“Men don’t take the time to end things. They ignore you until you insist on a declaration of hate.”—Joan Holloway-Harris
“Them’s the consequences.” It’s a line I’ve delivered unsympathetically to guilt-ridden men several times over the years. Men who’d finally and to great, if somewhat burdened, relief pulled the plug on their marriages—some 5, 10, 20, even 40 years in.
Why my lack of sympathy?
Because women were getting exactly what they deserved.
Why were the men guilt-ridden?
Because they’re good men—men of virtue and quality.
Responsible, good-natured, compassionate, industrious, loyal, principled, moral—these particular men are the virtuous sorts women profess to want. They don’t philander, are home by five. They attend little league games, drive mini-vans. They’re affable, agreeable—actually, too affable and agreeable.
And after pulling the plug on their marriages, interestingly, they’re men who suddenly become menaces to society worthy of Child Protective Services raids and supervisory parental visitation.
And this after being exemplary and lauded husbands and fathers for years—decades, even.
But let’s stay on point.
These are quality men. In fact, hold a man auction for single women and place these traits above a particular man on an overhead sign, and a bidding war and catfight will erupt.
Booze should definitely be forbidden at these events.
And these auction men don’t have to look like Hollywood, either. For a shot at all this dreamy and securing male virtue, women will rollback their appearance demands considerably.
In my early years, the fact so many of these quality sorts of my acquaintance couldn’t survive a marriage got my attention. And throughout my life, the trend continued. Seeing so many end up in divorce court, I thought, If these guys can’t make it in marriage, why bother?
Needless to say, “I do” wasn’t on my list of things to do.
Difficult and elusive, I was regular old milk. These guilt-ridden souls I’ve had to encourage on occasion, however, were the proverbial cream. The fact they feel guilt over ending their marriages is proof of their creamy superiority.
Narcissistic jerks don’t feel guilt. Only the good guys feel it. They feel it not only because they’re considerate and responsible, but because they understand and appreciate consequences, as much for themselves as others, namely their women—who they’ve just dumped.
So, why should men care about the consequences for women they’ve just dumped?
Answer: men shouldn’t care. Yet, given the guilt they clearly do care.
Because they’re good men, men of virtue and quality. That they care is yet more proof of their quality, which, sadly, inexplicably, was never acknowledged by their respective women.
So, these good men being the type women desire, and the type women presumably want to hold on to, what caused these men to pull the plug on their marriages?
Well, the exit story is virtually always the same. It’s a collection of things that encourage men to pull the plug. Actually, it’s a collection of small things: lack of attention and isolation, perpetual criticism and accusation (which are actually one and the same), constant acrimony and bickering, sexual tyranny, disrespect, female defensiveness and control and entitlement.
The main reason men pull the plug is the fact nothing ever changes in their favor, despite their attempts to communicate, inform, and to ultimately improve their relationships. And the cumulative effect of all those small things is to men like Chinese torture and its death by a thousand cuts.
Phtt, phtt, phtt—they’re all small cuts, distressing but tolerable … at least for a while.
Eventually, the cuts take their toll. The frustration and resentment slowly, silently builds, and turns into secret defiance and loathing. Until one day—5, 10, 15, and even 40 years later, the feelings manifest. And without warning men pull the pin and pitch a live grenade into women’s laps:
And women are shocked, literally shocked—which is rather surprising, actually.
Women become so comfortable with the way things run relationally, and with their ability to abuse men and to avoid punishment, that they literally convince themselves men are happy and will never leave.
And then, the grenade. And the consequences.
And in fact, justly deserved consequences.
And despite the consequences being just and deserved, men still feel guilty. For which they must be told, “Them’s the consequences,” and consoled and encouraged.
Why must men have their decision to exit validated?
Because they’re good men, men of virtue and quality. Men who have respect for the consequences of their actions, especially as those actions pertain to others—namely the women they’ve dumped. They’re men whose virtue was unappreciated and taken for granted and ignored. They’re men whose patience ran out. Men whose virtues and quality should have been acknowledged to avoid the grenade, and the subsequent waves of shock.
In other words, women should have recognized what they had in these men, appreciated them, and should have both behaved and participated in a relationship as though they were indeed appreciative.
Who like’s consequences? That, of course, depends on the type of consequences.
The fact is people like good consequences, or favorable consequences, and dislike punitive consequences.
In other words, the thief likes all the free stuff he can steal, but doesn’t like getting caught and prison time.
Likewise, women who aren’t paying attention to their men, who are perpetually critical and accusatory of them, who are engaging in sexual tyranny, and who are defensive, controlling, entitled, and disrespectful—they like the favorable arrangement, too. And likewise, they aren’t too keen on the consequences of their actions, either, which is the grenade and:
And deserving as women are of these consequences, are women going to impose them on themselves?
No. No more than the thief is going to march into police headquarters and return all the free stuff and confess his crimes.
So then, who has to deliver the consequences to women?
And there it is: the element responsible for staying, if temporarily, marital execution.
Imposing the consequences, men have to become the bad guys. For pulling the pin and tossing the grenade. For taking action to put an end to the relational inequities, to their captivity and misery, men have to become the assholes—and soon to be menaces to society worthy of Child Protective Services raids and supervisory parental visitation.
And this after being exemplary and lauded husbands and fathers for years—decades, even.
But again, let’s stay on point.
And in fact, precisely for having to impose the consequences and become the assholes, men choose to stay in marriages and endure the abuse and neglect and disrespect for 5, 10, 20, and even 40 years.
Why do they choose to stay? Again, because they’re good men, men of virtue and quality.
This is one of the aspects these virtuous, guilt-ridden men don’t understand, or perhaps don’t realize. Exiting the relationship they have to punish women, which doesn’t at all sit well with men in general, and particularly virtuous men. Hence the guilt after they pitch the grenade and the need for exit validation.
And for the discomfort with this punishment, men will endure a lot, and for a long time. They ignore a lot. They sweep things under the rug. They keep their mouths shut, keep the peace, and endure.
That is, until one day. When they pull the pin and pitch the grenade.
Another aspect men don’t understand, or perhaps don’t realize, is that women listened to their complaints all those many years. They just didn’t hear the complaints. Women dismissed the complaints because they didn’t care. They cared about getting their way, about having things the way they want them, which is the way that maintains their security and comfort.
In other words, there were plenty of opportunities for women to hear, and to adjust, and to help improve the relationship. They just didn’t want to hear, to adjust, or to help improve the relationship.
Why the inaction, the lack of participation?
Other than selfishness and not caring, what other answer is there?
If women cared, they would have heard—which is to mean: taken to heart—what men were saying, and would have taken action. Yet, they chose inaction, because they cared about their comfort, and because they like the control and security which maintained that comfort. Take sex for example.
My friend Rick said, “I complained about sex for 12 years. It finally dawned on me that I’d complained about sex for 12 years, and that nothing had ever changed, or was going to change—like so many other things in our marriage. So, I left.”
Rick’s ex- had set the sexual schedule, which was basically when she wanted it. And she was in control of that arrangement, and thus comfortable with that arrangement.
Consider Rick’s schedule?
Accommodate his desires and appetite?
Why, that isn’t the arrangement. Besides, the days of men dictating and having their way are over.
Thereto, the fact is when men complain about sex, women are immediately put-off. Women feel obligated, as though sex is being demanded of them. So basically, women resist having sex. They resist hearing men’s complaints and requests, too, which, goes on for years, obviously—twelve in Rick’s case. Furthermore, sex becomes unnecessarily weird and awkward and unnatural.
And all because men had to ask for more sex—and had to continually ask, which they should not have had to do, which they nonetheless had to do, which became annoying and off-putting and defiance-worthy, which made sex weird and awkward and unnatural, and not to exclude problematic.
Women like relational control and security, and they care about maintaining their comfort.
That’s the arrangement.
And despite men’s complaints, complaints women listen to but don’t hear and take to heart, the arrangement will be maintained—until the bitter end, which involves a surprise grenade and shock waves.
So given there was ample opportunity for women to hear, to adjust, and to help improve the relationship, the question to men is: why feel guilty over pitching the grenade?
Men like Rick have lived the same, repeating frustrations and misery for years, and the circumstances never changed or improved. Further, there was never any effort to change or improve the circumstances.
In fact, this is what repeatedly happens:
Men grow frustrated with the circumstances—the accusations, the control, the sexual tyranny—and they make a stand. A week-long fight erupts. Faced with the revolt, women dole-out a couple of complimentary, unsolicited blow-jobs so the relationship can get back to running as it does the other eleven months and three weeks of the year, which has them in charge and calling the shots—all the shots, including the sexual shots.
So that men don’t realize things are returning to rest-of-the-year normal, or that nothing has changed, or is going to change, women ease seamlessly back into the dictating role one small, familiar, and comforting step at a time.
Of course, basking in the relieving and satisfying warmth of a few complimentary, unsolicited blowjobs, indeed, men don’t realize a thing. They allow things to return to rest-of-the-year normal, where the accusations continue, the sexual tyranny returns, and where nothing at all has changed.
And this pattern repeats for 5, 10, 20, even 40 years. Until men wake-up one day and realize they’ve been complaining about the same things for 12 years with no results, and pitch a live grenade into the marriage.
And at that point, the relationship is over, really over. It’s the point of no return. A point from which there’s no getting men to return, either.
Calmly, soothingly, and with faux-remorse—men say things like, “I’m just, emotionally spent.”
Of course, this is what men gently say. What they mean is:
“The thought of being with you another day makes me nauseous.”
That’s what men are really thinking. They’re just too considerate, too virtuous, and too gentlemanly to say it. And there’s no rekindling their passion or respect, either. In fact, everything women attempt—begging, tears, guilt projection—repulses men further.
None of it works. It’s ineffective, repulsive.
The fact is, women aren’t going to change in ensuing years and the circumstances improve, which history well proves. Things will remain the same, will remain rest-of-the-year normal, which is what men finally realize at various points in their marriages, a realization that provokes reaching into the rucksack for a grenade.
In other words, women are going to continue in a comfortable arrangement and dare men to do something about their frustration, dissatisfaction, and misery in that arrangement. Women use marriage as leverage, and to avoid doing things they don’t want to do. For the legal and financial consequences facing men and their exit, women essentially dare men to do anything about it.
So as for any consequences being served, the responsibility falls to men. They not only have to be the initiators. They have to endure the resulting emotional and financial and legal BS, too.
So for men, bringing the consequences sucks, which is precisely why they put-up with an unfavorable arrangement for years—decades, even. Until they finally pull the pin and pitch the grenade, an act for which unsuspecting women are completely unprepared.
After ignoring and dismissing men for years, and with a live grenade now in their laps, women are suddenly frozen in shock and ultra-attentive.
Wha, wha—you don’t want to be with me anymore? Why? What’d I do?
And then the tears start, and the pleading. After that, the tactic changes to accusations and blame—the stratagem both implying and employing guilt. Then it’s vengeance, and the Child Protective Services raids and the demands for supervisory parental visitation.
Thereafter, it’s maintaining legal tethers of control and making their men’s lives as miserable as humanly possible. Because, of course, men took the dare and made women’s lives miserable by exiting a frustrating and inequitable arrangement.
And why the consequences?
Because women didn’t want to relinquish a favorable arrangement, and because they refused to hear men, refused to adjust, and refused to help improve the relationship. And at the baseline, they neglected/refused to realize they were in relationships with good, virtuous, quality men.
And that presents the question for women: why? Why is it so difficult to recognize good, virtuous, quality men? Take Rick, for example.
Rick is a solid guy—rock solid. He’s nice looking, too, and a really good salesman who does extremely well. In fact, everyone recognizes Rick’s outstanding quality. Rick’s wife?
Not so much.
Rick’s wife criticized him, which led to an argument. He told her he had friends and customers who thought he was terrific, and that his relationships and sales numbers proved it. And yet, through her constant criticisms, his own wife seemed to think he was a perpetually awful and unworthy human being.
“Can you account for that disparity,” he asked her.
“Well, they don’t have to live with you,” she said.
“Neither do you,” Rick replied, and he started packing his stuff.
“That’d been coming for a long time,” Rick told me. “I can’t say I was planning it, but deep down I had already disconnected. I was going through the motions is all, staying because I was supposed to, because I didn’t relish throwing her to the wolves.”
“Did you still care about her?” I asked.
“I despised her at that point. No desire for her whatsoever,” he added with a nasty frown. “Which is weird, actually, considering she’s all I ever wanted. But, you get tired of all that shit. I didn’t want to mistreat her, but I definitely wanted to get rid of her. And I did.”
And Rick’s a terrific guy. Well-liked by his friends. Respected by his business associates. Yet, looked at constantly as a first-rate asshole by his own wife. And Rick and good men like him are supposed to endure such treatment and hang around “until death do us part?”
The relationship being dead fulfills the obligation.
So, the advice to men is to feel great about their decision to exit a marriage and to deliver the consequences. It takes guts, especially considering the legal and financial and emotional costs.
The fact is women have had plenty of information and opportunity afforded them before the grenade. They just waved it all off in favor of favorable consequences, and in favor of maintaining an arrangement they control, which caters to their desires and comfort.
The virtuous quality of their men? Their stellar reputations? The securing things they bring to the relationship table? Their desires and appetites?
Why, that isn’t part of the calculus. And isn’t the arrangement.
All relationships start out setting the world on fire, and in ensuing years men are blamed for putting the fire out—and for everything else, for that matter. Thereafter, their penance becomes dutifully remaining in a marriage where they’re justly ignored, dismissed, disrespected, and taken for granted.
At least, until the grenade—which is most unnecessary.
Marcy, Rick’s wife, she had to return to work after the divorce. Life became significantly more difficult for her thereafter and, now over 40, the pool of men from which she was able to draw had withered considerably. By every measure she’d had the one of the best men. Yet, arrogantly, selfishly, unwisely, she didn’t hear what Rick was saying. She didn’t appreciate his virtue and quality. She didn’t value him, and she didn’t participate in their relationship as though she did, either.
“I realize now all that Rick did, and all that he was,” she said, surprisingly humbled.
And not only was it all unnecessary. It was too late.
JMWs latest: New Rules: Relationship Logic for the Darkside