Monthly Archives: February 2016

If I Die Before I Wake

(Image/fbccoverstreet.com)

(Image/fbccoverstreet.com)

I think about dying sometimes.

I think about dying because sometimes people die.

I can’t decide how afraid of it I am. I tend to feel a little afraid of any situation in which I have no prior experience, or am missing a lot of information and don’t know what to expect. So I guess I’m a little bit afraid to die, which I like better than three years ago when being awake hurt so much that staying alive too long feeling that way seemed much scarier.

One of the worst things about being a divorced, single father is that there’s no one around to document life with my son. My little second-grader, thankfully, has several family members on his mom’s side who he sees pretty regularly.

But because we live far from my extended family, and I’ve been single for three years, there’s this huge chunk of my son’s life that only exists in his memory and mine. If I die today, he’ll only have a few pieces of visual evidence documenting our life together.

He curled up next to me on the couch last night. He wanted to look at old photos of him and us. Even though I’m an infrequent Facebook user, it’s still my largest repository of old photos.

It’s a time warp, because there’s close to nothing from the past three years.

If you judged and measured my life in terms of Facebook activity, it’s not hard to see the world turned upside-down in 2010, and stayed that way. My son didn’t recognize some of his friends from today because they were so young in the photos.

We got to Fourth of July photos from 2010.

“Look dad! That’s when mommy still came with us when we go to visit grandpa’s,” he said.

“That’s right, bud. You’ll see mommy in a lot of these photos,” I said. “See? There you both are. Look at that face.”

“That was one of my happiest years.”

“What do you mean?”

“When I was 3, and mommy still lived here.”

That sort of thing used to make me cry. I’m tougher now.

“Do you remember when mommy still lived here?”

“Yeah. I remember.”

We flipped back to Christmas 2009. There was a photo of him standing in the middle of my in-law’s old living room, a place he spent much of his first three years before the whole world changed.

“Where is that, dad?”

“Are you serious? You don’t know where that is?”

“I just don’t really remember,” he said.

I think about his grandfather—my father-in-law—all the time. We lost him unexpectedly one day, and some of us went into an involuntary tailspin afterward.

I don’t presume to know what happens after we die, but if it’s possible for him to peek in on his grandson, I know he is. He was an awesome grandpa.

I wonder what he thinks of me. Maybe he feels like I failed his daughter, and considers me a major disappointment. Maybe he hears me sometimes when I get upset with his grandson, and wishes he could tell me to chill out and maintain perspective.

You know?

Because we’re all going to die one day. And really? Who gives a shit about a few crumbs on the dining room floor?

Sometimes, I think about dying in my sleep.

I hope my son is with his mom if that happens any time soon.

She and I rely on mobile phones to communicate with each other. Sometimes when one of us is particularly busy and distracted, or we have our phones plugged in and away from us, the other worries that something bad might have happened after we don’t get responses to texts, or our calls go unanswered.

If enough hours go by, I start concocting potentially terrifying stories and possible explanations in my head, because that’s what I do sometimes in the absence of facts.

At my son’s age, even though he’d be really upset and afraid, I think he’d be able to use my phone to reach his mom. I think he knows to go to the neighbors for help in an emergency.

I hope he’ll be okay.

I hope my life choices didn’t add up to a freakish moment where a young child has to face the body of his dead father and try to figure out what to do next, and then not even have very many photos of our good times together to look through afterward.

I worry about my parents. I don’t call them enough, so maybe they secretly think I don’t love and appreciate them as much as I do.

I worry about my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. I hope they know what they mean to me. They probably don’t. It’s probably my fault. But I hope they guess correctly.

I worry about you. Most of you won’t care or notice. But some of you will. If you’re still reading this meandering, self-indulgent post, you’re probably someone who cares. You’re probably someone who might notice when the updates simply stop. Hopefully by design. But maybe not. Maybe one day there just won’t be any more heartbeats. Then, no more posts. And maybe some of you will wonder what happened. Maybe some people will think I quit, or ran out of words.

Maybe some of you will guess correctly that I died, and be frustrated that there may never be a way to know for sure.

I might not die today. I probably won’t, since I’ve never died any of the other days I’ve been alive. But maybe I will. Maybe this is the day the top of the hourglass runs dry. That’s the point, really. We never know.

If I’m out of time, what is it that needs to be said, and to whom?

Is that really worth feeling upset over?

Shouldn’t the things people think about in their final moments be the things we put most of our focus on?

I think so.

I hope this isn’t the last thing I ever write. That they don’t find the plates I left in the sink. The stack of mail on my desk. The unmade bed. The unfinished Pinewood Derby car on the bench downstairs.

The last father-son project. Unfinished, like this life.

We probably don’t wake up one day feeling ready to die—feeling like we got it all right, and accomplished all we set out to do.

Maybe the best we can do is whatever’s in front of us today.

Offering to help.

Forgiving them.

Forgiving ourselves.

Trying hard.

Loving harder.

Choosing hope.

Choosing courage.

If I knew this was the last thing I would ever write, I would finish with a note to my son (Love you, kid.):

Thinking about dying is only awesome if you use it as motivation to take nothing for granted. I did many bad things. But I always chose hope, and it has never failed me. I hope you will, too.

I don’t spend most of my life thinking about dying. I promise.

I spend most of it thinking about living.

I spend most of it thinking about living because sometimes people really live.

Be one of them.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

My First Radio Interview

On Air Radio

(Image/startupnation.com)

Back at my first newsroom job, my paper had a partnership with a regional television news network. Whenever big stories broke, the TV people always wanted whichever print reporter was covering that story to do a live on-air television interview.

Just thinking about it gave me the cold sweats. I get nervous about public speaking and stuff. Anytime I was working on a story the TV people wanted to interview me for, I’d always find a way out of it. Sometimes, I’d simply disappear so they couldn’t reach me.

When the “dishes” post blew up last month, I received several interview requests, all of which I declined. Now, with the dust settled a month later, a couple of them have reached back out to me, and yesterday, I agreed to my first-ever live interview with AM 630 CHED in Edmonton, AB.

I was totally nervous about it, left work a half hour early to get home in plenty of time for the scheduled interview, and drank a little nerve-calming tequila because, hell yeah tequila.

If you want, you can hear the interview in the audio clip below. It only got weird a few times. The segment with me begins at the 17:55-minute mark. You can use the right-arrow key on your keyboard to fast forward to that spot.

 

Tagged , , , , ,

The Things Men Love More Than Wives and Children

daddy wasn't there

Many guys are afraid of committing to relationships.

Maybe it’s because we know there will be work and sacrifice involved and it scares us. Or maybe it’s because we’re afraid of never having sex with a new person again. It could also be because the average diamond engagement ring costs $6,400; the average wedding costs $30,000, but the average 30-year-old guy’s (median age for first-time grooms in the United States is 29) salary is just $40,000.

Maybe we crave “freedom.” Or maybe so much of our self-identity is wrapped up in ourselves as individuals that we psychologically have trouble letting go of that even when we feel strong emotional bonds with another.

If you are a husband and a father, what is it that you rank higher on your My Life Priorities list than your wife and children?

Maybe we realize that divorce is mathematically a 50-50 proposition and since we watched our parents go through it when we were kids and suffered emotionally and logistically for it, we’re just super-cautious because we don’t want to make a mistake.

I was afraid to propose to my girlfriend.

I have trouble sometimes committing to what to eat for dinner, or what to read or watch after. I was 23 years old and terrified about getting married and then getting divorced like my parents did.

But girlfriends have fears, too. And sometimes young women dream of marriage and family, and then see many of their girlfriends getting engaged, and sometimes start to feel pressure to figure out that part of their lives. It’s a pretty big deal, so that makes sense to me.

Maybe that’s how my girlfriend felt. Like if I wasn’t going to commit, that she needed to know, so she could make an informed decision about what to do for the rest of her life.

Maybe a lot of young couples go through that.

And maybe a lot of other guys feel like I did: I’m running out of time, and if I’m unwilling to commit, I’m probably going to lose her.

We’re scared, sure. But at some point, it comes down to which is the greater pain. Letting go of all those commitment worries, or letting go of her?

The fear of losing my girlfriend was greater than my fear of losing whatever I was worried about losing by promising her forever.

Perhaps ironically, we were engaged on Independence Day in the U.S.—July 4, 2003. We were married a little more than a year later.

Men Take Vows Seriously, Too

Despite all of the fears and stresses and discomfort associated with marriage, a young man, with a million previous opportunities to walk away, psychologically approaches his wedding day with the mindset that he’s making the right choice: I love her. Who would I ever find that’s better? Why would I want to? This is the right thing.

I have a difficult time believing more than maybe one percent of people exchange wedding vows knowing secretly in the back of their minds that they don’t intend to fulfill them. Divorce is awful. And good marriage is very good. Almost nobody is rooting for dysfunction and heartache.

They want it to work. They want it to be good. Forever. And when we say “I do,” that’s what we all believe will happen.

Soooo, WTF!?

Yeah, I’ve been wondering that, too.

After all of that hand wringing and internal debate and deliberately choosing marriage and making the personal and financial sacrifices necessary to do so, why do so many of our marriages end up broken and shitty? And why do men so commonly engage in repeated and predictable behaviors that frequently doom their marriages?

These questions should keep us up at night, because it seems infinitely more difficult and complicated than it should be, and if any genius psychology experts are reading maybe one will try to explain it.

Because I think I know something. And it doesn’t jibe with the fact that 99% of marriage proposals come from the future grooms in the 6,200 weddings which take place daily in the U.S.

Most Men Who Go Through That Process Will Tell You His Marriage and Family are His Highest Priorities

There’s a chance I’m not getting this right. There’s a chance that maybe 20 percent of husbands and fathers would look you in the eye and say: “No. My wife and family are #4 on my list. My motorcycle, my social life, and golf are the top three.” or “My wife and kids? In terms of their importance in my life? Hmmm. Video games are more important. I missed my son’s surgery the other day for a work meeting. And there are a few other things I would always choose over them. But they’re definitely in the top 10!”

A deeply religious man would probably tell you that he puts God first, but I think you’d find that that humility serves him well in his marriage and his relationships with his children.

But, generally? I’m looking for an answer to the following question:

If you are a husband and a father, what is it that you rank higher on your My Life Priorities list than your wife and children?

My smart friend wisely observes that men often view their role as husband and father through the prism of being a provider, and then use that self-perception to justify putting so much energy into money-making endeavors, followed by taking recovery time for themselves to gear up for another hard day tomorrow.

And you know what? I’ll even buy that a little for those guys hammering out 60-plus hour weeks and providing high-end financial opportunities for their wives and children which grants them experiences they wouldn’t otherwise have, especially when both husband and wife mutually agree to the arrangement.

But let’s be real, please.

That’s not typical.

Most of the time, wives and mothers do MUCH more of the unpaid adult work required to maintain family life, and frequently make as much or more than their husbands. My wife and I were essentially 50-50 financial partners for the majority of our marriage, and the majority of my social circle is comprised of couples like that.

I get the same email several times per week: “Any time I say anything, he just gets defensive and accuses me of never being happy. I do everything at home with a 40-hour-per-week job. And I could almost live with it if he’d put more energy into the kids. But while they’re so happy to see him and want to play with him when he comes home and I’m making dinner, he always ends up playing on his phone, or the computer, playing a video game, watching something on TV, or whatever. It’s ALWAYS about him, and never about us.”

After she cleans the kitchen, bathes the kids, gets them to bed, starts a load of laundry, and mentally manages grocery lists, school needs for the kids, along with not losing sight of whatever needs done at the office tomorrow, she’s totally spent by the time 9 p.m. or whatever rolls around.

Maybe when she walks back through the kitchen an hour after cleaning it, she finds crumbs on the counter or a dirty glass by the sink.

Maybe when she collapses on the living room couch, announcing that she’s going to take a bath and go to bed, he absently says: “Okay. Goodnight,” without taking his eyes off of the football game, or looking away from his video game.

Or maybe he asks her whether she wants to fool around, and then acts frustrated when she doesn’t want to. Or maybe he keeps his frustration a secret and then jerks off to internet porn for her to discover later as one more thing to make her feel like she’s trapped in My Life is Shit World, with the only obvious means of escape being murdering him, killing herself, or divorce, the latter of which she’s beginning to fantasize about.

Thousands of people have told me almost this exact story.

To a certain degree, I lived almost this exact story.

It’s because it happens all the time.

And I’m trying to figure out why.

Someone answer the question. Maybe you, Married Guy Who Does These Things.

When you rank everything in your life in order of importance, where—if not the top—does your wife and family sit?

And if, as I suspect, you really believe your marriage and children to be the most important and precious things in your life, then I have just one other question:

What are you waiting for?

…..

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 , , , , , , , , , ,

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

(Image/thetexastiger.wordpress.com)

(Image/thetexastiger.wordpress.com)

Sooooo. I’ve totally masturbated before.

Maybe once. Or maybe 87 million times. Truthfully, I don’t want to talk about it because it makes me really uncomfortable and I can’t stop thinking about my mom or grandma reading this and saying: “Heavens to Betsy! Did you know that Matt played Diddle-Me-Elmo!?”, or thinking about everyone I knew in high school sitting around going: “Ha! I knew that dude wanked it!” and then making plans to announce it at our next high school reunion. It makes me want to set myself on fire. But THAT feeling is precisely why I’m talking about it.

I can’t write about shitty husbandry with intellectual honesty if we don’t talk about pornography and masturbation. According to a 2015 NBC News report, porn is a $97 billion industry worldwide, with about $12 billion of that in the United States alone. What that means is, mathematically, EVERY American, including newborn babies and nuns and 90-year-olds, spends $40 annually on porn. And that’s with virtually unlimited free pornography available on the internet.

Conclusion: You totally wank it too, you Pervy McPerversons. It’ll be our little secret.

Many—maybe even most—relationships that go south, do so because we’re too afraid to talk about things for fear of judgment or rejection, and then our partners end up believing things about us which aren’t true, and you spend years with your marriage never really having a chance because no one knew the real story. Our partners were literally—at least a part of them—someone other than who we thought.

I wasn’t who my wife thought because I never told her who I really was, sexually. When two people promise to never have sex with anyone else again, it stands to reason that—unless you despise orgasms, physical intimacy, or prefer sexual repression—you and your partner MUST make your bedroom (or wherever!) experiences really good, to avoid craving something more or different in ways that will ultimately destroy your relationship.

And then there’s the flipside. The people who are so cavalier and shameless about it that they don’t see any downside to pornography or “taking care of things themselves,” which I can only get behind if all their cards are on the table with their significant others. If one or both of them are lying about, or hiding, that part of them, it can only end badly. More on that in a bit.

Why didn’t I talk to my wife about it? I was afraid. I was afraid that if I told my wife the unfiltered truth she’d think I was some sex-crazed perv or deviant and not love me anymore. That she’d think I was a freak. That she’d somehow reject me.

I wasn’t smart enough to see the big picture and choose bravery. If your ultimate goal is to marry for life, you CANNOT be too afraid to discuss true things with your partner. In addition to actually having a good chance to stay married for life, it also just feels so much better when people choose you even after knowing things about you that make you feel insecure.

I understand there are a lot of people out there who can’t understand what the fuss is about. Some people will shout it from the rooftops: “Of course I masturbate! I have my best orgasms with my vibrator!” or will be like one of my college buddies who was the first person I’d ever heard talk about it casually and without embarassment. It took 19-ish years for me to hear someone speak about it in front of others.

Remember The 40-Year-Old Virgin? I handled all masturbation-related conversation even worse than Steve Carell’s Andy did. And I’m a little bit jealous of the self-assuredness of Paul Rudd’s hilarious David.

Andy: [motioning to David’s box of porn] “I don’t want this stuff, okay? Because I don’t do that, that much.”

David: “What, masturbate?”

Andy: “Yeah.”

David: [who has been standing in the doorway, fully clothed, for only a couple minutes] “Dude, I’ve jacked it twice since I’ve been here.”

Why This is Dangerous

If sex is unimportant to you AND your spouse, then it probably doesn’t matter very much.

If you hate long-term monogamous relationships or were forced into marriage, or just really want to divorce, then this isn’t a problem for you.

But if your marriage is important to you, and you’re like 99 percent of people who really like sex, even if it’s a big secret to everyone who knows them, then this matters. A lot.

I grew up in a little Ohio town with conservative Catholic parents. I went to Catholic school, attended church on Sundays, was part of religious-based activities from first grade through high school graduation, and only “knew” a few things about masturbation as a kid:

1. It’s a sin and depending on what God decides on Judgment Day, could lead to eternal damnation. Imagine that for a minute. The shittiest time in your life you can think of. The worst you’ve ever felt. So, like, a few weeks after divorce, and your ex is dating someone else, and you’re crying and afraid of everything, and then one day you’re like, working it out in the shower or wherever, drenched in loneliness and shame, while everyone else in the world watches because you’re secretly the star of a real-life The Truman Show, and then someone randomly emails you the video with a note: “Everyone knows, loser!!! Even your mom and grandma!!!” and then you look out the side window of your house and there’s your 70-year-old neighbor lady pointing and laughing at you. And then, because you’re in hell for jerking it, you have to feel THAT FEELING for ETERNITY. Not two weeks. Not 1,000 years. FOREVER. That’s what we’re taught. And, you know, maybe it’s true. I don’t have any way of knowing. I just know when you are afraid of THAT your entire childhood and combine it with #2, your marriage can get really shitty.

2. That’s weird and gross! I can’t talk about that! No one else does it! You can tell because everyone at school makes jokes about it! No chance any of these other adults in church would ever do something like that! True story: Catholics go to confession, where we tell a priest in private about the things we feel guilty for, and then God through the intercession of the priest forgives our sins. And even though I’m not a very good Catholic, I’ve been to confession in adulthood. So, I mention this to the priest one time when I was still married, and he can tell I’m feeling nervous and uncomfortable talking about it. So, he asks: “How often?” I told him. And he replied: “That’s it!? You’re not even trying!” Made me snort. Maybe God or the pope or really pious people would frown at him cracking that joke. But it was a huge moment for me in terms of really understanding that most things that make us uncomfortable are things that many, maybe most, other people also feel uncomfortable with. Because so many of us are kind of the same underneath all our masks. Which is awesome to understand when you’re having conversations like this.

3. Just letting “things” build up seemed wholly unsustainable. I don’t think most young people think: Gee, what can I do right now for fun? I know! Diddle myself! I think they think: Good God, man. I totally need to do it with someone. But I’m like 14 and don’t know how, and we’re supposed to wait until we’re married, and premarital sex is a sin too! But that seems like an even-BIGGER sin than this other sin. So, I guess I’ll watch this weird scrambled TV channel that is mostly snowy static, but I can totally see a naked boob once in a while. Or whatever.

So I didn’t talk to my wife about it. I don’t want to blame Jesus and my parents and my Catholic upbringing for my failed marriage. We’re all responsible for our choices. But that’s seriously the reason all the sex stuff got weird. Fear and shame related to beliefs about sex that were unhealthy in the context of marriage.

I had, and in some ways, have, legit guilt-shame issues about sex. And I’m guessing many kids who grew up in religious or conservative homes, or small towns like me, ALSO have some of those conflicting feelings swirling around, and maybe many people outgrow it. I’m working on outgrowing it. But it takes courage for me to talk or write about this. And maybe it does for you, too.

It’s the same fear that kept me from talking to my wife openly and honestly about sex.

Even the most-religious and conservative teachings I’ve heard about marriage don’t address what marital sex is supposed to look like. But no matter what that is? If you’re doing it together, and not hurting other people in the process? How can that be wrong? Be honest with the people you love. They NEED access to what’s inside and underneath the masks, or your relationship will suffer badly.

What it Looks Like for Many People

One of the most common stories you hear about is the guy who sneaks to the computer late at night or when no one else is home, and looks at porn photos or watches videos.

I’m not much of a porn consumer, and I’m not just saying that. Real people just seem hotter to me than “fake” people in photos or videos, and that’s always been true. I think relative to people who consume adult material, I’m probably in the bottom 5 percent.

But I’ve still been the guy whose wife turned on the computer to find some pop-up web page that had been minimized with a bunch of porn images on it, even though it’s never been a major thing.

Maybe some wives don’t care.

But I know some do. Some do because it makes them feel insecure, as if they are not good enough to make their husbands feel good or satisfy him sexually. Some do because their sex lives are inconsistent or seemingly non-existent, and she’s asking herself all these questions about why because she wants to reconnect with him in the bedroom, and then she finds porn.

And she’s like: “Wait a freaking minute. I totally want to have sex with you, even though you’re a shitty husband half the time, and I have actual body parts and a vagina and stuff, and you’re choosing airbrushed, fake-breasted electronic chicks on a screen and your hand over me!?”

So, guys. Mental exercise: Think of your best guy friend. Or one of her platonic guy friends or co-workers you know. And now, imagine your wife has rejected your sexual advances for a few weeks and you’re starting to worry about it or wonder why.

And you come home one day, and you find her masturbating while looking at a picture of your friend or another guy she knows, and moaning his name.

Got it?

That might be close to how she feels when she realizes you never touch her or tell her she’s sexy or beautiful or that you want her, but that you’re wanking it to internet chicks. It’s bad.

The Sexual Motivation Problem

You probably already know this, but you WILL get bored with pretty much everything in your life. It’s called “hedonic adaptation,” and it happens to everyone about everything. You get a new car, you get a new job, you get a bunch of money, you get a new TV, you get new clothes, you get a new romantic partner.

At first, it’s amazing. Everything feels good and it’s all rainbows and unicorns and orgasms.

Then, one day, and you don’t even notice it happening, it stops exciting you. Whatever new thing that made you feel awesome at first has now stopped generating those good feelings.

Hedonic adaptation is your brain naturally adjusting to positive life changes.

This means, you’re going to eventually “bore” of your partner in some form or fashion. It means, if the value of your relationship is measured in skin-deepness, that hot bartender or the new girl in accounting at your office is going to seem more attractive or exciting to you than the person you’re always with, in purely a base mammal sort of way.

This is why we choose to love our partners every day, and not be duped by how we sometimes “feel,” because feelings change constantly and always will.

This is why we actively practice gratitude for all that we have, instead of pining for what we don’t.

This is why we work daily to build profoundly honest and strong and intimately connected relationships, where something as superficial as a person’s physical appearance could NEVER feel more attractive to you than your partner.

This is why I’m championing mega-honesty about sex before and during marriage. Practice doing it with your spouse A LOT. Get awesome at it. Like, really, really, really awesome at it. Because, who wants to go bang some stranger who could never come close to doing it as well as your masterful partner who loves and respects you?

In Mark Manson’s Models: Attract Women Through Honesty, he tackles the subject of porn and masturbation in the context of dating, and does so without filtering it through the prism of religion or morality.

I think it applies to modern marriage, too. Here are some excerpts:

“Since the advent of internet pornography, it’s become easier than ever for men to satisfy their sexual urges… there’s an entire generation that has grown up always having access to as much pornography as they want since a young age…

“There’s no hard scientific evidence (yet) for porn addiction. But here’s something that is absolutely true: porn kills your motivation to pursue women in real life.”

Part of making your marriage awesome is making your wife feel respected, safe, loved, desired, and sexy so that you can have a kick-ass and bond-forming sex life together. When you stop pursuing your wife emotionally and sexually as you did when you were dating, she feels less respected, less loved, less desired, less sexy, and thusly, less safe. And even though that’s true, she may still want to have sex with you a lot. When you’re jerking it all the time, you eliminate your physical and psychological motivation to pursue your wife. When she expresses sexual interest in you because the kids are finally asleep, or because they’re spending the night at grandma’s, and you say “Um, I’m really tired tonight, babe. I just want to watch this movie,” but the truth is you just got off by yourself in the bathroom, maybe because you guessed incorrectly that she wouldn’t want to do it tonight, or maybe just because you never considered her at all, she’s going to feel rejected.

Like, it’s going to start to really hurt and pile up on top of all these other things we accidentally do to destroy our wives emotionally.

We are selfish creatures, we humans. Some more than others. If you selfishly want your marriage to be good and last forever, then you need to unselfishly communicate with your wife about your wants and desires, and take steps to build up your sexual motivation by devoting that energy toward her. Instead of expecting her to drop her panties on command, maybe you could do what needs done to make her want to.

Maybe even need to. That’s always fun.

Manson continues:

“There’s a bit of an epidemic of sexual apathy going on worldwide, where husbands, boyfriends, and even single men are turning to pornography rather than the real life women that they see walking around every day. And it makes sense why: it’s easier… the sex is more exciting, it’s available at any time… the girls never say no, and… there are no obligations or commitments involved.

“The problem is that there are some negative side effects. The first being that porn creates very, very unrealistic expectations about sex, about women, and about sexuality. Porn makes money by accentuating and exaggerating sexual ideals. Actual sex with an actual woman often involves awkward moments of figuring out what she likes, what you like, who likes it which way. It also involves ecstatic moments of emotional intimacy, something porn can never provide

“The other problem is that porn is so easy, that it encourages men to masturbate… a lot. And as we all know, as men, the more we masturbate, the more interested we become in food and television, and the less we become in women and accomplishing something…

“Science is starting to back this up. Orgasms, or more accurately, ejaculation in men, actually causes a depletion of various hormones and endorphins which often lead to useful behaviors as well as motivation.”

Maybe you’re totally comfortable discussing sex. That will really help you have open and honest conversations with your wife which can contribute to an amazing, and perhaps marriage-saving, sex life. I hope you’ll have them.

Or maybe you’re sometimes scared to talk about it like I was. Maybe you’re afraid to tell her because you’re afraid of rejection or her judgment.

Maybe you have some warped sense of moral duty to hide from your wife some of these things you feel on the inside.

But you have to figure out how to have the conversation. You owe it to her. You owe it to you. You owe it to any future children you have. Talk to her. Courageously. Because you may be surprised to discover she wants those things, too. No matter what, it might help her understand that she is desired and enjoyed much more than she believes.

You may be surprised to discover that little things like blindfolds and neckties and headphones blasting a sexy playlist and ice cubes and food and touching her there, and there, and right there, just like that, can play a major role in making your marriage the sustainable, healthy and joy-giving institution it’s designed to be.

This part of your life can destroy your marriage if you’re not honest with her.

This part of your life can make it phenomenal if you are.

Be brave.

Not tomorrow. Today.

You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

…..

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 , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Be a Man, Vol. 3

Monty Williams

Be like this man. Monty Williams. Because he’s what we’re called to be. (Image/pelicandebrief.com)

“This will work out,” Monty Williams said at his wife’s funeral the other day.

Out of context, you might find the comment flippant or emotionally detached. It was anything but.

The phrase I like to use is: Everything is going to be okay.

And that’s what Williams, an assistant coach of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, meant when he said matter-of-factly: “This will work out.”

Life is hard. And the most fortunate of us don’t know it when we’re children, because nothing is hard. You just wake up every day in comfort and safety that you didn’t earn, pay for, or work for, and then people love you, give you stuff, provide your needs, educate you, and allow you to spend—compared to adulthood, and within the context of appropriate behavior—a lot of time doing pretty much anything you want.

It’s magical, and none of us appreciated it because we all wanted to be big so we could “do whatever we wanted” like the little morons we were.

But then we grow up and no one just gives us things anymore. We have to work for what we have, and we have to work to maintain those things.

Instead of living with people who tend to love us no matter what, we now live with people who have to choose whether to love us—but because we don’t know better, we take that for granted and often assume they’ll love us like mom and dad did, because we exchanged vows, or share an address, or share a bed, or share children. But then we sometimes learn the hard way that we were wrong about that, too.

Many other hard things happen in adulthood.

Losing friends in adulthood is harder than when we were kids. Financial pressures in adulthood weigh heavier than they do for mostly insulated children. Because Father Time stops for no one, those fortunate enough to stay alive longest must in turn deal with the most amount of death.

Life is hard.

And because it’s so hard to think and feel and exist beyond our own minds and chest cavities, it’s difficult to not wallow in self-pity during the darkest, most difficult, most painful moments.

A dead wife.

Just 44.

Mother of five children, three of whom were with her in the car crash.

Killed in a freak accident by someone recklessly driving 92 miles per hour on a four-lane Oklahoma City road with traffic signals and a bunch of other cars on the road.

And the grieving husband and father said, with courage and conviction: “This will work out.”

All roads lead somewhere. Even the excruciatingly painful and treacherous ones.

And no matter how much we hurt, someday tomorrow will get here, when we will get to see exactly how things worked out so we could arrive to a better, perhaps beautiful, today.

Everything is going to be okay.

A Tangent on Personal Beliefs, God, and Faith

I deliberately tend to avoid writing about spiritual beliefs, God, religion, etc.

These are human beings’ most sacred beliefs, and they often generate strong emotional reactions, and by proxy, controversy.

This blog is mostly about two things: Personal growth and reducing the frequency of divorce. And since I feel strongly that both believers and non-believers can experience personal growth, and that regardless of belief system, people will continue to get married, I want to stay focused on those things.

If we start screaming at each other about which story about God is most credible, and internet-damning all dissenters to eternal damnation, I think the important personal growth and Let’s Make Marriage Suck Less conversations might get lost in the noise, or ignored entirely.

“Hey, Matt! Why don’t you ever write about faith as an important part of making marriage last!?”

Because I think if I tell an atheist she needs to pray to God; or a Buddhist that he needs Christ’s mercy; or Christians that they need to read the Qur’an; or Jews that they need to accept the New Testament; or the faithful that there is no god, that all of our conversations will become about that, and not what I’m actually thinking and writing about.

I’ve said it before: Does it matter how right you are, or how much truth you’re sharing if no one hears the message anyway?

I’d rather people from all walks of life strive to be better people and have healthy, positive, loving relationships, than spend time quibbling over disagreements that will never be settled in this lifetime, let alone these blog comments.

But if you must know, I believe in God. I just don’t presume to know how God works, or what God wants, or why God would want whatever that is.

I personally believe that God doesn’t want people screaming at one another and dividing up into camps of angry people telling others they’re going to hell if they don’t change all of their beliefs to whatever their particular camp believes, or worse, killing people with different opinions.

Something is true. And maybe we’ll find out what that truth is someday if the lights don’t insta-shut-off when we die. I hope so. Maybe in the meantime we can speak and act with humility, treat others kindly, teach our children to do those things, try to get 1% better at something every day, and try to live in such a way that we are giving more to others and the world than we take from them. Maybe we can do that no matter what we believe.

Coach Williams is a Christian man with a strong faith in God.

And should you listen to this courageous and inspiring eulogy to his wife at the bottom of this post (and I really hope you do), I’d like to ask all non-Christians not to get distracted by Bible references and churchy things, but simply on Williams’ class, bravery, humility, and forgiveness. I hope any men reading who believe how they treat and talk about their wives should be measured in blow-job frequency or what other guys think about them, will watch it.

Coach Williams probably messes up just like every other person, ever.

But he strikes me as a man who loved his wife as wives are meant to be loved. Who loves his children as fathers are called to love. Who wakes up each morning and falls asleep each night with a peaceful heart and relatively regret-free. Because he WALKS THE PATH.

Sometimes guys like to internet-shame me because of the things I write about marriage. They think they’re tough guys, and that I’m a huge pussy.

I used to be sensitive about that back when I spent every day wallowing in self-pity over divorce and feeling sorry for myself about how unfair life had become. I spent a lot of time doing the Why me, God!? thing. It’s because I was being a huge pussy.

But that’s not what I’m being today. Things were always going to work out. Everything was always going to be okay. And now they are.

Coach Williams’ manhood has never been in doubt, despite always touting the merits of his wife to anyone who would listen. Her beauty, and strength, and importance in his life.

When he wasn’t with her, he wanted to be.

When he isn’t with his children, he wants to be.

It’s what love looks like. And courageously choosing it even when it’s inconvenient is what makes a dude, a man.

Williams is a leader of men. And for those brave enough to listen, we can learn how to be men, too.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Scary Truth About Marriage and Divorce

married couple arguing

(Image/The Huffington Post)

It wasn’t hard to spot the guys barreling toward divorce.

The message was camouflaged in symbolism, so it makes sense to me that the point was lost on all the cretins. Most critical responses to the “dishes” post were rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what was read.

A bunch of potentially well-meaning people internet-yelled: “OMG!!! She left him over dirty dishes!!! What a control freak!!! Don’t sweat the small stuff!!! LOL!!!”

I’m not disagreeing with them. I just can’t believe real-life human beings with functioning brains read that post and came away with: “Yep. It was literally about dirty dishes, just like the headline said!” But I was taught in my journalism classes to write for an eighth-grade audience, and those responses help explain why.

A bunch of other people internet-yelled that I am a sexist for various reasons: “OMG!!! Put on a dress you man-hater!!! Way to shit on your own gender!!!” or “OMG!!! You said in your post that men are good at stuff!!! As if women can’t do those things too!!!” or “OMG!!! Why does this have to be so gender-specific!? I’m the wife and I’m a slob!!! It goes both ways!!!”

Once I’d reached a certain frustration threshold, the immediate two minutes or so following a new comment like that were moments when being lobotomized or murdered seemed kind of awesome.

The most troubling comments came from married or formerly married men.

“I’m going to divorce my wife for making me read this crap!” or “So what you’re saying is men need to just agree to do whatever our wives want because of their ‘feelings’ no matter how irrational we consider them, and if we don’t, we’re assholes and bad husbands!?” or “Women are NEVER happy. If you start putting the dishes in the sink, then they will just find something else to complain about!”

My Modern-Day Marriage Theory

This is my big-picture and oft-repeated theory on modern-day marriage: Good men can be bad husbands. Good men can accidentally hurt their wives. Husbands and wives slowly, imperceptibly slowly, push each other away one conflict at a time. They, because of uber-complex and misunderstood emotional, psychological, biological, chemical, etc. differences, can both experience the same event, describe it MUCH differently afterward, without either of them being wrong.

Like a dish by the sink.

Maybe the guy sees a dish. Nothing more. No big deal!

And maybe his wife sees a blatant act of disrespect consistent with his other house-cleaning habits; and the way he criticizes her taste in music and things she wants them to do together on weekends; and the way he wasn’t there for her after she miscarried two years ago; and the way he’s never assertive in family and household management, leaving all those decisions to her, but shooting down her ideas every time it’s not what he wants to do; the way he expects her to know where one of his shirts is because he hasn’t done a load of laundry in four years, nor said ‘Thank you’ for not having to; or the way the two kids have homework that needs done, and little league games to be shuttled to, and special uniforms and outfits that need washed, and permission slips that need signed, and school lunches that need packed, and doctor appointments that need scheduled, and wedding RSVPs that need sent in, and gifts that need bought for that event, and how he always expects her to do everything just like his mother did for him and his dad growing up.

I believe most marriages end because of husbands who are unable to make that connection.

That something “stupid” and “petty” and “meaningless” like a dish by the sink can produce very painful feelings for his wife.

It doesn’t actually matter what the thing is. The specifics are irrelevant. One thing matters, and it’s the difference between happy marriages and shitty ones, or forever-marriages and divorce.

This: “When [insert thing here] happens, my partner and I feel very differently about it. Sometimes, I never realized it was even a thing to worry about because it seemed so innocuous to me. But now I understand that [thing you inserted] is meaningful to my partner. Because of how much I love and respect them, I am going to pay attention moving forward and demonstrate that love and respect.”

In what was perhaps a misguided attempt to explain the deeper meaning of the “dish by the sink” to male readers who were offended or totally missed the point, I offered the second half of my modern-marriage theory:

I believe that men understanding this dynamic and demonstrating concern for their wives’ emotional health through these tiny acts of love and respect, or by adjusting certain habits at home, will discover that their wives WON’T do many of the things husbands often complain about, like “nagging, bitching, overreacting” etc.

I think the “nagging,” “bitching,” and “overreacting” is a direct result of the emotional pain their wives feel. Because the husbands aren’t affected emotionally by things that their wives are complaining about, many dismiss their feelings and opinions.

There’s a dish by the sink, and she’s pissed.

All he can think is: “Ugh. How can she be so damn petty? I NEVER complain about shit like this, so she shouldn’t either. She’s totally unfair and irrational.”

He doesn’t think his wife’s opinion about the dish is valid, so he dismisses it and never thinks about it again until he repeats the same process the next time his wife nags him about some “meaningless” thing.

Some of these guys are assholes. I promise I know that. But I don’t believe most are. I think these are mostly good guys who literally don’t realize they are inflicting emotional damage on their wives. They are simply sticking up for themselves in a way that makes sense to them, and waiting in vain for the day when their wives realize “the little things” aren’t worth fighting over.

They miss the entire point.

Just like they did with the “dishes” post.

Just like I did in my failed marriage.

The little things ARE the big things.

Because of all of this, I believe men in a lot of ways are in position to fundamentally change the culture of marriage. I think if men entered marriage with a demonstrable mental grasp of this “dish” conversation, the relationships would never deteriorate to the point where “the little things” piled up into love, sex and marriage killers like they do now.

But What About the Guys That Are Good at Marriage?

That question blew my mind.

My parents divorced. One of the second marriages ended in divorce. My marriage ended in divorce.

I don’t know what good marriage actually looks like. Which is why I reverse-engineer it. I know what bad marriage looks like. Combine that with reading more personal marriage and divorce stories in my email and blog comments than most counselors and therapists will hear in a lifetime, and—right or wrong—I feel like I have a high-level understanding of how all this goes down.

That’s why I was thrown by one husband’s perfectly fair question: “What if I do all of that shit, and she STILL sucks?”

It made me stop and think. I can’t prove that guy is, objectively speaking, a good husband. But I’m a huge believer in math. Statistically speaking, there are some really great husbands out there. And some percentage of the time, they are probably married to monumentally shitty wives.

Let’s deal with some scary truths.

Every person who has been betrayed first trusted someone they shouldn’t have trusted.

We all have inconvenient thoughts and desires we bury way down deep and never talk about. (I don’t mean criminally deviant stuff, even though that is presumably true for some people. The thoughts don’t have to be “dark” necessarily. They can just be a common and naturally occurring sexual fantasy that everyone has, but since you’re married it’s a little bit inconvenient and a lot wrong. I know you get it. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.)

We’re all pretty selfish when our self-preservation instincts kick in, or even in everyday occurrences when the innocent actions of another negatively impact something we want to be doing.

We don’t know what goes on inside the hearts and minds of other people, including those closest to us, unless they share it.

However.

At some point, we have to leave people to take responsibility for their lives and hope they’re being honest with themselves and others about it. It’s mostly out of our hands.

We should all have clearly communicated boundaries. Boundaries that are fair and reasonable and mutually agreed upon with those we have relationships with.

We should all enforce those boundaries with fair-mindedness and forgiving hearts.

Thus, we should all be able to recognize the Point of No Return.

When the line has been crossed one too many times, we should know it. Divorce shouldn’t be a cowardly escape for fear of self-sacrifice or an unwillingness to compromise. It should be in response to a clear and blatant and intolerable violation of marriage vows and those clearly communicated boundaries.

We all have those moments in life when we’re lying in bed in silent darkness, or driving to work, or standing in the shower. Where we are in some way face-to-face with the Real Us that no one else has access to.

I have no way of knowing this, but I believe it is in these moments that we discover who we really are. I believe we all KNOW whether what we’re doing is good or bad. Whether what we’re doing is right or wrong.

“What if I do all that shit, and she STILL sucks?”

We’re often afraid to take responsibility for life’s biggest and scariest choices. But—face it—there’s only one person who can answer that.

…..

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 , , , , , , , ,

How to Avoid Spit in Your Food and Get Your Spouse to Work on Your Marriage

Always Be Kinder Than You Feel

(Image/notonthehighstreet.com)

I lose control sometimes.

I don’t know whether I’m in the minority, or whether most other people lose it, too. I don’t go off the deep end into full-fledged insanity. I can prove it by showing you all of the non-murder and non-arson I committed following my separation and divorce.

I do feel emotional swings that probably register on the upper-end of the Emoswingomometer I just invented, but I have no way of knowing how other people experience their feelings.

Sometimes I yell at my son. He’s 7 and my favorite thing on Earth. And, even though I know raising my voice doesn’t help him learn lessons, and almost certainly contributes to unhealthy emotional responses, I still do it when I’m super-stressed and he does something that’s really, just, seven. There tends to be something really messy or broken to clean up afterward.

I say and think this a lot: Will this matter in five years? No? Then how much does it REALLY matter now? It’s a way for me to deal with anxiety or simply to keep life in perspective because everyone has their own hourglass, and their story ends when that last bit of sand falls from the Life bulb to the Death bulb, and we tend to not know when that will happen. We always assume it’s some future day so far away that it doesn’t matter, so we just live life taking it for granted. Even the most grateful person in the world probably takes being alive for granted—what?—98-ish percent of every day?

And that’s good. We shouldn’t be obsessed with death and freaking out all the time. But I do believe in being mindful of the perfect amount of death.

One of my favorite writers reads New York Times obituaries every morning in order to be mindful of the opportunity he has been given to be alive. He does it to maintain gratitude and as motivation to not squander it. Another of my favorite writers sometimes walks around imagining that everyone he sees is going to die soon as a reminder to treat them with kindness.

Morbid? A little. Foolish? No way.

What if we treated everyone we encounter as if they were going to die tomorrow?

But I Forget

I forget every day to do all of the things I’m supposed to. It’s either because I haven’t formed good habits, or because it’s impossible.

Sometimes I say really mean things to the driver of the car in front of me because they’re driving the speed limit. They’re literally doing ZERO WRONG THINGS and I call them some creative combination of the worst words I know because I’m in a hurry for something that probably doesn’t matter.

Will this matter in five years? Will this matter next week? Will this matter in an hour?

I need to get a grip. But it’s hard. I know it’s hard for other people, too. Sometimes people lose their shit and murder their entire family, and then shoot themselves, which seems like an extreme reaction to every possible thing imaginable.

I’m not going to beat myself up about it. The smartest psychologists in the world can’t agree on what REALLY happens to our biochemistry regarding emotional reactivity.

Sometimes, I even self-sabotage a little bit, like when my mom would ask me how much I’d like being grounded for a week, and I’d respond with something like: “Probably not as much as I’d like two!”

And then I’d be grounded for two weeks like an asshole who deserved it.

It feels good, though, right? To scratch that Fuck You itch once in a while?

My favorite exchange in the movie Good Will Hunting goes like this:

Will (Matt Damon’s character) is attending therapy sessions with Sean (Robin Williams’ character). Will is telling Sean about how his alcoholic foster father used to come home drunk looking to beat on his wife and kids.

Will: “He used to just put a belt, a stick, and a wrench on the kitchen table and say, ‘Choose.’”

Sean: “Well, I gotta go with the belt there.”

Will: “I used to go with the wrench.”

Sean: “Why?”

Will: “Because fuck him. That’s why.”

Whether we’re mad at a co-worker, our children, a business we believe screwed us, or our romantic partners—I think once in a while, all of us choose the wrench.

The Thing About Being Nice

Sometimes, I’m an asshole.

But. And this isn’t fair for me to say because I can’t substantiate it, but I really do believe it: I’m mostly—like, very mostly—NOT an asshole.

I care about things. I care about people. It seems like many people go through life completely unconcerned with how their actions affect others. You see it every day. Maybe you’re even the person accidentally doing it. I am sometimes.

I wanted to tell you about choosing the wrench and about me sometimes being a dick because, A. It’s true, but also B. I was hoping it would allow me a little leeway to also talk about me being nice without you thinking I was a totally hypocritical, holier-than-thou douchebag.

I think being nice is important. I think not being nice causes a high percentage of life’s problems, and exacerbates them close to 100-percent of the time.

Words Matter. Choose Wisely

Actions speak louder than words. What we do matters more than what we say. Kindness lives in our deeds, not our platitudes.

It’s why someone can punch his friend in the arm yelling: “You are the biggest dickhead I know!” and it’s fun and hilarious because of context, facial expression, and tone of voice; but the EXACT same thing can happen with it being the opposite of fun and hilarious.

But words matter, too. What we say, and HOW we say it.

Every conversation is a transaction. What do you want to accomplish?

When the restaurant server or kitchen messes up your order, what is it that you really want to happen next?

The waiter or waitress almost certainly didn’t intentionally bring you the wrong food. A member of the kitchen staff almost certainly didn’t read the order ticket and think: “I know!  Let’s give this person the wrong meal, so that maybe they’ll get mad, want free stuff, yell at us, complain about us on Facebook, and force us to throw food away.”

If the restaurant is conspiring against you, you should stop eating there and choose a different dining location. I think it makes sense to get mad at the front-of-the-house workers or kitchen staff if you can prove they brought you the wrong thing on purpose.

But restaurants only conspire against you when you’re an unreasonable prick.

So, they brought you the wrong thing and now you have choices:

  1. Try to get the meal you ordered and actually want by being nice.
  2. Try to get the meal you ordered and actually want by being shitty.
  3. Verbally abuse the server or restaurant manager because someone made an honest mistake, and you don’t care what happens with your food.

This is just one guy’s opinion, but if you verbally abuse people for one mistake when it’s illogical to believe they were trying hurt you, you’re a huge asshole. You are my least-favorite kind of person. You spend your life purposefully causing conflict and stress and making life harder and shittier for everyone around you. I try hard to figure out what motivates people to do things. It’s always helpful to understand what drives people. Sometimes when you figure it out, it makes sense, and you learn how to see things from a more balanced perspective, and then grow as a person. Sometimes people, with regularity, verbally abuse others when things don’t go their way. I understand that they have some kind of unmet psychological need to lash out. But to the rest of the world, it is merely being shitty for shittiness’ sake. It borders on inexcusable.

If you want to get the meal you ordered, but you want to be a dick about it in an effort to let them know you mean business, I submit you’re making a poor choice.

“Excuse me, waiter. I know you have the hardest job in the world and everything, but I clearly said I wanted this steak well-done. You see that? Does that look well-done to you?”

“I’m really sorry about that, sir. We’ll get that taken care of right away.”

“I’ve got an idea. Don’t be sorry. Just listen to what people are saying to you, so that maybe you can get a real adult job someday. Also, when you’re finished not screwing up my order, maybe you could bring us another round of drinks.”

That’s kind of a ridiculous example, but you get it. More often than not, people who witness it will think less of you, you’ll feel worse about yourself, and someone in the kitchen will spit in your food or “accidentally” drop it on the floor and laugh about it. And it’s a little bit hard to feel sorry for you because you were shitty.

If you want to get the meal you ordered, respect yourself, earn the respect of others, and become one of the staff’s favorite people who they want to do favors for, give free drinks to, and try hard to deliver your meal fast and spit-free, you should be nice. Smiling helps.

“Hey. I know you’re incredibly busy and have too many things to do, and I’m sorry to ask you this, but I ordered the pork shoulder, and this appears to be a fish of some kind. And, listen, I’m sure the fish is great, but I love that pork dish more than my family. Will you please help?”

“I am really sorry about, sir.”

“I promise I’m not mad at you. I understand that neither you nor the kitchen did it on purpose, and I appreciate your time and help. I probably should have told you about the pork obsession ahead of time.”

“Thank you so much for your patience and understanding. Can I bring you some drinks on the house while you wait?”

Pretty much everyone has experienced a restaurant messing up their order. We had a choice to make about how we were going to handle it.

I can’t figure out what the good reason would be to respond with unpleasant words or tones. EVEN IF you have to fake it because you’re secretly super-pissed, how does speaking and acting confrontationally improve the situation? How does it get you what you want?

This blog’s most frequently-asked-question is: “How do I get my husband to read these letters?”

Having never met any of these people, it’s really hard to answer that. I’m sure some of those guys are awesome and willing to make their wives feel secure and loved in their marriages. I’m sure there are others who are not.

In either case, how can “Ask him very nicely” not be the best answer?

“Hey Manfred. (Because all of them are obviously married to guys named Manfred.) I have a favor to ask you, but I want to explain a little bit. First of all, I love you. I love you and appreciate you for all that you do for me and for all the good things that you are.

“Secondly, I want to apologize to you. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done that might have made you feel unappreciated, or as if I was pushing you away. Because this favor I’m going to ask you might come off like I think you’re some horrible person, and like I think I’m perfect and amazing. Which of course isn’t true. I also want to apologize for not talking about this with you before. I just didn’t know how to bring it up.

“But listen, this is really important to me. This is our lives. We are not like we used to be. And I know it’s easy to shrug our shoulders and think this is just what happens to all married couples. All around us, people are falling apart because they ignore these changes. It seems like no one sees the end coming. It can’t happen to us, Manfred.

“Sometimes you hurt me. Badly. Sometimes I tell you about it, and we have a fight, and afterward I usually hurt more. But many times—and maybe you do this, too—I don’t say anything because I don’t want to fight with you, but then it just keeps hurting.

“I don’t believe you would ever intentionally hurt me. So it’s my job to help you understand what causes the pain, and up until now, I’ve failed to do that. You don’t hurt me on purpose, so some of this is on me.

“I read something that made sense to me. I don’t want to be like: ‘Hey, read this thing on the internet and then feel bad about it because you’re treating me like crap!’ I’m begging you to not take it that way. What I hope you will do is read this stuff in an attempt to understand why I sometimes get upset and you can’t figure out why. I know it’s frustrating for you when that happens.

“Please read this for me, and when you’re ready, we can talk about it, because I want to be married to you until we’re the oldest, gnarliest couple in the world.”

Again. Every conversation is a transaction. What is it that you really want to accomplish?

There’s a time for choosing the wrench.

And the other 99-plus percent of the time, there’s a time to be nice.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Third Post-Divorce Valentine’s Day

Wilted rose sad on valentine's day

I didn’t want to write about Valentine’s Day. I wasn’t thinking about it at all. But it turns out, THAT is the entire point. (Image/freepromotoday.com)

My phone buzzed.

The text read: “I’m telling you now, so we don’t have to have a guilt-ridden conversation later. Today is my bday. Holla! And I am expecting a good V-day post in honor of it.”

“Happy birthday! A V-day post!? What would I possibly write about?”

“I don’t know! About being single on Valentine’s Day?… Unlessss… Wait, do you have another secret girl?!”

(For clarification, said “secret girl” was someone I went out with a few times, and it represented the first time post-divorce that I believed something serious might be happening. It wasn’t.)

“I do not. But I also don’t feel loneliness anymore,” I said.

“Well then. Isn’t that a post?” she said.

“Is it?”

“Isn’t it?!”

“Seems self-indulgent.”

“How could it be self-indulgent when… so many people follow you with the HOPE of one day, being on the other side?! Those ‘I’m not feeling loneliness anymore’ posts are very important to your story. I think.”

Maybe she’s right.

Here’s the thing: I can’t remember me three years ago. I remember wanting to die. But recreating traumatic emotion is, thankfully, not a skill I possess.

I won’t pretend to know what other people feel at the end of their marriage. It was all, just, very bad at my house. I spent 18 months in the guest room. That’s, what? About 540 consecutive mornings of waking up and realizing your life is shitty and your wife doesn’t want you? That takes a toll.

I tried to stay hopeful.

On that final Valentine’s Day, I got her a card. The one I received came from our son, but not her. The depths of my denial were apparently limitless.

April 1, 2013 was the last time I shared an address with another adult.

Loneliness is a State of Mind

I freaked out.

I can’t explain the depths of the pain, fear, sadness, grief and anger I felt. I had no idea simply being alive could feel like that. You either know what I’m talking about, or you’re very fortunate.

In the early days, I was with friends constantly. If I wasn’t home with my son, I was out having drinks. I stayed busy and surrounded by others because spending too much time in my empty house taught me how loud silence can be.

Friends and family were checking in constantly. I have never known lonely like I did then.

Lonely isn’t the same thing as isolated.

You can be standing in the middle of a bustling New York City sidewalk and feel lonely.

And you can be sitting alone on a lakeside picnic table soaking in a gorgeous sunny day with no one in sight and be the furthest thing from it.

We can’t cure loneliness simply by surrounding ourselves with others.

It has to be the right others. But broken insides don’t heal from the outside in. The healing has to start from the inside. And we don’t have much control over how long it takes.

When you first get divorced following 34 straight years of pretty much always being with someone in public, you feel like the biggest loser imaginable when the restaurant hostess asks whether anyone will be joining you.

“Nope. Just me,” I’d say, and then imagine what she must think about me since she probably thought I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to join me.

I’d sit there on my phone, or with a pen and notebook, and I’d meet the eyes of other diners, all of whom had at least one person sitting with them. I felt like every one of them was sending me pity vibes each time we made eye contact.

I irrationally believed everyone who saw me could tell my wife had moved out and thought I was pathetic, when the truth is they likely didn’t give me a second thought.

When you spend 540 straight nights in a guest room, then your wife leaves you and seems a million-percent happier about it than you, really bad things happen to your mental and emotional make-up.

I wrote honest stories here about how it felt. About how afraid I was of everything. A bunch of tough guys read some of it and internet-yelled: “Be a man, pussy!!!”

But, they can all suck it.

I wasn’t broken because I was weak. I was broken because human resiliency is a finite resource, and I’d just been through some shit.

When all you have ever known is companionship and connection, being alone and feeling the disconnection of divorce and celibacy and your child being gone half the time is the recipe for profound loneliness.

And that’s what I felt. Every time I saw an old married couple. Every time I saw any couple. Every time I saw big groups of friends laughing and having a good time. Every time I returned home from a fun weekend away. Every time I walked in the door to my quiet, empty house. Every time I woke up in the morning and realized I was the oldest I’ve ever been AND that my life was worse than it has ever been.

That’s a pretty bleak and brutal realization.

The Giant Ever-Spinning Globe

It’s not something you earn.

It just happens.

You just… feel better.

You have a million questions following a painful divorce, but I think the one you care about the most is: When will I feel like myself again?

Everyone and their individual situations are different. Maybe it’s easier for people to move on when they don’t have children and don’t have to see and speak to their ex constantly. Maybe people who have been through traumatic life events prior to divorce don’t think it’s as bad as the rest of us do. Maybe some people brush off divorce easily because of their emotional wiring in the same way some people can roll their tongues while others can’t.

My wife left on April 1, 2013. That day, and many that followed, are tied for the worst day of my life.

A year later, it was still hard.

Two years later, it was much less so.

Three years later? I spent two hours yesterday morning with my ex-wife and her new significant other, and there were zero ill-effects. He’s a good guy. We have history. And I count my blessings every day that he is in my son’s life instead of an unknown entity or someone who sucks.

You don’t “earn” healing. There isn’t a “best way” to heal in order to speed up the process. If you hurt, you just hurt. And it doesn’t stop until it stops.

There are no shortcuts. Just masks. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. People use them to numb the pain. To escape.

The only escape is the other side. The only way is through it.

The Earth spins around every 24 hours. It fully orbits the sun every 365.25 days.

And here on the ground a million imperceptible things are happening inside our hearts and souls. We watch the sun rise and set. We watch the clocks tick off the minutes. We flip the pages on our calendars.

And then we wake up, and it’s tomorrow even though it felt like it was never going to get here.

The days are dark at first. We feel out of control. We sometimes question whether waking up tomorrow is even worth it.

But early in the process, I thought of something important. It’s true, and it has stuck with me, and I will never stop saying it:

Someday, the best day of our life is going to arrive. The best thing that will ever happen to us, will happen, or at least something awesome that makes every day after more inspiring and life-giving.

Someday, we will be presented with a new opportunity or we will meet someone who will maybe become the most important person in our lives.

Since looking forward to awesome things is one of life’s greatest pleasures, I always figure: Why not start now?

Something good and beautiful is out there waiting to randomly bump into us in the future. Look forward to it. Choose hope.

And when that day arrives, we get to connect all the dots. We get to see how everything needed to happen exactly as it did. We get to have this beautiful and important thing in our lives and we get to know that all of the shit we crawled through was worth it because it was the only path to now.

I used to say it even when I didn’t feel it: Everything is going to be okay.

It’s three years later, guys. And everything is okay.

Today just might be the day the best thing that ever happens to me, happens.

And if it doesn’t?

I like having things to look forward to.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last?

(Image/thetimes.co.uk)

(Image/thetimes.co.uk)

If we are referring to orgasms: Absolutely. I mean, you want her to like it and want to do it again, right? Sure, you do.

But in the Game of Life, as most people mean it when saying that phrase? I call bullshit.

I see it over and over again.

Because I’m a guy, and because Neil Strauss commercialized the pick-up artist industry and perhaps inadvertently turned the “seduction community” into a mainstream thing, I am often bombarded with “Here’s How to Get More Chicks!” marketing messages or “Be a man and learn some game!” blog comments.

It’s all coming from the same groups many of you may already be familiar with: MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way), The Red Pill, or anyone identifying himself as a PUA (pick-up artist).

Like most things in life, it’s not as black and white as it might seem. There are lessons to be learned about self-respect, self-confidence, and general life tips for more effectively meeting strangers. A lot of guys suck at walking up to a pretty girl at the grocery store, striking up non-awkward conversation, and generating enough mutual interest for her to want to exchange contact information, or possibly date or sleep with him.

I’ve never been shy about telling you that scares me, and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve done it in the past three years. She probably has a boyfriend. She’s probably in a hurry. I don’t want to bother her. I don’t want to be a creeper. I don’t want to talk to her in front of her kids. I don’t want to talk to her in front of my kid. I don’t want her to judge the contents of my shopping cart. We probably wouldn’t work anyway.

There’s an endless string of irrational thoughts we invent in our own minds whenever we’re afraid of something and missing too much information. If we all walked around wearing signs: “Hi. I’m Tabitha. I’m divorced. Single. Have a son in fourth grade. Two dogs. I’m friendly. Please feel free to say hi!” or “Hi. I’m Linda. My relationship status doesn’t matter. I’m an introvert and don’t want to talk to you. Ever,” it would make things a lot easier for all parties.

To be sure, the PUA community sometimes offers valuable advice and perspective for men with self-esteem issues, or to decent guys who know too well the stomach-turning feeling right before walking up to a girl while praying none of the bad outcomes you just imagined in your head actually happen.

But, let’s be honest. Like totally, no-bullshit, let’s-not-pretend-this-isn’t-true-for-politically-correct-reasons honest: Most of these guys are assholes.

Some are not assholes. Some are pro-men (not anti-women) in much the same way most people who identify themselves as feminists aren’t anti-men. This is my one-size-never-fits-all disclaimer.

I know all of these guys are not misogynists.

I know all of these guys do not live lives that revolve around how much sex they have.

I know all of these guys do not think men are better than women.

I know all of these guys do not lie to women for the sole purpose of sleeping with them while secretly planning to never speak to them again.

But, right or wrong, I get the impression that many—probably most—do.

These men do as much good for the reputation of men as white supremacists do for caucasians.

This morning, someone was trying to sell me a book via email that would help me “slay hot chicks” and learn an important life secret about “Why nice guys will ALWAYS finish last.”

My “dishes” post received more misogynistic comments than I care to count, and a ton I couldn’t approve because I wasn’t going to let douchebag strangers call female commenters or my ex-wife the most-vile names our language has for women.

So, I’m going to pick on Jeff, who left this gem yesterday under She Feels Like Your Mom and Doesn’t Want to Bang You:

“Ha! You are so wrong and all of your dweeb followers. Women belong in the kitchen making sammiches. When i did all that shit and i mean all of it (i had to teach my wife how to bath and diaper our child etc etc) i cleaned cooked, house work. I think the most she did was grocery shop so she could find the most expensive organic produce. I had less sex. Now i dont do shit and have more sex. If she is home all day she can clean my underwear. If she wants me to do all that shit again, i will just take her debit card from her, hire a maid and get meals for myself and she can mve out.

“Its a fact that prostitutes are cheaper per sex than a wife.

“If my wife complains i ask her to go to work and i would be more than happy to stay home and clean and cook and talk with family and friends at my liesure. That shuts her up.”

That’s a solid example of the kind of guy I’m talking about.

He thinks because I’m single and not sleeping with a bunch of strangers all the time that I’m living incorrectly. And he thinks he has it all figured out and has mastered life because, if his comment is to be believed, he’s married to a subservient sandwich maker who blows him on demand.

I hope he’ll believe me when I say I don’t envy him.

Hey Guys! You’re Going to Get Old and Die

This may be hard for some to understand: I don’t think men should measure their lives by how much sex they have.

I know what cheap-and-meaningless looks and feels like. Maybe it makes you feel good. I don’t know. I only know what I experience. I don’t get it. I’ve never liked it.

I know what meaningful looks and feels like. That has always been good. I’ve never found it difficult to tell the difference.

Rather than pretend to be someone you’re not to get laid, why not make the real version of you awesome?

Rather than lie to con women into bed in order to feel accomplished, why not tell the truth to do so and see how much better it is?

Rather than disgrace our gender with pick-up tactics somewhat indistinguishable from sexual assault, why not behave with code and honor?

You don’t have to trick people to get them to consider you interesting. All you have to do is learn enough about something (you know, like you did with PUA tactics) to exhibit a little depth and intellect, and then you actually BECOME interesting in real life to anyone with similar interests.

The Measure of a Man

I think how much a man knows is worth more than how much sex he has.

I think how much skill a man acquires through hard work and practice is worth more than how much sex he has.

I think how successful a man is at achieving a harmonious and mutually beneficial marriage or relationship is worth more than how much sex he has (though, to be sure, he’ll be having a lot of sex in this case).

I think how successfully a man prepares children for adulthood and earns their love, admiration, respect and appreciation, is worth more than how much sex he has.

I think the stories people tell about a man at his funeral is worth more than how much sex he had.

I think how it feels in the silence—when all the lights and noise are shut off and there’s nowhere to hide—is a good barometer for how well we are living.

I think kindness and treating people well (including ourselves), striving to walk the higher path and sacrificing for something greater than ourselves, is a more noble effort than carving another notch on a bedpost.

I don’t know what the true measure of a man is. But I know this bullshit, Fuck People Over so I Can Periodically Feel Good for an Hour and Never Contribute Anything Meaningful philosophy ISN’T it.

We’re all going to die one day. And maybe we’ll have a little time to think about it before we do.

I already have enough regrets to reflect on when that day comes.

Maybe you do, too.

Nice guys finish last? Measured in cheap-sex currency? Sure.

Measured in any way that’s not morally bankrupt, or in penis-disease quotients?

Don’t bet on it.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

She Feels Like Your Mom and Doesn’t Want to Bang You

It's your mom dude

Ted said it best. (Image/YouTube)

Your mom probably doesn’t want to have sex with you.

I work hard at not judging. Glass houses and whatnot. But that’s a good thing, right? Your mom not wanting to sleep with you? Because, ew?

I don’t know to what extent incestuous relationships’ taboo classification is a byproduct of biological trial-and-error and documented birth defects, or is something culturally driven, and everyone just sort of looked around at one another and agreed: “Yeah, not banging family members sounds like a good rule! I’m on board! Shouldn’t be a problem because I just naturally don’t want to anyway! Because, ew!”

The reason isn’t important.

But for your marriage’s sake, being aware of this general reality is helpful. Because no matter how many times you sarcastically remind your wife that she’s not your mother and you wish she’d stop acting like it, she often feels like your mother.

This is bad for your sex life.

And, gone unchecked, a precursor to the death of your marriage.

What I Meant To Say…

You may be aware of this, and are already super-sick of hearing about it (just like I am), but I wrote a post called She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink which several million people read. Depending on who you ask, I’m either a genius who saves marriages, or a huge pussy whose wife actually left—not because of dishes—but because I’m a huge pussy.

A bunch of guys developed heartburn over a particular passage, and even though close to 100-percent of them will never read this, I’ll selfishly feel better having addressed—and hopefully, clarified—my stance.

From the “dishes” post:

“But I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is ‘I got this,’ and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

“I always reasoned: ‘If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.’

“But she didn’t want to be my mother. She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

“She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

“I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.”

A Closer Look

“But I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is ‘I got this,’ and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.”

This does NOT mean, every day of my life, my wife bossed me around. It does not mean I awaited her daily instruction on how I could be her little man-servant and cater to her every whim.

I don’t write sentences expecting millions of strangers to read them and not know what I’m talking about.

Here’s what it does mean, specifically:

My wife was awesome about keeping the house clean and organized. She ALWAYS did—hell, I don’t know—65- or 70-ish percent of every house chore (dating back to a couple of apartments I lived in alone when we first got together).

Like so many adults today, we both grew up watching our moms do most of the housework while our dads went off to work and mostly stuck to “man chores” like mowing grass, shoveling snow, sanding and staining decks, cleaning the gutters, taking out the trash, etc.

Because I wasn’t as self-aware in my youth as I am now, I didn’t identify the imbalanced workload.

But here’s the key part: My wife—usually on Saturday mornings—wanted to clean the house. I would have been happy to wait an extra week or two because I don’t like cleaning in the same way you don’t want to bang your parents. But I wasn’t going to sit around watching SportsCenter while my wife scrubbed toilets, and vacuumed floors, and dusted furniture, and wiped down bathroom vanities. Even I’m not THAT big of an asshole.

And the second key part: We brought our baby boy home from the hospital and if you’re anything like me, it was VERY surreal and every minute afterward for several months, you’re like: “What the hell do I do now?”

But my wife wasn’t like me at all. She talked to lots of other moms and prepared herself for some of the challenges of caring for newborns. She read the baby books. The ones Seth Rogan didn’t want to read in Knocked Up. The ones I didn’t read, either.

“I always reasoned: ‘If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.’”

I wasn’t asking my wife to boss me around.

I was asking my wife to HELP ME help her. Read that sentence again, guys. I wanted to help my wife. I did. But instead of actually being helpful, I put the burden of responsibility on her to manage her life, our baby’s life, AND my life. It was the most stressful time physically, psychologically, and emotionally my wife had ever been through. The health and wellbeing of her and my little son rested entirely on her being the best mother possible. And instead of putting in the work to support those efforts the best I could, I totally abandoned her to do all the “baby work” alone, while I sat around daydreaming of the future when I would be throwing the football around with him in the backyard.

We totally do that now too. My little son and I. It’s great.

But instead of mom watching from the deck with a drink and a smile, she has a new mailing address.

Generalization Police, Beware!

Many sons grow up hero-worshipping, or at least modeling behavior after, their fathers. Dad watches sports on TV, and does “man chores,” and probably makes most of the money.

Mom cleans and folds their clothes, vacuums their bedroom, replenishes the refrigerator and pantry, cleans their pubic hairs from showers, washes dishes after dinner, and packs lunches.

But mom has an even-harder job.

Mom manages the schedule for EVERYONE in her family. Not just for herself, but for her children’s school, medical and extracurricular needs; her pet’s veterinarian appointments, and her husband’s stuff, too.

It’s HARD to be an adult.

I’ve lived alone about three years now with a young child in grade school there half the time. IT. IS. HARD.

Keeping track of what he needs every day, and for coming school days, and managing my calendar to make sure I’m where I need to be on his behalf. Taking care of his needs alone just half the time, combined with managing my house alone is EASILY the most mentally challenging and taxing work I have ever done, and there is no close second-place thing. And I don’t keep the place 80-percent as nice as it was when my ex-wife lived there. Still quite challenging.

Sons too often grow up this way and end up woefully ill-prepared for adulthood or marriage. It’s bad.

“But she didn’t want to be my mother. She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

“She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

“I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.”

Hopefully you get it now.

She felt like my mom because I never took the initiative to identify the needs of our son nor the needs of the household, and then set up whatever personal system I needed in order to take care of stuff. I just derpy-derped around all the time as if me not saying or doing anything would make life tasks magically disappear.

Combine those maternal feelings with a little bit of resentment and a little bit of boredom due to hedonic adaptation, and you’ve just prepared to perfection the She Doesn’t Want to Have Sex with You casserole with a side of You’re Kind of an Asshole gravy.

It might seem hard to believe a man could go through many years of marriage hearing his wife tell him about how exhausting this dynamic is for her, and how much it upsets her, and STILL not get it.

But I’m relatively smart.

And that’s precisely how I experienced it. So I know it can, and does, happen.

But maybe with the help of a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure visual aid, it won’t have to happen to you.

It’s your mom, dude.

…..

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

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