After ten years of marriage, my wife takes very little notice of me. And certainly not of my reading habits. I could quite easily lie next to her in bed studying the ‘How to Make TNT’ chapter of The Anarchist Cookbook and it wouldn’t even register. But this book grabbed her attention right away.
Most of that, of course, is down to its clickbait title, apt enough for something which began as a modest entry on the author’s blog page. After that original post, called ‘She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’, went viral, Matthew Fray established himself as an expert on relationships, mining his own failings as a husband to prove that ‘good people can be bad spouses’.
The main problem, he argues, is that men are simply not taught how to be married. At school we learn about isosceles triangles and the War of 1812 but get no useful grounding in emotional intelligence. As a result, most marital break-ups aren’t caused by ‘Major Marriage Crimes’, such as having affairs or gambling away the family fortune, but by the accumulation of a thousand smaller infractions. Usually these are variations on not respecting or not listening to one’s partner, and because each domestic tiff seems insignificant on its own, we don’t see the eventual cataclysm brewing towards a crisis. As Fray neatly puts it, ‘These tiny wounds don’t kill us instantly nor trigger any sense of danger. And THAT is the danger.’
These are sensible points, but some readers may struggle with his tone of voice, which smacks of the hard-boiled detective or the boys’ locker room. He suspects his wife is seeing ‘some dickbag’; he accuses other men of being a ‘lying doucheface’ and a ‘candy ass wimp’. There are