Department's like benefits policy . Somebody gimme like call this 800 number and I'm talking to her and she's like, you should journal your feelings cuz you're a writer. And I'm like, fine. Okay, I'll do that. And then instead of the private like journaling process that I think is really healthy and that I think people should consider doing, because it's really cathartic is I just put it on the internet. I , I I'd spent my life, my professional life writing for public consumption. So it was like, I'm just gonna do that. But I did it semi anonymously. I was just mad at the time I was just mad and I was just like a blogger. Didn't think it , anybody who's gonna read it. I just launched this WordPress blog out of nowhere. But what I realized as I was sharing these stories, I was starting to get feedback from people who were organically like stumbling on it. And people were saying, wow, this sounds exactly like my relationship. This sounds exactly like the things I think or the things I feel or more often the things my relationship partner says as thinks and feels because it was a lot of women in the relationship space, more so than men interacting with this content at the beginning. And um, I mean, that's really it. And then nine years later, it morphed slowly into, I'm gonna leave my professional life as a writer and corporate marketer. And I'm gonna like be relationship coach guy, and I'm gonna do it in this somewhat unconventional way. Mm-hmm <affirmative> by sharing my personal stories rather than being the, you know, just the person who like listens and offers some sort of like clinical prescriptive feedback. That's not who I am. I'm like, Hey, here's the version in my life. Does this sound like your life? And a lot of people are like, exactly. That's exactly. What's usually meant it's exactly what my wife says to me. And I'm like, okay. So here's what I used to believe and why I thought she was wrong. And I was right. And now here's why I believe I failed my wife in my marriage. <affirmative> it wasn't because I was a bad person or I did bad things. I just eroded her trust in my blind spots over and over again. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and to me, that's the story of, of relationships almost everywhere.

Speaker 3:

Yes. Yes. And, and in your book, you know, you write it in a way that I feel like I could sit on the other side of the table and, and we're just talking, it's not in a clinical manner. You're like, this is my story. And that's how people connect with our pains. Right. And, and you nail so many parts of it. You also talk about security and trust. You talk about Maslow's, you know, triangle of and , and , and what we all need. But where, when did that final, like when did , how did you feel security and trust kind of either fell apart, both ways for you, towards your wife and your wife towards you.

Speaker 1:

You know, it's interesting. I got , uh , like I was on a TV program in the UK yesterday. It's hard, every day is blending together. And I got , somebody wrote me and said, Hey, Matt, is there anything in the book about anxiety and insecurity in the relationship ? And I said, you know what? No, at least not on my side of it. I mean, I touch on it, but that was huge was I spent 18 months in the guest room at the end of my marriage. It was, it was a , a , a dying relationship that like I philosophically wanted to save, but behaviorally was not doing the right things that would've helped to restore trust in the relationship. I didn't even know how to think about it the right way at the time. Um, but I felt extremely anxious and extremely insecure. And for the first time in my life, I, I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. And I didn't, I didn't , I couldn't trust her. I couldn't trust myself. I don't mean I couldn't trust her cuz she wasn't trustworthy. I mean, I couldn't trust her. It felt bad. It was , she didn't do anything. Um, it it's incredible the way we project everything that we think and feel inside us. But to me, the story of relationships are the , the , the primary one. There are certainly traumatic, obvious, horrible things that people endure. And I do not mean to minimize those because they're awful. But I think that like the great majority in like a math way are a bunch of people who mean, well, they're like I'm volunteering to be in this relationship on purpose. I genuinely love my partner and I wanna live with them forever. I really do mean this promise of always to them. But then five years in seven years in 10 years in 15 years in, it feels really bad. And people are like, I don't want to have this be my daily experience for the rest of my life. And I think a lot of people struggle to define why that feeling exists. And it is my belief that we slowly medical , historically speaking paper, cut one another in the relationship until it's bleeding out until it doesn't feel safe anymore. And we don't do it in these big obvious things. I call major marriage crimes way, which are really obvious, like infidelity and physical abuse and just really awful toxic things that everybody universally seems to are awful and toxic. We do it in these nuanced, subtle ways. Our inability to have a conversation that heals something that feels bad for one of the people somebody's like, Hey, I hurt. And it might be something really minor. Like you never like put this dish away that you leave by the sink. And it really upsets me that you don't do it. And I get so hung up and a lot of people so hung up on that dish doesn't matter. Like you were going to elevate that dish to a marriage problem and then like make me out to be a bad guy because of it. And then we get really defensive and we have philosophical debates and it's ridiculous. But to me, the thing we need to do is say something matters to the person I promised to love forever. If they have the , they don't have the ability come to me with that and say, something's wrong, please help me with it. If they never are made whole, when they're in that scenario, of course over the long term , they're gonna not feel safe. They're gonna not trust you in the relationship. And a person's gonna wanna leave. And I get it. But 10 years ago I thought tooth and nail that the dish should be able to sit there and that she shouldn't care about it because it doesn't matter. Yeah. And , uh , it was , it was the wrong, it was the wrong approach.

Speaker 3:

And what, what, what you talk about is in , in your book several times is that you mention, yeah, the , the dish in real life really does not matter, but what it represents to that other person and to be able to distinguish the difference is quite important. And that takes some where you said, put yourself in your partner shoes . You know, if it , if there's that one thing, you know, triggers them, then it is okay to behave in a way that it doesn't even become a trigger for them. It shows kindness and it shows caring in many different ways. And you put that in. I show, I love you by doing this, this, this, it's not just words.

Speaker 1:

The way that I think about it today is that I wanna protect a person that I love that I respect this doesn't have to be relationship partners. It can be children. It can be our best friends. It can be anybody with whom we crave a healthy relationship, the romantic or otherwise. And I , I wanna protect them from feeling bad because of things I do or don't do. And I wanna accept responsibility. What I used to do is I would do stuff. And then if somebody complained about it, it was their problem for being hypersensitive. But now, and, and , and that's fine, you know what, and that's a fine approach. It's, it's not, to me, it's not morally repugnant to do that. I just think the math result, that decision means you'll always have relationships that lack, trust and intimacy and mutual respect, least with your closest people. And I , and I think if we want to choose trust and intimacy and connectivity with our closest people, we just have to make a conscious decision to say, okay, someone experienced what I did as harmful. I didn't mean to, but instead of judging them as weak or crazy or stupid or wrong, I'm gonna say, wow, I care about that person. I would never want them to hurt. So I'm going to seek to understand it. And then moving forward, I'm gonna take some responsibility for not like allowing that same thing to happen again. If it's within my sphere of influence, I'm gonna do something about it. And then when that person sees evidence moving forward, that we're like mitigating the bad experience for them by not doing the thing, or by stepping up and doing something on their behalf, trust, blooms, safety blooms. And then we get security in our relationships. And that's what makes I think relationships thick . And , um, I didn't, I didn't know how to think about it that way. And I think a lot of people don't know how to think about it that way. Not because they're incapable because they it's never been presented to them in that way before.

Speaker 3:

And you talk about ,

Speaker 1:

I'm trying to , trying to present it in that way.

Speaker 3:

You, you definitely hone in like your parents divorced. You didn't, you know, when you were young, that's kind of the story of a lot of us , um, at some point in our lives. Um, and you also talk about this. This is what you said. Maybe I was hypersensitive because of my parents' divorce. Maybe I was worried about what my friends and would think of me for failing at the most important job I had, maybe I was afraid of being alone. Maybe I just missed my wife and son, you know, thinking because as a person of divorce myself, parents, myself, you know, it definitely hit home that this was a failure and that your children observed the, of their family unit. How do you now, or, you know, I don't know how old your son is. How do you approach this subject of relationships with your son now so that he doesn't feel like, oh, this is just expected. We don't like each other. We divorce, you know? Yeah . How do you go about that?

Speaker 1:

You know, it's funny, I'm, I'm a pretty sensitive about discussing specificity with his mother, like where I'm not trying to like rehash that so much, but it , but he gets it and he's , he's 13. He's well aware of the work I do now, him and he's, he gets it. He understands fundamentally that my work's based on my regrets, that my marriage to his mother didn't last. And in real time , I'm trying to educate him on lessons and empathy and compassion and mindfulness. Uh, when I see things that pop up, there's a lot of conversations about racism, about sexism , uh, jokes in movies. Um, even that, like , we, I don't know if you remember the movie, the sand lot . There's a joke where a kid insults another kid by saying he plays ball like a girl. And I remember specifically pausing it after that. And we'd both laughed, cuz it's like funny in the scene, but I wanted him to understand. I'm like, I need you to understand why that is a dangerous thing to like, at least be aware of the offensiveness 50% of human beings on this planet feel when this idea of doing something like them is somehow bad or worthy of mocking or judging or making fun of. Right. And that applies to race that applies to sexual orientation. Everybody gets to have their opinions about all of these things. I don't, I'm not trying to be like on my moral high horse here. I just think there's real value in giving like caring about, I was gonna say something profane it , we should care about other people. And I just, I really believe that strongly. And I always thought that I did, but then I didn't take any responsibility for how they experienced me. And I'm trying to give my son like the gift of being aware, regardless of how like kind he is and how he is a good kid. He's grit . He really is a good kid, but that doesn't mean he's not a threat. In fact, he drives me nuts. He's in considerate of me constantly. And if he brings that into his future adult relationships, it's gonna be a problem. And so we have those conversations and I'm, I am proud of it, but in terms of like getting specific about his mom and I, the I can do is like love in a nonromantic way and respect her as a co-parent. And I'm really proud of the, I'm really proud of the growth in those nine years. There's a lot, I think, of trust and respect there between she and I, in a way that 10 years ago it was a train wreck , you know?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Yeah. And I, I, I also appreciate the way you said that because , um, I , I get along with my son's father because I can see him as someone else as my , besides my ex-husband right. I can see him as a person who's providing for his son, his new family. And I will always be a part of that. And so it's nice to see that I can now appreciate him as a human being where in marriage we maybe did not. So I think there's also that blessing in that not every divorce has to be where one side always hates the other side and there's this all adamant because at the same time that hurts our children. And so with your book, your blogs, you're talking about growth to actually talk to someone else for what they would represent to your children, not necessarily what they were in your life.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I , uh , hope I don't, I don't spend an enormous amount of time discussing post divorce co-parenting in the book, certainly, but, but every lesson I've learned very organically, like feeds that role in my life that I want, because in my coaching work, I focus on two , you know , we're gonna have time to get into either of them. But I , I think as you know, my , my core habits I focus on are I wanna validate habitually. I, I don't wanna accidentally invalidate the experiences of someone else. I don't wanna communicate that. Everything I think and feel matters more to me than everything you think and feel. And it's always gonna be this way because that ends relationships over time. But I did that in my marriage. I was an invalid and then I wanna be considerate. And what I mean by consider it isn't like polite. I mean sort of, I guess, but I wanna make sure I'm always, always vigilantly, including someone I care about in my decision making process. A perfect example is today I've got nonstop interviews today, nonstop as we're talking here and I texted, and I apologize for waiting until this morning to do it. I'm like, I'm so sorry, but I'm not gonna be available until like, you know, 4:00 PM this afternoon. And I'm like, I should have told you like two or three days ago, just in case something came up. And that's the difference between me today and me 10 years ago is it wouldn't even occur to me. Wouldn't even have occurred to me to be thoughtful about like, how she might experience it . Cause what if something came up with her son today and she like needed me to do something, to pick him up or to do whatever and all the , and I'm just I'm radio silent for the whole day. Like that would be awful for her. And it would be awful for my son potentially. And like that's, the work is learning how to like mindfully care for someone else and, and , and , and , and predict, or at least guess what their experience might be based on what you're doing or saying, and then care enough to like, mitigate anything that could be negative or painful for them. And I don't know if that sounds like ridiculous to people or to you, but like, that's how I think about it. And I still mess up, like I said, I waited till this morning to send that text, but she was really, really cool about it. Fortunately. Um, and I don't know, that's the difference between 10 years ago, me and today, me.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. And that's that's growth and in growth, you're a great , um, your son, your family gets to see that and you have influence on other people , um, on other people, reading your book, your blogs, et cetera . And now what would you say would be one habit that you feel would make a , a great change from the majority of the people that you, you hear fee giving you feedback on what you're writing? What is one habit that we are doing maybe incorrectly? And one thing that we can just be more aware of mindful. Yeah . Like you mentioned ,

Speaker 1:

Um, I wanna be , I don't like to stereotype <affirmative> and I don't like people to feel like judged or, or left out or picked on or anything. But I think men respectfully, respectfully, I think men are a little bit more guilty of this than women. Not like by virtue of being men, but just as a matter of fact, if we lined up every person on earth, I think men would do this more often than women is what I mean. I think men have a nasty habit. I sort of referenced this already of inadvertently. And I do mean that inadvertently invalidating the lived experience of the romantic partners, when the romantic partner comes and says, Hey, this thing's happening and it hurts me, or you did this. And it hurts me. I believe we respond in one of three ways. We disagree that, that what they think happened happened, and we try to correct it. Like, that's not what happened. This is what happened. Your feelings are wrong because it didn't happen the way you said. The second way we invalidate is we say, okay, that happened, but why are you making such a big deal out of it? Mm-hmm <affirmative> like, you're definitely overreacting to, of this minor thing. You should feel about it. The way I feel about it. That's version two and version three's defensiveness, Matt, you did this. It hurt me. And I'm like, wait a minute. If you understand, like what I believed or what I was trying to do, then you won't be mad and you won't hurt. Like, feel hurt anymore. None of those are evil things. But what they do is they invalidate the lived experience of the other person. And then they don't get to trust us anymore 10 years from now because they know if something's wrong. And they come to us to try to recruit us to help 'em with it. We're gonna choose our beliefs and our feelings over theirs. To me, that's the low hanging fruit habit that men, but all people can bring to their relationships that really, really can like change the tide in the context of the amount of trust that exists between two people, somebody needs to feel safe coming to you and saying, something's wrong. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and trusting that some form of like repairs gonna occur. And the truth is my wife could not trust me. She couldn't. And I, but it didn't know how to think about it that way. And I think most people, men specifically to be fair, don't know how to think about it that way, because I don't think they've ever had it presented to them that way. I don't think anybody's ever said, Hey, does this, like, do you understand why somebody would feel so bad? If every time they hurt you implied they shouldn't for life. And then they should just subject themselves to the at for forever. I think that when presented that way, the vast majority of people who love their partner will say, oh my gosh, when you put it that way, and that's what I'm trying to do, I'm trying to put it that way so that people can learn how to see how we accidentally hurt the people that we care about. Cuz our disagreements are honest, but we need to become mindful of how they experience the disagreement. And then in a subtle way, demonstrate, love and care for someone else we just have to, or we eventually don't get to have a good relationship with them anymore or, or one at all

Speaker 3:

Or one at all. And so there are consequences to not being mindful. And if this is a goal, a great relationship, then it is, it is not just, oh , I'm , I'm a status. It is work putting into that.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for saying it that way, because I think not having a, relationship's a choice. And I think people that don't agree with, like what we're talking about right now are free to not have relationships. That's fine. But if you want one, to me, the , if you don't do this work, I'm , I'm not like trying to predict doom and gloom, but I absolutely believe you'll never have as fulfilling a relationship or as fulfilling a life as you could otherwise have by doing like this invisible quote unquote work and relationships.

Speaker 3:

And sadly, the statistics validate your last statement. So <laugh>, that's just the marriage. That's not the breakups before or after.

Speaker 1:

That's right.

Speaker 3:

Um, how can people learn more about you connect with you , um, what the work you're doing, et cetera .

Speaker 1:

Thank you. My home on the internet is Matthew fray.com . That's Matthew with two Ts and, and then , you know , they're links to all the socials and stuff there. And then the book, if anybody's interested, be super flattered. If anybody wanted to check that out , um, that's it. I can be found there. And if , if , if the things that we just got done talking about have like, if it sounds like what's going on in your life, I would encourage you to , um , I hope people do

Speaker 2:

So thank you so much for listening to this podcast. And I hope it was powerful for you. And if you feel that this was beneficial for you or, you know, someone who needs to listen to this podcast, I would encourage you to share it and also leave a five star review. It does so much to put this podcast, this episode into the hands and years of those, that it can make a difference and check out Matthew free website, learn more about this, and I wish you all the best and let's keep building one another .