Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Godsmack

I said I wasn't grateful. And then I had a wake-up call.

I said I wasn’t grateful. And then I had a wake-up call.

He gets this look on his face sometimes. My son who is nearly six.

It looks almost like panic.

I have a super-low tolerance for whining. But this wasn’t whining this morning. This was legitimate sadness.

Because he didn’t want to invite a mean kid at school to his upcoming birthday party.

“I’m sorry, man. The rules are that we have to invite everybody in your class.”

He’ll come to my party just to be mean to me.”

“Oh, buddy. I bet he won’t. I bet he won’t come at all. Is anyone else at school mean to you?”

“No. He’s the only one.”

“Is he mean to other kids?”

“No. I’m the only one he’s mean to.”

“What does he do when he’s mean to you?”

“He calls me mean names.”

As we brushed his teeth and combed his hair for school, he explained to me that this boy in school is going to go to the same college as him some day just so he can continue to be mean and call him names.

They say you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten. How silly.

Kindergarten doesn’t teach you that you’re not alone. Other people feel just like you.

Kindergarten doesn’t teach you that life is hard. That tends to happen later.

Kindergarten doesn’t teach you that life isn’t fair and the sense of entitlement we all feel is a byproduct of being particularly lucky right up until we’re not anymore.

That first really hard smack from life tends to leave a mark.

It breaks my heart to see my son sad. He’s way too young to feel sad.

And all I want to do is save him. All I want to do is hug it all away. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. But you try anyway. Because that’s what parents do. We try to fix the unfixable with magic.

Don’t cry. Everything’s going to be okay.

I whined yesterday even though I have a low-tolerance for whining. I’m a hypocrite sometimes because I’m a person.

While writing about how sad I was about only seeing my son half the time because of my ex-wife and I’s shared-parenting agreement, I mentioned that I should probably be grateful I get to see him more often than most divorced fathers typically see their kids.

I believe we should always feel grateful.

But I told you yesterday that I don’t feel grateful. I told you that I feel cheated. Because this life is not what I wanted.

Because the Universe is supposed to acquiesce to my every beck and call. But the Universe never got that memo. Or maybe the Universe thinks I’m an asshole. Or maybe both.

Wake-Up Call

A beautiful nine-year-old girl named Abby Grace Ferguson is not likely to ever get her driver’s license. Or attend prom. Or graduate high school.

Abby is probably going to die a teenager.

Abby’s mom and dad watched their daughter achieve every typical developmental milestone until she was about my son’s age. A kindergartener.

That’s when Abby began to exhibit a learning disability and a developmental slowdown. After a few years of medical testing, the doctors told Abby’s parents that their daughter has a disease with no cure.

Hopeless?

Terminal, the doctors said.

Always?

100-percent of the time.

I try to put myself in that moment as a father. Breathe. In. Then out.

“She was diagnosed with Sanfilippo Syndrome, a rare disease that we passed on to her. How could that be? How could our precious daughter be born healthy and at age 8, we find out she is not healthy at all?” Wendy Ferguson wrote about her daughter.

“Her disease causes progressive brain damage. She will lose her ability to walk, talk and feed herself. She will more than likely lose her hearing and have seizures. Most children diagnosed with Sanfilippo Syndrome do not live past their teenage years. Aside from losing her, our biggest fear is watching her suffer. The thought of watching her lose abilities that she once had, slowly fading away, just makes my heart ache even more.”

And I wrote that I didn’t feel grateful.

Because my biggest problem in life is that I only get to see my son half the time mostly due to the fact that I was a shitty husband who didn’t appreciate how good I had it enough to cherish it when I could have.

I wrote that I didn’t feel grateful.

Because my—near as anyone can tell—perfectly healthy child is sad because of one mean kid at school who might plot to ruin his birthday party and intentionally attend the same college as him in 12 years just to be a dick.

I wrote that I didn’t feel grateful.

And I meant it. I wrote that I felt cheated. And I meant it. Because the world delivered me a shitty hand and now I’m sad when I never really knew sadness, and afraid when I never really knew fear.

After Abby’s diagnosis, we live by the cliché, “enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

It Tastes Like Perspective

Your pains are yours.

The reason divorce is so hard for me is because life had mostly been easy for my first 30 years.

I don’t think people should feel guilty for the pain they feel. For the sadness, or the fear. We only get one set of eyes with which to view the world. We feel what we feel.

Let the truth be the truth.

The reason my little son is worried about this kid at school is because something must have happened recently. He has, literally, never mentioned this kid throughout the entire school year. Not until today. An unkind exchange on the playground likely led him here.

It hurts to see your child upset or suffering. Physically hurts. Helpless. So you hug, because that’s your best move.

Everything’s going to be okay.

Fake magic with a placebo effect.

I think about Abby Ferguson’s parents and it takes my breath away.

In. Then out.

Because I’m so afraid of things in my life now—things that maybe I shouldn’t be afraid of since I see all these other people living so bravely.

Every day, the Fergusons have to say goodbye to their little girl.

Because tomorrow, Abby won’t be like she is today.

“We found strength we never knew we had.”

The Fergusons are literally living like there is no tomorrow. Where clearly drawn lines separate what’s really important from what isn’t.

“Now, I just want to enjoy a smile, a hug, or a laugh from my daughter. I want to sit with her and play. I want to help her brush her teeth, wash her hair, and help her put her shoes on. I can’t take enough pictures of her. We celebrate the smallest accomplishments as if she won an Olympic Medal. I am aware of what the future holds for her but try not to think about future milestones. It is too painful. I just want to live in the moment and enjoy her right now, the way she is.”

I wrote that I wasn’t grateful.

Thank you, God, for the well-timed smack.

I wrote that I wasn’t grateful.

Thank you, Ferguson family, for teaching people how to live courageously.

I wrote that I wasn’t grateful.

Thank you, Abby. You will teach so many lessons in your precious life. All of the things most adults haven’t figured out. About love. About gratitude. About what it means to be alive.

I wrote that I wasn’t grateful.

And I’m so sorry I did.

I’m going to go home tonight and hug my son. I’ll ask him how his day went. If the situation requires, we’ll have a fake-magic hug.

And maybe it will actually help. Mom and dad hugs do that sometimes.

I wrote that I wasn’t grateful.

So, I’ll squeeze him again.

And maybe it will actually help me. Hugs from a child do that sometimes.

Everything’s going to be okay.

Real magic.

Abby Ferguson has a lot to teach us about life.

Abby Ferguson has a lot to teach us about life.

Author’s Note:

A special thanks to Wendy Ferguson for allowing me to share her family’s story. You can follow Wendy’s blog here. Also thanks to her close childhood friend Gretchen at “Drifting Through My Open Mind” for sharing the Fergusons’ story with me.

*Please visit Abby’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CureSanfilippo to learn more about her progress and fight for a CURE.

*To learn more about Sanfilippo Syndrome, please visit www.mpssociety.org or www.teamsanfilippo.org

*There is HOPE for a CURE for Abby and other children like her. Gene Therapy has shown promising results but has not gone to clinical trial yet. We are raising awareness along with other parents of affected children to help start the trials at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. If you are interested in donating towards a CURE for Abby, please visit her Go Fund Me page at www.gofundme.com/abbygracecure. All donations are tax deductible and 100% go toward research and finding a CURE for Abby.

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The Single Dad Writer — A Tipsy Lit Guest Post

whats-best-for-our-children

My son is gone half the time.

But he’s really gone more than that. Because he attends school or daycare during the day while I sit in a cubicle plotting my escape from Corporate America.

Our time, so precious.

He turns six in two weeks. He is beautiful. Both smart and smart-mouthed. Stubborn. Hilarious. Sensitive. Loving. Innocent.

A casualty of the poor choices of his parents.

I am a person who craves rhythm and routine. Not boringness, certainly. But predictability. I have a hard time finding comfort in the unknown.

Logistically—by that, I mean everything unrelated to emotion—this has been the most-challenging aspect of divorce.

Finding the rhythm of life again.

It still eludes me.

My son is here two days, then gone two days. He’s here for a weekend, and not the next.

Many divorced fathers don’t see their children as often as I see mine. I suppose gratitude might be in order. But I don’t feel grateful. I feel cheated. This is not what I wanted.

I focus so much of my thinking and feeling and writing on the loss of my wife and the pain it caused. The pain has at times been unbearable because my marriage ending represented the first time I had ever loved someone more than myself only to have that person ultimately say: “I don’t love you. I don’t want you. You don’t matter. You’re not good enough.”

I write it a lot because it’s true: When this happens to you, some part of you dies. Maybe it comes back to life someday. Fingers, crossed.

Just as painful in a different way is coming home to an empty house, with a couple of my son’s toys scattered in the living room, or his toothbrush and comb laying by the sink—only he’s not there.

There is a semblance of balance when he’s home. There is almost none when he’s not. And all the back and forth, and up and down creates a see-saw experience in which I’ve yet to find sure footing.

Assuming the pain of divorce eventually fades to the background, my young growing son—and his life experiences—will emerge as an even greater focal point.

I want to protect my son from the horrors of this world.

But I also want him to know the truth about the human experience to protect his heart and mind from the shock and awe of adulthood.

I want to shelter my son from the mistakes of his father, as I was sheltered from the failings of my parents.

But I also want him to avoid the colossal disappointment which inevitably comes when your heroes fall unceremoniously from their pedestals.

I want to save him from the pains of being a child of divorced parents—and that includes protecting a more-mature him from whatever emotions he might feel should he ever read his father’s words.

But I also want him—maybe need him—to know who I was. Who I am. Who I will be. Just as I want you to as well.

Some people will care. Most won’t. But this is my “I WAS HERE” scratched into life’s maple tree.

How much do I tell?

I tackle that question today over at Tipsy Lit in a post on the subject of writing about parenting. I hope you’ll visit, follow the fine writers at Tipsy Lit, and join in the conversation there.

Writing and parenting.

It’s a dance. A delicate one. And much like life, I still haven’t got it figured out.

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The Moments

The rhododendrons bloom outside my house for just a couple short weeks each year. A reminder to slow down. To live in the present. And that these little moments end up being most important.

The rhododendrons bloom outside my house for just a couple short weeks each year. A reminder to slow down. To live in the present. And that these little moments end up being most important.

It was a slow death.

Not a major trauma—like a shooting or stabbing—that killed the marriage.

More like a terminal illness that could have been cured with early detection.

Despite having lived with my wife in my house for seven years, the daily surroundings don’t trigger memories and emotions within me the way one might expect.

But the opposite is true of places we visited together.

I took my son yesterday to a learning and discovery center geared toward teaching children about plant and animal life on farms.

While we waited for our friends to show up, we spent time playing on a little playground near the parking lot. The last time I stood there, it had been the three of us. The family. Dad. Mom. Son.

Together.

And it was a little heavier than I wanted it to be.

I didn’t feel it in the morning at the house in which we lived together.

I didn’t feel it looking into the eyes of our beautiful son who we made together.

But I did feel it standing on this relatively nondescript playground in a place I’d only visited a few times.

It’s because those are the moments. Sometimes they don’t feel like they matter now.

But they often feel like they matter later.

This Fleeting Life

My rhododendron bushes have bloomed.

My house looks particularly nice from the street for about two or three weeks each year. That small window is now.

The bushes stand there, green, nearly all year round. But during this short period as spring gives way to summer, they bloom, their vibrant pinks and purples providing a rare splash of color to enjoy each time you pull in the driveway.

They’re here today, gorgeous in their rarity.

Soon enough, perhaps even from the next hard rain, they won’t be. Because I watch this cycle year after year, I’ve learned to appreciate the moment. I’ve learned to appreciate how special and fleeting their simple beauty truly is.

I’ve learned to pause. To look. And look.

And look.

Willing the image into my mind. Willing gratitude into my heart. Willing more growth into this body.

Because these little things are the big things.

These moments are life.

How We Break Connection With Those We Love

I’ve written several times about my favorite book on male-female relationships—How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.

I think the reason I believe it’s such an insightful, helpful book is because it, within the first 25 pages, absolutely nailed the way my marriage (and certainly millions of others) ended.

Authors Patricia Love and Steven Stosny wrote this about the female tendency to practice fear avoidance and the male tendency to practice shame avoidance, and how that instinctual behavior and dynamic poisons our relationships.

Women build alliances with other women by doing what they learned in early childhood: exposing vulnerability. Marlene doesn’t have to mention to her girlfriends that she feels sad, unhappy, lonely, or isolated. They infer from her body language or tone of voice, just as she can tell if something is wrong with them. As soon as one woman senses a friend in emotional need, they become more interested and emotionally invested in each other.

“But what do you think happens when Marlene tells Mark that she feels bad? (She has to tell him—his defense against feeling failure and inadequacy has blinded him to her emotional world by this time.) You guessed it—once she forces him to face her vulnerability, he feels inadequate as a protector. He responds with typical shame-avoidant behavior: impatience, distractedness, defensiveness, resentment, anger, criticism, or ‘advice’ that sounds an awful lot like telling her what to do.

“After a while, a woman will stop exposing vulnerability to the man in her life and turn more to friends, allowing the emotional void in their relationship to fill with resentment. Marlene doesn’t know it, but she already has one foot out the door. The probable catalyst for their breakup will be one of the following. Marlene becomes ill or depressed or loses a loved one. Feeling inadequate to help her, Mark withdraws emotionally yet again, leaving her to face her ordeal completely alone. When she recovers, she will see no need for such an unreliable alliance and leave him, thinking that they have grown apart. The other likely breakup scenario has one or both of them starting an affair, Marlene to ease her sense of isolation and Mark to prove his adequacy. Fortunately, a breakup can be avoided by paying attention to each other’s innate vulnerability.

And so we’ll think back on all that time together.

What destroyed my marriage?

And you have the tendency to think about how the relationship changed when your child was born.

Or how the relationship changed when you lost your job.

Or how she completely changed when she lost her father.

But those are just like the highlights on your curriculum vitae. The real job experience was gained going to work every day in each of those listed positions.

Those traumatic moments were opportunities to temper the marriage in fire. To make the relationship stronger than before. An unbreakable force forged in a little bit of sacrifice, a little bit of paying attention, and a whole bunch of choosing to love every single day.

It wasn’t the big events that changed my life.

It was the seemingly inconsequential ones. The things we take for granted.

But life gives us occasional glimpses of truth to help us keep our minds focused on the right things.

Like a random playground.

Like the fleeting beauty of a rarely seen blossom.

Like the very next time you speak with your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend.

An opportunity to make better, wiser choices.

An opportunity to take nothing for granted.

An opportunity to stop, to breathe, to look, and cherish all the beauty that surrounds us.

The moments.

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Too Many Spiders, Vol. 2

There always there. We just don't always see them. The things we're afraid of.

They’re always there. We just don’t always see them. The things we’re afraid of.

I am afraid.

I am afraid a lot. It’s because I scare easily.

Not over things I’d consider irrational.

Horror films don’t frighten me. I’m not scared of the dark. I’m not afraid of being home alone.

That’s me trying to convince you I’m brave sometimes.

But I’m afraid of many other things. Things I would thoughtlessly describe as rational, even though a wise person might tell us that all fears are irrational.

I’m afraid of people I love being hurt.

I’m afraid of rejection.

I’m afraid of failure.

I’m afraid of things I’m too afraid to tell you about.

Sometimes Brave

My almost-six-year-old son was running around the yard with me while I was mowing. I asked him to run to the garage and grab the push broom so I could sweep the sidewalk.

He ran back to me a minute later, empty-handed.

“Where’s the broom, cheese?” (I call him random names. A lot.)

“Dad, you have to come get it,” he said.

“Bud, it’s just leaning up against the wall. Please bring it.”

“But there’s a spider!”

“Why don’t you just use that big broom to take the spider to Chinatown?”

“It’s too scary,” he said.

We walked to the garage together.

“I don’t see any spiders.”

He pointed toward the gas cans, about five or six feet away from where the broom was leaning against a wall. There was a barely visible, super-small spider just waiting for my kindergartener to grab the broom, so he could then expand into a snarling, truck-sized arachnid and capture my son in his giant web with the rest of the neighborhood children and pets.

I walked over and grabbed the broom without being attacked.

Bravery!

Or was it just me being confident that everything would be okay?

When I was little, I was really afraid of spiders, too.

One time my dad put a large toy spider (that could move) on my face, and I cried.

I’m still kind of afraid of spiders. Not like jump-around-flailing arachnophobia, or anything. But a healthy fear of the occasional large spider I find in the house. I tend to use shoes and rolled-up newspapers, as opposed to a simple paper towel in my hand.

After all, as soon as I grab the spider, it would certainly chew right through the paper towel and crawl all over my hand doing scary spider things.

Sometimes Afraid

In September 2008, a large 85-foot wild cherry tree turned our backyard into a scene from the television show Ax Men. The tree’s root system had decayed and high winds from a severe storm blew it down. The impact destroyed our detached garage.

Our four-month-old son had been napping in our upstairs bedroom. Had the tree fallen toward our bedroom and not the garage… he might not have made it.

The realization of how close that came to happening made me cry.

I’m not even embarrassed about how scared I am of something happening to that boy.

But I am embarrassed about how scared I am of many other things.

Sometimes I’m scared to try new things.

Sometimes I’m scared of some of the things I think and feel.

Sometimes I’m scared to write things because of what you might think of me.

I subscribe to the theory that EVERYONE gets afraid. I think feigning fearlessness is a foolish endeavor. A wiser choice is to embrace the fear, face it head on, and overcome it. Easier said than done.

We get afraid in competitive situations.

We get afraid in our social and professional lives.

We get afraid in any situation in which we are forced out of our comfort zones.

So we sometimes play it safe. We maintain the status quo. Because it’s easy. Because maybe we won’t get hurt.

One of my favorite things I read this past year was this fantastic Forbes article by Margie Warrell where she encourages readers to take risks, drawing the following conclusions:

1. We over-estimate the probability of something going wrong.

2. We exaggerate the consequences of what might happen if it does go wrong.

3. We underestimate our ability to handle the consequences of risk.

4. We discount or deny the cost of inaction, and sticking with the status quo.

(Please read it. It’s infinitely more important than this post.)

You know, it’s funny.

If you asked me whether I’d rather be someone who always succeeds at everything I do, or someone who was courageous in any situation, I wouldn’t know how to answer it.

But—gun to my head?—I’m leaning toward courage.

You know what’s interesting about that?

I can control how courageous I am. I can choose courage. There’s nothing stopping any of us, ever, from choosing courage, regardless of outcome or circumstance.

Too Many Spiders

Traffic was typical for a Friday morning commute—busy—only it was moving briskly as opposed to the highway traffic jams we often incur.

The rolled-up sleeves on my button-up shirt allowed me to feel the tickle of movement on my left arm.

I looked down.

A brown spider—not gargantuan like the imagined one my son thought might attack him in the garage—but large enough to make someone who doesn’t love spiders (like me) very uncomfortable.

It was dangling from a single web strand attached to the arm I was using to pilot the Jeep.

If I had been standing in my backyard, or anywhere not involving dozens of closely packed vehicles traveling three-wide at 75 miles per hour, I would have quickly swatted it away and watched the hair on my arms stand up.

If I do anything like that, I’m going to cause a massive Interstate pile-up.

So, I held still. The spider just hung there, but was certainly going to crawl up to my arm soon enough. I was not pleased.

But I wanted to die and kill other people much less than I wanted a brown spider crawling on me.

My mind overpowered my instincts. I switched hands on the steering wheel and managed to reach the button that opens my driver’s side window.

Window open, dozens of speeding cars to my right, just behind me and in front of me, I slowly pulled my arm up hoping the rushing air would pull the spider outside.

I felt the spider fly off, but couldn’t tell whether it flew out the window.

I realized immediately what I had done. In a moment of fear, my entire body told me to do something.

But I didn’t.

I did something else. Something smarter. Something braver. Because, in that moment, it was the right thing.

Good for you, Matt.

Maybe that spider flew out.

Maybe it didn’t.

In a few hours, I’m going to get back in the Jeep and drive home.

Maybe I’ll have another run in with the eight-legged passenger.

Maybe I won’t.

If I do? I know I can handle it. No matter what’s going on around me.

I’m not afraid.

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Unfit for Fatherhood

Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

Image courtesy of The Huffington Post.

The baby wouldn’t come.

Push.

My wife was in pain. There was a large audience of doctors and nurses. I don’t remember how many. It must have been the most vulnerable she had ever felt.

I was 29. And clueless. And worthless. And helpless.

Just standing there with my mouth half open. I’d squeeze her hand. I’d mutter “C’mon, baby,” more to my wife than the baby.

But, no baby.

The labor had been a long one.

Push.

Our child was not coming. The doctors were monitoring heart rates and blood pressures and all those things we normally take for granted that can turn a typically happy occasion into a tragic one.

“Okay. No more. We’ve got to take her to surgery,” the doctor said.

I just looked at her.

She told me it would be okay. Someone handed me scrubs to wear.

Surrealism had taken hold as I was shuffled into the operating room where everyone was preparing for emergency surgery.

My wife was exhausted. I’d never seen her like that. The anesthesiologist was going to work.

Because I had never experienced anything like what was happening, fear took over as I watched her eyes roll into the back of her head—almost a total loss of consciousness.

I didn’t know what was happening. Just that a bunch of strangers were cutting my wife open and that I didn’t want her to die.

Everything was happening so fast. At 8:24 p.m., I heard crying.

Our baby.

A nurse carried a messy little bundle of human toward me.

“Can you tell the gender?” she said with a smile.

A boy.

I have a son.

To my left, nurses were cleaning and poking and prodding a flailing, crying little boy that I was now responsible for turning into a functional human being.

To my right, doctors were stitching up that baby’s exhausted mother.

I would look left. My son.

Then right. My wife.

They were going to be okay.

Once cleaned and swaddled and outfitted with a teeny tiny baby hat, they put our son in my arms. Mom had done all the work, times a million, and I got to hold him first. It seemed unfair. She just smiled at him. Mission accomplished.

He was okay.

She was okay.

My wife had just spent 158 years (in labor time) trying to deliver a baby and getting cut open. She was starving. The hospital gave her cold, shitty chicken fingers. I don’t remember how much she ate.

Eventually, the baby was given to mom. He needed fed.

The breastfeeding wasn’t going particularly well. Our stubborn little son wasn’t cooperating. The brand new mother must have been terrified and feeling extraordinarily helpless.

It was late and I was getting tired. I had some people tell me that I should really try hard to get sleep because between the two parents, it would be good to have one mentally sharp for sound decision making. I somehow got it in my head I was going to go home and get sleep and come back in the morning.

My wife. Exhausted from the past two days. Frightened. We have a newborn! And the only people there to help are strangers.

And she asked me to stay. She needed me to stay with her. I remember her crying.

“It’s going to be okay,” I tried to tell her. “I can’t help you, and the nurses can. I’ll be back first thing in the morning.”

My wife—this brand-new mother—was feeling as frightened and vulnerable and exhausted as she had ever felt before.

She didn’t want me there to “help.” She wanted me there because she needed to feel safe. To know I had her back. To feel loved. To feel the security of knowing this new little person she had just brought into the world had a father who could be counted on. To feel the security of knowing she and that little boy would never be abandoned.

I didn’t know. I wasn’t smart enough. I thought she was being needy, overly dramatic and emotional.

You know. Like a girl.

And on her very first night of motherhood, I left her.

Scared and alone.

The First Year

Everything changes when you bring a baby home for the first time. Everything.

You either know EXACTLY what this feels like, or you don’t.

The dynamics of the house and the rhythm of life get turned upside down.

In the beginning, everything’s an emergency. Everything’s a challenge. That’s why parents of newborns rent U-Haul trucks just to travel with all the stuff you need to accommodate a miniature human only capable of performing three tasks, four if you count sleeping.

A million little decisions need made throughout a child’s first year of life. A million little things need coordinated.

Where do you put things in the house?

What’s the sleep and feeding schedule?

Who will take care of the baby once we go back to work?

Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit.

I’ve known A LOT of people in my life. A lot of mothers. And to be sure, many of them are amazing women.

But, purely as someone to handle the logistics of baby nurturing? To manage the tasks? My wife was unbelievable. The best I’ve ever seen, bar none.

She was so good, in fact, that I didn’t matter much at all. I did what I could and was always there to assist. But assertiveness? I didn’t display any. If there was a decision to be made or a task to be managed? It always fell to her.

The resentment started to build. She became angrier. I became more defensive.

Who are you? Andrea Yates?

My wife told me she wasn’t feeling well. She even spelled it out for me: Postpartum depression.

I thought that was code for “I’m a shitty, unstable person who doesn’t love this innocent baby as much as you.”

All I could think of was the Andrea Yates story—the mother in Texas who drowned five of her own children in the bathtub in 2001.

There is no way my wife is crazy like Yates! Postpartum depression! What!? She doesn’t love our kid!?

I completely blew her off.

We used to argue about apologies, my wife and I.

She thinks you’re supposed to apologize when you hurt people, no matter what. (You are.)

And I often argued that when things are done accidentally, they perhaps should be treated differently than something done maliciously. Like the difference between accidentally killing a pedestrian with your car versus premeditated murder.

She thought I was ridiculous.

“Why can’t you just say you’re sorry?” she’d ask.

But being right was more important to me than helping my wife feel better, I guess. Instead of hugging her and telling her how sorry I was, and demonstrating respect for her feelings, I essentially told her that her feelings were bullshit and I had done nothing wrong, or that she was blowing the situation out of proportion.

I was so ashamed that I could upset my wife this much. I was so defensive because I was a nice guy who everyone liked and no one ever got upset with. And I was too much of a stubborn child to swallow my pride and say and do what needed to be said and done.

I was too much of a child to act like a man.

I heard the words she was saying. I heard them, but didn’t hear them.

She was reaching out for help. “I think I’m experiencing some postpartum depression.”

But I didn’t respect her, or the physical and mental impact that our bodies’ naturally produced chemicals (or a lack thereof) can have on us.

Depression is something crazy people feel.

Depression is something unhappy people feel.

Depression is something people not like us feel.

After a mother gives birth, she will often experience a sudden drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Her chemical makeup will completely change. Plus, her entire lifestyle just changed overnight. Plus, she is sleep deprived and overwhelmed by… everything.

And all she wants is the support of her loved ones. The support of her son’s father. The support of her husband.

But I shrugged her off. I probably had something much more important going on.

“You’re fine, babe,” I told her. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

Just like the doctor had told me.

We were both wrong.

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The Heaviest Laundry

Maybe we'll never get there if we keep carrying all this stuff.

Maybe we’ll never get there if we keep carrying all this stuff.

I pulled the sexy underwear from the dryer.

Black.

Lace.

Hot.

It had been months since I’d touched her. But it felt longer. I’d been sleeping in the guest room for what felt like an eternity.

That is the loneliest place in the world. A different bed in your own house. The one situated just below your old bedroom. Where the sound of each soft footstep feels like an air hammer being shot into your head.

The second loneliest place in the world is the laundry room in my basement. It’s just dead silence if no one else is home or awake. And you just stand there folding laundry, piece by piece, and it takes you a long time because you’re not good at it, and even with a very bad cat meow-meow-meowing at your feet, there’s so much quiet that each minute feels like five.

When you never have sex with your wife, but want to, something bad happens to you. Or maybe just me. I don’t know. It was like a switch was flipped.

The old, traditional, safe, Catholic version of me turned into someone else. Whatever I am now.

I’d always wanted her. I’m a red-blooded male and she looks exactly like the kind of thing you want to see first thing every morning.

But now something else was happening. You know how you always want the thing you can’t have? It’s exactly like that except a million times worse because she lives in your house and everything’s different now and it’s in your face, and you have to see her walk around the house or imagine her behind the closed bathroom door while she’s undressing before a bath.

If the emotional and psychological beating from knowing your wife no longer wants anything to do with you doesn’t destroy your soul while you’re hoping and praying and unsuccessfully trying to reconnect with her every day, then this physical longing combined with that will come close to finishing the job.

If you don’t go crazy, something close to that happens.

I’m not a particularly jealous guy. I always prided myself on that, too. I knew girls who dated jealous guys and I was friends with jealous guys.

I liked not being that way.

If my high school or college girlfriend went out in groups and to parties without me, I didn’t even think twice about it. I was confident. Secure.

Even my wife, in the first year we dated, wanted to go have dinner with an ex before she and I moved to Florida. She asked me how I felt about it.

Wasn’t thrilled. But I’d like to think I hid it well. Sure, babe. We’re about to move to Florida together. Go have dinner.

But everything changes when you spend a year sleeping in separate rooms after more than a decade together.

A little bit of crazy seeps in.

Every business meeting or after-hours work event represented an opportunity for her to find my replacement.

Every text on her phone from a guy—even if I knew him—caused jealous feelings that up to that point I’d never before felt.

I can see why guys lose control sometimes. Jealousy hurts.

And if you’re honest with yourself, you realize how pathetic and insecure you are now.

Then you feel shame, too.

And you sink even deeper.

I held the sexy lace underwear. Just breathe, asshole.

I felt something I have never felt before. My entire body, tense. Breathe.

Maybe women wear sexy underwear just to feel pretty, or because they’re wearing a certain outfit and the underwear offers some utility that a moron like me could never understand.

Maybe there was no reason for me to lose my breath. Or feel paranoid. Or feel jealous.

But I was a new person now. Different. I was scared now. No more confidence. No more security.

Your mind starts telling you what an unlikable person you are since the person you want to do everything for thinks you’re shit.

I wasn’t funny. Or smart. Or successful. Or talented. Or strong. Or confident. Or sexy. Or desirable in any way, shape, or form.

I was just some loser she’d made the mistake of marrying. Just a stupid bum folding her sexy laundry in the second-loneliest place on earth.

And when I was done, I retreated silently to the loneliest place to lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself some more.

Prophetic poetry.

Thirteen Months and Nineteen Days Later

Your mind is so powerful. That’s why all the self-help gurus try to remind you to stay positive and believe in yourself and focus on abundance and gratitude and success and the belief that you can be anything you want to be.

That might be true. I want it to be. I’m trying.

I just know that in the absence of information, your mind will fill in the blanks for you. I’ve been blessed (and cursed) with a pretty talented imagination.

It doesn’t matter why my wife wore that underwear. Because my body created the worst-case scenario and then felt it.

My mind made it real.

After she left and started dating someone else… I don’t know. It was—literally—my biggest fear coming true.

There is no way that being brutally murdered doesn’t feel better than that.

Like, if you could choose, based purely on anguish, you totally pick being murdered.

“Hey Matt! Two choices: You can receive confirmation that the woman you love is having sex with someone else and feel the shit actually festering inside your soul…”

“Or?”

“Or we can have you murdered.”

I would have had to think about it 13 months and 20 days ago. But not anymore.

“Murder, please. Let’s go with the murder option.”

And it doesn’t stop.

You don’t get to shut it off. Maybe it shuts off on its own one day, but you don’t get to decide when.

She called me yesterday. My ex-wife. A totally reasonable conversation about a few odds and ends. She mentioned in passing that she’ll be out of town this weekend.

I don’t know what she’s doing. I didn’t ask. It’s none of my business. It’s not.

But, still.

Panic. She’s met someone else. I bet he’s funny and smart and successful and talented and strong and confident and sexy. I bet he’s everything she thinks I’m not. I bet she thinks he’ll make the perfect stepdad for my son.

Maybe she’s going to visit family with a relative.

Maybe she and some girlfriends are getting away for a weekend of relaxation.

Maybe a million different things.

In the end, it’s no one’s business but hers. I am not owed any explanations. And it’s my bitter pill to swallow.

And it doesn’t matter.

What matters is what’s inside me. What happens to me. Down deep on the inside.

Those months in the guest room fundamentally changed me.

I emerged from the laundry room a different person—giving me yet another reason to not want to go down there anymore.

My favorite writer James Altucher wrote this in his latest post “How to Deal With Loss”:

“One time I was driving around a private racetrack, taking racing lessons. The only one before and since to ever go on that track without a driver’s license. The instructor told me I was the worst student he ever had.

The instructor, a former professional race car driver, asked me what I should do if I spin out of control.

I, of course, said, “slam the breaks” and he said, “No! That’s the worst thing. Just look the opposite way you are spinning.” Otherwise you crash into the wall.

He said, “its hard to do that. It goes against your natural instincts. But you have to do it or die.”

I will tell you how I deal with loss now.

I don’t.

You only can lose what you cling to.

Practice unclinging. “Unclinging” is not even a real word. That’s how much “they” don’t want you to do it. The aliens outlawed it from English.

Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m clinging to but I can feel the residue of ancient clinging that’s still there.

Something in my gut and chest and head that won’t go away. Loss. Fear.”

This is part of the luggage that comes with you after your marital journey ends. And all that heavy shit is filled up in your bags. Maybe they have broken zippers like mine.

And it’s really hard to carry all of it around.

Really hard.

It’s taking me so much longer to get where I’m trying to go because I’m dragging all this crap along with me. Maybe you’re pulling around luggage, too.

And maybe there’s a better way.

Maybe we can lock it away in the attic and hope it doesn’t try to come out at night.

Maybe we can find someone (or Someone) to help us pull all this along.

Or maybe we can stop. Right here, right now.

And let it go. Just abandon it. Right in the middle of the sidewalk. No more.

And then maybe we can run.

So fast, so far, so free.

Maybe we can.

Just run.

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Check Yourself Before You Autocorrect Yourself

Fast food. It's helpful! But shitty. You know, just like autocorrect. Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Fast food. It’s helpful! But shitty. You know, just like autocorrect. Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

“Hey! What’s the name of that HBO show you keep telling me to watch?”

“A song of boners.”

“A song of boners? I’m pretty sure that’s not it.”

“Lmao. A GAME OF THROBS I mean.”

“Throbs, huh?”

“OMG. My auto carts socks tonite.”

“Don’t hurt yourself! Game of Thrones! Got it. Thanks!”

“FML.”

Autocorrect technology on smartphones is AMAZING. A miracle technology. It really is.

It will turn a fat-fingered “tinifht” into the intended “tonight.”

It will turn “Swrdos” into “Swedish.”

And “giisbess” into “goodness.”

I can’t even imagine how ridiculous I might sound if I disabled the feature.

But.

Let me say that again. BUT.

It’s also the most maddening piece-of-shit technology I’ve used as well. While it generates laughs…

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…it also drives me insane when I type things 14 times—totally NORMAL properly spelled words—but it still thinks I’m talking about some nonsense I’ve never even heard of before.

I ACTUALLY mean to say the thing I’m typing you stupid SONOFABITCHIN’ phone!!!

It’s brilliant. And completely dumb.

It’s useful. But an obstacle.

It’s helpful. But, my God. It’s also totally shitty.

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It Begs the Question

What other things in this world offer such wonderful helpfulness while simultaneously being awful?

What else has the same helpful-to-shitty ratio?

I brainstormed answers with a friend:

Fast food.

Condoms.

Masturbation.

Vegetables.

Cigarettes.

Lawns.

Good, but bad. Helpful. But shitty.

‘Thank you for this tie.’

It dawned on me that I wanted to write part of this post on my phone and let autocorrect do its thing.

I’m going to do that right now. I’m going to write a fat-fingered, unedited fake cover letter for a fake writing and editing job I’d like to have. I’m going to write it on my autocorrecting phone, then copy and paste it here.

You know. Just to see what happens.

Dear Sir or Madam:

You need a writer and endure, and I need a job. It’s liken it was meant to be.
Since my first news story’s was published as a college studs t, I have dedicated my life for the craft of writing and editing so tree. Tend my days as a beat reporter in Florida, to an trade publics business writer, and now to an internet marketing professional, I possess the writing chops, experience, and keen eye for derails that you are looking diff in an editor.
I am well-versed in both interns and external communicating best practiced, and am confident I’m qualified R&B you positing.
I howled you’re as excited to meet me as I am for mert you. I very much look firewater for meeting you and I can’t the DJ ruin enough for considering me for your opening.
Thank you for this tie.

Sincerely,
Matt

“Thank you for this tie.”

That made me laugh.

That was supposed to say “Thank you for your time.”

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Autocorrect—helpful, but shitty.

I reply to most blog comments on my phone so “if” gets turned into “of” a lot, or some other ridiculous correction happens with great frequency. Sometimes I see them later and edit them.

I bet a bunch of people read my replies and think I’m a stupid moron. I freak out when I write things poorly. Sometimes I publish blog posts and miss a typo and find it the next day and want to die because hundreds of people read it and now think I’m the dumbest person in the world.

Don’t deny it.

A newspaper gets printed daily. Millions and millions of words. But once in a great while you find a misspelling in a photo caption and think: “Hahahahaha! Look how freaking stupid the paper is! No wonder it’s going out of business!”

I just finished Biz Stone’s Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of a Creative Mind, which is the story of Twitter’s creation from one of its three co-founders. I loved it.

But I found two typos. The book probably has 70,000 words. And I found both typos.

“Applaud” was spelled “appluad” (if I’m remembering right) and the word “from” was used when “for” was intended which I mistakenly do ALL THE TIME.

Otherwise, the book was perfect.

But look at me, sitting here remembering those two things. I wonder whether Biz cares.

I’m working on my first book, and in addition to worrying about whether anyone in the entire world will ever give a shit (besides my mom and grandma, who I actually hope never open it), I also worry about how many mistakes might be published.

I once wrote a post called Clean Copy apologizing to readers for the crappy, typo-infested posts I was publishing.

Even if no one likes anything I write, I hope they hate a well-proofread version of my suckage. I hope they hate clean copy.

What Else is Helpful, But Shitty?

There are so many things.

But I wonder how many things can challenge autocorrect for the top of the Helpful, But Shitty Totem Pole.

Bad weed?

Police?

Bowel movements?

I don’t know.

But I bet you do.

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The Storm

If you see and hear the warning signs, maybe there's still time to save yourself.

If you see and hear the warning signs, maybe there’s still time to save yourself.

My phone made a sound I’d never heard before.

I picked it up and looked at the screen. Tornado warning.

I lived through three hurricanes in Florida. Frances. Ivan. Jeanne. I respect severe weather, but don’t fear it.

It was my five-year-old son’s bedtime. But he wasn’t with me. I texted my ex-wife to make sure she was aware of the storm warning. She was.

On television, the weather lady encouraged us to seek shelter and the safety of basements if we had them—my son’s mother does not. Massive red blotches of rain and lightning strikes painted the screen. Areas of cloud rotation were forming as cold air mashed into warm air at high altitudes.

The sky grew darker and darker over our suburban Ohio rooftops.

The thunder rolled.

The civil defense sirens howled of impending danger.

A wife I know is going to leave her husband Friday.

He doesn’t know it. Their two young kids don’t know it. But I know it. Because the totally defeated wife and mother is calling the game for rain. She’s been one of my dearest friends since grade school.

I wonder how many people knew my wife was going to leave before she actually did last year.

My friend married a guy not so different than me. A really nice guy. A really nice guy who ended up being really shitty at marriage. He never figured out that being nice isn’t enough. He’s about to learn though.

She already left him once. On January 4. It was the premise for An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5.

He came home from work to discover his wife and kids were gone.

He freaked.

Begged her to come home. Promised to change.

And seven weeks later, she and their two children moved home. A family, reunited.

You’ve heard the phrase: Old habits die hard?

The old habits didn’t die.

It just didn’t sink in, I guess. Maybe he thought she wasn’t serious. Maybe he lacks the discipline to make the transition. And now she’s leaving. He got the second chance I once prayed for every night for months and months and months. And he fucked it up.

For video games.

For afternoon naps.

When you take your wife for granted, one of two things can happen: 1. She can grow to resent you and lose all respect for you. Or, 2. She can do that AND leave you.

Hit the road, Jack.

I know what it feels like when your wife leaves. I know what it feels like to sit in an empty house without the familiar pitter-pattering of little feet running around. I know just how loud silence can be.

He’ll be eating shit sandwiches for a very long time. Near as I can tell, you never get used to the taste.

Tragic.

He got a legitimate second chance.

And blew it.

What a waste.

Helpless.

There’s no better word to describe how you feel when the people you care about most are in danger and somewhere else.

About a year before my wife moved out, I was traveling for work and got a text message from her telling me she’d been in a car accident. A snow plow hit her, and she and my little son were stuck in a ditch. And I might as well have been on another planet being in a faraway city.

The two people I care about most were in as vulnerable a spot as they’d ever been, and I was nowhere to be found.

My ex probably thinks that’s a metaphor for our marriage.

It was excruciating—my inability to be there for them in that moment. They were fine, of course. But the “What ifs?” are enough to make you nauseous.

And last night was the exact same feeling.

My God. What if?

The black sky rained lightning and hail on our little slice of the world. The lady on TV was telling us not to leave our basements.

And my son and his mother were hunkered down in a first-floor bathroom in their house with no basement.

Totally helpless.

And maybe even unwanted and unneeded.

These are not the things husbands and fathers want to feel, regardless of marital status. But that’s what I felt.

My friend’s husband, if past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior, is going to scream and point fingers: “Look what you’ve done!!! Look what you’re doing to the children!!! How could you be so selfish!?!?”

That’s what he will say. That’s what he will think.

I don’t think this world has taught him how to look in the mirror and ask the really hard questions. The ones that make our skin crawl. The ones that make us look away from the stare of our own reflection from pure shame. The ones that require us to take off the self-righteous masks we all occasionally wear.

But maybe this will finally teach him. Maybe he can learn how to hold his own gaze in the mirror. Maybe he can begin a journey of self-discovery. Maybe he can grow.

How can a man teach children how to accept responsibility for their choices if he never learns himself?

He’s as nice a guy as I’ve ever met.

I didn’t need to learn the lesson because I’ve already learned it. But no situation has quite driven home the point for me like watching this oncoming train wreck has.

Being a nice guy or a good guy DOES NOT mean you can’t also be an extraordinarily shitty husband. I foolishly believed the opposite for years. And learned the hard way.

Good guys lose their families all the time. And sometimes, they deserve it.

Because they chose themselves over their marriages even if they weren’t always conscious choices.

You have to know the signs. And you have to take action when you see them. If you’re married. If you have a family. They must come first.

“But Matt! It’s just a stupid video game! Who cares if the bathroom sink’s a mess!? It’s just going to get messy again after we clean it!”

It’s important BECAUSE it’s important to her. (Write that down.)

This is true of your romantic relationships, of your relationships with your children, with your friends, with your extended family, with your professional network: Give more than you take.

It’s the only choice. Do that, and your relationships will thrive. All of them. Don’t? Everything breaks.

The Dark Horizon

The storm is coming for so many husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children.

The storm is coming for my friend. For her husband. And for their kids.

I think maybe some people get married and it’s bullshit and it never really mattered and they get divorced, go their separate ways and everyone is better off for it.

But then I think there are people who really meant what they said when they made their vows.

‘Til death do us part.

And then their souls fuse together, making a clean break impossible. There’s no dotted line to cut. Because the two are mixed. So, you end up just ripping them apart and hoping for survival.

Those people end up on spiritual and emotional life support right up until they’re not anymore. And the timetable is different for everyone.

I’d never been so afraid.

I’d never been so angry.

I’d never been so sad.

So you learn how to be courageous.

You learn how to forgive.

And you commit to choosing hope.

Because it’s the only way to survive.

It’s the only way to thrive.

But you never quite shake the feeling: What if I’d listened to the warning signs? What if I’d acted sooner?

Then the thunder rolls. And the wind and rain pick up. And the sirens scream.

And you turn to protect that which matters most.

But it’s just a bunch of empty space.

And then the sirens scream again.

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The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

A great mom I know loves tulips.

A great mom I know loves tulips.

Many aspects of the human experience unite us.

Commonalities. Things we all share. Our DNA is similar. Our biology and physical make-up is similar. And our emotional reactions to what happens to us are similar.

The world tries to tell us how that person over there isn’t like you and me. And if you believe the lie, hate and disconnection are perpetuated.

Don’t believe the lie. We’re not so different.

We all have moms.

Everyone not made in a laboratory has a mom. For a variety of reasons, a small percentage of us don’t know our biological mothers. But I hope even people in those situations are able to take a step back and be thankful for what their mothers endured to bring them into the world. And to the people who helped fill the maternal void in their lives.

‘Mother’ is a Verb

Planned or unplanned, your mom once looked at a penis and thought: “Sure. You can put that in there.”

That’s courageous.

Planned or unplanned, your mom took a pregnancy test or visited a doctor and found out: “Whoa. I’m pregs. I’m totally freaking out right now.”

Then, for eight or so months after figuring it out, she volunteered—literally the inside of her—as a guest room for you to spend the first almost-year of your life.

The physical AND chemical composition of her body forever changed from that moment on. She voluntarily AND involuntarily changed in order for you to feel like the center of the universe.

She sacrificed the only identity she ever knew from her earliest memories to the moment she learned she was pregnant in order to change from a me-first being to a you-first being.

It’s a level of bravery and selflessness that I imagine only a mother can truly understand.

To all current and future moms: Thank you.

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

– Oscar Wilde

Happy Mother’s Day

To my stepmom:

During those rare times I was around throughout my childhood, my father showed blatant favoritism toward me over your daughters. But you never showed blatant favoritism toward your daughters over me.

You treated me as your third child every day I can remember knowing you. Thank you for teaching me that blood and genetics are not a prerequisite for being family.

I love you.

 …

To my grandmother:

You gave birth to eight children. My mom was the first. Thank you for my mom. Thank you for making my objectively dysfunctional childhood not feel at all dysfunctional. Thank you for teaching me what love, kindness, patience and forgiveness looks like. Those are gifts that keep on giving.

I love you and I’m so sorry if you ever read this and find out about all of the bad things I say, do and think about. But I know you’ll love me anyway. Thanks for that.

 …

To my ex-wife:

I’m not brave enough to type what I sometimes think and feel. Too much fear and pride and fuckness.

It’s a mad world. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect us from it.

Thank you for our son. I can’t explain how I feel when he’s not here. Maybe you feel it, too. I can’t express how much I appreciate not only being able to trust you to love and care for him, but admire your deep dedication to making his life beautiful.

He is the most-important thing to ever happen to us. Thank you for all you gave. Thank you for all you give. Happy Mother’s Day.

 …

To my mom:

Maybe you’ll stumble on this one day, mom. Maybe you’ll read every post and be absolutely appalled by some of the things rattling around my brain. After all, we’ve never exactly seen eye to eye on some of these “life” things.

Maybe you’re disappointed. Maybe even ashamed.

But maybe you’re proud, too. Maybe you see your son—misguided as you may occasionally consider him—doing his teeny tiny part in trying to make this whole being-alive thing the best experience possible.

I hope you’re proud, mom. At least a little bit. I hope you know how desperately I want to be one of the good guys, and what a huge factor you were and are in instilling that desire.

You’ve put me first for 35 years. You’ve dedicated your entire life to your children. When you’re alone with your thoughts, I pray you feel it has been worth it.

Thank you for my life.

I’m trying. And failing.

And then trying again.

I hope you think that’s enough.

I am so sorry for every moment I made you feel like I take your love and sacrifice for granted.

I hope that never happens again. Because you didn’t just give a lot. You gave everything.

I love and appreciate you more than I can express with a keyboard.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

“Men are what their mothers made them.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The 95 Percent

95 percent

“Hey, Matt! Why are you always talking about divorce!?!?”

Because next to things like air and food and water, I can’t think of anything else affecting so many people. (And because I got divorced less than a year ago, and it’s totally shitty.)

According to a 2013 Gallup poll, 54 percent of adults (18 and over) in the United States are married, 20 percent used to be married, and 21 percent desire marriage.

That’s 95 percent.

That’s 95 out of 100 people.

That’s damn near everybody.

It’s hands across America for childhood obesity, and anti-bullying measures, and animal adoption, and blood donation, and prostate exams, and hundreds of other causes you already know about. To be sure, those are important causes. I’m not dismissing them as inconsequential.

But marriage affects 95 PERCENT of all people. It affects where we live, how much money we have, our mental and emotional health, our relationships with friends and family. The stats related to children are even scarier. Crime, poverty, education, and sex-related issues like disease and unwanted teenage pregnancy all increase dramatically in children raised in single-parent households.

My point? Marriage deserves more of our problem-solving attention than it gets. I don’t think this is a conversation enough people are having.

I guess you could say I really care.

The Moment You Realize Everyone’s Kind of the Same

My wife and I were sitting across from the marriage counselor who I didn’t think was very good at her job.

She was dispassionate. And I’m sorry, if you’re trying to save marriages, you better also be in the give-a-fuck business.

Because you can’t help people when you don’t care about the outcome.

But she did have one shining moment I will never forget. My wife was answering some of her questions. Then the counselor directed a few questions my way. The entire time we were answering questions, she was drawing something on the back of a sheet of paper.

When I was finished speaking, she held up the piece of paper.

It was a drawing of two stick figures. She’d drawn a comic strip of sorts, minus all the funny.

The two figures were happy and connected. Then conflict was introduced. The male figure withdraws. The female figure chases. And it happens repeatedly. Until one day, the female figure stops chasing. She withdraws. Then the male figure gets confused. And becomes the chaser.

It was a reasonably accurate depiction of what my wife and I had experienced in our relationship. And it was so generic that I knew this counselor had drawn that very thing dozens, if not hundreds, of times.

Holy shit! EVERYBODY does this, I thought.

Months later, I read my favorite book on the subject of male-female relationships—How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It—and so many things I’d been confused about for years suddenly started making sense to me.

I finally get it!

Like a real-life epiphany. A genuine ah-ha! moment.

I finally understand why she responds the way she does! I finally understand why she gets so upset! I can fix this!

It made me feel better knowing so many other couples were experiencing the same problems. It wasn’t just us. It was everyone. We weren’t cursed. Or doomed. Or singled out. We were just another typical couple. And I saw that as a very hopeful thing.

I felt empowered.

If this happens to everybody, then we can make it work.

Well, it didn’t work.

But that doesn’t make it less true, and it doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something. I’m right about this.

And I legitimately think it’s the key to solving the marriage-and-divorce crisis we’re having:

We need men to have the same “ah-ha” moment that I did.

The reason my marriage failed even after I figured so many things out is because I’d already caused so much damage. Sometimes years of smoking simply causes too much lung damage to overcome by quitting later. You get cancer and die.

I wasn’t a bad guy. I was a bad husband. And I broke us.

It was all too little, too late. Our marriage died.

But what if we got to guys earlier? You can’t save everyone. People still smoke even though they know it’s bad for them. But every little bit helps. Right?

I want to believe it.

This Blog Cemented It

After she left, I started writing. I had to get the pain and anger out, and writing was the only way I knew how.

Because I make bad decisions, I decided to publish it. Like an emotional train wreck for anyone willing to watch.

It became clear right away: People everywhere—men and women—feel just like me.

First, I saw the marriage counselor’s diagram. The one I was certain she drew for most married couples.

Second, I read an amazing book which introduced me to chemical, emotional, and instinctive gender differences between men and women, and how those differences (which our ancestors needed to survive the tribal hunter-gatherer days) drive wedges in our modern-day relationships, and ability to communicate in healthy ways.

Third, I started writing honest stories about what my life was like and how I felt about it. Just one guy whining on the internet. The comments came flooding in:

“Thank you! That’s exactly what happened to me! I’m glad I’m not the only one!,” hundreds of people—both male and female—said.

And now I know it. In every fiber of my being. WE ARE THE SAME. Sure, we’re different. Individuals. Unique. We are.

But we have some universal humanity coursing through our hearts and minds that unites us all. And we really can learn from one another. And we really can make this whole human experience better than it is.

Just a few minutes ago, I heard a co-worker say she was never getting married, and a travelling sales guy (who’s married) say: “Good for you.”

And that’s fine! I don’t begrudge anyone making the choice to not marry. But the reason they don’t want to marry is because of all of the negative stigmas now attached to it—the general belief that half of all marriages are doomed to fail, so what’s the point?

And I’m not here to advocate for the institution of marriage. People will do what they want.

But I am here to deal in reality.

And in reality, 95 percent of people are going to get married.

Pretty much everyone.

And we have two choices: Keep doing the same crap that has gotten us to our 50-plus percent failure rate. Or we can commit, as rational adults with functioning brains, to care enough to start getting this HUGE part of our lives right.

Because it affects all of us.

Because it matters.

Because it will change everything.

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