Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Crooked Soul Trying to Stay Up Straight

(Image/nature.com)

(Image/nature.com)

I’d like to tell you I’m a man of deep, unshakable faith. I’d like to tell you I know the real, actual truth about the universe and meaning of life so I could share the secret with you.

That’s a big deal when you’re a Christian. Certainty. Certainty wearing a “Hello, my name is Faith” sticker.

Maybe it’s a big deal for Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and Atheists, too. Maybe you’re only a good member of your faith community if you believe everything you’re taught.

Understand something about me: I only saw good, kind, decent versions of Christians growing up—loving and charitable people who I only witnessed doing good things, and never doing bad things. I think that’s why I always felt ashamed when I was younger for wanting to make out with the cute girl in the church pew in front of me, or for questioning whether I’m literally supposed to believe that God once lost His temper and intentionally flooded the entire world killing every man, woman, child, animal, and plant which wasn’t on a giant wooden boat built by Noah and his family large enough to house two of every type of animal on Earth, followed by Noah’s family incestuously repopulating the world.

I nonetheless had mountains of evidence that Christians were good people. And since I knew a bunch of them, and had no reason to doubt them, I grew up believing all of the finer points of Catholic Christianity.

And let me tell you, that’s not an easy thing. I was just a kid. A pretty good and nice one too.

There wasn’t any ambiguity in our rules:

Any orgasm outside of marriage?

Going to Hell.

A hit off a joint or one too many drinks at a party?

You’re gonna burn.

Profane language?

Holy shit! An eternity of torturous fiery terror and torment!

That’s a lot to handle when you’re a 16-year-old boy, and your life revolves around girls, friends, sports, and daydreaming about going off to college, in that order, where you assume you magically become an adult and figure out what you’re going to be for the rest of your life, and maybe stop getting erections for no apparent reason.

Maybe Muslims and Atheists experience it differently. I hope for their sake that they do.

‘You Have an Obligation to Write About Your Faith’

People tell me that, sometimes. I always disagree with them, and then try to explain why.

I usually write about divorce, marriage and sustainable relationships, and I’ve earned some credibility with a group of people who think maybe I have a bunch of it figured out.

Here’s the thing: I can spit out a nice little playbook for how a man can make his wife feel loved, safe, secure and desired, and not want to divorce him as much as most women want to divorce their shitty husbands. I can. I’ve had THOUSANDS of wives, and even some husbands, write me to say so.

That doesn’t make what I believe true.

It just makes me confident.

Certain?

The only path to a good, forever-kind-of marriage is vigilantly practicing love—the verb—every day. It requires a healthy understanding of human psychology—how husbands’ and wives’ minds and bodies operate differently, and having the tools necessary to keep things from breaking.

For years and years, everyone was smoking. Even doctors. A bunch of people were dying from cancer and heart disease and we couldn’t figure out why. Eventually, we did. And now we know smoking invites sickness and death faster than not smoking does.

There are three kinds of people now.

  1. The kind who do not smoke because they want to do what’s best for themselves and the people they love.
  2. The kind who smoke because they don’t give a shit about themselves or others.
  3. The kind who smoke, know it’s bad and want to quit, but struggle with the addiction or habit for a variety of reasons.

On the subject of marriage and relationships, we are—as people—nowhere near as enlightened and educated as we are about the health ramifications of smoking cigarettes. Every day, people are accidentally and carelessly ruining relationships, damaging children, and tearing families apart.

There are three kinds of people who are married or in committed relationships, and unlike with smoking, the largest group has NO IDEA that what they’re doing (metaphorically smoking circa 1960) will invite sickness and death into their relationships.

  1. The kind who get it and do things the right—and frankly, only—way. Actively choosing to love their spouse and family every day, applying information they’ve learned about what makes their partner feel good to their daily lives. Proactively nurturing their marriages.
  2. The kind who abuse and lie and cheat and neglect because they don’t give a shit about themselves or others.
  3. The kind who sometimes fall short, understand that they can do and be more, want to, but struggle in their hearts and minds for a variety of reasons.

Let’s call it doubt. Maybe a person doubts that monogamy can really work. Maybe a person doubts they can trust their partner to not abandon them. Maybe a person GOT EVERYTHING THEY WANTED IN LIFE AND STILL DOESN’T FEEL HAPPY.

That last thing happens to decent, intelligent people all the time. They were certain this was what would finally make them happy, but then it didn’t, and now they want more.

There must be more to life than this.

Life in the Margins

I don’t write about God and/or Jesus because I think it’s an ineffective way to communicate with strangers. People don’t like being judged or preached to.

It automatically divides and makes people feel unwelcome. Not only that, it’s a bullshit thing to do.

And the answer to this question is why I think so: When is the last time you witnessed two human beings with deeply held spiritual, theological, philosophical or political beliefs discuss their differences pleasantly or otherwise, and afterward hear one say: “Gee whiz. You’re right. I reject all my previous beliefs and agree with you now.”?

Even once? Ever?

I mean, yeah. I’m Catholic. Kind of a rogue, miscreant one. I believe many things unique to Catholicism. I’m a regular churchgoer.

But I also have a bunch of stuff I’m not sure about. I used to feel guilty about that but now I don’t.

I don’t murder, because that makes sense. I don’t rape, because that makes sense. Can I really be damned for eternity for using birth control during married sex because money’s a little tight right now?

I’m tired of people acting like they know. No one knows. Zero people.

We know precisely dick.

We’ve had the world’s most-intelligent and thoughtful people trying to get to the root of what’s true about life and the universe since before the words “science” or “philosophy” were ever uttered. And no subatomic-particle physicist, pastor, atheist, teacher, scholar, prophet, rabbi, tribal chief or jungle medicine man has solved it.

Their argument and evidence would be convincing if they had. Like when the doctors proved to us that smoking caused cancer, and we believed them and made new choices.

We all want to feel certain.

I want to feel certain. I don’t want to believe in fairy tales. And I don’t know how to believe in nothing, Lebowski. I need meaning and reason and purpose, or I can’t make sense of anything. If the entire point of living is hedonism before the lights inevitably go off, why aren’t we all shooting heroin, hosting orgies and encouraging everyone we know to do the same?

But I’m NOT certain.

I don’t know.

Not for sure. Is what I feel faith and belief? Or is it just 36 years of habit reinforced by like-minded people within an unchanging faith community?

If no one ever told me the truth about Santa and someone kept sneaking “From Santa” gifts under the Christmas tree every year, might I still believe in him?

If Carl Sagan was my father and nothing bad ever happened to me for believing everything he taught me, would I look at the world completely differently?

If I didn’t have a father, money, education, enough food, or experienced love from family or friends, might I be willing to join a violent group of religious militants intent on spreading mayhem and murdering innocent people who believed a different God story than me?

The Shadow Proves the Sunshine

When you strip away all the bullshit, we’re all just a bunch of people who behave the way we do because of our beliefs and habits.

That’s why we usually believe whatever our parents taught us, so long as no negative consequences came from doing so. When it felt bad, we did something different than them.

I don’t know anything. I never have. I just believe things which make sense to me.

I don’t know that what I write about in terms of love and marriage actually works. I just believe it strongly because I’ve read, discussed, and thought a lot about it and it made sense to me.

Maybe some really good guy out there has been married twice and did everything right both times, but in both marriages, his wife took advantage of him financially and slept with his best friend. Maybe now that guy can’t believe what I believe anymore.

I’m done pretending I know what it’s like to be another person.

Maybe some people can’t believe in God because they watched their mother die of a horrible disease she didn’t deserve to get, or because they lost family on Sept. 11, 2001, or because their parents told them there is no God, and since thousands of children die every day in Africa from asshole warlords and no sanitary water, that story made sense to them.

Something is true, and I don’t know what it is. But I like trying to figure it out.

The only thing I really know is what it’s like being me.

A flawed, broken, uneven human being who can feel joyful and grateful one day, and a little bit sad and empty the next.

A guy who does all kinds of things my faith community warns me could send me straight to Hell.

That might be total bullshit. Or 100-percent true.

I won’t know until I’m dead. That’s when we will all learn the truth OR when the lights go out and our consciousness insta-shuts off, and the book of our life ends, maybe mid-sentence and unresolved.

On the other hand, I can’t tell you I don’t believe in God.

Do I doubt some of the details of thousands-year-old religious texts which include mountains of symbolism and metaphor? Sure!

But do I doubt God’s existence, goodness, or power? How could I? Why would I want to?

Some people don’t like God and religion. But it’s not because of God and religion. It’s because some religious people do heinous, horrible things in the name of their faith, thereby making every sane person on earth despise them and reject their beliefs.

That makes sense to me.

If the only Christians you ever knew screamed “God hates fags!” at your gay friend or family member, or staged protests at the funeral of your neighbor killed in military combat, or bombed women’s health clinics because they’re somehow convinced God’s preferred solution to ending abortion is murdering people with guns and explosives, would you like them or want to practice the same faith?

Isn’t that what many Muslims deal with now? Judgment and squinty-eyed suspicion based on the actions of a few?

Life has clearly demonstrated that one size does not fit all.

I think everyone feels the emptiness sometimes. Every faith. Every walk of life.

Things just feel off, sometimes. We can’t figure out why because when we write it all down on paper, our lives are exactly what we think we want.

I HAVE EVERYTHING I WANT AND STILL DON’T FEEL HAPPY.

I love my wife and I want to be married, but I don’t always feel like sacrificing for her. I don’t always feel like not putting my penis in others I’m attracted to. My marriage didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, so what’s the point?

There will always be that third group. The group too damaged to love themselves or others. Who just want to watch the world burn.

Then there’s the rest of us. With all our doubts. All our ignorance. All our guilt. All our shame.

Crooked souls trying to stay up straight.

The longer we live, the more bad things we experience. We collect more scars. We lose more innocence.

It’s so easy to embrace the cynicism now. To abandon hope while the politicians scream, and the fanatics shoot, and greedy abuse, and our friends fail us, and our marriages burn while we cry.

But here we are. Still trying.

We pray and we hope. We try to be good, for the sake of being good. We do things that are difficult or inconvenient because it’s what’s right.

People keep waiting for a blinding light. For God to speak thunderously from a mountaintop or burning bush. To feel certain again. Like when we were kids and less afraid of everything.

God doesn’t yell. We’d all know if that were true.

He whispers. Whispers are hard to hear.

I think when people have everything they ever wanted and still don’t feel happy, or genuinely love their spouse and family and want to be married, but still feel empty?

I think that might be a whisper.

I think that’s when we’re supposed to cede control. For God to fill the gaps. I think God likes working in the margins.

I’m never going to suggest you need to be saved. That you should believe what I believe. That I have some answer you don’t. I don’t know. And I think most, if not all, people who say they know are mistaken or lying.

I will always try to ask the right questions, though.

When it seems as if all options have been exhausted, is it possible the only thing you’ve never tried is a legitimate leap of faith? Is it possible that could make the pain and fear go away?

I’ll always say what I believe and why and let others form opinions about it. To decide for themselves whether the nagging emptiness we don’t usually talk about might be a whisper. A nudge to wake up inside.

Maybe there’s no love without hate.

Maybe there’s no hot without cold.

Maybe there’s no light without darkness.

What do I believe? That the shadow proves the sunshine.

 

(Thanks to Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman for writing this beautiful song, and inspiring this post.)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done

face-in-hands

Between acting like my wife should hurry up and get over the unexpected death of her father because it was damaging our marriage, and my nonchalant denial of her postpartum depression following our son’s birth, I can’t decide which is my greatest failure on my journey toward divorce.

I wake up every day believing I’m a good person, but maybe I’m not.

My failure to adequately support my wife after losing a parent was largely a function of a million previous tiny failures culminating in her breaking point in the midst of grief. When everything hurts, you need someone you can trust to help take some of the pain away. I’d stopped being that a long time ago. I just didn’t know it yet.

I thought she had been nitpicky, overly emotional and occasionally unfair for the previous seven years. Like most guys, I was selfish and clueless.

So, here’s a secret I’ve never told anyone: I have a sociopathic trait. I lack the ability to empathize with the physical pain of others.

When I read books, or hear someone describe something I’ve never seen, my brain dials up images, but what I visually imagine is almost never what reality looks like when I get to see whatever the thing is. And maybe that’s why I struggle with relating to the physical pain of others. Because I can’t properly imagine it.

I am quite sensitive to emotional pain—especially if I’ve been through something similar to a hurting person, or can adequately imagine what it would be like to.

That matters for two reasons: I wasn’t appreciating how much physical discomfort my wife was experiencing during pregnancy, and because I was an ignorant mook, I also failed to grasp the fear, stress and anxiety she might have been feeling worrying about both child delivery, first, then the following 18 years of being responsible for the safety and wellbeing of an actual person.

I was texting friends from the chair next to her bed while she was in labor. I was updating them on her and the baby’s status, so I thought I was doing something important. My wife expressed displeasure with my choice. She wanted me to be fully present and engaged with her, demonstrating my commitment to her, and reinforcing in her mind and heart that I would always be at her side through life’s difficult moments.

These are things I understand today. They make perfect sense, because today I am less of an ignorant mook. But on that day seven and a half years ago, none of that made sense.

The mere act of marrying her demonstrates my commitment to her forever, I thought.

OF COURSE she knows based on thousands of conversations how much I value being a good father.

OF COURSE she knows she’s loved.

OF COURSE she knows she can count on me.

She knows me well enough. She knows I’m a good person.

I wasn’t illogical for assuming and believing that. I was just profoundly ignorant. I think most guys are because no one ever explains it to us in a way that ever computes and resonates.

I would never consider something more important than the birth of my son. But texting friends while my wife was in labor—no matter how uneventful or undramatic it seemed to me—felt to her precisely like I cared more about doing what I wanted than being there for her in her most-vulnerable moments.

I would never physically abandon my crying wife. But that’s exactly what I did. She cried. She asked me not to go. But I’m stubborn and moronic and had it in my head that I needed to be well rested for the days ahead per the advice of other fathers.

I left my crying wife alone in a hospital room just hours removed from an emergency C-section where she struggled to breastfeed a screaming child who didn’t want to with nurses who made her feel like she just wasn’t trying hard enough.

Why?

So I could sleep, shower, send photos to family and friends, and revel in the amazing feeling of being a father to a newborn son.

I hope you believe me when I tell you how reasonable it seemed at the time.

In the context of my nine-year marriage? It’s the single worst thing I’ve ever done.

Then I Made it Worse By Suggesting Postpartum Depression Wasn’t Real 

My wife developed postpartum depression.

My lack of education about hormone loss and the psychological impact of childbirth on a new mother, combined with my lack of respect for mental and emotional health issues across the board, were just the ingredients needed to make me a profoundly negligent asshole in the early months of our son’s life.

I thought postpartum depression amounted to mental weakness.

I thought it was something “crazy” people feel, like Andrea Yates who drowned five of her children in the family bathtub.

I thought it was tantamount to my wife not loving our infant son.

This is just a phase she’ll get over, I thought.

She’s emotional sometimes, but I know she isn’t crazy!

I know she loves our baby.

Instead of reading books, talking to other parents, researching PPD or even just actively seeking ways to help my wife in whatever way I could make the difficult adjustment to parenthood, I played a lot of online poker and watched football and convinced myself I was a good husband and father because I have a kind heart.

I hope when she thinks back on those days, she remembers at least something positive about me, but I can’t say with certainty that she can, or that she should.

She tried to talk to me about it later. About the PPD. About how sad and afraid and alone she felt in the hospital when I’d left her there. About how she wanted me to actively participate in the planning and organization of our new life as parents.

But instead of apologizing with heartfelt sincerity for hurting my wife so badly, I’d get angry with her and accuse her of looking for yet another reason to complain about me even though I was such a good guy. Good guys are well liked and get told what good guys they are all the time, so when their wives point out their shortcomings in a relationship, all the “good guys” resort to the old: “How is it that the person I married is the one always bitching about me?” Because if no one else is bitching about you, they must all be right, and your crazy emo wife must be wrong.

Postpartum depression, according to the Mayo Clinic, typically requires professional treatment, including therapy sessions and, when applicable, anti-depressant medication.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following things mothers suffering from PPD can do to speed up recovery:

Make healthy lifestyle choices. Include physical activity, such as a walk with your baby, in your daily routine. Try to get adequate rest. Eat healthy foods and avoid alcohol.

Only a mother with a thoughtful and attentive husband can realistically expect to get the sleep, healthy food preparation, and time (not to mention energy) for physical activity to achieve a healthy lifestyle and overcome PPD.

Set realistic expectations. Don’t pressure yourself to do everything. Scale back your expectations for the perfect household. Do what you can and leave the rest.

A new mother only feels like she has to do everything when her partner doesn’t have her back.

Make time for yourself. If you feel like the world is coming down around you, take some time for yourself. Get dressed, leave the house, and visit a friend or run an errand. Or schedule some time alone with your partner.

There are only enough hours in the day when all of a household’s responsibilities are tended to. Time alone with a partner only works when the partner makes himself available for such things.

Avoid isolation. Talk with your partner, family and friends about how you’re feeling. Ask other mothers about their experiences. Breaking the isolation may help you feel human again.

When my wife tried to talk to me about it, I basically invalidated her condition and dismissed it as a figment of her imagination. “You’re a great mother,” I kept saying, as if you can’t be a great mother AND feel uncontrollably depressed due to a variety of hormonal and psychological conditions I was largely responsible for creating in the first place.

Ask for help. Try to open up to the people close to you and let them know you need help. If someone offers to baby-sit so you can take a break, take them up on it. If you can sleep, take a nap, or maybe you can catch a movie or meet for coffee with friends.

She tried to talk to me. Several times. She asked me for help. And I denied her my help by suggesting there was nothing to worry about. Instead of trying to understand how she felt and working diligently to figure out what more I could do to help, I pretended everything was fine and left her to fend for herself.

Maybe I did that because it was easier than working hard.

Maybe I let my wife run the show because I didn’t want the responsibility or the hassle.

Maybe every single thing about our lives would be different had I made the right choices.

There were countless little moments where I failed my wife. Where I didn’t work harder to understand her or speak to her in ways that conveyed my sincere desire to be a good partner.

But until I ditched my crying wife at the hospital to catch a few winks, left all the new-parenting heavy lifting to her, and never once apologized or took responsibility for it, I hadn’t actually destroyed my family.

There’s no such thing as time travel. And there’s not enough Christmas magic to rewind clocks and unflip calendars.

But if anyone’s wondering what I’m most sorry for in my entire life, now you know.

…..

Like this post? Hate it? You can subscribe to this blog by scrolling annoyingly far to the bottom of this page and inserting your email address under “Follow Blog via Email.” You can also follow MBTTTR on Twitter and Facebook.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Christmas Gift Ideas That Can Save Your Marriage

christmas gift

If you’re a married man, celebrate Christmas and don’t already know what gift you’re giving your wife, I’m inclined to make two assumptions about you:

  1. You can benefit from this blog post because you are probably a me-focused shitty husband like I was; and,
  2. You probably don’t know (and maybe even actively deny) there’s a problem with your marriage.

This post is my gift to you.

Because if you’re the kind of guy totally bewildered as to why your wife gets upset with you OR are the kind of guy who secretly knows he’s shortchanging his marriage and would like to step up his efforts to be a better man, these eight gifts to your wife will change your entire life. In a good way.

“What’s the catch?” You got me, smarty! There’s always a catch.

You might think of gifts as something you give your wife Christmas morning, and then move on, not thinking about them again. These are not those kinds of gifts.

These gifts require you to change yourself, perhaps radically so, every day for the rest of your life. And maybe that scares you because it sounds hard, you don’t like change, and you already have enough difficulty in your life.

Here’s my promise to you: Divorce is more difficult and introduces more life change than these behavior changes will. The substantial reward you feel inside you because you stepped up as a better husband and father—a better man—and the reward you feel when your wife begins treating you differently in return (with genuine admiration, appreciation, and sexual desire), will more than compensate for whatever you might feel you’re giving up in the process.

All wives want thoughtful, meaningful gifts from their husbands.

All wives who are mothers crave attention from adults (especially from their husbands), and also quality time for themselves.

In a way, these gifts are just as much for you as they are for her. Because when you give these gifts from a place of unselfish love and sincerity, she will regularly feel as if you’re providing the thoughtfulness and meaningfulness she seeks. She will feel like you are paying attention to her and she will have more time to herself. Afterward, your wife will love you, respect you, trust you, appreciate you, and want you more than you’ve ever felt before.

I promise it’s true.

8 Christmas Gifts For Your Wife That Will Change Your Lives Forever

1. Six-Second Hugs

Yale Law graduate and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk Gretchen Rubin figured out what every smart person does sooner or later: Feeling happy is a human being’s top priority. You might not think so. You might think making money or having sex or achieving goals or having fun is. But stop and think for a second. What you actually like is how it feels when you have fun, get money, orgasm, or achieve goals.

Chemicals produced by your brain are what make people feel good. The three linked to feelings of happiness are: oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. There are many ways to naturally (and artificially) get your brain to release these “happy chemicals.” One of the easiest ways is to simply prolong your hugs for a few seconds. Hugging for six seconds (not four, not five—SIX!) releases these chemicals in your body, and that of the person you’re hugging. Make that person your wife. Six-second hugs. Every day.

2. Don’t Be a Dick

You are sometimes a dick to your buddies. It’s cool because they give it right back to you. It’s a cultural male-bonding ritual, and by giving one another shit, we show our friends they are accepted into our tribe. Once in a while, we stumble on a girl who likes this too. Often, she grew up with all brothers, has mostly male friends, or is naturally wired for “tomboy”-ish interests. We like to call these women the “cool girls,” and we wonder why more women aren’t like that.

The answer is the same reason some people have brown skin while others have light skin, or why some people have different hair and eye color: Human beings have naturally occurring chemical and genetic differences outside of our control. So. STOP PUNISHING YOUR WIFE FOR BEING DIFFERENT THAN YOU.

When you make snide, critical, biting remarks, or call her names, you likely make her feel really shitty. This might confuse you because it’s cool when you do it with your friends, and she should totally understand that by now!

Read this, and NEVER forget it: Your wife, through no fault of her own—just like people with different skin and eye color—feels TOTALLY different than your buddies on the golf course, in your fantasy league, or at the office, do when you crack on them.

Use positive, kind, loving language toward your wife. Always. Especially when she’s upset and you really have to man up and swallow your pride to do so.

That’s what heroes do. The right thing, even when it’s challenging and inconvenient.

3. Prolonged Eye Contact for Compliments and Saying “I Love You”

I have a son in second grade. Maybe you have kids also. Sometimes, when you talk to them, they don’t hear what you’re saying because they’re playing a video game or building something with Legos and thinking: Maybe if I don’t answer and just keep doing this, mom and dad will shut up and go away! You know? Just like you do when you’re playing Call of Duty or watching football, and your wife interrupts from the other room.

It really pisses you off when your kid isn’t listening, so you give them the Dad Voice® or put their face between your two hands and sort of force them to hold your gaze. You do this so that you can be confident they are fully hearing and understanding what you’re saying.

You need to do that same thing (minus Dad Voice®) when you say “I love you” to your wife, or pay her a compliment.

Maybe you can take her hands in yours, or put your hands on her shoulders while you hold her gaze. It’s IMPORTANT that she knows you really mean the words coming out of your mouth.

“No. I don’t think you’re hearing me. Please. Hear this. Feel this. Know that I mean it: You are [insert special thing about your wife here], and I love so much that you [insert special things she does here]. You’re awesome. You’re beautiful. I couldn’t love or appreciate you more,” you say, in your own authentic and sincere way while maintaining eye contact.

Every day. EVERY day. When you say something kind and meaningful to her meant to convey your love and appreciation, make the extra effort to make sure your message is being properly received.

4. Send Flirty Texts

There are a million reasons your wife might not feel sexy or desirable. And some of those things are NOT your fault. But as a man who vowed to faithfully love her forever, in good times and bad, it IS your responsibility (and hopefully, your pleasure) to make your wife feel good. Remember the “Your wife is different than you” speech from before? That applies equally to her sexual chemistry, and your life will be INFINITELY better sexually if you figure this out. (This book, even though it’s largely about dating, will be a great resource for you, but make DAMN SURE you openly communicate with your wife about why you want to read it.)

One of the ways your wife isn’t different from you sexually is that she likes feeling pursued. Desired. Wanted.

When you get one of those random and inconvenient Tuesday-afternoon erections at work because of the lunar cycle or whatever? That’s an excellent time to let her know you’re thinking about her, physically.

She likes knowing that, instead of working diligently, you’re hard and achy at the office thinking about her. Tell her: “Babe. I’m seriously trying to work here, but I can’t stop thinking about that noise you make when my tongue slides up your inner thigh. I’ll understand (and behave like an adult, even though I’ll secretly want to die) if it doesn’t work for you tonight. But I’d really, really, really like to hear you make that noise later. And maybe do a few other things.”

While I’d never insult you by suggesting I know how to make your wife feel good physically, I might be able to help you with the text-flirting part. If you want to talk about it, fire me a note.

5. The Next-Best Thing to “I Got This”

“I got this,” followed by you completely taking care of something big or small so that your wife doesn’t have to, is the sexiest thing you can possibly do for her.

But you’re a guy, and your energy levels can swing wildly, and it’s really hard to be sexy 100-percent of the time, so here’s the next-best thing you can do: Ask your wife every morning (or every weekend about the entire week): “What can I do today that will be the biggest help to you?”

It’s VERY IMPORTANT that you recognize how bullshit it is that you’re asking this in the first place, so you might want to apologize while doing so. Simply asking this question demonstrates to your wife that you mentally default to a position of believing life management for your entire household falls to her. That you expect her to be “in charge” of organizing everyone’s lives—from keeping the schedule, maintaining the calendar, running errands, to making sure your kids have what they need for school, or your pets are properly cared for.

It’s an unfair burden your wife inherited by virtue of both of you being raised by mothers who did this without openly questioning the unfairness of that responsibility balance.

Maybe next year, you can graduate to “I got this,” and begin anticipating your wife and family’s needs without someone telling you what needs done next. In the meantime, asking your wife with heartfelt sincerity and appreciation for all she does, how you can be most helpful to her will enhance the bond between the two of you in ways that will reward your marriage, and all those connected to it, for the rest of your lives. Also, when she says “please vacuum the living room” or “fold the laundry” or “put the dishes away,” you actually do those things as well as you possibly can without complaining about it.

6. Listen to Her Without Trying to Fix Anything Unless She Asks For Your Help

This is VERY hard for me. I don’t know if it’s because of my ADHD brain, or my Y chromosome. But I have a very, very, very difficult time silently and patiently listening to someone tell me a story I didn’t ask to hear because I’m naturally disinterested in the subject matter, or because it has no impact on my life and seems pointless, or because I feel like I have an easy solution for the storyteller that will both end the discussion AND solve their problem.

This goes back to that whole she’s-totally-different-than-you stuff. Your brain and body are telling you that you don’t care. She’s talking to you about something. And, no matter what, you can’t care about it. You don’t choose to be disinterested. You just are. You can’t help it.

But THIS is your gift to your wife.

And the only thing you need to do? Look her in the eye and pay attention to what she’s saying. Here’s the reason to care about her otherwise-mundane story: Because she cares. This MATTERS to her. Maybe the story does, maybe it doesn’t. But the physical act of sharing the story, and having someone respect her enough—especially you—to pay attention without judgment or invalidating her feelings or opinions, is an activity that really matters to her. Being present with her and listening to her while she discusses these things you don’t care about makes her feel good in ways you can never understand because you are not like her. But so long as you understand that it DOES make her feel good, and that you like to make her feel good, you can practice patient, attentive listening with your wife.

As a nice bonus, doing so will make her want to play with your penis much more, and divorce you much less.

7. Unleash Adventurous Intimacy

This one’s tricky.

You might not understand this, because you might not understand (or believe) that your wife is unhappy. Maybe you don’t ask her about it, and you don’t make her feel safe enough to tell you. So you both just wear masks all the time, pretending in your own house and to the outside world that everything in your marriage is great, even when it’s not.

You might already have an adventurous sex life, not realizing your wife doesn’t feel comfortable, safe, trusting, or emotionally connected to you. If your wife feels alone in her marriage—the most-common marriage crime men make without realizing it—she starts questioning whether you love her, wondering whether you’re still attracted to her, and whether she can trust you (with life’s responsibilities as well as sexual faithfulness). These insecurities make her feel afraid. When she feels alone and afraid, she loses her sexual interest in you. If you want to give her the gift of sexual adventures, I hope you’ll trust me when I tell you that the path to uniquely adventurous orgasms begins with her emotional wellbeing.

But maybe you’re already an awesomely thoughtful guy. Maybe you were raised in a totally conservative, traditional, small-town environment like me. And maybe you just naturally feel uncomfortable having unfiltered and totally honest conversations with your wife about sex.

That’s fine. Just be brave enough to ask her about it. To assure her that you will not judge her no matter what she says.

And devote your attention to those things.

There is almost no limit to the depths this can go, and everyone’s psychological bent is going to dictate their particular interests. The only thing I know for sure is that if you’re completely honest with one another (and it’s the first time you have been), you WILL discover something new and exciting that can turn a random Wednesday night into a mind-blowing adventure.

Can we have too many of those?

Exactly.

8. Eliminate Behavior That Makes Her Feel Inadequate

Comedian Louis C.K. has a hilarious bit about how being behind the wheel of a car brings out the very worst of his personality. That’s when he’s the worst version of himself, he says.

To illustrate the point, he tells a common story of someone on the highway merging into traffic in front of him, and him yelling from inside his car with the windows up: “Hey! Fuck you! You worthless piece of shit!” Which he points out is a horrible thing to say to another person. “That’s someone’s son!” he says, before describing how that same thing would be much less likely to happen in an elevator. If someone cracks their elbow into yours while getting on an elevator, Louis C.K. says exactly zero people would ever put their face right up to the other person’s and say: “Hey! Fuck you! Worthless piece of shit!”

It’s funny because it’s true.

It’s important because this applies to your marriage.

No matter how “cool” you think your wife is RE: your physical attraction to other women you see on TV or at a restaurant or wherever, I promise you, she never wants to feel feelings of inadequacy.

Pornography is psychologically damaging to your mind and your marriage in ways you don’t fully understand and will likely deny. Someday, we can discuss those things.

Meanwhile, pornography and even just your ogling of women, or careless comments to your friends when you didn’t think she could hear you about how much you desire some woman that’s not your wife, WILL give her feelings of inadequacy. That her physical beauty and overall sexuality is not good enough to satisfy her husband. It will make her feel bad. When your wife feels bad, your relationship suffers. (And also, your wife feels bad! It’s healthy to want to fix that.)

Stop jerking off at your family computer or with your phone in the bathroom. Direct that sexual energy toward the actual human being who, if you treat her right and make her feel good, will provide an actual vagina for you to enjoy.

Also?

Stop saying things around her suggesting you wish you could have sex with other women. That a stranger you know nothing about somehow appeals more to you than the person who sacrifices daily for you. It’s a dickhead thing to do.

Besides, she probably watched Magic Mike and wanted Channing Tatum and/or Matthew McConaughey and/or both at the same time a lot more than she does, you, and thoughtfully never mentioned it.

But if you start giving these gifts to your wife? Every day?

Generously? With authentic, heartfelt sincerity?

Tatum and McConaughey wouldn’t have a chance.

Because you will be all she could ever want or need.

And since you already promised her to be just that, why not get started right now?

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Your Wife Thinks You’re a Bad Husband Because You Are One

See that guy in the back? He's probably employed, faithful, easy to get along with, and generally nice to people and his wife. That must also mean he's a good husband, right?

See that guy in the back? He’s probably employed, faithful, easy to get along with, and generally nice to people, including his wife. That must also mean he’s a good husband, right?

We have a problem, guys.

I don’t know why we have the problem, but if you want to have a non-sucky marriage, it will help to acknowledge this, then work daily to overcome it.

You think your wife is unfairly critical of you. That she’s ungrateful. That she’s always coming up with a new problem or complaint with your behavior. That she’s constantly nagging you about something, and usually at the least-convenient times after a long day at work.

You think your wife is a little bit crazy. She’s upset and it’s a total freaking mystery to you because you would NEVER get upset over something so little and insignificant, right? So, she’s crazy. Hormonal. She must be. It’s the only logical explanation.

You think your wife has a problem with priorities. You would never start a fight with her for leaving a towel on the floor of your bedroom. It doesn’t really matter! Or over forgetting to set out the chicken to defrost for dinner. We can just order pizza and eat the chicken tomorrow! Not a big deal! Let’s not fight over silly things!

But more important than that, she was the person you gave up your bacherlorhood and individuality for. Of every person on planet Earth, she is the one you proposed to and vowed to faithfully live with forever. And you’ve probably sacrificed a lot for her, right? Maybe she decides what town you live in, and what house you bought, and how the house looks, and mostly dictates the general rhythm of your lives. Maybe you go to work every day, handing over entire paychecks so she can decide what to do with it. Maybe you let her drive the nicer of your two cars. You feel like you’ve dedicated the majority of your existence to being her partner for the rest of your life, and you’ve done so mostly complaint-free. That’s gotta count for something, right?

Your ONLY complaint is that she’s always on your ass about something. Can’t you just chill out and not give me shit, since I NEVER give you shit!?, we all think.

It’s because, despite our imperfections (which to us feel the same as theirs—we just don’t complain about theirs much) we know we’re pretty decent guys.

We know we love our wives and families, and every time someone suggests our love isn’t good enough, we get a little bit prideful and a little bit pissed off. Especially when it’s our wives.

I get it. I felt the same way.

You Have a Problem with Relativism, and It Will Probably Earn You Divorce

I don’t cheat on my wife. A lot of husbands do. Since I don’t, I must be a good one.

I don’t hit my wife. A lot of husbands do. Since I don’t, I must be a good one.

I don’t drink excessively or do drugs. A lot of husbands do. Since I don’t, I must be a good one.

I have a job making good money and provide for my wife. A lot of husbands don’t. Since I do, I must be a good one.

I’m a good guy and a nice person. A lot of husbands aren’t. Since I’m a good, nice guy, I must therefore be a good husband.

Then we make it worse.

Because we’re so good at logical reasoning and leaving emotion out of it unlike our idiot wives, we surmise that her complaints about us lack merit. We’re good husbands! We just established this! So she’s being an unfair bitch right now, but she’ll get over it if I just go watch TV in the other room!

Moving forward, every time our wives complain about us, we chalk it up as another bullshit nag-fest because A. She’s complaining about this insignificant crap I would NEVER complain about, while ignoring all the actual important things I do every day that matter! and B. I’m a good husband, and this is the same fight we always have, and she’s obviously full of shit.

I Have Bad News, Kid

You can be a great guy and be a bad electrician.

You can be a great guy and be a lousy dancer.

You can be a great guy and be a shitty husband.

Relativism is a funny thing. I certainly dabble in all kinds of it. I always figure, if there’s a God, I’m in good shape spiritually because I treat people kindly while not murdering, raping, kidnapping, stealing, fighting, vandalizing, abusing, etc. It’s a logical fallacy. It’s one I use to make myself feel better and avoid making difficult and disciplined lifestyle changes.

And I’m sorry, guys. Just because you make a bunch of money and avoid having sex with other women on business trips and tend to not criticize your wife’s choices as much as she does yours, doesn’t make you a good husband.

Marriage isn’t graded on a curve. Just because millions of assholes are getting an F and you’re getting a C-, doesn’t mean you deserve a pizza party for making your imaginary Honor Roll. C- grades are shitty regardless of how many guys are doing it worse than you.

Marriage grades are strictly pass or fail.

HALF OF ALL MARRIAGES END IN DIVORCE. Of the ones that don’t, how many of those appear to be fun, loving, satisfying relationships? Look around and decide for yourself. In other words, even if you aren’t divorced, does that mean you’re succeeding in your marriage?

I have a son in second grade. He’s awesome. But he’s a complete tool bag sometimes when we’re working on math homework and he guesses the answer wrong by a digit or two, and then defends his wrong answer by saying “I was close!” before telling me he doesn’t want to learn how to do math because he doesn’t feel like it.

There’s no “close to correct” in math. It’s either correct (and for the purposes of second-grade math, there is only ONE right answer and an infinite number of wrong ones), or it’s not. I think marriage is exactly like that.

You can’t almost get marriage right. You can’t be close to being a good husband.

You either ARE a good husband (which requires a daily display of strength and heroism and fortitude and courage and discipline and empathy and wisdom and knowledge and love), or you’re not one.

We get defensive. We buck and protest and point fingers and deflect.

But you know.

Dude. I know that you know that I know that you know that you’re a little bit selfish and that you frequently make choices that are easiest for you, often at the expense of your wife’s preferences. You do it all the time.

Sure, I know you just forgot, sometimes! I’m the freaking king of forgetting. But when you don’t create a system to not forget anymore (that you have that thing on Tuesday, or your wedding anniversary, or to pick up the dry cleaning, or whatever) so that your wife knows she’s loved and respected enough for you to take care of things and demonstrate you can be counted on, you reinforce feelings of mistrust that make her feel afraid and insecure about her entire life.

That will end badly for all parties, even when it seems so insignificant to you in the moment.

There are many ways to die.

Instantly, from a bullet.

Or imperceptibly slow from undetected cancer.

She can trust me to not cheat!

Sorry, man. No one gives a shit. If basic assurances of sexual faithfulness didn’t come with the most base-model marital packages, marriage would cease to be a thing. She already assumes she can and should be able to trust you to not bang other chicks. It’s best to not expect pats on the back for your restraint.

If you’re still reading, you might be tired of being lectured by some divorced asshole on the internet. You might be wondering why—if I’m so brilliant about marriage—mine ended.

It’s because I had a problem with relativism and it earned me a divorce.

Everyone’s different, so maybe divorce won’t be bad for you. For me, it was the worst thing that ever happened, and I cried a lot more than a man should, and dying didn’t seem so bad for a while.

And you know what I thought about every day for the next year or two while I was struggling to get my shit together? If I’d spent every day giving 10 percent more to the person I loved above all things, my wife and son would still live here and my life would be much happier.

Because, I wasn’t a bad guy. I was just a bad husband.

And if I had it to do over again, I’d have made better choices—choices that might still be available to you.

Maybe you can start right now.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Because Your Marriage Won’t Survive Without It

(Image/unincorporatedmagazine.com)

(Image/unincorporatedmagazine.com)

I don’t have enough clout to recommend things and have people actually do what I suggest.

I love my second-grade son more than anything, have never given him a reason to not trust me, and I STILL can’t get him to do or try certain things I know to be better than his shitty 7-year-old ways that don’t work.

I’m sort of smart enough and self-aware enough to know when I’m talking out of my ass. But when I’m pounding the table, saying: DO THIS! IT WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE BETTER!, you can rest assured I believe it strongly, whether we’re talking about shredding your own blocks of cheese instead of lazily (and foolishly) buying pre-shredded grossness, or about things that actually matter, like how to not ruin your marriage and create a life of misery for you and your children who deserve better.

I received an email over the weekend which included this question, which is fair and reasonable if you don’t have access to my checking account: “Are you singing the praises of ‘How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It’ because you’ve been promised a commission?”

It kind of made me laugh. But then I let it roll around in my brain for a while, and I started to worry that other people might actually think this too. Because I DO strongly recommend the book often. To be clear, I don’t care if people incorrectly believe I make money I don’t actually make. But I do care about helping men better understand their wives, and encouraging them to give more to their marriages than they do. I also care about being credible so they won’t immediately dismiss things I’m saying that contradict their current: “My wife’s crazy and overly emotional, and if she’d just relax like me, our marriage would be perfect!” philosophy.

The answer to whether I’m a paid shill for that book, or any book, is: No. I just think it has a legitimate chance to save marriages, and better yet, contribute to happy ones.

If the woman who asked me that could look at my bank statement after the holiday shopping season, she would totally get a reverse-lady boner and realize there’s no way I’m earning secret book money.

‘I Can’t Believe I’m Asking a Stranger on the Internet for Help’

I have a series of posts that—in the context of this blog’s weak internet traffic—are semi-popular, called An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands. There are 12 posts in the series, and I secretly think the first three are crappy and I’m ashamed they are read so much. Collectively, the dozen posts are read more than a thousand times a day, and sometimes more when shared on Facebook.

Because of that, I get varying versions of this paraphrased email several times per week:

“My marriage is in trouble and I was looking for information online when I stumbled on your Open Letter to Shitty Husbands series. I’m in tears. It’s nice to read I’m not a crazy, psycho bitch and that other people feel this way too. I really think this can help people. But I have one question…”

Uh-oh. Here it comes.

“… how can I get my husband to understand this, too?”

That question is relentless. It haunts me.

I hate it because the answer sucks and isn’t at all helpful: I. DON’T. KNOW.

I’m not your husband! Some people like cabbage, and prefer winter to summer, and purposefully wear costumes to weekend Renaissance festivals for fun. These are not things I understand.

I have no idea what it’s like to be inside the mind and consciousness of another person—even people I see daily and think I know well.

I can only tell you what happened to me and hope that someone recognizes some of it, and then can make better choices that can lead to a better life.

Wives want to know how I became “enlightened.” How I figured out the secret. Because they believe if their husbands learn the secret too, their marriages can be saved and the pain and fear in their lives will go away.

I’m talking to people sometimes who are more afraid and in more pain than they’ve ever been. I remember what that’s like. It’s so bad that you stop worrying about dying, because dying is less scary than feeling like this forever.

Me telling them “I don’t know” probably feels the same as when broke, desperate and hopeful job hunters get form-letter responses from human resource departments thanking them for applying and promising to keep their information on file.

I don’t want wives to abandon hope, because I didn’t want my wife to give up on me, and at least some percentage of these men have what it takes to turn it around with the right information.

Those men and their wives and children are who I’m thinking about every day when I’m answering an email from another crying spouse on the brink.

Why That Book?

I don’t recommend that book because anyone is paying me to do so, or because I’m lazy and haven’t read any others, or because I assume everyone will feel exactly the same as I do about it.

I recommend it because—FOR ME—reading it was like Neo waking up from the Matrix, or Agent Kujan realizing he’d just spent the past few hours talking to Keyser Soze. I was seeing things as they really are for the first time. It’s the thing that flipped the light switch for me. It’s the thing that put me on the path to being able to write things that thousands of people read and say: “Oh my God! That’s just like my marriage!”

For me, it was: FINALLY!!! I get it now! I understand why my wife and I always have the same fight! I understand why she always brings up things from the past to be angry about even though I’ve completely forgotten them! I understand why more than half of all couples divorce or have unhappy marriages!

Changed my life.

The book taught me something I generally knew in a boys like blue, girls like pink sort-of way, but didn’t understand:

Men and women (to varying degrees—nothing is one-size-fits-all) are fundamentally different in how they process thought and emotion, and there are very specific evolutionary science reasons as to why. Those unique abilities and differences helped our ancestors survive bear attacks and invasions from other tribes during the hunter-gatherer days. But today, those differences wreak havoc on our relationships because our natural, instinctive emotional responses and communication techniques clash. Our fear responses now kick in during arguments in the kitchen instead of in our wigwams. Totally helpful in the wigwam! Totally NOT helpful in the kitchen! Because we usually say horrible things to one another and then storm off afterward to do whatever we do to make ourselves feel better (which has the added bonus of also making our partners feel even more abandoned).

Having a high-level understanding of what was happening for the first time was a total game-changer.

And here’s what my brain did:

When something happens, I have always assumed my wife saw it, heard it, felt it and experienced it just as I do. Because I’m pretty smart, and she’s pretty smart, it makes sense that we see things the same way. But NOW I KNOW THAT IT’S NOT THE SAME. And when I apply my natural translator to something, and she applies her natural translator to something, we are probably going to disagree about what really happened.

The moment you realize your wife or husband isn’t broken or crazy, but actually responding to things exactly as he or she is naturally programmed to do, (and if your partner can understand that and give it back to you) you can instantly eliminate the majority of conflict in your relationship.

That won’t guarantee marital happiness. But it’s a pretty good first step.

Combining the knowledge gleaned from that book with my memories of conflict between my wife and I helped me put a bunch of the puzzle together.

Then I got divorced anyway, because most troubled marriages are over by the time the husband figures it out.

My divorce destroyed me emotionally.

I am a child of divorce and hyper-sensitive about it. My parents split when I was 4, and I grew up 500 miles from my dad, only seeing him during school breaks throughout my childhood. Every day of my life reinforced divorce = bad.

It was the one thing in life I was really sure about: I’ll never get divorced!

It hurt so much after she left that I needed to figure out how to not hurt anymore AND how to make sure nothing like that ever happens again. I’ve spent countless hours reading about, thinking about, and talking about relationships and human psychology.

Now I’m this new version of myself.

And I like how it feels to know one of life’s greatest secrets. 

Will the Same Thing Happen to Others?

Sometimes husbands read this stuff and think it’s bullshit. They can’t accept that their individual consciousness and worldview can be so radically different from others’. In their defense, it’s a really hard concept to grasp, and women are equally guilty of not understanding or respecting the fundamental differences between her and the men in her life.

Sometimes husbands refuse to read it because they’re prideful and don’t believe they need help, or maybe think acknowledging relationship troubles is a sign of failure and weakness, and most men will go to great lengths to conceal failure and weakness.

Sometimes husbands don’t appear to love their wives and family, and have little interest in anything that might be difficult to save something they don’t actually care about.

It’s hard to identify with people when they’re so much different than you.

But it’s really important that we try.

Sometimes guys like me read this stuff. They’ll leave a comment or a note, or maybe I’ll hear from their wives afterward: “Thank you. This changed our lives. You may have just saved my marriage.”

If there’s really a God that I get to meet on the day of my judgment, this is the one thing about which I get to hold my head high. This is the thing I get to say I did that mattered. Punching these keys and telling people I never met how I screwed up my marriage so maybe they can make better choices. Maybe someday I’ll get to tell God that a little 4-year-old boy was able to grow up with both his mom and dad because of something his father learned from me.

That’s why I always recommend the book. Because none of this is mine. It’s years of accidentally hurting my wife because I was selfish and ignorant. It’s years recovering from brokenness following separation and divorce.

It’s countless hours of combining the wisdom and lessons from a bunch of amazing thinkers and writers into a huge vat with all my nonsense and making something new.

Most of the time, people won’t care. Until a person is in total agony and desperate for answers, it’s really hard to care.

And even if you do care, you might think I’m totally full of shit. Maybe I am.

But every so often, when the stars align just so, the right person reads the right sentence at the right moment for them and everything becomes clear.

The Eureka Moment has a transformative effect on the heart and mind.

And then that person gets to be a better version of themselves for the rest of their lives, accidentally changing the world as they go.

Just like you.

Just like me.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Testing the Medium Waters

Some of my favorite writers choose Medium as their writing platform of choice, and I’ve long admired its graceful simplicity and pleasant-to-read type.

I’ve decided to occasionally share updated and rewritten versions of posts originally published here on Medium. Maybe you’ll care. Maybe you won’t.

If you want, please read my first crack at this and “like” it because it’s true: We don’t have any idea what we’re doing, and the sooner we start admitting it to ourselves and one another, the sooner everyone gets to feel less alone.

Because we really are all in this together.

View story at Medium.com

Tagged , , , , , ,

How to Find the Classic WordPress Editor and Not Kill Yourself

peter griffin grinds my gears

(Author’s Note: Feel free to skip to the bottom of this post for help finding the old “Add New Post” page because most of this doesn’t matter. Also, I know most of you have already figured this out because you’re a bunch of smarties. This is for the people who haven’t and are possibly just one or two posts away from offing themselves to avoid having to use the new editor again. They deserve our support.)

Ohhh. THIS is what she was talking about!

A friend who blogs on WordPress asked me how I felt about the recent changes to the “Add New Post” page.

I think she said something like: “I don’t know how to feel about it. I’m not sure I like it,” but at the time I was still seeing the trusty, familiar WordPress editor page that doesn’t hate children and puppies when I went to post something.

It’s because she’s nice and not dramatic, unlike me who has a tendency to arm-flail and loudly express displeasure with more exuberance than is warranted. I’ve had to point this out more than usual lately: I am all about hyperbole and exaggeration and redundancy and saying things more times than necessary.

So, did I really want to kill myself after having WordPress’ updated “Add New Post” page thrust upon me like an uninvited, smelly penis?

Yes. Yes, I did.

Not All Change is Good

For anyone still reading who doesn’t publish on WordPress, you might be thinking: “Oh, Matt! You’re just being silly! EVERYONE resists change at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll see it’s actually better! You can’t stop progress!”

And if you are thinking that, you can go drink pee and like it.

I was in the newspaper business for a decade. We would infrequently make thoughtful design changes to the daily newspaper, and geriatric anal-retentives would lose their minds because we moved the crossword puzzle from the third page to the seventh and now their lives were ruined and they were cancelling their subscriptions just as soon as they finished their episode of Murder, She Wrote.

I’m not one of those All-Change-Is-Bad people.

So when I stumbled on the new-and-different WordPress editor, I embraced it as a fun new toy to play with.

But THEN, I played with it. I used it to publish five blog posts. And honestly? It was a little bit shitty and kind of sapped my will to live. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s obviously not an improvement, and I’m always confused by “updates” in which regular users lose more than they gain.

The new interface is kind of like a Slinky that doesn’t slink. Or playing basketball with a half-deflated ball. Or playing music with an out-of-tune guitar that’s missing its B string.

Maybe I’m a Terrible User

I may just be doing it wrong.

For example, it’s not difficult to add tags to posts in the new editor. But I’ve posted three times now forgetting to add them because of how different and hidden the new tag box is.

The shittiest change for me was trying to link to old posts. In the classic editor, when I want to add a link, there’s a little search box where typing in a couple keywords will bring up titles of all related old posts, and it’s super-easy to click on them and add the link. But now it looks like this:

Sad Link screen

All the great, user-friendly functionality is gone. I have to open a new browser window and find the post I want, and then copy-and-paste the URL to create a link. And that’s fine! I can handle it, I guess. But why make it suckier and more difficult for no reason?

How to Use the Classic WordPress Editor Instead of the New One You Hate

If you want to use the old “New Post” window that you’re comfortable with, it’s relatively easy to do…

When you’re signed into your WordPress account and you click on “My Site” in the top left corner, it takes you to an Admin page where you can see stats and stuff.

If you choose “Add New” from that page, you’ll be doused in sadness when this pops up:

Booooooo WordPress

BUT. REJOICE!

If you look all the way to the bottom left, you’ll see “WP Admin,” in all its nearly hidden, understated glory:

WP Admin Click That

This is where you want to select “Add New” to create a new blog post:

That's your friend

And now, dear friends, life can suck a little less:

classic wordpress editor

Maybe WordPress will kill the classic editor entirely one day. But until then, keep on keepin’ on and stuff.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is ‘Happy Marriage’ a Myth?

unicorn

Deanna asked:

“I’m sleeping alone after 5 years of marriage for the second time to the same man. Yes, the first time around it was about this long before we’d arrive at this point too. We took 7 years off before embarking on Round 2. We are absolutely headed for another divorce. Because I’m not a complete idiot, I don’t plan to take this lovely ride a third time, however, I do wonder if it’s even worth bothering pairing up with anyone in the future. I’m 38 and will be an official empty-nester once I’m single (183 days before the kid graduates and a clean break can be made). Reading your posts and subsequent comments it seems like I’d be up for more of the same even with a different man. I’m not interested in switching teams so my question is if flying solo is just the best way to go? Does anyone ever get this shit right?”

Does anyone ever get this shit right?

I think about that question all the time. In case you were too lazy to read Deanna’s question, “shit,” in this case, refers to marriage.

Does anyone ever have a happy and successful marriage?, is what Deanna asked.

That’s a vexing question. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Of the half that do not, how many are comprised of sad, angry and depressed people who want out of their marriages but feel trapped? How many are having affairs, or wish they were? How many scream and fight every day or get physically abusive? How many sleep in separate bedrooms and never have sex? How many are pocked by unhealthy addiction or criminal behavior? How many are absentee parents with children who hate them, or themselves, and think about committing suicide because they feel abandoned and unloved?

Most of these are obvious and observable. So, here’s the one that frightens me most: How many of the couples who appear to do everything right, and have joyful, cooperative, peaceful, loving, stable marriages are faking it and actually have creepy skeletons and tell-tale hearts hidden beneath the surface?

The Dream World vs. The Real World

One of our many life problems is that we live in two worlds: The real one we experience every day which is filled with frequent frustration, annoyance, pain, horror, stress (but also some good things!); and the magical (and make-believe) dream one where everything functions ideally all the time.

Let’s use abstinence-only sex education as an example.

OF COURSE the world would be better if young, unmarried people never had sex. A lot of very decent, well-meaning people believe God has a rule punishable by eternal damnation that says: DO NOT have sex outside of marriage.

Since these people’s top priority in life is to raise children to make good choices and avoid eternities of fiery torment, they want to teach abstinence-only sex education classes to them. To discuss “safe sex” and pass out free condoms is tantamount to encouraging teenagers to have immoral and irresponsible sex that endangers both their physical and spiritual lives.

There are two things going on here, and both are true:

  1. If unmarried people never had sex, a bunch of awesome things would happen overnight: Unwanted pregnancy, sexually-transmitted disease, adultry, rape, prostitution, the emotional guilt-and-shame rollercoaster, child pornography and molestation all vanish instantly, and a bunch of ancillary things like kidnapping, child sex slavery, prostitution, pornography and murder all undergo dramatic transformations which project to benefit humankind.
  2. Unmarried people, including teenagers who shouldn’t, are going to have sex whether God or we want them to, or not.

Buck all you want, but the conservative goody-two-shoes people (no matter what you believe about a particular deity or religion) are totally right: Unbridled hedonism fucks up a lot of stuff.

HOWEVER, in a real-world application designed to prepare teenagers for adulthood and educate them about sex, is it really practical to throw a bunch of moral platitudes at them, and expect everything to work out fine?

Ideally, I’m with the moralists on this one. My list of bad things that goes away when the world abides by The Jesus Sex Rules™ (not to be confused with The Jesús Sex Rules, which may or may not involve donkeys in Tijuana) seems like a worthwhile tradeoff.

But, practically? It doesn’t seem wise or pragmatic to avoid reality when teaching teens about sex. Adding more horny and confused ignoramuses to the populace only exacerbates our problems.

WTF are We Talking About? Donkey Shows?

No. We’re talking about whether anyone ever gets marriage correct. Are there really people out there who wake up every day feeling good and have a great time (without being conned) in their married lives?

The answer is: I don’t know. There are 7.4 billion people in the world, and I only really know what it’s like to be one of them.

I don’t know anything. Ever.

But I always think things.

And I THINK there are people who have great lives and happy, honest, healthy marriages that last forever involving real, actual love.

Most People Aren’t Up to It Because it’s Hard

Does anyone ever really lose weight when they make New Year’s Resolutions?

Yep.

Does anyone ever really succeed when they quit a job to start a business?

Uh-huh.

Does anyone ever really overcome hardship and rise to greatness?

Totally.

Most people have shitty marriages because IT’S REALLY HARD TO HAVE A GREAT ONE.

We all think it should be easy. “Love should be easy! It’s love! I love my mom and dad and best friend and puppy! If it’s difficult, then it wasn’t meant to be! Since it isn’t easy, we’re probably just not right for each other! I’m pretty sure my soul mate is that hot co-worker in Accounting!”

Marriage has such a high failure rate because most of us are ignorant assholes. We lack a fundamental understanding of what marriage IS NOT, and we demonstrate a complete inability to understand the subjective experience of our opposite-sex partners (I won’t pretend to understand how this might play in same-sex relationships). We make a grave error in assuming that whenever something happens, two different humans observe and interpret it the same. That never happens. Some people like crocheting more than watching football. Some people like tofu salads more than pizza. Some people like polka music more than… well, any music that doesn’t suck.

Any two people are going to view the world differently. That tends to be exacerbated further between the two genders.

The same patterns always emerge between husbands/boyfriends and their wives/girlfriends. He does this. She responds this way. She does this. He responds that way. And all of those choices and responses mixed together end up getting you a shit sandwich with rotting lettuce and divorce mayonnaise on moldy rye, no matter what you intended to order.

People are foolish enough to believe it might work with someone else, so they start sleeping with them, or end their marriage thinking it will all work out with the more-awesome person they’ll get with next time.

But, SURPRISE! The divorce rate for second marriages is actually 17-percent higher! A lovely 67 percent!

That’s right. After gaining all that wisdom and life experience and learning from past mistakes, people get marriage wrong the second time even more than when they were understandably young and stupid.

But some people are wise.

They KNOW, really and truly, how hard marriage is and the level of commitment required to make it last forever. And they WANT to. They’re pretty smart, honest, decent people with the best intentions for their spouse, children, extended family and friends.

And they STILL fuck it up. They neglect their wives emotionally because they’re selfish. They shame and belittle their husbands because he’s different (Read: not as good as) than my father. They let their powerful and hard-to-reign-in human emotions run rampant, constantly pushing one another away because I’m right and they owe me an apology!

Most people get divorced or have unhealthy marriages because it’s really hard to have good marriages. It requires the same level of sacrificial dedication it takes for obese people to shed weight through disciplined exercise and healthy eating. It requires the same level of attention successful entrepreneurs put into product development, market research, branding and customer acquisition. It requires the same amount of inner-strength and fortitude people use to overcome enormous life obstacles to rise to great success and inspire others.

‘Is flying solo the best way to go?’

Here’s the toughest thing to swallow about marriage, and what makes finding a great one so rare: It’s INCREDIBLY difficult to find a human being with the strength and discipline required to love their spouse enough to give more to them every day than they ask for themselves.

And even when you do find one? It’s barely half of what’s needed for a marriage to survive. A marriage will NEVER work with one hero trying to do all the heavy lifting while their partner just selfishly derpy-derps their way through life, never sacrificing in return.

Great marriages are unicorns because the ONLY way for them to exist is for TWO PEOPLE to have the unwavering will and discipline to wake up every day, no matter what, and choose to love the person next to them, regardless of how they might be feeling through life’s perpetual ups and downs.

Good marriages are impossible without it.

“Why does my marriage suck?” people wonder. That’s why. Because you don’t give enough, and your partner doesn’t give enough, and your love and respect and kindness for them is conditional. You only treat them well when its convenient and doesn’t require swallowing any pride. And you can’t stop hurting one another because you don’t even know that what you’re doing hurts them. And you don’t care enough to ask.

But look on the bright side, there’s a 33-percent chance you’ll get it right next time! (That wasn’t directed at you, Deanna.)

In conclusion:

Deanna. I don’t know whether I’ll ever marry again. No clue. I felt so bad after my divorce, that avoiding a situation in which I might feel that again seemed like a wise play.

I think most people feel that way.

In The Dream World, we would live the rest of our single lives feeling free and independent and having an amazing time pursuing whatever passion, idea or interest popped into our little heads, and we’d die someday old and admired and regret-free as our many friends and family celebrated our life well-lived with champaigne and tequila.

But we live in The Real World.

And in the real world, our hearts and souls (and privates) want to reach out and connect to others. We are confusingly and mysteriously and beautifully wired for connection.

The benefits of happy, healthy relationships, and of love and companionship are well documented. People live longer and better when they have reasons to. For most people, that’s loved ones.

Flying solo sounds like a fine idea.

Like crazy European sex parties. And eating cake and ice cream for every meal. And snorting cocaine all the time because it feels so good.

What could possibly go wrong!?

However—and I reiterate that I don’t know, but simply think—figuring out what it takes to make the relationships we naturally crave last a lifetime is a better strategy.

What if we asked:

What do I need to learn in order to be an amazing partner so they always feel loved and want to be with me?

What have I failed to do up to this point that might have helped me choose a partner who wouldn’t want to end our marriage? How can I do better next time?

But, Deanna… if you’ll forgive this one overstep… you and he chose each other not once, but TWICE. (Which is a little bit poetic and beautiful.)

If we already know that marriages to second partners fail more frequently than with our first, and we know our hearts and souls (and privates) crave companionship, and that we are our best selves when we have it, maybe there are better questions:

What can I do today to make ME better?

What could I do today to help save my marriage?

What if doing so changed everything?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Surprise! I Don’t Completely Suck

failure to communicate cool hand luke

“The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care. Right? Yeah!” — The Offspring

Some people think I have low self-esteem and am too hard on myself.

“Chin up, Matt. I know way bigger losers than you!”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, man!”

“You’re a really swell guy, and a girl will probably kiss you on the mouth again someday if you just hang in there long enough!”

I made up two of those.

Sometimes I write stuff, and I feel pretty normal or even possibly good while doing so, and then out of nowhere, I’ll get one of these comments.

“Take it easy, Matt! Don’t do anything crazy!”

“We’re all here for you, buddy. Keep on truckin’!”

“If I could have one superpower right now, it would be the ability to crawl through this camera and give you a big hug.”

I also made up two of those and plagiarized the third.

It dawned on me yesterday when someone who likely has my best interests at heart told me in a comment that I frustrate her with my crappy self-esteem (but acknowledged she doesn’t always know how to interpret my tone.) That, combined with hundreds of “Keep your head up, pal!” comments over the past however many months, has led me to the following conclusion: I’m a shitty hack writer with a glaring inability to effectively convey tone of voice, and I should quit forever since I suck so much at life.

Every person who knows me even a little bit can “hear” my tone of voice in that last sentence. And they know how I mean it.

Exaggeration, hyperbole and metaphor are my tools, and self-deprecation is my trade. Sometimes, I’m even sarcastic and kind of a dick. I’m sorry if that annoys you. Maybe eating some sweaty bologna will make you feel better.

‘Then I wonder why she sleeps with my friends’

That’s my favorite line from the classic “Self Esteem” by The Offspring, and has nothing to do with this post, except that it’s about self-esteem, and I’ve been playing the song on repeat while I write this because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Two and a half years ago when I started this thing, I was a complete freaking mess. I can only assume all my writing “sounded” like it too.

Two and a half years ago, I probably had low self-esteem.

We’re all slaves to our own worldview and experiences. I’m a small-town Ohio kid known for being polite, gregarious and social. I have a naturally optimistic and positive disposition. For about 30 years, mostly nothing bad happened to me, except my parents divorced when I was 4, but that’s young enough where whatever happens to you just feels normal.

Small, safe town. Great family. Lots of friends. Seemingly well-liked, accepted and popular. Girls always liked me. Despite the absence of anything resembling economic prosperity, it was pretty damn charmed, but when it’s all you’ve known, it’s just NORMAL, and you take it for granted.

Then, at the age of 30, a bunch of bad shit happened, including a job loss and family deaths, and it all culminated in divorce.

I know that I’m nice and that there are infinitely shittier partner options out there.

I know that I’m, while occasionally unreliable in an immature/ADHD kind-of way, totally reliable in a You-Can-Count-On-Me-To-Not-Abandon-You way.

I know that I have above-average intelligence, depth and ambition. I am good-natured, have good tastes, am attractive enough that people have wanted to mate with me from puberty onward, and am reasonably funny.

Most importantly, I know, in the deepest recesses of my core and soul that I actively work at being a good guy. I totally mess up, sometimes. But, man, I care, and not everyone does.

Put all that in a blender and top it with a 12-year relationship and a beautiful son and awesome friends and large, wonderful extended families.

Seems like a lot to toss out.

But she walked away, choosing something and someone else.

And then, for the first time, I knew how brokenness and rejection felt. And maybe if my entire life had been difficult and shitty prior to that, divorce would have been no big deal. Just another whatever thing! But it wasn’t. It was soul- and life-wrecking, and I started writing about it here as a means of dealing with it, and then accidentally morphed into a quasi-self-help/advice guy because people kept asking stuff.

‘Well, I guess, I should stick up for myself’

I’m just an average guy.

A statistic.

A middle-income, divorced, single father with a mortgage and car payment.

So, even though I think I’ve got some shit figured out now regarding our romantic partnerships—one of the most critical and important facets of our human experience—I’m not going to ever try to seem like more than I am.

I am VERY TYPICAL, and screwed up my marriage VERY TYPICALLY, and now VERY TYPICAL other people (about 80 percent of everyone) might be able to benefit in some small way from me writing about it, because all of them are either doing all the same dumb stuff I did, or are being victimized by it.

I’m pretty average, and in this instance that’s a really good thing, because a lot of people can identify with it, and some of this stuff’s important.

I’m not a scholar, nor a genius, and I have ZERO experience in a committed relationship attempting to practice all of these ideas I believe can and will save, or enhance, marriages (or committed partnerships of any kind).

Just maybe, another average person can get something positive out of my average-guy writing in a way they can’t or won’t from PhDs and therapists. I don’t know for sure. And don’t pretend to.

But you can know this: I have reasonably high self-esteem.

I’m not always as brave as I should be.

I feel insecure sometimes, because I worry too much about what people think of me.

I put a little bit too much stock in everyone liking me, when I’m smart enough to understand one out of three people probably never will.

When you read or hear me call someone a “dirty pirate hooker,” or say something like “because I’m a stupid, moron asshole who makes bad decisions,” I want you to assume I’m goofing off and not take me seriously.

Please assume I’m happy and like myself and want other people to feel the same.

I may be dumb.

But I’m not a dweeb.

I’m just a sucker with no self-esteem. (Only not really.)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hypocrisy, Dating & God Hating Me

This_happened_LOGO_S

(Image/thishappened.podbean.com)

So, I met a girl.

She seems to like me.

It’s weird, because that never happens. (Yes, that’s hyperbole.)

But it’s also not weird because when it DOES happen, there’s always some obstacle, major inconvenience or unusual challenge attached to it. Always.

It’s The Matt Way®. Things can never just be normal and easy. Not with me. Luck might have something to do with it. Maybe ADHD, too. But all signs seem to point to this unfortunate probability: God must totally hate me.

I’m an asshole. Let me put that out there. I don’t mean that I’m mean and treat people poorly. I just mean, in a 50-percent-serious, self-deprecating sort of way, I’m an asshole.

Why am I an asshole, you ask?

Because I met her on an online dating site, which you might consider strange, if not impossible, since I swore off online dating more than two years ago and have constantly railed against it as shitty and horrible and unnatural and couldn’t POSSIBLY have an online dating account! And that makes total sense that you’d think that.

If it’s any consolation, I promise I’m really embarrassed about it, and that it’s not my first time being kind of a hypocrite.

A few weeks ago, because I’m a shitty planner, I let a weekend sneak up on me without making plans. One of my friends and I were going to go out for a few drinks. But then he got sick and needed to stay home. And then, because all my local friends are married and/or have children and don’t live in Asshole Single Guy World where smart planning has forsaken these lands, everyone already had full calendars and I ended up spending most of the weekend alone in my house, and that was that. I’d had enough.

Some people like being alone. I’m one of them, sometimes. I was an only child, and I love writing, reading, and poker—all things best accomplished alone or among strangers you don’t really want to talk to. Creeping up on three years removed from my marriage, I’m totally fine being alone.

The flipside? I’m ridiculously social. If I could ONLY choose company or solitude for the rest of my life, I would choose company for sure. Maybe even a lot of people. A lot of people is good. I like energy and connectedness and togetherness and all that shit. Very much. It’s life-giving to me. I’m at my very best in a room full of 40 people I know and love who brought along 10 strangers for me to befriend.

But there I was, watching HBO and football, and writing from my couch two weekend nights in a row, and I was done.

This is bullshit, I thought.

Match—the online dating site I used for a few months when I wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating two and a half years ago—had sent me one of their crap emails telling me someone had winked at me, or whatever.

I texted my friend: “Remind me again that I hate online dating and don’t want to do it.”

Huge mistake. He’s super-smart and I usually listen to him. Even worse? He is more than a year in with a new girlfriend (an excellent one) he met through Match.

I don’t remember what he said, but it felt like a two-handed shove toward the vortex of suck, and I fell in.

Also, I want to deflect some of the blame.

I used to whine here that no girls liked me on Match.

But then I read my profile that was still live from spring/summer 2013. It sounded EXACTLY like an insane, insecure, whiny, crying mess of non-sexy loserness had written it.

Good God, this is bad. No wonder that shit didn’t work.

I rewrote it.

I can’t be certain it’s the best-written Match profile of all time, but there’s a fair chance it’s the best in my 50-mile radius. Girls liked me. I talked to some of them, but there was nothing there. Even though it wasn’t a rejection festival to the degree it was more than two years ago, it still sucked ass.

I’ve said it a hundred times: I’m either someone who passes your primal attractiveness test, or I’m not. And if I do? You’re probably going to like me because, cocky as it may sound, I don’t make it hard. I’m not the smartest, funniest, wittiest, sexiest or most charming, but I have enough of all that stuff to make it work in real life.

But not so much on Match. And that’s what I hate about online dating. It takes away the one thing I tend to excel at: one-on-one interaction.

Even though I’m kind of a hypocrite about online dating, I’m not a hypocrite WHILE online dating. I try hard to be fair. And it’s perfectly fair for women to want to date tall, never-married, childless men. Those aren’t unreasonable preferences. I have preferences, too.

Match would be amazing for casual dating. If it was all about dating simply for the sake of having something to do. And I’d be all for that if I thought legitimate platonic friendships might result from doing so. But it doesn’t work like that. And if something can’t end well, I have a hard time investing in it. Even when I really like the other person and believe it could go somewhere if things were different.

People hear me say that and assume I’m wife hunting.

Not true.

I don’t crave marriage. It’s scary. I don’t even crave a committed, monogamous relationship. That has never been my objective, or even my hope.

My only hope?

To meet someone so amazing that I would want those things with her.

I’ve met some great people since becoming single. Under other circumstances, things could have gone differently.

But no previous encounter had a viable happy ending. Single parents put their children first. And when your loyalties are (appropriately) with your children, it often makes single adulthood more challenging.

Not that this thing now is less challenging.

She lives three hours away, even though she used to live in my town, because God’s hilarious.

Some people don’t think that’s a big deal, but I intentionally don’t date people who live even an hour away. Want to know why? Because that’s three hours, roundtrip on a wintry Tuesday night for dinner and a movie, and that’s some serious bullshit.

I don’t do it because I’m selfish and I want to actually see and spend time with the person I like.

I don’t do it because I think, fundamentally, long-distance relationships are unsustainable.

So, here’s the deal: I’m breaking a ton of my dating rules on this thing. But I’m not compromising ANY values. Not one.

Whether it was radical differences in life philosophy or personality, insurmountable geography, or a bunch of really bad timing, a fatal flaw in any potential relationship tended to rear its head immediately.

But not this time. Even with all the rule breakage. Not this time.

She lives three hours away.

She’s an insanely busy person, personally and professionally, which keeps communication comparatively infrequent.

She’s a mother of three. (I had a no-more-than-two-kids rule, because I already have enough trouble with time- and money-management.)

She might be a fraction of an inch taller than me. (Classic, right?)

Any of those four things would filter you out of my online dating preferences if these hadn’t been particularly unique and unusual circumstances, quite possibly orchestrated by a God intent on smiting me. “Hey guys, check out this dude, Matt. I kind of hate him. Watch this!”

And then, fa-la-la-la-la-la! Alakazam!

This thing.

And it’s way too early to know what “This thing” is, but I insta-turned off my Match account after meeting her and that felt like something.

And it’s way too early to be scared, but it still feels scary.

And it’s way too early to make judgments or predictions about anything, because really? Who knows anything, ever?

I only know that it’s different.

No matter what happens next, this time’s a little bit different. Because I’m still single. But I’m not still available. And that feels like something, too.

Wow, two and a half years feels like a lifetime ago.

Wow, this is crazy and different.

Wow, I’m going to hit Publish.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: