Our Fake Lives

This post is totally not about the Manosphere. You're welcome.

This post is totally not about the Manosphere. You’re welcome.

I don’t know how much of my life is real.

Less than half, maybe.

Sometimes you just have to stop and shut the fuck up for a minute. Just stop. And every ounce of focus and energy you possess is dedicated to being still. Just breathing. For a moment, there is nothing else. Because you’re not thinking about yesterday. You’re not worried about tomorrow. A total investment in that next breath.

In, then out.

The faintest hint of a smile on your face.

And again: In. Through the nose. Hold it. Just a moment. Then, out. Through the mouth.

That’s one of the few times you can know it when no one else is around: This is real. I’m alive.

Different things make people feel alive.

Not everyone would feel it sitting at a Las Vegas poker table the way I do. Check. Bet. Raise. Re-raise. That’s right. Ship those chips, sucka.

Not everyone would feel it sitting at a keyboard. Tap-tap-tapping until things I think and feel morph into words.

But I hope most people feel it when I feel it most. In a crowd of good people, a bunch of friends, laughing, sharing. Connected.

Less than half my life is real.

It’s not real because I spend a lot of time mentally in the past. A place that no longer exists and where pain and sadness sometimes live.

It’s not real because I spend a lot of time dreaming or worrying about the future. A complete fantasy impossible to predict because we have no idea what’s going to happen five minutes from now.

It’s not real because I watch TV and movies more than I should.

It’s not real because of books and video games.

It’s not real because so much interaction with others happens via a digital device or on an internet platform.

I’ve always wanted this to be me. These words right here. But the truth is: They’re not, and can never be. Because however many hundreds or thousands of people ever read this stuff… they don’t (and can’t) see me as I am. They fill in the blanks like all of us do when we read books and stories. Our brains plug the holes with guesses, and we invent something that isn’t real.

I’ve been divorced more than two years now. In that time, I haven’t met or dated even one person locally who could conceivably be a serious girlfriend or potential stepmother for my son. That fact comes up in conversation sometimes.

“Do you want to have more kids?”

The mathematical logistics suggest it’s not happening anyway.

“Women who read your blog love you, Matt!”

I hear that sometimes, too.

I always answer it the same way: “Yeah, but it’s total bullshit. They don’t like the real me. They don’t know me. They like the version of me they invented in their head.”

And then I remind them what I just told you. Even though I’m pretty nice, reasonably funny, semi-attractive, passably competent, gainfully employed, and open to meeting people, the net result of two years of being alive as a single mid-thirties dad is: zero potential girlfriends. I wish I was kidding.

Maybe you should try online dating!’

A bunch of people know this already, but this blog was intended to be a dating blog when I first launched it. I thought it would be hilarious to be this emotionally wrecked, ticking time bomb, cliché, middle-aged divorced guy doing all the things those guys do, and then tell the stories along the way.

Edgy! Hilarious!

And I was trying to online date, but I was shitty at it in large part because I hated myself and wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating anyone, anyway, and was stupid for trying. Instead of owning that, I blamed my height since so many girls who online date only want to date tall guys, even if they’re only 5’1”, themselves.

That always annoyed me. Hence the name, Must Be This Tall To Ride.

Even though my motives for quitting were wrong (pride), I think I was right to not use online dating in an effort to fill the companionship void after my divorce.

It’s another part of this Fake Life problem I feel like so many of us have.

HastyWords has been running a #BeReal campaign. As part of it, the always-edgy, always-entertaining Samara from A Buick in the Land of Lexus wrote an excellent post about Facebook addiction that was published today.

And it got me thinking about this Culture of Disconnection we live in, DESPITE living in the most-technically (and technologically) connected time in human history.

It’s almost as if the more fiber-optic lines we lay, and servers we build, and devices we create, and online communities we join, the less-connected we feel in our actual, physical and spiritual, real lives.

The ones that are true and real when we first wake up in the morning.

The ones that are true and real when we’re standing in the shower shaking out the cobwebs or contemplating whatever today’s top concern is.

The ones that are true and real when we’re with all the people who really know us. When all the digital image management programs aren’t running. And it’s just us, live and in color, being a God’s honest human being with other people.

I don’t mean to disparage the Internet or social media. I am a happy and willing participant, particularly in the blogosphere. (Is that still a word?) And it’s a bona fide MIRACLE that grandparents living far away can FaceTime and Skype with their grandchildren, and that we can more easily than ever before stay in touch with people far away who mean so much to us. It’s so much better than no contact at all, and I’m grateful to be alive when these things are possible.

But when I take an honest, no-bullshit look at my own life?

I lean so heavily on you. I do. Like. Comment. Like. Like. Like. Comment. Like. Comment. Like.

I lean so heavily on escapism. A show I’m binge-watching on Netflix, or some new-ish movie on HBO GO.

And my biggest crutch? This phone. But not to speak. Not much.

Many days and nights, I didn’t feel lonely because I had people there, typing back to me in those little gray text bubbles.

And thank God. This is not a BAD thing. It’s not bad that we can stay in touch with people and not feel lonely for a moment.

But it’s a Band-Aid solution, and not even a particularly good one. Like a shitty, generic drugstore-brand band-aid.

Because sometimes our faraway friends get busy.

And even that little gray text bubble isn’t talking back anymore.

We get afraid. I’m not even sure of what.

But if you’re divorced or perpetually single and don’t live by a bunch of friends and family, you don’t need an explanation. You just get it.

And so the Magic Internet Elves invent all these tools for people. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Where people can paint whatever picture of their lives they want to.

Awesome. Great. Fine. But is it real?

And they invent online dating. Where people can Swipe Right and Swipe Left and send winks and messages to strangers based on a few strategically selected photos and their best sales pitch.

Awesome. Great. Fine. Now it’s really easy for single people to find each other. But is it real?

And they invent mobile devices to keep us “connected.” Where people can do all the Magic Internet Things no matter where they are with other “connected” people no matter where they are. But is that living?

I don’t know.

But I know that none of us have as much time as we’d like. I know that time goes so fast, even when I’m just sitting at home alone. And I know I don’t want to spend my life dead.

I’m not sure what it looks like. The life where I always smile and know I’m all the way alive again, connected and whole.

But I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen watching that movie or liking that Facebook post.

Whenever I find myself unsure of what the next move should be, there’s only one thing left to do.

In, then out.

The faintest hint of a smile on my face.

And again: In. Through the nose. Hold it. Just a moment. Then, out. Through the mouth.

Because it always comes to me.

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How to Scare Bruce Lee and Get Awesome at Stuff

Bruce is smiling because he knows a fun little trick.

Bruce is smiling because he knows a fun little trick.

I remember looking at the non-alphabetized letters on the keyboard and being amazed that people knew how to type fast.

I was a little kid, and an older kid named Justin was watching me and some friends at one of their homes while our parents went out. The family had a computer even though not everyone had personal computers back then.

Justin said he knew all the keys. We didn’t believe him.

We blindfolded him at the desk chair and then yelled out random letters, totally mesmerized as he always found the correct key.

Amazing! How’s he doing that!?

When I was little, I was afraid of the deep ends of swimming pools because when I was 3 some little shit pushed me into a public pool and I sank to the bottom until the lifeguard and my mother pulled me out, but not before I was thoroughly terrified. I was probably 9 before I was confident and comfortable jumping into the deep end of a pool. And now? I’m no Michael Phelps, but I’m a competent, capable swimmer and enjoy it very much. Even in deep water like the Gulf of Mexico where I foolishly often swam alone upon first moving near a Florida beach after college.

I remember not being able to ride a bike.

I remember not being able to tie shoes.

I remember reading or hearing words I didn’t understand.

When I was 7 in 1986, I wrote a letter to Santa, and it looked like this:

IMG_0577

That’s how shitty I was at writing (and drawing reindeer). I found it in my baby book, along with this turd from the following Christmas:

“Dear. Saint Nick,

Please tell the Reindeer I said hi please give me some Ghostbusters and some Ghost

Please give me the Ecto 1 and Headquarters

Turn Over!”

*turns paper over*

“Hope you like the cupcake! Please Write Back!”

And then I drew Santa a crappy picture of himself with a black ink pen. He had just one boot on and a bunch of stars surround his face. It’s a terrible drawing and makes no sense. It’s because I was little.

I’m marginally better at picture-drawing now.

Today, I’m the fastest typist I know. I’m a fine swimmer, I don’t fall down on bikes, I tie my shoes with the best of them, and my vocabulary is well above average.

Some of these things I practiced because they were taught in school or because all my friends were doing them.

In no instance did I set out to achieve mastery.

It just happened.

Because that’s always the net result of doing something over and over again. (Except golf. That would appear to be a notable exception to this rule.)

Enter the Dragon

Bruce Lee, the most famous and one of the most accomplished marital artists in history, said: “I don’t fear the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks. I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Lee was smart. He knew that anyone who does something 10,000 times becomes skilled at that thing.

Something about it resonated with me.

Probably because I’m the kind of person who likes to do lots of different things. I have many interests and am pretty good at a bunch of stuff but not particularly great at any one thing.

It would be fun or rewarding to be GREAT at something.

If you were in a hurry, you could practice something (like a specific kick in Kung Fu) 500 times daily and hit that 10,000 number in just 20 days.

That’s just three weeks. That’s all. THREE WEEKS! To make Bruce Lee a tiny bit afraid of you.

Some of you are probably rolling your eyes. “THAT’S your point? Practice shit? Totally heard that one before, Matt. Thanks.”

I get it! I just think it’s really powerful to realize how great we are at all these random things (even if they’re super-simple like driving, or brushing teeth, or mowing grass, or making food, or whatever) simply by doing them many times. And I think it’s motivating to realize we could get REALLY good at something in three short weeks if we committed to becoming so.

I think sometimes we feel afraid. I’m almost always intimidated by learning how to do something new. It’s magnified when it’s in a strange environment while being watched by people I don’t know.

I’m STILL afraid (pretty much 100-percent of the time no matter how confident I feel five seconds beforehand) to introduce myself to a girl I don’t know at a party or bar or store or whatever.

Everyone has different fears. Usually irrational. But they’re real. And they hold us back from being as happy or successful or fun as we could be.

A lack of confidence is always the reason. When we don’t know how something is going to turn out, it scares us.

I was intimidated by this keyboard I’m using 20 years ago when I had no idea how I’d ever type accurately without looking at the keys. Now, I’m a typing badass.

I look down at my shoes. I used to slowly fumble around with the laces. Sometimes, I’d have to try a second or third time to get it right. But then I figured it out. And I’ve now tied shoes nearly every day for about 30 years. I’m a shoe-tying sensei. I’m amazing at it.

I can swim and ride bikes and I know so many words now because I read and write and talk so much.

Do something 10,000 times, and you’re not just playing. You’re winning.

What could we master with a few weeks or few months of repetitive practice?

I think if we can make Bruce Lee a tiny bit afraid of us, we can do pretty much anything.

I like typing fast.

And well-tied shoes.

(Thanks to my favorite writer James Altucher for inspiring this post.)

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A Response to “Hey Internet: Stop Trying to Inspire Me”

(Image/janrisher.com)

(Image/janrisher.com)

Jamie Varon published a four-minute read that rose to the top story on Medium where I saw it today.

It’s rare to strongly agree and strongly disagree with something at the same time, so I was delighted to stumble on a written piece that did exactly that. It made my “Now what the hell am I going to write about today?” process an easy one.

The following is Ms. Varon’s post supplemented with my occasional interruptions. As always, I’ll totally understand if you don’t care.

Hey Internet: Stop Trying to Inspire Me (By Jamie Varon/Medium)

I think when people are ultra-positive and have this incomparably sunny disposition toward the world, I get turned off. There’s a lot of stuff out there which attempts to make you feel inspired, but ends up leaving you feeling ashamed for being human. It would be easy for me to say:

“Everything happens for a reason!”

“Life is an adventure!”

“Love solves everything!”

“Happiness is a choice!”

These are easy words to say. Easy things to think. Easy, easy, easy. But, their meanings dry up the moment life happens.

Interruption #1

I think most reasonable people with basic reading-comprehension skills can understand and appreciate what Jamie is saying here. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one, been divorced or through a bad break-up, lost a job, was abused or neglected or mistreated, struggled with addiction, fought horrible illness, etc. totally gets it.

You feel like you die. Your entire body hurts. You think and feel things you’ve never thought or felt before. You don’t know what to believe anymore. You don’t know what’s real. Because everything you’d ever believed or “known” about yourself prior to that moment is gone. Lost. To this new, strange version of yourself. Because everything just changed.

I empathize with how Jamie might be feeling. Because when I was sobbing and broken, if someone told me to chin up, I wanted to punch them in their stupid, fucking faces. I get it.

But then she loses me.

Because it’s just as easy to say:

“Everything is meaningless.”

“Life is boring and painful.”

“People are hopeless.”

“We have no control over our feelings.”

There’s a lot of gray area in the arena of human emotion. Can we CONTROL our emotions when we just found out someone we love died? When someone intentionally hurts us in cruel ways?

Not really.

But can we, generally, take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings and work daily to take care of ourselves, to practice gratitude for the many beautiful things in our lives? (Yes, I think EVERYONE, no matter what, can feel legitimate gratitude for their lives, and I’ll accept the challenge should anyone disagree).

It all starts with “Thank you!” For food, or health, or shelter, or clothes, or friends, or hugs, or employment, or children, or pets, or opportunity, or this next breath.

If you can’t find a reason to say and feel “Thank you!” then forgive my bluntness, but you’re doing this whole being-alive thing wrong.

Jamie continues…

I have spent far too many nights feeling ashamed that I couldn’t be more positive, happier, better, stronger. I’d look at these shiny people plastered with positivity and I’d wonder where I went wrong. Why was I so affected by the world? Why didn’t every day feel like an adventure? Don’t these people have to pay bills and have uncomfortable conversations and wake up sometimes with a headache and an axe to grind? Why was I seemingly the only one so deeply affected by the human experience?

I don’t want to be inspired anymore. Inspiration is cheap. It’s easy. It’s flowery. It’s drenched in promises no one can fulfill.

I want to feel understood. I want to feel heard. I want to feel like my weird and twisty and dark thoughts and fears and feelings are not unique to me. I don’t need someone negating my experience in order to provide me with sweet words fluffy as clouds — and just as transparent. I want gritty and real and raw and I’d rather see people fucking up than trying to act as if they never do.

I’m tired of people trying to inspire me to have a better, bigger, happier life. Let me exist. Let me fumble. Let me find the patch of light in the long tunnel of darkness. Let me figure out some shit on my own. I say we need less fake inspiration in this world and more realness. Less doomsday. Less fake happiness. More real shit. Less preaching. More storytelling. Less advice. More community.

I wish people would stop trying to perfect my life. Everybody is selling the magic pill to happiness. Why do I have to be so happy all the time? CAN I LIVE?

Interruption #2

It’s hard sometimes to look over there at those people and just feel: What the hell is so great about them and so shitty about me that everything about their lives is perfect and everything about mine is so, just, uggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhh?

But we are REALLY BAD guessers, sometimes.

Remember how you felt about Tiger Woods before you found out he slept with every woman you know, or Bill Cosby before—you know—unbelievable, or that person in your personal life who did something so out of line with the story you had always told yourself about them, that everything changed once you learned the truth?

Their lives aren’t perfect, either. Those people (the authentic ones!) who want to help others. But they CHOOSE to focus on the good and not the shit. The light. Not the dark.

They ALSO feel shitty and scared and confused. But I admire them for trying to encourage people instead of ignoring them, or worse, playing the victim card and discouraging others along the way.

She said “Everybody is selling the magic pill to happiness.” And maybe some people are. But those frauds are easy enough to spot. The people who are closest to figuring it out don’t use smoke and mirrors. They don’t have to. They’ve been to the bottom and write authentically and authoritatively about it. They’re the ones worth listening to.

Jamie gets so much right, though.

I love this: “I want gritty and real and raw and I’d rather see people fucking up than trying to act as if they never do… More real shit. Less preaching. More storytelling. Less advice. More community.”

Even more importantly, she hones in on the most valuable aspect of human connection through the written word (and probably every other type of social interaction):

“I want to feel understood. I want to feel heard. I want to feel like my weird and twisty and dark thoughts and fears and feelings are not unique to me.”

Preach on, Jamie. You (yes, you) are not the only one. You are never, ever, ever, EVER the only one.

It’s so important for people to realize there are others who think and feel just like them. That they’re not freaks. The effect it has on our hearts and minds is extraordinary.

You’re not a freak. And it is TOTALLY human and normal to think and feel whatever you think and feel. It’s the culmination of every experience you’ve had right up to this moment. We shouldn’t have to apologize for that.

But to deny the power of GROWTH or the ability to positively influence our lives moving forward? To act as if whatever’s going to happen is going to happen and there’s nothing we can do about it? That we’re all just a bunch of hopeless victims of whatever comes next?

That’s just someone lying to themselves.

Like that one time they thought Bill Cosby was a great guy and the kind of role model the world needed.

Jamie continues…

I want you to know that you don’t need to fix yourself if you’re not smiling every moment of the day. Sometimes you have very little to be grateful for and that’s okay. Sometimes it’s hard to muster up the energy to be happy with what you have when you want so much more from the world and yourself. That’s okay. It’s okay to be angry and to be kind of dark and weird and not a ball of positivity every moment. Sometimes it’s okay to be bored and to think that happiness is a bit boring because it kind of is. Sometimes it’s fine to be moody and sad and contemplative and to solve problems with a glass of wine or a pizza or some good sex I don’t even know but it’s okay to just not have it all figured out, to have no answers, to just be like, what is the point of anything.

It’s okay to feel like the ground is shaking beneath your feet. It’s okay because everything is temporary. You can lose your footing one day and be on top of the world the next. Things can change in a blink. Happiness is as fleeting as anything else. These fake salespeople who act like they have the cure to being human really grind me up. All they serve to do is make you feel ashamed for not having it all figured out. They sell your aspirational experience and bake shame into it.

Just promise me that the last thing you’ll do is be ashamed of where you’re at in your experience of being a human. Nothing good comes from shame. It’s about the lowest vibrational place you could be operating from. Avoid shame and anything or anyone that causes you shame. Get it all the hell out of your energy field. Shame is not going to motivate you. It’s going to drain you.

If there’s one promise you can make for yourself, let it be this: I will not let myself be ashamed of my unique experience of being human. Forget the positive bullshit: that promise, that mantra, that state of mind is what can really change lives. A person incapable of cowering to shame is a hero — considering all the many reasons our world gives us reasons to be ashamed. To forgo the feeling of shame is an act of radical resistance. Let yourself be. To truly be. What freedom.

In Conclusion

I think the world today shames people more than any other time in history. The internet is the world’s loudest microphone and we are bombarded with You’re not good enough! messages everywhere we turn. We need to work out more, have better sex, eat healthier, make more money, be better parents, go to church more, stop believing in God, being more tolerant, holding onto our values—whatever.

No matter who you are, it’s not hard to find something to tell you how much better you could be! And if you order right now, we’ll toss in a second one absolutely free!

A person should never feel like there aren’t others out there who feel as they do.

A person should never have to look at their social media feeds and feel like everyone’s lives are so much better than theirs.

A person should never feel ASHAMED of who they naturally, organically, authentically are.

I co-sign with that and so much of what Jamie wrote in this piece. I think she was doing what so many of us do. Just saying: I hear you! I won’t judge you! You’re fine just the way you are! You’re not alone!

And I applaud it. Enthusiastically.

But there’s that other thing, too. The part I strongly disagree with: “Sometimes you have very little to be grateful for and that’s okay.”

That’s NEVER true. Not ever.

Almost every one of us woke up this morning and we could see and hear and had the use of our limbs. People love us. We have food and shelter and electricity and functioning brains and beating hearts and air to breathe.

As my favorite comedian Louis CK once said:

“This is earth, and for trillions of miles in every direction it fucking sucks, so bad, it’s so shitty that your eyes bolt out of your head, because it sucks so bad. You get to be on earth and look at shit as long as you’re not blind or whatever it is, that you get to be here, you get to eat food. You get to put bacon in your mouth. I mean, when you have bacon in your mouth, it doesn’t matter who is president or anything, you just ahh, ahhhhhh.”

We are miraculously fortunate to be here. The odds against us even existing are beyond mind-blowing.

The least-fortunate human on earth could spend the rest of their lives writing down reasons to feel grateful and never run out of things.

And every day we feel sad and miserable (that is NOT one of those fresh-wound moments where even the most-stoic person alive feels pain), is a day to seek more things to be thankful for.

Like a treasure hunt.

The treasure hunt to real happiness.

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When a Partner Grieves: The Moment of Truth

hands1

“Your life is about to fall apart, you’re going to get divorced, and things will never be the same,” is what my wife’s cousin could have said.

But she didn’t. She told me in vague and confusing ways that we’d lost my father-in-law without warning and that I needed to tell his daughter.

Oh no.

She had to be mistaken. We had just had dinner with him the night before and he was the same great guy I’d known for a decade. He was fine!

It doesn’t always make sense when people die. I don’t think it makes sense for people even when they see it coming.

But sometimes we don’t see it coming.

We just wake up and have the same kind of day we always do. And then someone surprises us with a phone call.

And now, even though the earth will need to spin a billion more times before you can finally process it, you know: Everything is different now.

And it’s true. Everything you think and feel now has a new layer in it. Something uninvited. And it casts shadows. And makes things heavier.

The day my father-in-law died was the day my marriage died. I just didn’t know it yet.

Hold On, Don’t Let Go

One of my favorite cousins got married two Saturdays ago and I was fortunate enough to attend the wedding. It was the first day of my summer vacation visiting family and friends.

It was my second wedding since my divorce.

They feel different now.

I used to go to weddings and (even if I was wrong) I just knew they were going to be married forever. Now, it’s not like that. Statistically, one of the two marriages I’ve witnessed as a single guy will end in heartbreak and misery.

There are all these themes of love and loyalty and togetherness at weddings. All this talk of unselfishness and service and forgiveness.

It’s the kind of stuff most people tune out as they smile and take photos for Instagram and Facebook while looking forward to the party afterward.

I used to be just like that. But then my marriage died and all the symbolism and messages of love took on much deeper meaning. The sacredness of the occasion feels much greater now.

I look at these two people and (even if I’m wrong) I just know they have no idea what they’re in for.

Probably not soon.

Probably later.

Once complacency or resentment or sadness or grief sets in. My cousin is very close to her mother—my aunt. She moved to Florida a few years ago for all the same reasons I did after graduating college. Her daughter missed her very much. Would start crying the day BEFORE she or her mother would have to say goodbye to one another during visits, which is why my aunt moved back home.

It’s a beautiful mother-daughter bond. And one of them will have to say bye to the other someday. No one gets forever in this life.

My cousin is going to break on the inside when she loses her mother. She has a dad and brother, too. And lots of friends and other family members. Loss is part of life, but it’s one we don’t think about until it sucker punches us without warning.

Will her new husband know what to do when that day comes?

How could he?

I shook hands yesterday with a man at his wife’s funeral. I hugged his three daughters, all standing next to their husbands in the receiving line. And as much as I attempted to focus on these women trying to cope with and process the loss of their mother, I spent most of the time thinking about these husbands.

I can’t be certain this will be their greatest tests as husbands, but I’m pretty sure it will be their biggest one yet.

In Good Times, and In Bad

This is what we promise standing on that alter or in front of whoever is officiating our marriages.

We know there will be good days AND bad days, but we’re going to love our partners forever, no matter what. At least, that’s what we all say.

But then shit hits the fan without warning and life gets really inconvenient and THAT’s when we’re measured.

Everyone grieves differently.

I don’t know what I was expecting from my wife when she lost her father, but it wasn’t what I got. She seemed like a different person. One who no longer wanted me around. She said as much about a month into the grieving process.

I don’t know what the optimum way would be to deal with that, but I chose the wrong way. I moved into the guest room and felt sorry for myself every day until she left a year and a half later.

I would advise against that strategy.

I don’t know what it will look and feel like when your spouse or partner loses someone close to them. But it’s safe to assume they will hurt and feel brokenness on the inside. They’re going to feel lost and scared because they won’t feel like themselves anymore and that’s a terrifying experience.

I wish I could tell you what to do. How to make everything okay for your partner and you.

But there are no instruction manuals for this stuff. There are no blueprints to follow.

I thought it was unfair that because my wife was sad about losing her father that I had to be treated like a leper. So instead of being strong and EVERY DAY asking: “What can I do to make your day better?,” I pouted like an asshole instead of asking myself the hard questions about why my wife wasn’t coming to me for comfort.

When your spouse is grieving, this is NOT your time. This is THEIR time. Put them first. They hurt very badly. And you need to be the rock they can lean on instead of selfishly hoping he or she gets over it soon so your life can get comfortable again.

I write it a lot: Love is a choice.

When your spouse isn’t his or her fun self anymore and they don’t make you feel good because they’re lost in a vortex of emotion that changes day to day and they don’t know how to manage their own feelings, let alone yours, it’s easy to throw up your hands months later:

“Does she really think this is more important than our marriage?”

“If she’s not going to try, why should I?”

“Why is she doing this to me?”

The Moment of Truth

No one’s out to get you, and unless you and your spouse are master communicators (and you’re not, otherwise there wouldn’t be any problems) about half the things you believe your spouse is thinking and feeling are wrong. We’re sometimes bad guessers.

The phrase “The moment of truth” originated in Spanish bullfighting, referring to the moment in a bullfight in which the matador is about to make the kill.

Specifically, the dictionary tells us it’s “The moment at which one’s character, courage, skill, etc., is put to an extreme test; critical moment.”

When your partner is grieving and you feel your life unraveling because you don’t know how to help them, and you’re hurting yourself because you feel the relationship slipping away—it’s your moment of truth.

Theoretically, it won’t be the only one.

It’s hard to put yourself on the back burner and selflessly love without asking for anything in return.

But that’s what it takes. It’s a test of your character.

And you’re afraid. So afraid. Because you don’t know if the sacrifice is going to pay off because you’re not promised love and loyalty in return. It’s a test of your courage.

No one teaches us how to do this. To serve others at the expense of our own comfort, and sometimes, happiness. It’s a test of your resourcefulness. A test of your skill.

Because you’re being put to an extreme test.

And it’s a critical moment.

And many of us don’t make it.

Because we’re lost.

Because we’re not heroes.

But maybe you are.

And even if you’re not—maybe you can choose to be.

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No Place Like Home

social connection

When you live somewhere far away from your hometown or a place with many friends and family, and then get divorced, you spend a lot of time alone.

There are differences between being alone and being lonely. More than two years removed from marriage, I am alone more often than I was right away, but feel less lonely.

But as someone who thrives on social connectivity and human interaction, there can be no doubt that I find myself in the loneliest period of my life.

I’m going to be fine because this won’t be permanent, and because I actively pursue social activity today more so than I did during the hardest, darkest days following the divorce.

But like so many of these experiences new to me in this unexpected life phase, it dawns on me that I can’t be the only one experiencing this.

The Recipe for Social Isolation After Divorce

I’m sure it can happen multiple ways, but here’s how it happened for me.

I was born in Iowa and lived there until I was 4. Then, my parents divorced and my mother moved us to Ohio where we lived near her hometown.

I grew up in a small-town, big-family environment and had a large group of friends throughout elementary school and high school, so even though I was an only child, I never experienced loneliness.

My college years proved to be the most-connected, and I believe not coincidentally, the most-fun years of my life.

Because I was young and took for granted the connection between friends and family, and my internal happiness and well being, I moved to Florida more than a thousand miles away after graduating college.

My girlfriend, who would later be my wife/ex-wife, was with me, mitigating some of the loneliness and social isolation we both felt after a few months living so far from home for the first time.

After a few years, we moved back to Ohio, only this time, we moved near my wife’s hometown—a place where I had no roots, hundreds of miles from all the people I knew and grew up with. Still, it felt much more like home than Florida. My wife’s immediate and large extended family welcomed me, and holidays were warm, vibrant affairs, and that helped offset any loneliness or social isolation I felt being in yet another new place far from home.

We made friends. Almost all were married couples because when you’re married, you tend to befriend and hang out with other couples.

It wasn’t perfect. My dad’s side of the family was 500 miles away. My mom’s side was a four-hour drive away. But we had made a home and forged a comfortable life with our new friends and my wife’s kind family.

Even though it was a slow death at home, so sneaky I didn’t even recognize it happening until she finally said one night: “I don’t know if I love you anymore,” it must have seemed quite sudden to friends and family because my wife and I were so good at wearing masks and pretending.

She’d had enough. And she left.

And at first, I was so out of breath, and so emotionally and mentally and spiritually damaged, focused on the loss of my presumed lifelong partner, half of my little son’s childhood, and all of my hopes and dreams for the future, that loneliness and social isolation weren’t on my radar.

In fact, there were many days and nights where I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

But time heals even the deepest wounds. And something like normalcy returns.

You lose friends from the fallout.

You lose an entire family because when you divorce your spouse, you often divorce their family too, no matter how kind and loving they remain in your sporadic post-divorce meetings.

So you take stock of your life.

I have no family.

I lost friends.

My son needs both of his parents, so unless we all agree to move somewhere, this is where we are for many more years.

You accept your fate. It’s not ideal. You’d move if you could. But your son matters so much more than anything else, that there’s no internal debate.

When you are a divorced parent to children fortunate enough to have a viable parent nearby to help love and care for them, you tend to be geographically stuck. And if you’re someone like me who happened to move with your partner to a place far from home, you find yourself here. Just like me.

Longing for more.

Yearning for the joy and comfort of lifelong friendships.

But resigned to your fate.

This is where I live. And I have to make the best of it.

The Journey Home

I’m visiting family and friends this week in western Illinois.

No matter how many years of vibrant social living you’ve experienced, when you live alone as I do now and rarely see people from your past, it’s easy to forget how soul-enriching it is to be with loved ones.

It has been a wonderful visit. Incalculable fun and laughter with people who have mattered for as long as I can remember.

But this is the last day. The one that always arrives too quickly.

Tomorrow, we—my young son and I—return home.

Not home, per se. But, home.

It reminds me that home isn’t just a destination, but a state of mind, a state of being.

That it’s about people and how we feel when we are with those people. Those beautiful few we let all the way in. The people who cross from friend to family, despite the absence of shared bloodlines.

I came across this today in Medical Daily:

“While solitude can stimulate creativity and even improve our attention span, it can also have deadly consequences. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science found social isolation increased people’s likelihood of death by 26 percent, even when people didn’t consider themselves lonely. Social isolation and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely.

The human species is inevitably a social species that has depended on other members since birth. We’re social creatures that need other people in order to be well and thrive. Naturally, surrounding ourselves with others and fostering close relationships are the antidote to living happy, healthy, and well.”

I can’t go back in time and change the course of my life or marriage.

I can’t run away to places in this world where I have family and friends networks that mean so much to me.

And I can’t rely on others to do anything for me.

It has to be me. It has to be us—everyone who finds themselves in these relatively unique life circumstances.

We have a responsibility to create the best-possible life for our children. We have a responsibility to be the happiest, healthiest versions of ourselves so that we can be the parents our kids need.

To totally sell out and rock a pretty annoying cliché, we all have a responsibility to make lemonade. You know, because of the lemons.

Our families can’t do it for us.

Our faraway friends can’t do it for us.

It has to start with the choice to be friendly and generous to others. To courageously try new things and participate in new activities. To put ourselves out there for acceptance or rejection and being willing to roll with the punches knowing we’re going to earn a few new “family” members along the way.

Because when you can’t be home, you have to make home.

To inject more life into life.

And it boils down to one simple choice: What am I going to do today?

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Road Trip!

road trip

I’ll totally be on the Interstate the entire time and it won’t look this pretty.

As I do every summer, I head west today for my annual week of trouble making with family and friends in Illinois.

There will be lots of pool time, loud music, day drinking, excessive tequila consumption, Mississippi River boating, and probably even some cool stuff I haven’t thought of yet.

While this is all happening, I will also be an attentive father. (I promise.)

What is, however, in question, is to what degree I will concentrate on writing blog posts and responding to comments. There aren’t many opportunities in life to shirk 95 percent of daily responsibilities without consequence, but this one week per year at my dad’s excellent and well-stocked home grants me that luxury.

I can’t promise to adhere to my regular posting schedule for the next nine or so days, and acknowledge that exactly zero people will lose sleep over it, but I wanted to mention it anyway.

I like writing here and won’t intentionally neglect it. But for at least one week, I’m not going to force it either.

See you when I see you!

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Do People’s Feelings Matter? That Depends.

Plutchik-wheel-591x270

I once wrote that feelings are bullshit.

Except I wrote it more dramatically: “Feelings. Are. Bullshit.”

That probably seems rich coming from a guy who frequently writes emotion-based stories and whose only success as a blogger has come from a series of posts validating emotionally damaged wives’ feelings and warning husbands to ignore them at their peril.

Because of a technical glitch, an 18-month-old post titled Love is a Choice was re-posted to my Twitter feed over the weekend after making a small edit to that post and hitting the Update button.

A reader saw the tweet, read the post which included my “Feelings are bullshit” claim, and asked a challenging, but fair question: “Matt. I just read your post on ‘Love is a Choice.’ Do you still feel this way about feelings?”

Human emotion is a fascinating and complex thing.

I don’t think I need to rattle off the litany of wars, romances, terror attacks, artistic creations, revolutions, epic social or cultural changes, marriages, divorces, friendships, or nearly every single notable thing that’s ever happened, instigated by human emotion.

By day, I am a marketing professional.

As everyone in this profession or who has watched Mad Men knows, connecting with consumers emotionally is the ultimate key to getting them to take desired actions.

In most respects, emotion drives our choices and dictates how we feel at any given time.

Emotional bonds change everything.

They’re the difference between some stray animal, and a beloved pet that becomes part of the family.

They’re the difference between a random adult and child, and an adoring father and son.

They’re the difference between two strangers walking by one another on a crowded street, and those same two people sharing beds and homes and lifetimes after meeting and connecting.

“Do you still feel this way about feelings?”

What I Meant

Despite my affinity for the written word, some conversations are best had in person, because in a rapid exchange of information, clarity and understanding can win the day.

In this case, I can understand how my “Feelings. Are. Bullshit.” declaration could cause some bristling and heartburn.

I’ll try to be clearer.

Because how people feel dictates their entire human experience—literally determines whether them being alive is a positive or negative experience—considering the feelings of those around us when we say and do things is what separates the dicks from the conscientious. People who suck from people who are cool.

“But wait a minute, Matt. Are we REALLY responsible for how OTHER PEOPLE FEEL? Is it REALLY our problem or responsibility?”

I’ll be on both sides of this argument for the rest of my life, depending on the situation.

While I’m a MAJOR free speech and anti-censorship advocate, I applaud the State of South Carolina for pulling the Confederate flag from government property.

I don’t know whether this is fair or not (and fairness REALLY matters to me), but I simply give a MUCH LARGER shit about the feelings of black Americans who view that flag as a symbol of racism and oppression than I do about the feelings of southern whites who see it as an important symbol of their heritage.

To demonstrate the depths of my hypocrisy, I’m a Cleveland Indians fan, and much like Washington Redskins fans, and fans of other sports teams which use Native American names and symbols as mascots, I make the same argument as the rebel flag supporters about keeping the teams’ names and mascots as is. I find it unreasonable to suggest that because I root for my favorite baseball team, I am somehow mocking or belittling the heritage of a particular group of people, or that I’m insensitive to the atrocities they suffered centuries ago.

I imagine some people flying the Confederate flag feel exactly like that.

I don’t know.

But I do know that how people feel is at the very heart of both debates. And that there doesn’t always appear to be a clear-cut right or wrong thing to do.

I’m a little uncomfortable with the idea that I am RESPONSIBLE for another person’s emotions. I can write a sentence or a blog post, for example, that will yield dramatically different responses.

I recently wrote a post joking about a drunk guy inappropriately touching women at a party one night several years ago.

Some people thought it was hilarious.

Others thought it was serious subject matter, and that my tone and treatment of the story was in poor taste.

Am I responsible for those emotions? I don’t know.

This is Why Husbands Have So Much Trouble with Emotion

Emotion and human behavior is not one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different.

But I believe that men share many traits with the vast majority of men, and women share many traits with the vast majority of women. And I believe that allows us to make generally true statements about how the two genders behave.

To that end, how women feel will often be the ultimate factor in whether a marriage lasts, whether a couple is sexually active, and whether children grow up with divorced parents.

And on paper, I might agree with a guy who says that’s too much power for his wife to wield, and inherently unfair, as she accepted him as a young man, and then rejected him later when her wants and needs changed after years of marriage and raising children.

But life isn’t on paper. Not the nitty-gritty human relationships, anyway. Those are on the front lines of the human experience.

And if a husband listens to his wife’s cries for attention and pleas for help and begging for changes that will allow her to feel emotionally safe and secure, and ignores them, or tells her “Sorry! I’m not changing!” then he gets what he deserves when she inevitably leaves, and increases the odds of infidelity about 14 trillion percent.

The reason men are so cavalier about their wives’ emotions is that they literally don’t know. Most men NEVER feel as their wives do, but more importantly, the story of why their wives feel that way doesn’t register with them because it seems totally insane to a man that X caused Y. X didn’t even faze him, so it doesn’t make sense that THAT is the reason she’s hurt and crying right now.

Most men don’t realize that their wives and girlfriends are fundamentally different than them. But men DO understand emotional pain. It’s just triggered by different things. If you find a man who has experienced intense emotional pain, and you can clearly convey that this other thing made the women in their lives feel the exact same type of intense pain, THEN it will finally click in his brain.

At least, that’s what worked for me.

So, Wait. When Are Feelings Bullshit?

Glad you asked.

Feelings are bullshit when you exchange wedding vows and promise forever, and then use negative feelings about the relationship later as a reason for ending the marriage, only to go out, start a new relationship and repeat the cycle all over again. Because (with the exception of abuse, addiction, cheating, and other dysfunctional horribleness) the cycle WILL repeat all over again.

There are no such things as perfect relationships.

They say marriage is hard work BECAUSE of all the times that are hard.

Sometimes drivers next to us make us want to run them off the road.

Sometimes people who disagree with us on emotional matters make us want to punch and scream.

Sometimes we wake up in the morning and don’t feel like working out, or going to our jobs, or paying bills.

Sometimes people are MADLY in love with someone, and then hate them a week later.

Sometimes our kids make us so angry that we wish they weren’t with us. Usually, within five minutes, or just one really nice hug, we’re back to being totally smitten.

Feelings are VERY fickle things. Constantly changing. Thus, dangerous things to put in charge of everything that happens.

People do drugs and drink excessively because it feels good.

Married people fuck people they’re not supposed to because it feels good.

Parents neglect their children because they don’t feel like taking care of them.

Human emotion? Particularly in our close, personal relationships? They are one of the most important things for us to monitor and manage. Absolutely.

But sometimes?

When we have responsibilities? When we feel tempted or lazy? When we’ve made promises?

Doing what we, in our dumbest, weakest human moments, feel like doing is just about the worst idea imaginable.

“Do you still feel this way about feelings?”

I didn’t explain myself very well the first time. And maybe I didn’t this time.

But, the answer is: yes.

I do.

Sometimes what we choose to do is infinitely more important than what we feel like doing.

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How to Start a Blog

(Image/blog.ringcentral.com)

(Image/blog.ringcentral.com)

Feral Wife asked:

Hi Matt, I have truly enjoyed reading your blog. I found it shortly after asking my husband for a separation (we decided not to). Your words were a blessing, and long story short, you and the many commenters have inspired me to start my own blog. The premise of my blog is I am the wife of a shitty husband, a husband who was shocked when I asked for a separation. Now we are trying to work it out and stay married. So I want to share my journey in hopes of helping other wives and husbands. But I don’t really know where to start, I am assuming your blog didn’t start off as fabulous as it is now (if it has, more props to you!) so I am asking for tidbits/advice on where to start. I would like to remain anonymous, for a variety of reasons. Anyway, you said we could ask you stuff, for free, so I thought I’d ask: “How do I start my own blog?”

There are countless reasons to start blogging.

Some people love writing. Some people like telling stories. Some people dream big and hope people will like their writing and that it might create future writing and career opportunities. Some people process information and life events best when they get thoughts down on paper (or a computer screen). Some people want to help and be a resource for others.

If you ask me today why I write here, those are my reasons.

But that’s not why I started.

One night, less than three months into my marital separation, I was self-medicating with vodka before some friends were picking me up to go out.

I was feeling sorry for myself because my wife was seeing someone.

I was feeling sorry for myself because my son wasn’t home.

I was feeling sorry for myself because I was taking my first crack at online dating and it was a colossal failure by every measurable standard.

I was totally losing it. I called an 800 number off a card someone at work had given me for over-the-phone counseling.

I don’t remember anything about the conversation except for the part where the therapist lady told me I should start writing down my thoughts and feelings. Normal people keep journals. I thought: Maybe I’ll just write anonymously and publish it! That might be a fun experiment!

I thought Must Be This Tall To Ride was going to be a sarcastic, juvenile journey through my online-dating stumbles—the story of this bumbling, depressed, freaking-out newly single 30-something father trying to “date” for the first time in his life.

I started blogging because I’m a total spaz and as soon as any idea pops into my idiot little head, I rush off and do it until I get bored or distracted by something else and move on.

But then something happened I didn’t expect—some people gave a shit. People were reading. Not a lot. But some! Whoa.

Writing has some magic qualities for the people doing it. Something intangible that, no matter how many times people tell you, you can’t really understand it until it starts happening. That therapist lady knew it. But I didn’t. Not until, for the first time in my life, I took things from the inside of me and turned them into words.

It was a little scary. A little embarrassing. But, man. It worked. I really started feeling better.

And then something even crazier happened.

Some of the people reading said it helped them feel better, too.

I’ve written PLENTY of immature bullshit here. Sorry. I am immature and sometimes I make bad decisions that are bullshit.

But mostly? I started really caring about being someone who wasn’t adding to all the noise and negativity shrieking and clanging around out there.

Maybe this can matter. 

How to Start a Blog

1. Have a reason. A concept. A thing.

No matter how much I don’t want to be, I’ve sort of become this divorce/relationship blogger, which makes no sense, but whatever. Sometimes things don’t make sense.

2. Think of good blog names, and pick one with a sensible, AVAILABLE URL (or if you’re not hiding your identity, try to secure your name. Example: BobRodgers.com)

I picked Must Be This Tall To Ride because a week earlier I wrote to some 5’2” online dating chick one night who wouldn’t date guys under six feet, and I used it as the subject line. It made me laugh. She wrote back, but not because she wanted to go out. I’m glad the URL was available. That was lucky.

3. There are a variety of blogging platforms. I like WordPress for many reasons. Choose a non-sucky theme

I picked this theme (called “Chunk”) because it’s SUPER-clean, and I like clean. I like Google’s home page. I like Apple’s advertising. I like white space.

So I chose this because there aren’t any distractions.

I thought I would be able to customize it so that I could take some of the things that live WAY down at the bottom of these pages that most people never see, and move them up to the sidebars. But this theme doesn’t let you do that, AND I suck at HTML coding, so even if it did, I probably couldn’t have pulled it off.

My advice: Choose a theme that allows people to follow you via email up in the sidebar, and showcase other information they care about like recent posts, or popular posts, or how to follow you on social media, or whatever. When you bury it at the bottom of your blog like I do here, most people never see it because they’re busy and don’t care. You have to make it easy and obvious for them to follow you.

4. Use photos in your blog posts.

I usually stick with just one image up top. Credit the photographer or at least the source whenever possible in the caption. People like images.

5. Write as much as you want, but 800 words or less will help readers stay with you.

I usually write over a thousand because I’m wordy and don’t always do what I’m supposed to.

6. Write well.

This is subjective. I don’t think I’m a particularly great writer. But (usually after publishing a mistake or two every time) I’m pretty good about keeping the copy clean. Typos are bad. Using “their” instead of “there” is bad. Bad punctuation is bad. Bad everything is bad. Unfortunately, I do some things poorly. It’s because I’m only moderately intelligent AND because I rush through this stuff, never planning ahead, and hastily hitting Publish during my lunch hour at work. It’s a bad blogging and writing strategy.

7. Make it easy for people to share your work.

WordPress plugins make it easy to embed social media sharing on your blog. Twitter is the only social media I use to share posts and it generates very little traffic because I’m shitty at Twitter. Facebook is obviously the biggest and best place to share. Because I’m afraid of family members and people in my professional network reading about accidental vaginas or my grandmother hypothetically marrying a Liam Neeson movie character, I’ve always been too scared to share stuff on Facebook. But it’s still the place where my posts that do get shared, get shared most often.

8. Reply to comments.

I’m not always good at this, but I aspire to be.

9. Try to develop a regular posting schedule.

Posting every day only worked for about nine months for me. That was masochistic. I generally stick to Monday-Wednesday-Friday now and I find it more manageable. There’s no right or wrong way. But consistency is smart.

10. Tag and categorize your posts thoughtfully.

I just sort of guess. There’s a science to it, but I’m always in too big of a hurry. Tagging or categorizing my posts “Marriage” or “Divorce” or “Penis” allows people to find content that interests them and lets regular readers know what they’re getting into.

I’m probably leaving stuff out because I’m out of time and need to stop writing this.

In Conclusion

Feral Wife called my blog “fabulous.” Which is too kind because of all its structural deficiencies and sometimes-shitty writing.

If it is fabulous, I have a hard time believing it started out that way. Some people have read every post, and they would know better than me.

I’ve published close to 500 posts in just over two years here, and any time you do something hundreds of times, you get better at it, but that’s also subjective because some of you are reading this (or quit 700 words ago) and are thinking: Why the hell am I still reading this?

Fair question.

I have no idea.

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Divorced Parenting Requires a New Kind of Love

Children with divorced parents spend a lot of time waving from windows. It's sad. Put them first. Always. (Image/Time)

Children with divorced parents spend a lot of time waving from windows. It’s sad. Put them first. Always. (Image/Time)

Oreoanonymous asked:

I have been watching the struggle of my mother’s partner from his point of view, with only small comments on his ex to go on. The struggle is for time with their little girl. From the point of view that I have, the ex seems to be the one being the dickhead. Yet part of me thinks that’s an unfair thing to assume. Just because she stops the lass from visiting some weekends and then shows up unexpectedly because she wants a night off on others, that’s maybe… bad communication? Or misunderstanding? I don’t know.

Do you have experience with the custodial thing? Could you write about it?

Fortunately, it was never up for debate.

When my wife and I divorced two years ago, we agreed that an equal-time shared-parenting agreement made the most sense for us and our son who was just about to enter kindergarten.

Even though your heart is broken in a million pieces because of your relationship ending, the hardest part of divorce for most parents inevitably involves the fallout surrounding their children.

There are hurt feelings. Financial concerns. Scheduling headaches. Extra things to remember (which I’m historically bad about). All kinds of fears and sensitivities surrounding your child’s safety and well being when you’re not around. And maybe the biggest—a complete lack of control regarding who your ex might date or marry, and to what extent that might influence your child’s life.

The Right Way to Parent After Divorce

I’m not saying my judgment is always best. I may be totally screwing up my son because of things I do or don’t do. I’m not saying I know the best way to be a divorced father. I’m saying, logistically and behaviorally, my ex and I have found a way that works for us. Our son seems to benefit from it.

I can say with certainty and pride that if there’s an optimum way for divorced parents to cooperate and work together in the interest of a child’s well being, my son’s mother and I are doing it right.

We communicate constantly. Close to daily. If scheduling conflicts are on the horizon, we discuss it ahead of time and reshuffle our schedules accordingly. We back one another up in case of illness. Change our personal schedules for special occasions. Attend school functions and extracurricular activities together. We are constantly doing favors for one another, which I think breeds goodwill and eliminates any and all stress for our child.

That boy comes first. He never doesn’t.

We never call one another to say: “Hey! I want to go out partying this weekend! Will you please keep him???”

We also never squabble over when he is to be with one of us. If there is a special event of some kind—a wedding, or unique opportunity to attend a family event—we always accommodate the other.

Our individual wants don’t come first. Our son comes first.

When my parents divorced when I was 4 and my mom moved us 500 miles away from my dad, my parents battled in court for full-time custody of me. The judge awarded custody to my mother. So, I lived in Ohio throughout the school year, and would visit my dad for 9-10 weeks over summer breaks and 1-2 weeks over winter breaks.

And that’s just how it was for me growing up. Not optimum.

When my wife and I first separated, I assumed we would trade weeks. One week on, one week off. Brutal. But clean and simple. And infinitely better than how I remember it with my dad.

Everything my ex and I heard and read said young children suffer emotionally and psychologically from being away from a parent for that much time. So we had to figure out a better, albeit more complicated, way.

There are MANY different 50-50 parenting schedules out there that work for people because of geography or work schedules or other circumstances.

Here’s what worked for us:

Monday and Tuesday – Child with one parent.

Wednesday and Thursday – Child with other parent.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday – Child back with other parent.

And on and on it goes, constantly flip-flopping (save for the occasional juggling and makeup days we do to help one another).

The positives are that it keeps the weekends even, and cleanly divides the time even though calendar weeks are an inconvenient odd number of days.

The negatives are that it’s REALLY hard to be part of social groups or organized activities that take place at the same time and day each week, because every other week you are unavailable to participate. And it also requires intense THOUGHTFULNESS AND COOPERATION.

For example, when your child participates in sports or other activities, or has special projects or events for school, BOTH parents must communicate and back one another up regarding having the correct clothes or uniform or shoes a child might need, or for completing work on a project, or even just to notify one another about upcoming stuff on the school calendar.

It means you have to swallow your pride and always be available to answer the phone or a text message. It means you have to soften your heart. It means you sometimes have to drop whatever you’re doing because your ex needs an outfit or school document delivered for your kid.

It seems like a lot of people are incapable of doing, or refuse to do this, because they’re angry, selfish, or something else.

I think children suffer for it.

The Wrong Way to Parent After Divorce

I don’t always know what’s right, but it’s generally easy to spot what’s wrong.

Here are the things I see divorced parents do often that gives me the most heartburn:

Selfishness

Sometimes, parents want to do what they want to do more than they want to spend time with their kids, or help maintain the kids’ routines.

I hear about dads scheduling last-minute golf trips or Vegas trips with buddies and not being available for their scheduled time with children.

I hear about moms wanting to go party all night at the bars so “just keep them an extra night, okay??”

A well-coordinated, equally split schedule yields the flexibility to build in all the selfish time you want for you. It just requires a bit of foresight and planning. If you’re bad at that like me, and your kids are scheduled to be with you during that fun thing that’s coming up? Sorry about your luck, I guess? Love your kids. They deserve it.

Dating

Moms and dads all over the place will sometimes start casually dating, and just have their new boyfriend or girlfriend (sometimes, multiple!) around even when the kids are home, just because they like having sex so much.

MAYBE this has no impact on children. I don’t claim to be a child psychologist. But I have to believe it exposes them to shit they’re just not ready to process maturely. Also, little kids often like everyone, so if they attach to the new boyfriends and girlfriends, they often have to deal with loss again when their mom or dad breaks up a month later. Ugh. I just think it’s a total asshole move.

In two years of being single, I have not introduced my son to, or met a child of, someone I dated (minus the mom of one of his friends/classmates who he already knew. Public Service Announcement: Don’t date parents of your kids’ classmates. Just, don’t.)

Please wait until confidence is REALLY high that you’re in a committed, long-term relationship before involving children. Pretty please.

Revenge

I’ve heard a couple stories about parents who straight-up refuse to share and cooperate. One dad told his son’s mother that he will NEVER exchange weekends under any circumstances, and that the clothes he buys for his kid stay with him, and that mom doesn’t get them, ever. (I don’t know what this looks like on transition days! Nudity?)

It’s not because they’re the dumbest, most-unreasonable people to walk the earth.

It’s because they’re angry at their exes, and they’re going to use their children as pawns in their power plays. They want to feel in control of a situation in which no one can have control.

Sure, maybe your ex will suffer a little bit.

In the end, your child (and your relationship with that child) will suffer more. Those are sad stories.

The Post-Marriage Relationship when Children are Involved

A new kind of love is required.

It is a difficult, emotionally painful, pride-swallowing affair.

If you didn’t have kids, you maybe would have never had to see one another or speak to one another again. But you do have kids. And you’re “stuck” with each other for better or worse until your children are independent adults, and probably for long after.

So, love. Just love.

You didn’t get it right in your marriage. You messed up. Here’s your chance to do something right. A little redemption.

Love.

Be kind.

Be helpful.

Be generous.

Give more than you take.

Always put your children first.

This is one tangible way to show your children what love and class and grace and kindness look like.

A tangible way to light up the darkness.

And that always changes everything.

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Hey! Stop “Bob Rodgersing” My Pregnant Wife!

old-guy-with-hand-down-large-womans-pants

A classic Bob Rodgersing. Here, this man is showing you a creative, one-handed variation of the Original.

Author’s Note: Sexual assault isn’t funny. And if Bob Rodgers were to ever “Bob Rodgers” the wrong person, he could conceivably get in sexual assault-ish legal trouble for doing so. I’m not a lawyer. But my friend is. And he just happened to be there the night Bob Rodgers “Bob Rodgersed” my pregnant wife, an event that forever changed our vocabulary, the types of photos we text or email one another, and turned a random guy’s name into a verb and a noun. The names in this post have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty.

I spent my high school years living on a quaint little street at the bottom of a steep hill with a cul-de-sac on both ends.

It was quiet other than the occasional train roaring by on some nearby tracks. My parents (my mom and stepdad) were conservative and fairly strict. Nothing wild EVER happened at that house.

So, when my wife and I rolled up to my old house where my stepdad lived alone less than a year after my mom left and filed for divorce, and about 10 years after I’d moved out, I almost shit myself.

Hip-hop music was BLARING from the garage via professional DJ equipment.

People were everywhere, laughing and having a good time.

Are we back in college?

This was a bona fide keg party my stepdad (who I met on my 5th birthday) was throwing while trying to reclaim his life after the divorce.

Before long, I was drinking shots with friends and neighbors and relatives standing around the kitchen table where we prayed before every meal and where I’d never before drank alcohol.

I was bumming cigarettes to my uncle’s girlfriend who was trying to hide it from him.

I was laughing it up with friends and family all of who shared my awe of the surreal scene: What planet are we on right now? Can you believe this is happening here?

It was the second-most surreal and awesome thing that would happen that night.

One of the neighbors is a guy named Bob Rodgers. A guy in between my parents’ and I’s ages.

He was always nice to me.

“Hey Bob! Good to see you, sir! Want to drink a shot with us?”

Damn right, he did.

All night, we were filling up plastic cups from the kegs, and drinking occasional shots from my stepdad’s neglected liquor cabinet. This was a man that drank ONE light beer, once a month with dinner. Maybe.

It was a great party.

My lawyer friend isn’t just my lawyer friend. He’s my childhood best friend who happens to be an attorney also.

He and I were standing in the backyard admiring the sights and sounds of the summer-night party when my pregnant wife walked up to us.

“So, I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but who’s that guy over there?” she said.

“That’s Bob Rodgers. He lives right over there. Why?” I said.

“He just totally put his hands down my pants,” she said.

I didn’t love when guys did that, but I was drinking a lot and am harder to upset under such conditions.

“What do you mean? Like the front? Like, he tried to touch you down there?”

“No. In the back. Between my jeans and underwear,” she said while sort of demonstrating how it went down.

My friend and I looked at each other, half-disturbed, half-amused. My top priority was making sure my wife wasn’t upset. She wasn’t, and we all started to lighten up.

“Wait. On top of your underwear? Like, he went for your ass, but checked himself before going full skin?”

“I guess.”

“He used both hands? God, his wife is standing right there! I wonder if she saw that. How far down did he go?” I said.

She showed us again. About down to where your thumb connects to your hand.

Maybe it was all the drinking. But things were getting funnier.

My uncle’s girlfriend came over to bum another covert cigarette.

I excused myself from the Bob Rodgers conversation and went to smoke with her. She leaned in close to my ear. “Do you know that guy over there?”

“Hell yeah, I do. That’s Bob Rodgers. He just stuck his hands down my wife’s pants!”

“No way!” she said. “That’s what I was going to tell you!”

“You saw him do it!? I totally missed it.”

“No, he did it to me too! Just now when I was over there. He pulled me in for a hug and put his hands down the back of my pants!” she said.

“This guy is unbelievable!” I said. “Important question that I’m sorry for asking: Did he put them between your pants and your underwear? I mean, did he stay above your underwear?”

“Yes. Exactly,” she said.

“Holy shit. Bob Rodgers is Bob Rodgersing everybody!”

I drug my uncle’s girlfriend over to where my wife and friends were standing. By now, more of them had been brought up to speed on the Bob Rodgers incident.

“Guys! Lisa got Bob Rodgersed, too!” I said, probably too excitedly.

Lisa and my wife compared notes and it became official: Getting “Bob Rodgersed” was now a Thing, and it had just happened to both of them.

We spent the rest of the night sharing the story with people and inventing new ways to Bob Rodgers someone. My lawyer friend’s wife’s cousin (seriously) lived down the street and she already knew about Bob Rodgers and his inappropriate groping.

This was apparently what he did all the time. He’d get super-wasted at bars or parties, then would Bob Rodgers (the verb) every woman he could. Then he’d pass out and have to be carried home.

The rumor was his wife knew about Bob Rodgers’ nasty habit of Bob Rodgersing everyone.

My stepdad was pissed when he found out my wife and at least one other borderline family member was groped by his drunk neighbor during his party. We assured him all was well, but that it might be wise to keep an eye out for this sort of thing in the future.

(I have a young sister. When she was still in high school, Bob Rodgers would make very Bob Rodgersy comments to her. He’s probably a ticking time bomb.)

How to Bob Rodgers Someone

This is a photo of Kendall Jenner getting Bob Rodgersed by sister Kylie.

This is a photo of Kendall Jenner getting Bob Rodgersed by sister Kylie.

As I do not, and will never, condone uninvited touching of other people, especially in areas covered by underwear, I want to clearly state in no uncertain terms that you should only be Bob Rodgersing people who you are allowed to Bob Rodgers (the verb).

That said, here are some basic Bob Rodgersing techniques you can use at home. (I apologize for the lack of illustrations with directional arrows.)

The Original Bob Rodgers

In a classic front-facing hugging position, stick both hands down the back of his/her pants, inside the pants, but outside the underwear.

The Reverse Bob Rodgers

Basically, this is your classic courtesy reach-around while standing behind him/her, except you must leave your hands atop his/her underwear.

The Double Bob Rodgers

Best accomplished from the side, the Double requires you to put one hand down the front and the other down the back (on top of the underwear!) simultaneously.

The Bent-Over One-Handed Bob Rodgers

This guy's almost got it right.

This guy’s almost got it right.

A common maneuver in Turkish oil wrestling, when he/she is on hands and knees, you put one hand down the back of the pants. Counting to 10 is optional.

The Double Reverse with a Twist Bob Rodgers

This is tricky shit, and is virtually impossible to pull off when belts or tight-fitting pants are involved. In a front-facing position (like the Original), you slide BOTH hands down the front of his or her pants (above the underwear), but then giving a little twisting finger motion at the end to let them know you mean business.

These are your entry-level, super-basic Bob Rodgersing techniques to get you started.

There are no limits, so please let your imagination run wild.

If you have Bob Rodgersing tips, stories, or new entries to the How to Bob Rodgers Someone Library, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

From the Bob Rodgers Training Facility, over and out.

Another Author’s Note: There are more than likely MANY guys named Bob Rodgers out there. I want to reiterate that Bob Rodgers is a totally made-up name and is NOT the actual name of the guy doing all the Bob Rodgersing in this story. If your name is Bob Rodgers or you know one and like him, I’m really sorry.

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