“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,” writes Matthew Fray in The Atlantic.
Matthew Fray is the author of the book This is How Your Marriage Ends, a book concerned with coaching men on how to avoid divorce by saving their marriage through the little things and treating their wives the right way. Fray himself is a casualty of a broken marriage, prompting this article adaptation of his book called The Marriage Lesson That I Learned Too Late.
Cale took a look at the article on a recent segment of The Cale Clarke Show and talked about the suggestions that prompt men to go the extra mile in showing their love and care in a marriage, not through grand gestures, but through the little things.
Fray began by writing about how, for many years, he believed that marriages only broke down because of what he labeled “major marriage crimes”. What murder, armed robbery, and kidnapping are to the criminal justice system, adultery, physical abuse, and financial frivolity were to a marriage. As long as he didn’t do those things, he believed his marriage could survive. Whenever he and his wife disagreed, he felt like he was being accused of murder when all he did was drive over the speed limit with a broken taillight.
“The reason my marriage fell apart seems absurd when I describe it: My wife left me because sometimes I leave dishes by the sink.”
But it wasn’t about the dishes, was it? No, the dishes were merely the symptom of a growing cancer that Fray, by his own admission, had been oblivious to for years. His wife had tried to communicate in different ways, alluding to the fact that his carelessness was hurtful. But if he was never intending to hurt her, then she shouldn’t feel hurt, right? Wrong.
Fray said it didn’t end with an explosion. Rather, the marriage bled out from 10,000 paper cuts. While he continually failed to show love for his wife in many ways, Fray said that “The Same Fight” that he kept having with his wife revolved around one particular issue: He kept leaving his dirty glass by the sink. He gave two reasons for why he did this: 1. He might want to use it again. 2. He, personally, didn’t mind or care that the glass was next to the sink, and it was virtually impossible to make him care about it. The only thing that could make him change his mind about leaving the glass out was that he loved and respected his wife, and it was something that she really cared about. Unfortunately, Fray didn’t figure that out until she was already gone.
While Fray was fighting for his right to leave that glass there because its presence next to the sink didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, his wife was fighting for respect and the need to feel like he considered her thoughts and opinions when he made decisions. As meaningless as those few seconds of putting the glass in the dishwasher may have seemed to Fray, they were everything to his wife who viewed his stubbornness as yet another symptom of his unappreciation. And if he couldn’t appreciate or respect her, how could there be trust? “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.”
Fray concluded by saying that the dirty glass by the sink could have very well meant nothing to either of them had he shown how much he loved, cared for, appreciated, and would sacrifice for his wife in other ways. But the dirty glass became the scapegoat for all of Fray’s shortcomings as a husband. It was as if there were 50 leaks in the ceiling and his wife was imploring him to patch up the one that was currently dripping water onto her head, but he just stood by, insisting that she wasn’t going to drown.
It’s worth noting that Fray did not approach this discussion from a religious perspective and it goes without saying that marriage issues are no excuse for divorce or adulterous behavior. The Church stands strong in its stance that marriage is a permanent and lifelong union. Arguments do not constitute grounds for a wife to leave her husband, and we pray that all marriages suffering through difficult times experience reconciliation and reunion. However, Fray’s argument for remaining vigilant is important. Complacency in a marriage is dangerous, even if you don’t perceive a “major marriage crime”. As spouses, you want to bring each other to heaven and the best way to do that is to lead one another with and through love, especially when it’s difficult and requires sacrifice, no matter how big, and no matter how small.
Fray shouldn’t have been looking at these requests from his wife as her way of establishing her preferences over his or as an obsessive-compulsive need to have things a certain way. He should’ve viewed them as an opportunity to pave the way to heaven by generating goodwill and charity for the people in his life.
For more conversations like this, tune in to The Cale Clarke Show on weekdays at 5pm CT