Jan. 24, 2023

Matthew Fray, Relationship Coach shares his story on how to make your relationship last.


Matthew Fray is a relationship coach and author who leans on the lessons of his failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes he did. His book "This is How Your Marriage Ends" (HarperOne) went on sale in March 2022 in both North America and the United Kingdom. Fray has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Sunday Times (London), on ABC's Tamron Hall Show, and several other places. You can learn more about him and his work at matthewfray.com.

In this episode we discuss:
-Three ways we invalidate our partner in relationships.
-What happens when we don't express our needs and vulnerability to our partner
-The importance of trust in a relationship and how "Paper cuts" can create distrust over time
- Intentions do not equal experience
- How men and women want the same things and why this is a good thing
-Why good people can ruin relationships
- Why leaving a cup by the kitchen sink resulted in Matt's failed marriage and what it could mean for yours too

Connect with Matt here: https://matthewfray.com

Donate to the podcast here: https://www.thebrightsideoflifepodcast.com/support/

https://www.thebrightsideoflifepodcast.com/

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Transcript
Matthew Fray:

People can hurt really bad, even if you don't try to hurt them. Even if you don't understand why they're, if you can just take accountability for it, and help, like eliminate, like the pain that they're experiencing, I don't know, range change everything.

Melissa Bright:

Welcome to The Bright Side of Life, a podcast where people share their personal stories of struggles, pain and grief. But through all of that, they are still able to find the joys in life. Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the bright side of life. You know me, probably I am your host, Melissa bright, but if not, this is your first time joining us. Welcome. Thank you so much for choosing this podcast. Or if this is your 100th time, thank you for coming back. I greatly appreciate that. On that note, I wanted to mention something I know in previous episodes that I have mentioned, ways that you can help support the podcast via donations either if that is through PayPal, or if that is through a fun way, which is called buy me a coffee, which is just another way to do donations. It's just an increments, but they call it buying me a coffee. Well, I am at that point that I'm going to get a little bit vulnerable. And I'm going to be honest, this podcast takes a lot of woman hours, if you will to put together not only finding the guests and coming up with the questions, editing, those sorts of things, social media things pulling sound bites, making video things, all of that, on top of the monthly costs that it costs to do a podcast episode from the hosting websites to the email, the email company that you use to send out emails to editing software to design apps, you get it, it adds up. And I am basically asking you guys that if you if you have ever found value and have either been inspired or this, this podcast has helped you in way, in any way, I am asking for you to consider making a donation. And that can be done a one of two ways. And it's going to be in the show notes. This link right here dropped in the show notes. And you can either do that via PayPal really straightforward. Or there's another way that's called buy me a coffee. And that's just another way of showing a donation. But it's a fun way of oh, you buy one coffee, and that's an increment of five or you can buy up to three. And usually creators will sometimes set a goal to say Oh, I'm, you know, gonna get a new microphone, and I'm setting a goal of $200 or so on and so forth. So while I'm not setting a goal, because I have my equipment that I like, I guess I am setting a goal of helping to donate to some of these monthly costs that are forever and ongoing and have been forever and ongoing for two years. And it's really awkward and weird to ask for support from your creators, because you are from your, from your fans from your listeners, you don't really know how to do it and you don't want to seem I don't even know how to put it but at the same time, I do know how many hours have went into this podcast and how much it continues to do. And of course, who would not want to be compensated for their their effort efforts. So I hope that is okay to ask. It would greatly mean a lot to me for your support. And that just basically, to me, shows that you do find value in this podcast and it does help you in some way. So if you guys would like to donate. Thank you very, very much. And you can do that, like I said, by going to the show notes of this episode and there was a link that will be right next to it'll just say donate here. Otherwise, if you know my website, the bright side of life podcast.com It is also on there. Okay guys, let's get to today's episode. You are in for a treat because we are talking about the lovely fun conversation of relationships. today. I have Matthew Frey and he is a relationship coach and author who leans on the lessons of his unfortunate failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes that he did his book, this is how your marriage ends. Just came out last March. So we're going to be talking a lot about those components and everything that we can learn about relationships and about an hour. Matthew, do you go by Matt or Matthew? What are you made a call you,

Matthew Fray:

you know, it's like, I'm really comfortable with either. Okay, I would say most people and like my inner circle call me, Matt. But and like this application most people say Matthew just because it's okay. Yeah, but

Melissa Bright:

I know it's so formal. And I previously have already interviewed Matthew, For the best year of your life Summit. And that said, Matthew on there and I was like, feel like we're Matt and Mel now at this point. If that's cool with you, it is perfect. Okay, Matt, we're gonna start at the very beginning, I want you to tell me a little bit or a lot a bit of kind of about your story and how you came to be married to divorce to relationship coach.

Matthew Fray:

I think the, the, the fairest, most contextual way to do it is to say that when I was four, my parents split, and this would have been 1883 ish, in Iowa, of all places, not terribly far from you, and I'll think a little bit north. And in 1983, you could get a divorce and take a child like away from, like, where they live. That wasn't weird, then we're now I'm not sure very many judges are gonna, like sign off on that. But what my mom, my mother was out there for college, and my father got married, you know, I came along. And then after, like her, you know, personal life out there fell apart, she wanted to return to Ohio, where she was originally from, and you know, where she had support and safety. And I totally get that, like, she was young, you know, they were babies, they were in their early 20s, when they got married, things like that were happening more frequently back in the late 70s, and 80s. And, anyway, so I lived 500 miles apart the moral of the story from one of my parents at any given time. And that was like my first really uncomfortable set of life circumstances, because it was really difficult to wave goodbye to one of my parents for a really significant amount of time, with all due loving respect to my mother was particularly hard for to wade by to dad, because I understood like the time deficit of not seeing him, but that felt like the thing that I didn't get to have that I really wanted all the time. Anyway, so that stuck with me, you know, age four on. And one of the beliefs that I had was this notion that Well, I don't exactly know what's going to happen someday. But I'm really confident, I'm not going to get divorced, I'm going to do everything I possibly can to avoid divorce, because I have a real sense of like, the consequences of that. And that was with me, just my entire life. And then so fast forward to college, I met my girlfriend, when we were at the time when you know, when we were freshmen, we didn't like really become like a romantic couple. for another four years, we were just people who knew each other and, you know, interacted and had mutual friends and things like that. But we got together, you know, when we were about 21 or so. And one thing led to another, we moved to Florida together, we got engaged, you know, a few years later, we were married a year after that. And then you know, before you know it, you're in what is supposed to be domestic bliss. But then you sort of like learned the hard way, that when you share a life with someone, there are all these things that you didn't understand were things right, when you're when you're a child, when you're a teenager, when you're in your early 20s. You have no idea that seemingly inconsequential at the time, at least to me conversations about, I don't know dinner plans, things like that could cause so much. I don't know sort of stress and strain in a relationship. I did not navigate those things. Well, anything that I deemed unworthy of like, fighting about anything I thought wasn't very important. Anything that I wouldn't get mad at her about is kind of was maybe my litmus test was like, why is this such a thing for you? And, you know, I was a serial serial and validator I deserve zero sympathy from anybody who's been on the receiving end of not being able to be heard from the person who promised to like love and honor them forever. And but I didn't honestly know, right? I thought I was disagreeing. I didn't have a frame of reference for how damaging to trust and relationships. This was not at the time. My marriage imploded, she left April 1 2013. It's a real easy date to remember. And I've been sort of working on this ever since that was like a really difficult it's like the darkest time in my life. I felt extremely, like miserable and like alone ish. And I don't know, I'd never experienced like internal pain before. And the beautiful part about experiencing internal pain for the first time is it gives you calm context for how other humans how they like carry around pain inside them. And if you've been like this privileged nothing super bad has really ever happened to you again outside of the discomfort of my parents splitting when I was four nothing bad ever happened to me near as I can tell brand nothing of major consequence I don't think and man the when you have like a charmed predominantly problem free existence you like learn this like really difficult lesson. Anyway, I opened my eyes to this notion of people can carry pain around on the inside. And I began to ask the question, is this the kind of thing she felt when she was crying in the kitchen? Or crying on the living room sofa? And and was talking about just how angry and how sad and how afraid she was? Because I wasn't getting it? You know, I don't know, we've all I think virtually everybody listening to this will have some context from their personal life of a conversation that it's like, how are we even here? Right, what's raised voices and, you know, fight or flight going on? over something that if you said it out loud, you know, like a year earlier, you're gonna have like a really huge fight about this thing. Everybody be like, No, we're not. Yeah, but but we all sort of do in our in our own way. And anyway, I mean, that's really the story. I suffered. And it opened my eyes to this isn't okay. I mean, it's actually kind of pathetic. It's like, it took me hurting enough to like, do the work of understanding like how I got myself here. And then it's morphed into something less selfish over time. Because I'm like, Wow, I feel like I really learned this. I'd like to help others learn this, too.

Melissa Bright:

Yeah. Okay. I have about 80,000 questions, since you've explained it that way now, but I won't. When she and I know this is going to be hard, because there were probably several different fights, little fights about things. But when she was explaining these to you, was she explaining those exact words like you, you make me angry, or the way you respond to me makes me sad, or you make me feel invalidated. Because some people can't. aren't even that aware that that's happening, like they don't even know that they're being invalidated. They could just say, Matt, you're such an asshole that you did this small thing, but they don't realize that it's even deeper. So was she helping bring that awareness? I guess?

Matthew Fray:

I don't think she used toxic language. But the way that I've always said it is her methodology did not result in me understanding. Well, she shouldn't be angry. I'm going to be I think a lot of that was like my own my own biases and filters. I don't like when people are angry with me, right? I don't like feeling blamed for things that I don't think this happens all the time. Like, you know, we think we're nice. We don't think we do bad things we don't like being on the receiving end of you know, it feels like unjust judgment or criticism, or punishment. Yes. And again, the common refrain of people on sort of my side of the relationship equation that I encounter, which are predominantly men, you know, like, 95, out of 100 times, it's going to be, like, the male in a male female relationship, like saying these things. And, and the thinking seems to be and I defend them a little bit. I don't mean to justify it. I mean, to say, I understand how they arrived with the conclusions they did, because it was the same for me. It was like, I love this person. I genuinely love them. I want to be with them. I, I said, of all the people I could ever be with, I chose you. You have everything I have is yours. And there's just nothing I wouldn't do for you in the context, right? There's obviously a lot of stuff. But that's how like we think about it. Yeah. Like I will like work to create any opportunity I can possibly create for you. I don't know like it. And I think like the thing that really hurts the average guy or person in this scenario, is the notion that when similar things happen on your side of the equation, I spare you anger and frustration and criticism and suggestions that that you failed somehow. I don't I don't know that this is always true. But

Melissa Bright:

why is that? No, it's true. And it's true in my scenario, why why do you do that?

Matthew Fray:

I mean, I think it's some sort of like misguided hero complex, like I'm gonna be like the valiant shivers, chivalrous person who like rises up and doesn't allow some seemingly small thing to to become, you know, like a thing that I'm going to But you know, what's what's actually true is often these little things are bothering the man or the, the, the more stoic member of the couple, and they're just holding it in. There's sort of like this, like, subtle dishonesty to it. It's, it's well intended. It's like, I don't want to cause conflict, I don't want to cause a fight. But when we don't express honest, vulnerable, authentic need in relationships, we are depriving our partner of knowing something about us that they probably want to understand.

Melissa Bright:

Did you use that ever as a as a one up or as to get back to her in terms of like, I don't bring up anytime you leave your freakin plate on the thing. Why are you doing it to me?

Matthew Fray:

Yeah. Okay. Yeah, yes, absolutely. That was like, to me, that was like the trump card. That was that that was what made what she was doing to me. Unfair while I was playing the victim of, you know, like my Angry Wife who doesn't know how to measure things that are important versus things that are unimportant. That was the really unhealthy, dysfunctional way that I thought about it 1015 years ago,

Melissa Bright:

okay. When you, I really, really liked your how, when you were in pain, like how you were baby, basically able to empathize with your wife. Finally, what were some other things that you did to learn to come to these realizations to? I mean, you're now a relationship coach, like, you can tell me anything that you did, because I am such a big person on self reflection, as you know, I just got out of a relationship, not even three months ago, and I'm like self reflecting, playing things back wanting to learn to improve, you know, whatever. So what were some of like, the biggest things aha moments that you did to really learn that. If, if I could have known this, then I could have probably saved my marriage. And I know, that's a loaded ask question. But I'm asking it anyway.

Matthew Fray:

It really is. But I mean, it's kind of really, it's got a really easy low hanging fruit answer for me, got in June or July, I think it was late June of this 2013. The year that so my wife at the time moved out April 1 2013. By by late June, I tell the story in the book, I got a little tipsy. I was I was self medicating with liquor just to like, get through the lonely evenings. Yep. And my HR department had handed me I'm like, I'm freaking out. Like, I was just, I don't know, talking to one of the HR people, like here, like, give me this card. And there's like, here's some, like, here's, we have this like therapy thing you can call a therapist and have a conversation with them. And I've never spoken to a therapist before, not as an individual. I had, we had attended a couple like two or three marriage counseling sessions. Yeah, they didn't go well. For all the obvious reasons. Yeah. When you're not having the same conversation, and bringing a third party in isn't useful. You don't even even when you don't have shared language. Yeah. And, again, thing I learned the hard way. But anyway, so I call this lady one night. And then the quick version is she's like, Hey, you're a writer, you should be writing this stuff. And so it kind of rolled my eyes at the advice, because she meant like journal, like an adult, which I've really come to understand is a valuable practice, even though I don't do it because I lacked discipline in various areas of life, you know, like, time management and things like that. But but like the idea of it really appeals to me once like I understood the, I don't know, just like the anchor it provides. Yeah, but I started a blog. I'm like, I know what I'll do, I'll put it on the internet. And so I start sort of like journaling. And the idea was, I'm going to share all of these sort of like self deprecating, borderline dysfunctional stories about like, the new through, I guess it was 33 or 34. At the time, you know, trying to figure out like post divorce dating and what to do and all of this. And I don't know, maybe I wrote maybe like, seven to 10 blog posts that sort of had that tone. And then just something flipped, and they decided to start taking it seriously. I think it was when people were in the comments saying, hey, this sounds like my life. This kind of thing happened to me. And I'm like, Whoa, like, if strangers are gonna pay attention to me, I feel something of a moral responsibility to not add more like white noise to the universe. That doesn't matter. Right? Like, how can I provide value like, How can I do something that matters? So it's like, why don't I go ahead and document like this sort of journey of self discovery that I'm on the search For answers as to how I went from this really happy, positive person who have never had, it just didn't have any bad relationships, at least that I was aware of. I probably did. But that was right through this like prism of like not knowing how my actions and certainly negatively affected other people. Yeah. Anyway, I just, I arrived at a lot of conclusions. Anyway, I think that the the most efficient answer is blog readers, hundreds 1000s of strangers. Providing feedback to blog posts that had written resulted in challenging the way that I was thinking and feeling about things resulted in shared life experiences that helped me gain insight that led me to thought leaders and book authors and speakers that I'd never encountered before. And you add all that up over three, four or five years? I don't know you just evolve.

Melissa Bright:

You absolutely do that. We don't have a similar story in terms of like, I didn't blog. What once I started my podcast was simultaneously like the same week or two that I started therapy to deal with my mom's death that had happened 10 years prior. And then on top of that, I started interviewing, just different people. But then I started interviewing mental health experts. So stuff that I would start. I mean, I've had over 100, and something. Speakers now interview people, and that's how I've learned, like so much, you know, from people just like yourself. So I think it's incredible. I also want to ask I, you said it, but I just want to make sure. You said self deprecating, which is like, you're basically talking shit on yourself. And I do. Yeah. Okay, so in these blog posts, you were speaking truth, okay. And the reason why I'm asking that is obviously it's your truth. But if you wanted to get somebody's real, honest advice, but then you go and try to make her look bad, just so you could look better. Like you weren't doing that. Were you trying to be as honest about a situation say you wrote about the dish by the kitchen sink? You wrote about that? But were you explaining it as honest as you could, without making either? Do you does that? Do you understand the question I'm asked?

Matthew Fray:

Absolutely. I didn't really, if I was going to paint somebody negative in a story from the past about my marriage, it was going to be me, there was not going to be a lot of finger pointing. I have offered some gentle criticism. But it would have been something like, I don't think she explained what the problem was that she was having, in a manner that I could understand. Yeah, and that, that maybe she could have put a little bit more like time, effort and energy into seeing if she could reframe her messaging in order to like, reach me. Yeah, like, that's something but I mean, nothing. Nothing gross. Nothing like mean. No, and that's but but that speaks to like, what the mission was, the mission ended up being Can I retell, relive, reframe the marriage in a manner to to to my audience, in a manner that honors what my wife was, must have felt at the time. Because that's, that's how you figure out how things that you've done, or said, or not done or not set, resulted in trust, erosion resulted in pain resulted in loss of intimacy and feelings of romantic love. Yeah, all of that. Like, if I just sit around whining about my own version of everything, it's always going to sound like I got screwed, if I'm able to accurately or damn damn near accurately describe what she must have experienced, and then make her the protagonist in the story. Yeah, I actually think that's kind of the hack for relationships. By the way, I always I like to say, if you can explain the story of your relationship, in front of your partner to like a stranger, in a manner that your partner like nods their head and says, That's exactly right. That's exactly how I feel when such and such a thing happens. If you can do that with precision and accuracy and consistency, you can be trusted in the relationship. And if you can't, then even if you're not a mean person who hurts people on purpose, you still can't be trusted to meet someone's needs to understand what they're dealing with on a case by case basis, not because you're a jerk, but because you fundamentally do not know that X, Y or Z results in my partner feeling this bad thing. And I'm blind to it because I don't feel it too. And then when they try to tell me about it, it doesn't go well because it doesn't make sense to me. And that I think is generic. We like the dynamic and like every relationship. Yeah.

Melissa Bright:

Okay. I didn't think but you are going on a public platform and just bashing her because it would not serve you any purpose. And that is something that I will say when my ex now we had went through a small breakup in 2018. And I really learned a lot from him when we got back together and that terms because I did go to some friends and I was very, very less emotionally intelligent than I am now. And things that I was perceiving, were actually the truth. And it really painted him in a bad light, even almost going as far as saying he was narcissistic. And that is so far from the truth. And I'm, I really do regret saying those things about him. But it really started, I wanted to become more aware to really speak truth to really say like, is this really what's happening? And is this reality? So I just asked that just because because I'm currently just wanting to go through that. And when I call my friends now, and if I'm going through a situation, I want to try to give it as honestly as possible, while obviously still saying my experience and being like I'm pissed off, or I'm angry. But that still doesn't mean that that other person can't feel sad or mad or glad to. Does that make sense?

Matthew Fray:

Oh, it really does. I also like to defend briefly if I may, five foot you five years ago. Another thing that I think about a lot is the idea that I talk about things in really simple math terms, like the result of our actions. So we do stuff, and then the equal sign is like what happens to you know, people in our sphere of influence? Yeah. It's the math result of things that he did five years ago, felt to you exactly as what it would have felt like to be dating or married to a narcissist. I don't really know what the difference is. Do I think labeling somebody something they're not too useful? No. Right. It just causes like, needless like conflict tangents. Yeah, but but the point is the impact on you, probably more or less mirrored. What would have happened if some sociopathic narcissist was like out to get you? And no, no seriousness like, I, I used to be offended by, you know, little labels and things like that. And then it occurred to me one day, wow. Like, if you're, if you're my ex wife, what's the difference? Just because I'm not narcissistic. What's the difference? If my feelings always Trumpers? In every moment I live in and every conversation we have. Yeah, I might as well be like, from her perspective. And so anyway, that's okay. I'm sure he's a fantastic human being I believe you. I really do. Yeah. I also believe the math results of things he said and done or didn't say and didn't do at times. hurt you. Yeah, yeah. And like, that doesn't make him bad. Just it means pain happened. And sometimes that doesn't get repaired very effectively in relationships. I know that I was really awful at it.

Melissa Bright:

Yeah, exactly. Okay. So I want to look at my questions. But I also want because you, I, we're going on the way that where we want to go in terms of the conversation. And I also want to preface this, because I know I have a lot of female listeners. But I also know that I have a lot of male listeners. So first of all, we, I think can I can speak for both of us, this is not going to be a conversation of just like men just eff up all the time, and you guys are wrong. And women should take no accountability, no responsibility, and it's just all on the guy because I do not at all, like believe in that. I am very much always trying to become aware of like how I can be better, be more responsible for all my stuff. So with that also being said, there might be some statistics that Matt might know that happens to be like, well, more men feel this way than women. So I just want to preface this that this is not going to be a men bashing. thing.

Matthew Fray:

I get accused of it sometimes, and I really don't like it. I I promise zero of my coaching clients that are male, which is 95 plus percent of them would would suggest that I'm unsupportive of men and male female relationships. They just wouldn't do that. i Right. I understand very much. I think most guys are in relation, at least the ones I encounter. They're like wonderful people. But does it mean after they do things their wife doesn't experience intense pain from it? And that's like the message I really, really try to drive home. Yes, it's not way and if you can understand that as a human being that people can hurt really bad even if you don't try to hurt them. Even if you don't understand why they're, if you can just take take accountability for it, and help, like eliminate, like the pain that they're experiencing. I don't know, range change everything. Exactly, exactly. Putting your hands up and saying, hey, it's not my fault. I didn't mean to.

Melissa Bright:

Mm hmm. Okay, so then let's, let's give this example. So Matt wrote, was this a blog post? The one about the kitchen sink the dish by the think?

Matthew Fray:

Yes, the original title was she divorced me because I left dishes by the sink, published in January of 2016. And insanely popular for like, a pretty long time, right? Pretty long time.

Melissa Bright:

Well, I know just on your blog alone, it has 4.6 million views. And that's not considering all the other places it's been shared to and everything. Yeah, that's,

Matthew Fray:

I mean, that's a big number relativization huge every single other thing on my blog, it's, it's

Melissa Bright:

exactly. And it is the best title ever. And it because it resonates with well, let's just say so many people. So why don't we give this as a classic example. This is the situation Matt, you just went into your kitchen, you put your dish by the kitchen sink? And your wife just said, What to you?

Matthew Fray:

Well, I think, you know, she wouldn't have been like me and about it necessarily, she would have said she would have kind of like, poked at me, like ribbed me like, man, is it really necessary that you put that glass there? I didn't, I want to make it clear to anybody who doesn't have context for the story. I didn't leave like dirty dishes after dinner, piled up with like a bunch of crap on him. Like it didn't do that. Very specifically, it's a drinking glass. It's one drinking glass from the cabinet, I would quickly fill it with water so that I could take like vitamins and supplements and medicine and things like that in the morning. And I just left it there because all that was in it was water. And it just felt efficient to like have it kind of in the corner by the sink. But she didn't like it, she was a lot more organized and valued. You know, the whole like Fung Shui thing, like a lot more than I did. And we would have a debate. Because eventually she'd get mad at me, right? She was like, probably nice ish, the first 20 times, I'm guessing. But I think she started to get frustrated as one does, when they try to express once and her needs in a relationship and the other person is so dismissive of them, which I was prone to do. And I just eventually it turned into, I can't believe you're getting mad at me and elevating this glass sitting here by the sink to America trouble. I can't believe you're doing that. Like I thought she was unreasonable for doing that. And she, of course, thought of the what I now understand to be like really fair and reasonable things that the glass indicated, I thought and felt about her when I left it there. And so I just like to say I've had a lot of extraordinary feedback from that, over the years, the vast majority positive. But I've had some criticism, largely from from men. Say not to stereotype, but largely from men. And the feedback is this, Matt. All right, I get your story, like we get it. But like, what are you advocating here? Do we just do whatever our wives want all the time? Like, that doesn't seem like a healthy, fair, balanced relationship? And they asked the question, and it took me quite a while to figure out how to answer it. And the way that I now answer it is, uh, Matt, why don't your feelings, your preference for the glass being there? Why don't they rise to being equal to your waist desire? Like the premise of this article seems to be anything your wife doesn't like, is like fair game for divorce. And, and I'm like, okay, like, I get it, I understand how if you don't dig deep enough, you can, like arrive at that conclusion. And here's how I've learned how to answer it. Because it's the most accurate, and, and relevant way to when I would walk into the kitchen in the morning. And I would have to reach into the cabinet for a new glass because there wasn't one sitting there where I had to open the dishwasher and pull the glass out of there. Not one time. And the you know, 1213 years we were together. Did that result in me hurting in me feeling angry, and me feeling disrespected? Never happened? Not once was there like any significant sort of negative experience that I was having? As a result? I didn't even think like subtle resentment. It just was fine. Right? easy it is to like open the cabinet and get like it's fine. Yeah. What I didn't like was like being hassled about it at the time. This is like how I felt about it. And here's the key difference, I think in relationships in this scenario, when my wife walked into the kitchen, and she saw the glass there It was evidence of one of two things. And now this is in context after many, many conversations about it, by the way, not the first time, you know, after the 2030 times having the same fight in the kitchen, the same argument, whatever it was it the glass sitting there meant one of two things, it meant, fuck you, I'm going to do anything I want. And you're not going to stop me, You're not my mom, you're not the boss, you're not going to control me. I'm going to put my glass here if I want to put my glass here. So it could have meant that. And the other thing it could mean is that I just did it absent mindedly so she's so unimportant to me that I don't give a shit about her feelings. That's that's one thing it could mean. Or she's so unimportant to me that I don't even remember that she's adversely impacted by this, that she has tried 2030 times to communicate how this is important to her. Yeah, and like, when those are the two things you're facing, I'm either with somebody who knows my wants and needs and they hurt me on purpose. Or I'm with somebody who, like, they don't know, or they don't even think about it. Like, like, either way, I feel afraid that I'm going to keep getting hurt over and over and over again in this relationship. Because I apparently don't rise to a level of significance for him or for them, or whoever it is right to like, think about how I'm affected by these things. They only think about what they want. And anyway, that's really, really fair assessment of me. If I didn't think something was important, I trusted myself. You know, to my shame, I trusted that my sense of like, right and wrong, good and bad was accurate. I trusted that I was decent enough and smart enough. Where if if something was truly harmful, I'd get it. Yeah. And so I just ignored it. I dismissed it as like, you know? Yeah, like, the lunatic ravings of somebody who was feeling a little hypersensitive in a moment. And that's, that's a really effective way to kill your relationship slowly.

Melissa Bright:

Yes. So I want anybody that is listening to this that is in a relationship, put whatever example you want to put in there. If it's not the kitchen sink, it's the towel on the floor. It's for me, I'm going to admit where I was wrong. My ex boyfriend owned a business and I was in charge of and also paid to, you know, answer emails and stuff in some in post social media. And at times, I did not keep up with it as much. And it is a shitty excuse. And then that is one of his biggest pain points. And it was really hurtful to him. And he always asked me in a very, very nice way, he way better than I ever did, because he's just patient and he can just say, Hey, can you make sure you answer the emails again. And I now know that that was something that when I didn't do that, that was just telling him, I don't care. This is an important to me. That your other stuff that you have to do like your podcast is is more important and that I am at fault for. And I just want to put that that it can definitely be like we said men and women, sometimes maybe and I don't want to speak for men. They don't know how to say this hurts me, it might just come off as like a criticism, you know, to you. Am I still here? Can you see me? I can. Okay, I just want to make sure because it like froze for a second. I'm really sorry. It was me. No, it wasn't my internet sometimes here. Um, so just thinking of those things from both sides. And now another thing I want to add another layer to this because you said you know my app after my wife asked me like 30 times one of my downfalls that I know that was not productive in the relationship and tell me where you think is, was it was the criticism it was the being pissy at him? For what inter whatever dish by the kitchen sink dish, whatever. And he did so many times say, if you would have just asked me in a nicer tone or not seem pissed off or not angrily asked me this now I would never yell like Go put your effing dish by the sink. Not that. But it was also in the tone. Now, what do you think about that situation like it's the 40th time you've asked somebody to please put something like Can we be annoyed? Are we allowed to be that we don't want to be your freakin mom?

Matthew Fray:

I mean, what so? Yeah, well, when I was living it, I would have said thought felt and said, what he said, I would have totally agreed today. You know, I'm so busy trying to advocate for like the other perspective. The analogy that I use is imagine that like your wife or girlfriend or whoever your relationship partner, it's certainly not gender specific. Has has a severe burn wound under one of her long sleeves, and you're working in the kitchen together, like chopping vegetables or whatever getting ready. You're hanging out together, like getting ready to make a meal. Yeah. And I don't know why I thought of this. I just, I just did. And I've been saying it for a few years now. But then like, right, you sort of like inadvertently, like run your elbow into her her arm, just, you know, while you're chopping something or moving something around. And she like yelps in pain, and she's really animated. And it seems like a really significant overreaction. And you're like, wow, like, all I did was sort of like, lightly bump into you like what's going on? And then she rolls up her sleeve and says, Hey, I have this wound here. I am going to reveal that when you do that, under these circumstances, it hurts me. And the question that I asked like the guys that I'm working with that bring up the story that you just sort of like shared with me. Yeah, is how many times even though you're a really good person, even though you love your wife, even though you would never do something intentionally to hurt her. How many times are you allowed to sort of like forget and sort of carelessly run your elbow into her burn wound, before she's allowed to adjust her tone to communicate displeasure before she's allowed to be sad or angry on some level? And there's no answer this,

Melissa Bright:

this is a rhetorical question that I do point five times. I just want

Matthew Fray:

people to think about it. Yeah. How many times before your brain says, Okay, I now understand why I might get an emotional reaction that doesn't feel comfortable to me. Yeah. Because I really think that is more or less the analogy. I just think our brains are better equipped to process. physical injury, and like illness, more so than the nuanced idea of like, emotional pain. Yes. But again, I spent a couple years like, in a dark, dark hole. And so I finally right, I had context. Finally. Yeah, I'm like, okay, that can feel really bad. And like, a way I didn't know how to measure or calculate for previously. Yeah. And so I needed I needed that personally, to like, open my eyes to what happens to other people. Yep. Which seems a little pathetic, I think. But whatever it was, it was my route here. Yeah, I'll take I'll take it as much as I regret some of the pain that happened along the way to the

Melissa Bright:

other people. Exactly. So to reiterate, kind of about like, the glass by the kitchen sink or it's just more about being heard being seen being understood. Knowing people's pains needs I mean, like you, like you said, so we're going to wrap that conversation up. Um, I want to look at some of these quotes that I that I wrote down. Okay, so a quote that you would put on your Instagram that I really like it says most of our problems are not logical. They are emotional. Emotional, emotional. What What do you mean by that?

Matthew Fray:

I don't remember who said that was that Mark Manson?

Melissa Bright:

I don't know. I wrote down the other quote, I wrote down his name. It sounds like

Matthew Fray:

a Mark Manson quote. And I'm a I'm an unapologetic fanboy of that man.

Melissa Bright:

What Mark Manson Okay, I'll

Matthew Fray:

look Mark Manson. He wrote subtle art of not giving Oh, yes. Okay, one of the right like just one of the most successful nonfiction books of the last I don't know 20 years sold like 12 million copies of his

Melissa Bright:

extraordinary gift that's the book that I read. Maybe not okay, they just

Matthew Fray:

a film just came out this month they made a documentary based on the book and Oh, brand new well, so anybody who doesn't like reading should should check that out. I buy my movies through the Microsoft Store. Oh, but just like any sort of like online you know, it's gonna be an IT and it's gonna be perfect where people purchase movies. I think it's a wonderful it's like a pretty brief like 90 minute thing. Okay. Anyway, I think that was Mark and I just like that I'm scared of this. i Because stereotyping, I don't like it. I really don't. Because I swear like I have a brand new female client that that, like showed up yesterday. And And her story and my story are like identical. This is just not exclusively a sex or gender thing. But But I think, I think, if we observe, like a large amount of humans will, will notice patterns. Yes. And a lot of men bring certain behaviors, common behaviors to a relationship. And a lot of women bring certain common behaviors to relationship, specifically in male female relationships, these dynamics that we talked about exist in every relationship, even non romantic ones, with any type of partner or just with whatever. But like the mathematically the largest sample I have, by far is male female relationships, where these like patterns like play out so commonly, and I think I heard it today from a guy this morning. This, this, this idea that it's so hard for me to engage in a conversation with my wife and the way that she wants to because I feel like she's so illogical, she's so irrational. And a to me, it's I don't have specifics to like for that story. Okay. I would say that it's not fundamentally different from the dispersant conversation, right? Where the logic, quote, unquote, in my brain says, Well, this really isn't a very important thing. You don't I mean, there's like, really difficult big, traumatic things that happen in the world. And it's difficult for me to categorize this glass being here is one of them. Yeah. As something worthy of, of introducing pain and conflict and relationship tension. That was the way that I thought about it. Yeah, and I don't know, we are emotional creatures. I worked in marketing for a while, before I did this full time. And one of the interesting things I learned there, and marketing psychology was that, like, emotion is like the number one influence of like, what we buy at the grocery store. You know what I mean? When you like, dig down, like, every time, all of your commercials that we see and print advertisements. It's about playing on emotion one way or another. Almost always. And so anyway, I used to, I think there are a lot of people that are uncomfortable with emotion, usually men, and they want to, like put it on a lower tier. They want to rank it as as less important than logic and reason. Right, they think it's sort of like, it ranks less, therefore, if you hurt, I'm logical. I still win, because this is the right thing. Yeah. I think it's a way to justify being the way that they are. And I don't that's not me, like, but I think I thought that too. Right? Right. It was like my sort of, like, subconscious way of justifying me being me back when I was so convinced she was the unfair one.

Melissa Bright:

Mm hmm. Perfect. I love it. Thank you for answering that. I want to now talk about I really want to talk about trust. Because when I think of trust, my first instinct literally goes to is this person like faithful to me? Like? I don't know why that. I mean, I guess that's the most obvious one. But you have said I know in different interviews and things like trust is the number one most important thing and relationships. And other what other ways can can people be trustworthy? Or can? Yes, we're gonna stop there.

Matthew Fray:

No, I get it. I mean, I talk about it. As you know, I talk about it a lot. I do. I'd like to start with that. I think. I think it's really important for anybody listening that hasn't thought about it this way. Trust absolutely correlates with relationships that are healthy. And that that that last a long time sustainability. Trust correlates like way more than love. People routinely end marriages of 2025 30 years with people that they love. But trust has been completely destroyed over time, and it isn't necessarily because of infidelity. It isn't necessarily because of dishonesty, or criminal or abusive behavior, not overt physical abuse at least. But, but these are the subtle. I often refer to them as like paper cuts or micro betrayals, tiny betrayals, I think is the way to think about it. And that glass by the sink example I think speaks to that. A glass but the sink would not be a betrayal in every relationship. There are lots millions of relationship partners out there that would not feel as if a dish by the sink is a betrayal. But my ex wife I did experience it that way. But again, this this like micro, not like, Oh, you betrayed me and I'm gonna like completely lose it. It's not, it's just another of 10,000 paper cuts that occurred over, you know, a decade plus. Right? And they just mean to me I think the way to think to think about it isn't we'd already kind of talked about it. It's like, this person consistently does things, which result in me hurting. It's like, the glass by the sink doesn't hurt me. I can't emphasize enough that that's not what somebody's saying. They're not saying when I see the glass there, I'm hurt because a glass is sitting there. And I think a lot of people get stuck in that mindset. And they think it sounds so absurd. It's it's sort of what I alluded to earlier. The glass means one of two things, it means I overtly reject you being you. And you can count on me to not like honor, like, the way that you feel about this is I don't care. I don't agree, I don't care. And you can't make me. Like it can mean that something sort of like, like, kind of like, over I mean, and offensive, right. But it can also mean this more subtle thing. And I think it's what it usually means. What it usually means is, this person just does not consider me when they do things. They all of the time in my daily life in sort of like a shared domestic household. There's evidence all around, usually for one member or two members of the household, that everyone else has no regard for how the things they're doing, how they're the way they're leaving a room, right? Like the way they're leaving that towel, or the laundry, or the unmade bed, or the toothpaste puddle on the bathroom mirror, or the toilet seat being left in a certain position or whatever. Everybody has a different list of things that communicate something negative to them. Yep. And I really think it's useful to like think about it in the context of what I said before, like that burn wound, actually think my favorite way is to think about it in the context of food allergies, like I can offer somebody like a peanut butter cookie. And that's a pretty Lake benign gesture. That's even kind of nice, right? Or is a peanut butter cookie. But there is some percentage of the population that that could be potentially fatal to. And imagine treating a person who who views a peanut butter cookie as dangerous, as poisonous to them as a threat to their wellness. Imagine, like, judging them as weak are like, again, I don't think that's necessarily an immoral behavior. And maybe, I don't know, dances with it. But but like, I don't, I don't think we're obligated to care about other people's wants and needs. I really don't. I don't think it makes us bad if we choose not to do it. But I think it for sure means we can't be trusted in a relationship with them. Hmm, yeah, I think it's okay to just be like, I'm going to be a single person who values my experiences over everyone else's, I'm going to be first place and everyone else is going to come second. I don't think it's the coolest thing to be in the world. I don't really like love, how it feels to hang out with people like that. But I don't think it makes them like evil. I just think it makes them somebody that if you choose to be in a relationship with them, it's going to be really awful. And if you happen to accidentally sort of like have have no self awareness, and you're that kind of person, you're a threat to lose everything you value most. Because of things you're not paying attention to. And I think that's a lot of people's story. It's certainly mine.

Melissa Bright:

Yep, sure as I was gonna ask you something. Oh, going along with that in this situation. I am sure that there are so many people let's just say it's probably going to be women about the kitchen sink. That feel so like he just told me that this is not a big deal. He just told me it's just a freakin dish. He just told me am I really overreacting? Am I really like should I not be doing this and then you question and question in question more. But then the same experience happens over and over and over again. And then you're in the situation of like, well, I know how this played out last time. So then you just kind of take a mental note of it and like Bite your tongue but then like, I don't know I it's just makes me happy to hear this conversation with you because it made me question so many of my things of like, I'm just somebody that just always criticizes about a damn like dish and I knew that it wasn't about the dish. It was about so much more just like with his stuff it. Yes, it was about answering the emails, obviously. But that was a signal to him saying, I don't care. I don't care. Yeah, so I just think it just really makes us question ourselves when we are being so told, like, you're literally doing this and saying this, you want to start a fight over a damn dish. And you're like, that's not what it's about. And it's hard to communicate that to somebody. If you don't know how to use that language. I thought I could. I was, you know, something, you know, like, where I wanted my house clean, I didn't want it to be cluttered. Somebody else says, Well, that's what you want. That's not what I want. So then it's like, who is right? Like, what, what do you do there? And it's

Matthew Fray:

no tricky when there's, when there's mismatched values and preferences and wants and needs. I mean, that's why compromise is so critical. When you share space with people, sharing space is hard. Like, I don't know how much you or anyone else listening has thought about this before. But you can have a relationship pretty easily with it with a inconsiderate person, if you don't live in the same house that they live in. Like, it's not very hard at all. Right? And but that is the first step in elevating like relationship, graduating relationships into this entirely new thing is when you share space, when you share resources, that really changes dynamics. And then often the next phase in male female relationships, and any same sex where they're adopting children, is we introduce kids, and then it really, that's when, like, the invisible load conversation, like really, like jumps dramatically if we're going to talk about, you know, traditional, like gender norms and things like that. Which one?

Melissa Bright:

Can we talk about invisible load?

Matthew Fray:

Yeah, I was uniquely gifted at dishonouring the amount of responsibility that my wife carried to manage the household to care for our son to acquire gifts around the holidays for all of the people in our lives for RSVPing and are writing thank you notes and or communicating with friends about all the social activities. Like I was completely blind to all of it just this like the bullet point list floating above her head of all the various things. She's multitasking. Versa book. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, that's, that's a pretty if we're going to talk about stereotypes that's also really common one is this, this, this feeling by the female partner in a male female relationship, that their male partner is not invested in the shared responsibility of a relationship. Yeah. And that's, that hurts that it feels patently unfair to the person who's like, and what's interesting is like, like, my ex wife, she was fine. Everything was cool, until like, her son came along, because she could handle it, she was great. Like a math, she's like, I can handle the 70% load or whatever it was, like, it's fine. But when our son came along, there was no way for her to carry that 70% load and properly care for a new human being right, and adapt to a world in which she felt different and her identity changed from you know, just solo human to I am the mother and caretaker for this like new little person. I was woefully inadequate as a support for her while she was dealing with those radical life changes.

Melissa Bright:

Yeah. And something that's like, interesting about that is for me, being a control freak that I am. A lot of it came down to like, you know, shared responsibilities of like wanting help, but then another part of it was just like, acknowledgement of like, how hard you work, and I'm not talking about my relationship. I don't want to talk about that, like specifically, but maybe that is, so some of like, what people want. It's like, I'm happy to do this for my son. I'm happy to do this. But can you acknowledge and can you show appreciation that this is how much I did. Now I'm sure there are other people screaming being like, No, I want the freakin help. I want the shared responsibilities. I am in no way not saying that. But just how far like the little appreciations can go to like, oh, wow, he really notices that I do this much shit. All day, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, you know?

Matthew Fray:

Yeah, a lot of men that I talked to are fresh. straited by the negative feedback they sometimes get. And one of the basis for that is that I'm never given credit for all the good that I do. It's like, nobody takes the time to point out like the good that I bring, they're just pointing out the negative and it feels really unfair. Yes. And I would ask these Man, these people that feel that way to understand that that is a virtually identical experience, the other person's having, when their contributions to your shared existence are essentially like not registered, they're not logged. If they're invisible to you, then they don't, they don't show up on any balance sheet so to speak. And it's not a contest to like, yeah, well account for like, all the things everybody does, I don't think that would necessarily make a healthy relationship. But I do think it's critical to recognize how, how frustrating and lonely and invisible and small and unimportant a person might feel, if the lion's share of their contributions to our lives are just lost in the ether. You know, just they just go away all the time. Because, like, nobody sees it. Yeah, nobody notices. And, you know, that was that was me. I had a mother who, who did a lot for me from like a food and laundry, right or taking standpoint and, you know, the laundry fairy, just hang my clothes off, fold them and put them in drawers and things like that. And she did a decent enough job, I think of making me do chores and learning some personal responsibility. But not, I hope none of what I just said sounded like I'm accusing my mother of setting me up for failure in my relationship. It's on me. But But I was I entered the relationship blind to how being me and just doing whatever felt normal and natural and comfortable. To me. The damage that would cause Yeah, like that, to me is the real tragedy of relationships as people do not account for how being them can result in like harm, because it's such an offensive sort of concept. Yeah. Until you like dig until you like dig and realize, okay, it's, it's not it's not a personal thing. Yeah. The other side of the math equation, it's has nothing to do with who you are as a person as to do with like, the series of events resulted in me hurting. Exactly. Yeah,

Melissa Bright:

exactly. I love that you said about the like, reflection, like, it's basically like, the men and women are saying the exact same thing, like the women wants once the acknowledgement and wants, like help with the other thing. And then the man is like, I want to be appreciated for my hard work also. And I don't know if you feel this way, but or if you you word that these things is like, a lot of things in relationships or like transactions in terms of like, Oh, Matt just did Matt just did that thing that like, I've actually asked him to do, and I'm telling that up as like, Thank you, Matt. Like he listened. Oh, my God, you heard what I said? Well, now I know Matt just asked me to go do that he has been mentioning for me to take care of something, I'm gonna go do that for them. And it's like this equal balance of like, since I heard her, or since he heard me, I'm gonna go do that. But then when it all gets out of balance, and I don't feel appreciated, it's like, we're almost doing this on a subconscious level, if that makes sense. Have you ever heard like relationships been described as that way? Like transactions?

Matthew Fray:

I mean, or tell,

Melissa Bright:

however you want to say

Matthew Fray:

it would be it would be in the spirit of kind of what we just talked about this note, this idea of like, acknowledgement, like being given credit for my contributions. Yeah. And like, in that way, yeah, um, because I think that the the typical guy that I would encounter in my work in a male female relationship, I would would say, I'm not given credit, right. And like, that's frustrating to them. And I mean, I think that I think that the most common dynamic in the relationships I encounter is that one partner, typically, the female partner, with men and women, is just much better at anticipating and meeting the needs of her children and her husband and or partner. And he's just, he's just not, I mean, it's sort of the basis of my work. Not Not that it's men. It's just often men. But but but people, one partner frequently, has much less consideration for how the things they do impact the other person. There's an imbalance of I think about how what I'm doing or not doing is impacting them. And I adjust accordingly because I only want good things for them, and I never want bad things for them. You And so often, it's like a really busy mother of two or three, that's living that life and sort of like trying her best to meet the needs of everyone in the family and herself to a certain extent, to whatever energy is leftover. And, and so often and this is, this is one of like the pillars literally of my work, my coaching work this, I just talked about two things, I talked about validation, and I talked about consideration and consideration is this notion of, you know, do you include, do you remember that you have a relationship partner, and that they are impacted by things you do and say, because so many of my experience, so many of the guys that work with the experience of their wives is that I'm with somebody, and he, he just, he just doesn't consider me he doesn't like include me in his decision making tree. And then taking it back to that sort of like, dish by the sink example. It can only mean one of two things. He knows my wants and needs, and he doesn't care. He refuses to meet them refuses to honor them, or he or he doesn't know them. Because he doesn't think about me at all, because they don't matter enough. At the end, either way, if I stay in this relationship, I'm going to be hurt over and over and over again. That is the recipe for safety and trust to go away.

Melissa Bright:

Yep. Spot on. Okay, I and I would keep talking about that. But I know we're coming up on an hour. And I really want to get to this last one because of how big it is. You just talked about you talk to you talk about two main pillars consideration. And your other one is validation. I know we've been talking a lot about it in a roundabout way. But you have something that's called Triple Threat invalidation. So first of all, obviously, what is that? And? Well, no, I guess that's my question. What is that?

Matthew Fray:

No, happy, happy to talk about it. So going back real quick to consideration. I think most of what happens in relationships is not people doing bad things that hurt other people. And then, you know, being confused about like, what the problem is. Mostly, it's like, I just woke up and went about my business. And suddenly my relationship partners like, hurt or upset by something. Right? That's, that's how it usually works. Yeah, now we need to be able to communicate to our partner that something's wrong. Like that needs to happen. If we want safety and trust in relationships, we need to be able to raise our hand and say, hey, something's wrong. Please understand it, and then please cooperate with me and, like, mitigating the problem. Like, that's the only way this is going to be okay. And, and it's remarkable how often that that fails, one person frequently can't say something's wrong, and then have it worked out for them afterwards. That is a really, really common condition. It is in a relationship, and I'm telling you it, you know, like, that was my wife's experience with me. Yeah. And so I'll go through it that the invalidation I usually actually put the word invalidation first. Not that I really care. But oh, okay. And validation, triple threat, but okay, not particularly relevant. The point of it is, it's like the three ways I think people on autopilot, they don't even think about it. It's not, it's not computed or experienced or calculated as invalidation on the side of the person doing the invalidating. It's, I think, disagreements, the best word for it, it's the most innocent and I frankly, think like the most, the most accurate in terms of intention, in terms of here's what I'm intending to do right now is in disagree with some aspect of what you're saying. And so here are the three ways we invalidate people in our relationships routinely. And this does not happen when we agree, we often agree, we share values, and we have similar life experiences, maybe as a partner. And so frequently, somebody says, hey, something's wrong. And we respond in a manner that totally aligns with I love you, I care for you, you can trust me, I've got your back. Because it just makes sense to us. The problem happens when somebody says something that doesn't make sense to us. This is when like, everything breaks down. And this I think, is the most frequent paper cut problem in a relationship. I think mathematically, this is the quote unquote, bad thing, damaging thing that happens most often. Ken each thing is so in conflict, it's so small, that it's easy to sort of like move on from but when you collect 1000s of them over a decade, two decades, three decades, it just absolutely destroys trust and relationships. Yeah, here's here's the pattern. There's three ways version one, I like to tell this in the first person. My wife would come to me and she'd say, Hey, Matt, a bad thing happened. I feel bad about it. In version one is like um, Mental or intellectual disagreement with what the other person experience. So like, I wouldn't agree that the event or the incident occurred as my wife believed it did. And in the One example might be like we get together at a holiday party, and one of the aunts says something to my wife about how she's parenting our son. And she finds it like really offensive, right? She thinks my aunt saying I'm a I'm a shitty mother. Yeah, something like that. That'd be like a really common sort of like incident. And she would say that to me, either, like, within a few minutes of it happening or like in the car ride home leader, or something. And I being me, being like guy who wants to, like not have conflict and relationships. I'm an avoider. You know, I want to keep the peace. So there isn't a lot of discomfort. I want to be like, you know, I don't think that's what she meant at all. Here's what I think she was trying to do. Or whatever, right? This can happen in a million different scenarios. The whole idea is my brain doesn't think the same thing your brain thinks. Yep. And that's what's really important because they think, the conclusion when my partner comes to me and tells me something happened to her over and over and over again over many years. And many times, my response is, sorry, I just don't think what you think. I think it's reasonable for them to conclude that I'm implying that they're wrong, that they're stupid, or that they're crazy. Or some combination of all of them, right? Yeah, wrong, stupid, crazy. Those are three logical in my estimation, conclusions for what it means to challenge the lived intellectual experience of another human being. You're either mistaken about this, you're too dumb to know what's true, or you're too crazy to know it's true. version two, my wife would come to me to say, Hey, Matt, this bad thing happened, then I feel bad about it. And this time, I am completely understanding what she's thinking. Because I agree that the incident or the circumstances are exactly what she's saying. They are. Yeah, but now I'm baffled as to why she could be feeling such like, significant dramatic emotions about it. And I'm like, okay, yeah, that's what happened. I understand. But why elevate it to this, like, huge thing. And that's, you know, what the dish by the sink is? Yeah, there were in this I was uniquely gifted at this one. I don't think I challenged like what my wife thought a ton, maybe a little, I don't know, it's hard to remember. This is the one I did all the time, though, was like, I perceived her reactions to things to be really dramatic and hypersensitive. And so anyway, right. That's the feedback. The feedback is he doesn't feel how I feel. And so his response is that I'm weak, that I'm that I'm too sensitive that I'm being dramatic, that I'm overreacting. It's version two. Version Three, is defensiveness. Is we explain or justify, or otherwise defend our behavior? Because I don't know, we think we're being sort of like, unfairly attacked for this thing that we did. My wife economy sigmat, you did something and it hurt me. And I'd be like, wait a minute, just let me explain. If you understand, like, what I was trying to do, what my intentions were, and realize that I'm not the bad guy here. I won't be in trouble anymore. And that'll be great. But that's not what happens. The I think subtle communication, the subtle messages. If I don't think you should feel this way, then I don't accept responsibility for your feelings whatsoever. That's on you. It's up to you to fix your feelings. Not not me. And so I like to tell the story, and I hope we have time for this now.

Melissa Bright:

Um, um, Dude, I got nothing but time right now.

Matthew Fray:

I've gotten some negative feedback suggesting that I'm comparing disrespected wives and mothers to a child. And I assure you, I'm not doing that. The Royal you, like anybody, I'm really not I, I just think this is. This is frankly, this is just the thought exercise I used to overcome my serial invalidation habit. Yeah. I like to imagine my son, he's 14, but he used to be four. And when he was four, he was there was the threat was there for him to wake up, like, late at night? For any number of reasons, right? And so like, I like to imagine I'm watching Monday Night Football or something, and suddenly I hear my son cry, this little four year old, and I'm gonna sprint I'm gonna hit the pause button. I'm gonna sprint upstairs and see what's wrong. That opened the door and he's like, Dad, you know, I'm afraid I there's, I think there's a monster in my bed or something like that. And so instantly in a millisecond, right, I disagree. with like, the premise of like, his feelings. I don't think the reason he's scared right now the reason he's crying right now. I don't think it's real. I don't believe it. And so my instinct is to think to myself, the fastest way to solve this problem is for him to believe what I believe it's how I'm going to fix this. It's how I'm going to make it better. And I think like a lot of guys do this. A lot of guys that want to like fix or problem solve. If I'm gonna be like, dude, there isn't a monster under the bed. There isn't one, you have no reason to feel afraid right now, you'd have no reason to be crying right now. Everything's fine. You're okay. Go to sleep. Like, I don't have time. You know, I don't think that actually would have done this, by the way, even on my worst day. Good. No, right. But like, but I just, I just think it's important to think through, it's a good thought exercise. And I'd be like, go to sleep, you're fine. Everything's okay. You know, we'll talk in the morning. I don't have time for invisible monsters. I hope there aren't very many parents real ones. That's why. Yeah, but but I just I think there's the three ideas here that are really critical to acknowledge that one. I'm right. I'm right. There isn't a monster under the bed. So like facts are on my side. Yeah, too. And I have to ask you to take this on faith. I love my son more than I've ever loved anything. Right, like love big feelings. Love them intensely. Yeah. And the third thing was, I would never do anything ever. That was designed to hurt him. And I just think it's important to point those three things out, because those are the three conditions that exist when we're having conflict with a relationship partner. And again, I'm kind of speaking to the men, or the people kind of like think and feel the way that I thought and felt in my marriage. Right? We don't agree with the premise. We love them. And we would never try to hurt them. And that's the basis for our like, befuddlement as to how like this is going the way that it's going this like random debate that we're having. So okay, but despite all of that, what happens with my son? Well, I suggest that he's still afraid. He's still sad. He's still crying, you know, the feelings, the the experience, the physical experience he's having, in no way was served by me coming up there. And, you know, telling him, there wasn't a monster and that he didn't have any reason crying, right. And I think my relationship with him probably just took a hit. Yeah, just got papercut, maybe even in a kind of a big way. And I think if that's how we show up over and over and over again, the child or the person or whoever learns, right, this is a thought. So this is a metaphor, and analogy. He's gonna think, wow, like when I'm having a problem, and I invite dad to come help me with it. And he doesn't think my problem is actually a problem. I feel even worse than, like, having not asked them at all. So it's not necessarily I don't think Dad loves me, or I don't love dad, but I don't trust them. I don't trust my father, to participate effectively in my life, when something bad's happening with something's going on. Yeah, so you just think about a kid growing up and dealing with all the hardships of the teenage and early adult years. And it's like, they're not going to tell dad about it. Because it sucks. Dad, just as like, you know, like, sloughs it off and asks, acts like, I'm wrong, I'm stupid. I'm crazy. I'm weak. I'm hypersensitive, I'm overreacting. And he accepts no responsibility and comfort and support. While I'm battling whatever it is, I'm battling large or small. Yes, in many ways, the way that I want to be in the relationship of any kind, is the way that I think would be a more effective parenting style. I hear my son crying, I hit the pause button, his friend upstairs, open the door, the exact same thing happens. But this time, I am intellectually aware that if I communicate with my son, the way that I used to communicate with him, I'm going to damage my relationship with him, and he's gonna grow up to be someone who doesn't invite me to participate in the the things that matter to him. Yeah. And I'd want to hug them. And I'd want to say listen, I don't think there's a monster under the bed. But, but I've been afraid of things before. And being afraid is really hard. And I'm really sorry that you're afraid right now. You know, let's turn the light on. Let's look under the bed. Let's make sure there's no monster there. But I think the most important idea, and this is what I say to every client, were like, this is a really critical concept for like, their relationship dynamics, the one that I think correlates most closely with our like, relationship partners, certainly, like, my ex wife and I, I want to communicate to my son, hey, when something's wrong, I always want you to feel like you can call me always and I'm going to show up and I'm going to be there and I might not be able to fix it. And I might not be able to fight your battle for you. But you never have to feel like you're in the fight alone. You never have to feel like you're the only person like dealing with the bad thing that you're dealing with. And that is what I never like gave her

Melissa Bright:

another way to say that that I know from like another expert that I've heard is in tell me if you feel like this is true what you just said like I'm not going to let you fight this battle alone is I'm going to sit in your pain with you. I'm not going to tell you why your pain is wrong or bad or over whatever I'm going to sit here and I'm going to come in to to your level and I'm gonna say well let's let's explore this. Let's like you said look under the bed. Let's whatever. Thank you so much for I mean I have already heard that vallot the invalidation triple threat, but I could always hear it again, just because I know I've probably done it with my daughter with, you know, her saying something that scared her. I thought she was overreacting. And then I would be like, oh, yeah, that's not what she needed. That was not, that didn't serve her in any kind of way.

Matthew Fray:

Understood. And so what I want, what I want people to notice in their relationships is the following seemingly invisible cycle until it's not invisible anymore. The pattern, the pattern is I, I do something, I don't know that it's harmful. But it communicates to my partner that I don't value them that I don't think about them that I don't consider them. That right. I either did it on purpose, because screw them, or I did it by accident, because I was too busy. To like notice that this is the kind of thing we've talked about a bunch of times, pain happens. And then they try to communicate, the pain happens. And they say, Hey, this is bad for me. And then we respond. You're wrong. You're stupid, you're crazy, you're weak, you're hypersensitive, you're overreacting, or this is not my responsibility. Stop making your, you know, insane feelings, my problem. And that pattern happens over and over and over again. And it doesn't kill love and trust overnight, but it will absolutely do it. When it happens consistently over. I don't know, I'd say you start hitting about the five year mark, and it gets dark. When you're I think on the receiving end of it. You started having some really difficult conversations with yourself about how many more years you're going to subject yourself to that.

Melissa Bright:

Yeah, absolutely. What? So what can I mean, I know you just gave the solution. And it doesn't change overnight. Like these, whoever's listening might go home tonight and be in this exact same situation. And they could be on either way. The one person says I'm in pain, but the other person is like, okay, Matt just said something about, my wife is telling me something shit, what did he say? What did he say? Because, like you said, some of it is so hard to even, like, recognize that you're just, I don't know, you gave the solution. But it's

Matthew Fray:

no, it's no, this is really hard. And and it is, it's really hard. It's really easy to talk about, like a child afraid of a monster under the bed. It's really difficult to talk about. There's all kinds of complicated things that happen in life. Yeah, you know what I mean? Like, a disagreement about, you know, what our teenage daughters allowed to do? Yeah, and then, you know, like, one of the parents like, allows like, their daughter to do XY and Z, while the other ones on a business trip or something. And then that can create, like, significant conflict. Because it like one person feels like undermines them, and the other person thinks you're being like a domineering tyrant and not letting her do what she, you know, I don't know, like, these are really hard, human scenarios that a lot of people face. I always want to hyper focus on pain. It's the only thing. It's, it's, I am still resistant to doing something just because someone wants me to do it, just because it's their favorite way. Like, I mean, I'm, I'm happy to do it as like, a matter of politeness, like most of the time, but over time, I'll resent if like, I always have to do things exactly as you want me to do them. Right. That's, that's a concept that doesn't feel right with me. And it doesn't necessarily feel like it lends itself to healthy, balanced functional relationships. But an idea that absolutely sits well with me is the result of my behavior doesn't doesn't mean pain for someone else. It doesn't inflict harm, right. And I used to, like, not accept any responsibility, because I never tried to hurt anybody. And so I thought, yeah, the magic idea is, it doesn't matter what my intentions were, what matters is the result. What matters is the experience. Somebody said to me, intention does not equal experience. And it was a beautiful line. I think it was Remy Pearson who's like a life Relationship Coach type person in Australia. And it has seemed like really wonderful, but I've only talked to her the one time, but I think she's the one who said that to me. Intention does not equal experience and it's a great line. Yep. Trying not to hurt you doesn't mean you're hurt me kindly offering that peanut butter cookie to that person with like, a potentially fatal nut allergy isn't me being mean, but it doesn't mean it didn't put them in grave danger, depending on the circumstances. And I need to learn to accept responsibility for how what I do impacts other people. If I want to be somebody trust that that can be deemed trustworthy. And they name it that's that's how I think to me the litmus test is do I want to trust with this person. Okay? If so I have to be very mindful of like how my behavior positively and negatively impacts them. And it's not going to be exactly the same as the way I experienced the world are exactly the same as my best friend, or a brother or my coworker or my ex girlfriend or whoever, like everybody. I think most of our needs are about 80%. Universal. But But man, there's, again, a lot of diversity out there. There's a lot of relationship partners who just would not get upset with me for leaving a glass by the sink a ton of Yeah, but they'd have something else. Exactly. Something else. Exactly. And yeah, and it's not about like the isolated incident. It's not about the specific event. It's about the theme of do I seek to understand why something I do hurts you or doesn't hurt you? And then can you trust me moving forward to like, honor that, to know you and to meet your needs to the best of my ability? My ex wife couldn't trust me to do that. And I hope moving forward, the people that I care most about can trust me, because it's really important.

Melissa Bright:

I love it. I love it. I mean, this is a loaded question. But have we covered most of your theories and things like that? Do you feel?

Matthew Fray:

Yeah, yeah, I tried to keep it really simple. I think, I think if you vigilantly practice consideration for your partner, and it can just it's not just about trying, that goes a long way. But it's also about results. Like, if you try really hard to meet someone's needs, but never meet them, you're still going to lose trust in the relationship. So we have to succeed at mindful consideration. Yeah. And in order, I think to learn all those little nuances and idiosyncrasies we have to be somebody who receives potentially uncomfortable negative feedback. We that's how we're going to learn something that resulted in pain for someone else. Yeah, yeah. Those are the conversations that teach us how to meet someone's needs. And if we're going to spend all of our time convinced trying to convince them, they're wrong, to think and feel what they think and feel, we're never going to learn what we need to learn to, like, meet their needs tomorrow. Nope. So not, I truly believe that I you know, I don't know what the number is, but 90% to me of relationship Health Trust, can I think can can be met with that stuff? You know, there's chemistry and personality type and shared interest, and that stuff really matters. But I'm like, sort of like assuming that if you're with somebody in a long term, this stuff doesn't apply to somebody you've been dating for two weeks? Not nearly as much, right? I assume if you're like married and are cohabitating, like for a long time, that all the chemistry and personality stuffs already sorted itself out?

Melissa Bright:

Exactly, exactly. Well, this interview has been awesome, Matt, I want to I want you to tell people, what the title of your book is, where they can find it, and then where they can find if they want to be coached by you.

Matthew Fray:

Oh, thank you. Thank you very much. I'm very, very proud of the book, I do think, I do think it helps people learn how to see this pattern in their lives if, if they're unaware of it, unaware that this might be why the conflict exists. The book is called this is how your marriage and a hopeful approach to saving relationships. And it can honestly virtually any, any book retailer, I don't, I don't necessarily know if you'll like find it on the shelf of your local like Books a Million or Barnes and Noble. I think most Barnes and Nobles would have it Books a Million are usually like a smaller thing. But certainly every online applications gonna gonna have it for all the places. And my home on the internet is Matthew frey.com. And that's how that's the conduit to articles that I've written to, you know, exploring, like coaching and stuff with me if that's something anybody would ever want to do.

Melissa Bright:

Perfect. And I will also draw up your website link in the show notes. So that will take you to everything. Now, Matt, I asked all of my guests this, this is the very last question I asked them. In your own words. What does the bright side of life mean to you?

Matthew Fray:

Wow, I wasn't prepared for this one. I never tell people that's really funny. What is the bright side of life mean to me? I mean, I don't want to, I don't want to be so. So like repetitive but despite the dark and bumpy and painful route here, I am exceedingly grateful that a lot of my blinders are off now, as to how despite being really well intentioned, and despite caring about people and wanting to be a positive, that's never I've always been that. But now it's like, I see how I can accidentally cause harm, at least how some I shouldn't say cause how someone else can experience harm because of me. Yeah, and I now have I feel like I have like, relationship skill insurance. I can protect myself. Often others from inadvertently experiencing like the worst thing that's ever happened to me, both as a child and as an adult, right. And that like means a lot to me. And so I think you and I both share an affinity for this notion of like vulnerability, and authenticity. And those are almost cliche in the personal development space. But, man, it's like really liberating to not be afraid of what somebody's gonna think and feel about you. You know, because I don't know, I don't know what like my college buddies and high school friends would have said back then, about me engaging in this work. And I think it might have been, you know, effeminate and not very manly, and something to be frowned upon in my little town in Ohio growing up, and I'm so glad to be here, like leaning into it. Because this really matters like this, I don't think very much is more important to your relationship and quality of life. Excuse me, I said that completely wrong. I don't think there's, there's something that like impacts your quality of life that will relatively increase it or lower it quite as much as the quality of your most important relationships. And so learning these principles and learning how to apply them in your personal life, I think can have the greatest impact, I think maybe only physical health, it rivals it in terms of how huge of an impact it can have on whether your life feels good or feels bad every day. Anyway, I'm so grateful to like, come to these insights. And,

Melissa Bright:

yeah, it's literally, it's the best thing in the world. And if I can just make a little note about your high school or college friends in Ohio, when you are your true, authentic, vulnerable self, it's incredible, like the people that will come to you that you never expected because they see somebody stepping up and owning their truth and trying to help other people. I'm sure you know, you've had some examples. But with me and me talking about my hot mess, self, it just allows opportunities for other people to own their stories. So you probably will have people come to you that want your help for because you opened up about your story.

Matthew Fray:

I think that's exactly how and why it's happened. Yep. And that's yeah, the feedback is thank you for sharing your story sounds like my story. Maybe we should talk or me or work with me as a coach or whatever. And it's pretty great. And just really quick, I'd like to defend that my friends of old as, as men in our early 40s, the Near as I can tell, everybody has been very supportive of the work that I do. I just think as teenagers, they would have been less.

Melissa Bright:

Exactly. Well, Matt, this has been so awesome. And so valuable. I cannot thank you enough. I so much. enjoyed this conversation. So thank you.

Matthew Fray:

Yeah, absolutely. Thank you. It's been a pleasure getting to know you via the summit and all of this. Love to stay in touch to whatever extent you want to. Thank you so much for having me. I hope next time somebody,

Melissa Bright:

yes, there will be. Well, did we have any aha moments? I hope so. I hope this, you know, shed light on anything that might be happening, or has happened in your relationship. I do these episodes with these mental health experts. I call him a mental health expert, relationship expert, whatever you want to say, to help bring awareness to ourselves. So we can understand not only ourselves better, we can understand relationships that we are in better, whether that be romantic, or even just friendships, like Matt said so many times is that good people can destroy relationships, good people can destroy marriages. By doing these, these things over and over and over again. And like I said before, that this was not a bashing Men episode at all. There are things that men tend to think more or feel more so on and so forth. And then the same way for women. But like I just said, in my episode, I wanted to give a an example of how I have fallen short in my relationship and take ownership and take responsibility for that. And that is something that I encourage people to do on both sides of not just pointing the finger of it's you, you you it's also reflecting on what could I What can I do better in the relationship? How can I listen to my partner better validate my partner better, adhere to their wants and needs so on and so forth? You get what I'm saying? Right? So anyways, I hope this episode helped you. If you would like to work with Matt, if you would like to read his book. If you would like to follow him on social media, any of those things, be sure to click on the show notes. oats, and you can find all of his information there. And as I mentioned in the beginning of the episode, if you guys would like to support the podcast, you guys can also do that by clicking the show notes and the Donate link is right there. And you know the drill. If you guys know anyone that may need to hear Matt's episode, please share this episode with them, because we never know if this is the one that puts hope back in their hearts.

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Matthew Fray

Author

Matthew Fray is a relationship coach and author who leans on the lessons of his failed marriage and divorce to help others avoid making the same mistakes he did. His book "This is How Your Marriage Ends" (HarperOne) went on sale in March 2022 in both North America and the United Kingdom. Fray has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The Sunday Times (London), on ABC's Tamron Hall Show, and several other places. You can learn more about him and his work at matthewfray.com.