On January 17, 2020, I was sitting in my office cubicle wrapping up another workday in corporate marketing. Before shutting down my computer, I checked my personal email and saw the subject line “TIME SENSITIVE coaching request – NY Times reporter wants to feature you.”
I had experienced some attention from large online publications in the past, had been invited on a handful of podcasts and radio shows, been mentioned in a couple of books, and certainly from the viral blog post She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink. But this was different. As a former newspaper reporter, I was like: “Holy shit. The New York Times.”
What even happens when the New York Times features you?
I had no idea. I guessed that I might get an increase in requests for coaching services, and that seemed cool to me.
Over the next couple of weeks, Times reporter (and book author) Jancee Dunn and I had a series of phone interviews. They seemed to go well. I was told the story would likely run sometime in March.
As you’ll no doubt remember, March 2020 is when COVID emerged as a whole damn thing in North America after beating up a number of other countries on its slow march toward the rest of us. A bunch of NBA players walked off the court and pro basketball was suspended indefinitely. Actor Tom Hanks and his wife tested positive for the virus while in Australia.
Then a bunch of things we historically take for granted like bars and restaurants and hair salons closed, and—BAM—it’s a global pandemic, and in the context of life disruption and news coverage, we were collectively experiencing the biggest news story of my, at the time, 41 years of life.
And even though it strikes me as a little bit cringy and selfish now, I remember having the thought a week or so later: Figures the New York Times would reach out to me, and then the biggest news thing ever would happen, ensuring that no one will ever give a shit about some divorced idiot writing things on the internet.
Jancee from the Times emailed to tell me they were going to hold the story. Made sense.
Then something funny (not ha-ha funny, more ironic-funny) happened—people were quarantining together, romantic partners and families, and for the first time in everyone’s lives, most people weren’t getting the space, time away, or diverse social and professional interactions with other people that they were accustomed to.
Everyone was relying on those they lived with for everything.
In the mathematics of everyday life, we inadvertently hurt one another with our words and actions. We do that even when we spend most of the day Monday through Friday away from home. But when all of that stopped? When everyone was locked down together? The instances of hurt, anger, sadness, resentment, trust erosion were happening at an exponentially higher rate than ever before.
The editors at the New York Times thought late May was the perfect time to run the story, which was super-inconvenient since I hadn’t yet shed my quarantine weight. Not only did the pandemic not lessen people’s interest in the subject matter I write and talk about, but it actually increased it in a counterintuitive way that I never saw coming.
On May 18, 2020, the feature story about me and my coaching work ran in the New York Times digitally, and it ran in the print edition on May 21.
Within 24 hours of the story hitting the Times, I was invited onto Ryan Seacrest’s radio show, I had appointments scheduled with several television producers, and I had book agents and talent agencies reaching out to me.
My life hasn’t been the same since.
I signed on with Creative Artists Agency within a few days. Two weeks later, I received a life-changing book contract offer from HarperCollins along with a few international contracts in Europe and Australia, and it’s been a bizarre but mostly pleasant rollercoaster ever since.
This is How Your Marriage Ends: A Hopeful Approach to Saving Relationships
I kept my day job until I could afford not to, then I took the leap in late September 2020 to be a full-time book author and relationship coach.
I borrowed bits and pieces from blog posts that captured certain ideas. I shared new personal stories about my own life and, with permission, the lives of several of my coaching clients. And to the best of my ability, I attempted to lay out the way I believe good people are inadvertently bad at relationships. I attempted to tell the story about how two people who genuinely love one another can erode trust in their blind spots, slowly papercutting their marriage or long-term relationship to death.
I wish I knew how to measure this book. I wish I knew how to say just how good or average or bad it is to properly manage the expectations of anyone who might care to read it. A handful of people have read it. They claimed to like it. My editor called it “tremendous,” and promised he wasn’t exaggerating. I hope he meant it.
But still. What will really matter is what it will or won’t mean to the people in the fight. The husbands and wives and boyfriends and girlfriends and fathers and mothers. Maybe especially the mothers, because of how much they invisibly give.
I wrote this book for my ex-wife. For my son. For my mother and father. For my friends. For my clients. For you.
One guy born and raised in the Midwest, accidentally sucking ass at marriage, but insisting that anyone who thought so (there was only one) was a little bit dumb and a lot bit wrong.
And I think that might be most of us. Miscalculating what our words and actions (or lack of) might do to the minds and hearts of our romantic partners. Failing to notice how a bunch of stuff happening or not happening in our blind spots is breaking trust with the people closest to us. Drifting apart. Slowly slowly slowly. Moving away from each other until our bonds are too weak to hold.
It’s rarely about character. It’s occasionally about trauma and mental/emotional damage from our youth. But it’s almost always about our habits. About the things we do and say and feel on autopilot each and every day, with little to no awareness of what it’s doing to our partners and families. Of what it’s doing to ourselves.
About how we serially invalidate the experiences of those we love. About how we defend our character when the real problem is our behavior. About how we fail to love and respect ourselves in healthy ways. About how we fail to know—to REALLY KNOW—the people we claim to love the most. About how we fail to consider them each and every day when we make choices. About how we often don’t notice how lonely and neglected and abandoned a person feels when they’re made to feel so unimportant that we don’t even make it a priority to include them in our everyday decisions.
This is how your marriage ends.
And I think we can do better. With more awareness. With better habits. With improved relationship skills.
I hope this book can deliver that for someone. Maybe even several someones.
Thank you so much for your support here through the years. Ultimately, none of this happens without you. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to thank you enough.