The Book Project

And we're off...

And we’re off…

I’m attempting to write my first book.

I’ve been treating the project somewhat like I do my blog posts. I get an idea and just run with it with little forethought or planning. I just wing this stuff. Sometimes it turns out. Sometimes it doesn’t.

In the end, this project will require infinitely more organization than I’m accustomed to. I’m not a very organized person. The day I’m holding an actual finished product in my hand will be something akin to a miracle. But it must happen.

I believe that human relationships—not counting the deeply personal spiritual relationships many people have—are the most-important and most-impactful things we experience in our lives.

I believe adulthood is more difficult than we’re generally led to believe growing up. And I believe marriage, or committed relationships like marriage, are even more difficult.

I think people have expectations for how things are going to be. Then we grow up and things are nothing like what we thought they were going to be. Our partners don’t act like we thought they would. They don’t make us feel as loved or safe or good as we thought they would. We change into people different than who we thought we were going to be. Our partners do, too.

All of that builds and stews and compounds and complicates. Before you know it, people are sleeping with other people, or wishing they were. Homes and bedrooms that used to represent sanctuary become hostile territory.

We feel like we’re losing everything. We hurt. We cry. We’re afraid. Because the future is uncertain and now we know just how horrible it can be. Now our minds can conjure up frightening and painful outcomes much easier than before, back when life was simple and happy and easy and we had our entire lives ahead of us.

Before the scars. Before the brokenness. Before the fear.

Divorce is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I believe it’s the worst thing many people experience.

In addition to all of the emotional, psychological, physical and spiritual strain everyone going through it feels, a bunch of other things also break along the way.

Children’s lives are completely changed.

Friendships evolve uncomfortably or break altogether.

Family relationships fracture.

Divorce is shitty and horrible. And I don’t think it needs to happen as frequently as it does.

A Higher Calling

I think we all have the capability of having healthy, sustainable relationships. By “we,” I mean people like you and me. People who have the mental and emotional awareness to participate in conversations like the ones we have. People who care enough. People who want to grow and contribute to making this world just a little bit better than it is.

I cannot build a house or fix a car. I don’t know how.

But I believe if I spent time with capable contractors and mechanics interested in helping me learn, that I could. I COULD be a guy who builds houses and fixes cars.

Some people are good at relationships. Most often, they’re women. Women are better at relationships than men. Not always. But most of the time.

Which is why I believe men have the most power in this world to stem the tide of divorce and all the shit storms it causes in the lives of so many of us.

We can’t do much about the super-selfish or apathetic ones. They are who they are. They must choose unselfishness. They must choose to care.

But there are A LOT of good men out there. A lot. And they WANT to be good husbands and fathers. Deep within their hearts, minds and souls. A lot of guys don’t know that being nice isn’t enough. A lot of guys don’t know that good men can be shitty husbands.

They don’t have the tools or knowledge to build the house or fix the car. But with those tools and a little help, they could.

A Book with No Genre

I’m not proposing a self-help book here. My bachelor’s degree and judge-stamped dissolution of marriage documents DO NOT qualify me to pontificate on how to do things right.

But here’s what I believe—and most of it is predicated on my experiences since launching this blog:

1. My stories about my failed marriage ACCIDENTALLY help people. They either relate emotionally so they don’t feel alone OR sometimes cause people to rethink some of their beliefs about what it takes to make relationships work.

2. My days as a newspaper reporter make me decent at finding good informational resources that teach me things. I like sharing those resources with others.

3. I believe men (and perhaps many women) don’t understand just how different (and potentially complementary) men and women are from one another. Gender differences. In our chemistry. In our mental and emotional genetic makeup. I think if all men truly understood these interpersonal dynamics between the genders—and respected them enough to alter their behavior accordingly—we’d start winning the fight against divorce and broken relationships. Like, make-divorce-our-bitch-style winning.

A husband doing things the right way will:

  • Never leave his wife feeling emotionally abandoned and unsafe.
  • Set a great example for sons and daughters (and other friends and family) about what successful marriage is supposed to look like, making it more likely they will have healthy relationships in the future.
  • Significantly reduce the likelihood of a wife looking for greener pastures because she feels loved and respected and wanted by her husband. In turn, the husband will feel loved and respected. He won’t feel SHAME—an absolute relationship killer for men. They will have a healthy and vibrant sex life. This will greatly reduce occurrences of emotional and physical infidelity.

4. The average man is not going to read The Five Love Languages or Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus. They’re just not. My wife asked me to read “Men are from Mars…” several years ago in an attempt to help me understand why she would get upset with things I said and did, or didn’t do. I read three chapters and never opened it again. And that right there is the kind of shit I’m talking about. I wasn’t a bad guy. I was just a shitty husband. What if I read that book and respected my wife’s emotional needs way back then? Isn’t it possible we’d still be married today? Isn’t it possible we could have avoided all this brokenness? Isn’t it possible we’d both feel safe and loved and optimistic about our future, and have our five-year-old son at home with us all the time, instead of just half?

OF COURSE, it’s possible. I’d argue, likely. I’m really talented at breaking shit and figuring out how I broke it. I’m reasonably good at not making the same mistake twice. At least not the really big ones.

So, I’m always thinking: There MUST be a bunch of other guys out there like me. There must! Guys who still have time. Who haven’t broken their relationships yet, or are early enough in the process where they can turn it around. Or, better yet? Guys who are in the very early stages of laying the foundation for their lives with their significant others. If they knew what I knew, wouldn’t they have a MUCH better chance of making it?

Yes, they would.

And I want them to. I’m not even almost as smart as John Gray or Gary Chapman, the authors of Men are from Mars… and The 5 Love Languages, respectively.

But I have an advantage over those guys. I don’t have “Dr.” in front of my name. I say bad words and watch football and play golf and air hump random stuff after one too many drinks at a Saturday night party.

In other words, I’m just a totally average, regular guy. And maybe a small percentage of other regular guys will read something I write whereas they won’t read some “girl book” their wives or girlfriends wanted them to read.

Maybe. I don’t know.

I hope so.

The Book’s Framework

I’m making broad generalizations here. I know this.

But men tend not to read much. We have subpar attention spans. Already, this blog post has WAY exceeded the average person’s TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) threshold. Most dudes stopped after the third paragraph because it didn’t have the word “boobs” in it.

This is the part where I ask you for advice and feedback.

Currently, I’m planning to make the book something in the general vein of “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married.” We will come up with a better title. I promise.

I want each chapter to cover each of the following things.

I would REALLY appreciate any and all feedback and/or suggestions as to how I can make this list better.

Here’s the current chapter list, subject to change, and in no particular order:

1. Getting married is NOT like having a permanent girlfriend.

2. Yes, it can happen to you. (Don’t get too comfortable, married guy.)

3. Love is a choice.

4. Know your role. (The importance of gender differences.)

5. Your parents might have done it wrong. (As far as these gender roles and telling us the truth about marriage.)

6. Don’t keep secrets. (Big and small. This will cover sex and lots of mind, body, spirit stuff.)

7. Monogamy can be hot. (Have lots of sex. Make it dirty if you want to. If everyone is honest with one another, this can work fabulously. I think this is one of the ways we cut down on instances of infidelity.)

8. Being good at marriage is a learned skill. (Men are often naturally competitive creatures. It’s a huge mystery to me why men aren’t competitive about being studs at marriage. They should WANT to be amazing husbands and fathers to stoke their fiery competitiveness. Perhaps those desires can be drawn out with the right language? Seems worth exploring.)

And there will be more. Or less. Whatever. This is a fluid work in progress.

Each chapter will be written a lot like how I write blog posts—present-day thoughts with back-story personal anecdotes that apply to each topic sprinkled in between.

I have no idea what the end result might look like. But I hope it can matter to someone. And I hope I come out the back end a more-confident, capable writer. One who contributed a few ideas to the world.

Only time will tell.

Thank you for being a part of it.

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59 thoughts on “The Book Project

  1. Aussa Lorens says:

    Ah Why am I the first commenter? Never been married so no advice to add… But I love your ideas.
    Also, I am in line at Chick Fil A so this comment has to end now.

    Like

  2. I have the gift of criticism (Get teased about it a lot actually). I affirm of this 100%. It’s Monday which means I have a bunch of meetings but I promise I am going to go over this again with a critical eye and reply later. I’m very much looking forward to your book tour. ;-)

    Like

  3. shecameblue says:

    I wonder how you can appeal to a man with a book about advice… all I can come up with is make it more like Chuck palahniuk, and then all sort of fucked up things are going to happen and I am not sure my advice is good either… Good luck sir.

    Like

  4. I once said, many years ago in the very early days of my soon to be ended marriage. ‘you do not have to love everything I love, you have to love me enough to help me or participate in some of them’.

    This statement came after weeks of argument about housework and sharing the load. It is only one of the issues we hadn’t figured out prior to marriage. Ours was a marriage that crossed cultural lines, among many others.

    I think you are right on, my only comment might be that you aren’t really talking to just men. You are talking to both sides of the equation. How to be a good partner. We all go into marriage or relationships with expectations, desires, wants; a wish list. As we get older it becomes more defined. I know mine is more clear now than it was before, in fact I just put up the first of what I suspect will be many posts about what I want in my next partner. I suspect if I ever get to the point where I actually want to date again, I won’t find that perfect man, but someone who fits at least the important stuff you are talking about would be a good place to start.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you for pointing out that it wouldn’t JUST be for men. Here’s the thing: I have no idea what the female experience is like. I only know a bit about females from my personal experiences. So, I must write for men, and hope there is cross-appeal.

      Just make sure your dating partners appreciate your tequila sipping.

      Like

  5. Chris says:

    So this book is for the time period before the “Drift Apart”, “Feelings Change But People Don’t”, “Fine, Leave, Whatever!” and “Sometimes Love Isn’t Enough” chapters?

    I think marriage isn’t as benign as they make it out to be. It’s such an awful institution but I can’t think of a better way necessarily, especially when it comes to raising small newborn humans.

    Unrelated, I was just thinking today about “a list of things I wish I had know or thought to ask before I got married” – e.g. I wish I knew Easter was seen as a gift giving holiday by my spouse. Not saying it’s sway my decision but would have been good to know.

    I’ll reflect on your post try to glen some sharable insight (even if it’s made up).

    Regardless it’s awesome you’re taking the steps to make this happen. It’s going to be fantastic. Inspiring.

    Like

  6. Kerry says:

    Here’s to new beginnings, Matt…cheers…{clink} <3
    I really like the pictures you use in your posts, & the appropriate you find…& maybe some key point summaries at the end of chapters (I don't need these, but could be good for the shorter attention spans?)
    That's not what you wanted, is it? ;-)
    Guess the rest is fabulous! {happy dance}
    Happy full moon & full lunar eclipse tonight…new beginnings
    xox

    Like

  7. Sofia Leo says:

    You’re off to a great start!

    You could add a chapter about not being a dick when your wife is pregnant and the kids are small – one new, tiny human is enough to deal with, don’t add to the burden by being a child, too.

    I’m sure you’ll get lots of suggestions for chapters :-) You write in a very accessible, engaging language that will appeal to men and women alike, no matter their relationship status.

    What program are you using to write? I love Scrivener for organizing ideas and writing snippets that can later be combined into a whole that makes sense…

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you.

      Yes. There will need to be a chapter on bringing children into the world. A lot of men get this wrong. I did. I know EXACTLY how to suck at that part, so I’ll be sure to write about it and tell everyone.

      Program? You mean something professional, and organized? Like a helpful tool? HA.

      I have a bunch of notes scribbled on a note pad, and a bunch of Microsoft Word documents saved to a folder on my computer.

      *shrug*

      Like I said… I have no idea what I’m doing.

      Like

      • Sofia Leo says:

        The fact that you made mistakes and are acutely aware of them already (as opposed to getting married and having kids with three other women before figuring out what went wrong) says a lot about your character. Can’t wait to read your book :-)

        I find it easier to use Scrivener than to have a bunch of Word documents laying around. Also, I type much faster than I write longhand so it’s quicker in the end to add notes to the main manuscript for sorting and expounding upon later.

        Like

  8. suzjones says:

    I wish you luck with your book Matt. I read something from Wayne Dyer this morning in which he talks about the book that he wrote after his marriage broke down. He said it was the best he had ever written because he had developed empathy and compassion and his ‘edges had softened’. I think you have these qualities also.
    On another note, do you think men would read it if it were in comic form? ;)

    Like

  9. TL:DR is a great abbreviation – I say that all of the time. I run out of attention span before a lot of posts run out of steam! I can honestly state that I read your entire post here. Skimming is a type of reading.
    Yes, it is.

    Like

  10. Dani says:

    Good luck with your book project, Matt. I’m sure it’ll be great if it’s coming from such a true and transparent place.

    Like

  11. mjmsprt40 says:

    I must be an oddball. I’m a man that actually read the entire post– didn’t stop at the third chapter. Maybe going through two divorces and a number of other “questionable at best” relationships does that to a fellow.
    Matt, if your book is anything like your posts, it should be worthwhile

    Like

    • Matt says:

      That’s extremely kind of you to say, thank you. For reading, and for the the encouraging comment.

      Two divorces? Brutal. God forbid I do it twice.

      Like

  12. JujyCakes says:

    Congratulations! It sounds like a great plan. I like that you know that this is going to challenge you to get organized :-) I’m looking forward to your book!

    PS. I’ve got a worst thing for you. Your only daughter tosses you away like the trash, because “our relationship is broken.” There are always two sides to every story. I got used, abused and tossed away. I foolishly believed her when she told me this was the closest we’ve ever been as mom and daughter- 4 months later I was dirt. My heart has been breaking. April 8th was painful as an anniversary date.
    We don’t exist as her parents anymore. Not a peep. Nada.
    We’re good people.
    Anyone need to adopt a set of grandparents who’ve been together for 35 years?

    Like

    • Matt says:

      That’s a sad story. I wish I knew what to say.

      My son is five. Once in a great while, he can get pretty bent out of shape with me. We usually sort it out pretty quick. Hugs fix A LOT when they’re five.

      I can’t imagine how challenging it must be to have a difficult relationship with an adult child. That’s not something I’ve yet imagined. And I certainly hope I’ll never have to.

      Thoughts and prayers that fences will be mended. And soon.

      Like

      • JujyCakes says:

        Thanks, Matt. I appreciate your kind words and your thoughtful heart.

        It just kills me to know that I failed as a parent. No parent gets a manual. You just know what was good from your own parents and do the BEST you can in bringing up your own. I’m missing a year of memories in Mila, my gdaughter.

        I just read that most children don’t remember anything prior to 3 yrs old, so everything will be gone soon.

        I pray that you will never have to experience anything quite like this.

        Looking forward to your journeys in writing your book. A new blank page to fill everyday.

        ps. Those little BIG hugs are the best. Cherish each one of them.

        Like

  13. debra colby says:

    Gone thru the divorce thing twice…each time, shitty, shitty shitty. But, I’m a firm believer in CHOOSING not to dwell on the bad stuff. In moving on. That the time I spent with each husband was time well spent and not wasted. Those marriages may not have been forever after, but not everything is meant to be. I find the good in each marriage and thank the Lord for bringing us together in order to learn and grow.

    Today, I find myself up for the challenges of what lies ahead.

    Matt, I wish you luck with your book. I’ve written two and with each page I wrote I discovered a little more about myself and who I am. I think your book will do the same for you. :D

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you so much, Debra.

      The learning-about-yourself part is a nice side benefit of writing about life.

      I love that you’ve spit out two books. Awesome. And I’m so sorry you had to go through divorce twice. It shakes me up, just thinking about that possibility.

      Like

      • debra colby says:

        Spit and sweat and nerves full of anxiety, worrying nobody would shell out the required dollars to buy them. But, nothing ventured..nothing gained, right?

        That’s why after I’ve divorced twice that I’m probably not cut out for marriage. Learning curves?

        Like

  14. tracey says:

    Looking forward to reading your book one day. What do you think of a chapter about “how to be an individual in a marriage”….or something along those lines? I believe each person needs an identity of their own outside of the partnership.

    Also, healthy attracts healthy. It takes 2 HEALTHY people to have a successful relationship. So, we (I) need to do whatever we (I) need to do to become healthy individuals then we’ll (I) be ready for a healthy marriage.

    Just my two cents:)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Yes, yes, and yes. I won’t harp on it too much, because I’m not Mr. Universe or anything, but yeah–Mental, Physical, Spiritual and Emotional health. The four pillars of a balanced, happy life. All four are equally important and need to be balanced, or else you’ll (you, being anyone) will be out of balance.

      Like

  15. ShadowDancer says:

    Yay! Congratulations on the first step. As with so many things, it’s the hardest. :)

    I second the Scrivener recommendation. I think it would work extra nicely for the kind of book you’re writing. Lots of control over what goes where and freedom to move stuff (like chapters, sections of chapters, anecdotes) with ease. Basically, it creates organization for you – you just populate it.

    I really like the idea behind #8, as well as the suggestion about a chapter on new parenthood.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I appreciate the suggestion. I promise to look into it. I hadn’t considered any tools like that. In fact, I didn’t know they existed.

      But I’ll look into it. Thank you so much for your time and thoughts.

      Like

  16. Brian Snyder says:

    One aspect of the “learned skill” chapter should cover the issue of change. People change, and marriages change. In order to be good at marriage, a man needs to understand that everything in the relationship will not stay the same forever. Be ready for this, and be ready to adapt, grown, learn, compromise, assert, and show love differently.If a newly married guy doesn’t get this, he may not understand his wife 5 years later when she is sick of his stale antics. I’ve been married 18 years, and I love my wife. But not the same way I did when I was first married. You’ve got the right idea Matt. Men, especially newly married men and men struggling to stay married, need to hear these lessons.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you!

      I’m so pleased you get it. And I’m so happy–beaming, even–that you’ve been married 18 years. Congratulations, and thank you for walking the walk.

      You’re absolutely right.

      So much of this “Being good at marriage” thing is mental. Getting your mind right. And yes. Coming to terms with the fact that CHANGE is the only true constant is an important step in the maturation process. Men crave routine. So it’s hard for them.

      But they’ll get it if they care enough. If they love enough.

      Appreciate your time so much. Thank you.

      Like

  17. Vince says:

    I’m sure you’ll cover it but going to bed angry should be talked about. I wish I’d listened better and handled things early on instead of puffing up and being stubborn.

    For me it’s too late. I’m the “too little too late” guy I guess. That may be true concerning this marriage but perhaps the second time would be different.

    Really looking forward to your book.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I was such a massive douche during some of our fights. I’m sure I’ll write about it. I was so naive and insensitive and, most importantly, took her love for granted during those early years of our relationship.

      Too little, too late. Yes. That.

      I don’t know if I’m ever getting married again. But maybe! And it’s REALLY important that, if I do, I get it right.

      No guarantees in this life. It’s a scary thing.

      Hope you’re well, Vince. Always wondering how you’re doing.

      Like

  18. completelyinthedark says:

    Sounds like a good plan!

    Like

  19. nights7 says:

    I like what some other people said about knowing who you are going into the marriage and how to be an individual in marriage. I think it’s also important to know your spouse & be realistic about who they are.
    Some bits about seeing the warning signs of impending marital doom and having a willingness to admit the need for help & get it before you join the “too little too late” club might be helpful.

    Since you’re writing from the vantage point of what-not-to-do maybe a title like “How to Fuck Up Your Marriage in 10 Years or Less” would be attention getting.

    Like

  20. The most popular book about male depression is “I Don’t Want to Talk About It”. May be a good resource.

    I think that it’s hard to be a grown up when you marry before you are a grown up. I thought I was a grown up, but 23 was then and is now too young, especially when the social structures that held marriage together are so very much weakened. We have the freedom now to leave miserable situations, but the cost is that we have to reinvent relationship without those support structures…and some of us, myself included, were not able to do it.

    Divorce is miserable and sad..I agree. I’m not sure of the answer. I do think that men will have to learn how to perceive and communicate more for it to succeed, and they have to stop thinking of marriage as a way to secure their supply of sex and nurturing, a replacement for mom plus sex.

    …and I think many fewer people should embark on this venture that we used to take for granted. Don’t know. Just my thoughts today. I’m glad you are going to write this because women writing about men will miss something.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Lot of wisdom here, Pauline.

      A replacement for mom, plus sex. What an apt and accurate way to describe it.

      You’re totally right.

      Thank you so much.

      Like

  21. Matt! I took March off the calendar, but it’s April, so I’m back to check on your book and blog, looks like things are coming along.

    Yes, keep the book like your blog, not a chick book, but a dude book.

    What do you think about the book covering your experience as well? Yes, a book to prevent divorce but maybe an afterward about preparing for a second chance and not blowing that as well? Of course, if it dilutes your book, forget it.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Hi!

      I’ve been wondering how you were! Nice to see you.

      I want to keep this first one as focused as my scattered little brain is capable.

      Should I be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do a second? I would definitely want to write it for people who DID get divorced and my experiences there.

      The book will be three chapters.

      1. I was sad and wanted to die and cried too much.
      2. A bunch of time went by and I started to feel better.
      3.

      ;)

      Like

  22. stvrsnbrgr says:

    You’re writing a book to give dudes the tools to stay in good marriages? Awesome! Make it a picture book. Laminate the pages. Include some soft-porn images just to hold their interest, say every third page. And sell it with a bonus six-back.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Haha. Awww. I don’t think I know how to stay in good marriages, sir.

      What I–perhaps foolishly and egotistically–believe, is that I have a few ideas about marriage, the male-female dynamic, and human relationships in general that MIGHT prompt guys to rethink their choices.

      And then they will help themselves.

      And maybe I can exorcise a few more demons in the process.

      *fingers crossed*

      Like

      • stvrsnbrgr says:

        Whatever you write, Matt, people will read. You’ve got it. I’d say you already know who your natural audience is – people like the folks who have found their way to your blog. Don’t fight that wave – surf it!

        Like

  23. DJ Barr says:

    How is the book project progressing? I recommend using “Shitty Husband” in your title, i.e. Letters to a Shitty Husband, Lessons from a Shitty Husband.

    BTW I was a shitty ex-husband recently. It was a small thing but I regret it anyway. Perhaps more on that later.

    Like

  24. YamIhere? says:

    A chapter about financial contribution and spending is definitely in order. I’ve found that joint accounts from which both partners withdraw are divorces waiting to happen. This doesn’t mean you don’t have two or three accounts with both names, because G-d forbid one should die or whatever! It means that each contributes to the household account for family expenses WHICH YOU BOTH LAID OUT IN ADVANCE AND AGREED TO, and each has a debit or credit card for personal purchases from his/her account for which he/she is responsible. This applies to all payment methods such as PayPal.

    And lay out a plan for the unexpected permanent disability of at least one wage earner. Agree on how that will be handled financially and in the home.

    Oh! And childrearing! Discuss & agree way before a baby arrives (or when older skid is with you two). I AM A RABID DISSENTER OF THE PRINCE/PRINCESS SCHOOL FOR RAISING LITTLE HUMANS TO BE RESPONSIBLE ADULTS.

    And for those who try to pick up the pieces of a child’s broken life, before you gallop to the rescue and I know you truly care: read some of the posts on sites for step parents. You don’t even know what shit IS until you’ve visited step hell.

    Liked by 1 person

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