Poor, Poor, Pitiful Men: The Martyr Complex of the American Husband

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About Hugo Schwyzer

Hugo Schwyzer has taught history and gender studies at Pasadena City College since 1993, where he developed the college's first courses on Men and Masculinity and Beauty and Body Image. He serves as co-director of the Perfectly Unperfected Project, a campaign to transform young people's attitudes around body image and fashion. Hugo lives with his wife, daughter, and six chinchillas in Los Angeles. Hugo blogs at his website


  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Hugo’s been around long enough to know what the guy code is, but he never fails to misrepresent it.
    The guy code is; as long as something needs to be done, control your grief, fear, annoyance, pain, fatigue, etc. Get whatever it is done. When it’s done, then knock yourself out with whatever reaction you like. Problem is, if the post-event self-knockingout isn’t done precisely as women do it, you’re wrong.
    What this has to do with marital relationships is unclear.

  2. Remember, this guy tried to light himself and his girlfriend on fire during a drunken drug binge. He’s also slept with several of his students. Take everything he says with a grain of salt.

  3. Alright, going along with Hugo’s views here: But if women are brought up with the idea (imposed by society, of course…) that she has natural superior emotional and communicational abilities. How are we ever going to get to the point were we actually listen to EACH OTHER?? If both parties all the time have this underlying notion that whatever they disagrre about, she has the power of the veto…

  4. Isn’t it funny that when people complain about marriage, whether they’re male or female, the complaints sound remarkably similar? He/She always has to be right. He/She just doesn’t get how much I do for her/him! I just want to be appreciated!

    It’s almost like it’s not a gender issue at all, but a human one… hmmmm… naw, couldn’t be.

    Anyway, I found this article refreshing. In my marriage, I did a lot submarining, and always assumed that if my wife criticized me, that she must be right. I listened, but I did it the wrong way, by not speaking for myself. I aided and abetted that instead of risking some wounds to get down to the heart of the problem. And unfortunately, I rolled over, played martyr and resented.

    For me, it was because I was afraid that I really *was* an asshole husband, and overcompensated. I put the health of my marriage on the back-burner to avoid feeling like a jerk, even when I knew I wasn’t. It was not a worthwhile bargain and cost us dearly.

    For some reason, we guys get to thinking that setting boundaries and asserting ourselves in relationships makes us entitled assholes. We think that if we tell them “no,” we’ll somehow transform into a beer-gutted misogynist. So we let ourselves get walked on. Then, we get all pissy and passive-aggressive about it. After all, if women are our equals, and if setting boundaries makes US entitled assholes, isn’t our wives’ boundary-setting and criticism the same thing? Is *SHE* the asshole? The subconscious fills our minds with this garbage, and thus begins the illusion of martyrdom and the onset of resentment.

    It really should go without saying though, that women do the exact same thing in their marriages too.

    • This is the best comment I’ve seen on this article. After all, isn’t a real relationship where both people are respected and valued what we’re after?


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