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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 14

(Image/hellopretty.co.za)

Because I failed to create any type of plan or structure to ensure preparation and acknowledgment of special occasions like Valentine’s Day, our wedding anniversary, my wife’s birthday, etc., my epic ADD-ness, procrastination and sometimes lack of money created a bunch of negative or lackluster moments in my marriage.

When two people are in a romantic partnership together, there’s always a little bit of give-and-take as it’s impossible and impractical for each partner to satisfy exactly half of all shared responsibilities.

But when someone doesn’t get anything back when they give, give, give, they eventually run out of energy. They eventually stop giving.

Until the final couple of years of our marriage that I should have (but didn’t) recognize as the End Times, my wife was always incredibly thoughtful and an organized planner about almost everything, including things specifically for me.

It wasn’t a courtesy that I returned. I’m prone to procrastination and poor calendar management because I’m all kinds of ADD that was undiagnosed and unidentified during my marriage. I got comfortable. Lackadaisical. And lost sight of the importance of investing in my wife and marriage.

She put effort and energy into doing things for me, and planning things for us to do together.

I did not return that same level of effort and energy. I very rarely took the initiative to plan shared activities for the both of us.

For YEARS.

And now I’m divorced, and this EXTREMELY EASY THING TO CORRECT is a significant reason why.

Here’s the simple truth: When you make conscious, mindful, regular investments in your wife and marriage, and create opportunities to do fun things together, and demonstrate as a matter of routine that you have HER and the BOTH OF YOU top of mind and are investing effort and energy in your togetherness… you probably have a strong and healthy marriage.

And when you don’t?

You end up like me.

It Wasn’t Always That Way

I was still 18 when I met the girl who would give birth to our son 10 years later.

A mutual friend had been talking about hooking the two of us up for months. My future wife was super-involved in school activities at the university we attended, whereas I mostly just drank beer and smoked weed at awesome parties.

She was the feature baton twirler for the marching band during football season.

She was a competitive ballroom dancer.

She was on the dance team for the college basketball season.

She always had practice or a part-time job to go to, or homework to do, so she was never at any of our parties. After months of being told we’d make the perfect couple, we’d still never met.

Then one night, I heard she was going to be there—at the off-campus apartment where most of our freshman-year parties took place.

I was drinking and smoking and having a great time with my best friends like almost any other keg-party night, so I wasn’t ready for her to walk in.

Insta-smitten.

She’s the kind-of pretty that makes your stomach hurt. Smiling eyes. Gorgeous cheekbones. The kind-of smile that makes you mirror one back to her, even when she isn’t looking.

She was smart. Funny. Easy to be around.

She was everything teenage-me could have ever wanted. Everything except available.

Our mutual friend didn’t realize my future wife was dating someone. And even if she wasn’t, she didn’t have free time to actually date, nor am I sure we’d have ever made it while she was being super-responsible and I was being super-irresponsible.

Our “perfect-togetherness” would have to wait.

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Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

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We stayed in touch. A phone call here and there. A hug and friendly chat somewhere on campus whenever we’d cross paths.

I dated someone for a couple of years in there, and so did she.

But here’s why I’m telling this story: One random afternoon while I was riding around with one of my friends, I had him stop at a store because I wanted to buy flowers and a card for this gorgeous blonde I was crushing on.

Just something to let her know I was thinking about her.

The Framed Greeting Card

It was the kind of card that folded from the top down.

She’d kept it for a few years in between me giving it to her, and us getting together in a couple’s capacity when we were 22.

I liked that she kept it. I liked it a lot.

It sat in a little horizontal frame on a dresser or nightstand throughout our years together. I read it a few times, but I can’t remember what I wrote inside, and I don’t think it mattered.

What mattered was me taking the time to get a card and flowers, to write a thoughtful, personal note to her. There was no particular occasion or reason to.

I had just wanted to.

Call it a broad generalization if you want, but I think girls like it when you do something for them—just because.

For more than a decade, that little card sat there.

Once a cute, heartwarming reminder of a thoughtful guy who would call a Life timeout simply to invest in making the woman he loved feel good. For no other reason than he wanted her to feel good.

But later, I think that little card became a disappointing reminder of what might have been. Not a symbol of goodness. A symbol of a guy who is capable of making her light up and feel good, and who day after day after day, seems to choose stuff he cares about, and doesn’t seem to think much about her at all.

A little card that’s almost certainly not hiding in her nightstand drawer—but decomposing in a garbage landfill somewhere.

Waste.

Which is fitting, because a waste is exactly what this was.

Just an everyday text: “Thinking about you.”

A weekly phone reminder to plan a mutual (or family) activity for the weekend.

A conscious effort to prioritize this concept of investing in and giving energy to things that benefit our partner, or actively demonstrate that we value and appreciate the person to whom we promised Forever.

That we want them.

That we love them.

That something we do for them is worthy of sitting out as a reminder of something good and meaningful. Something that won’t be discarded to rot in the ground, buried and forgotten forever.

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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.

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Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

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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

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

(Image/Staten Island Advance)

(Image/Staten Island Advance)

Sometimes you hear about some married guy banging his coworker or one of his wife’s friends or one of his friends’ wives, and you think: What!? Why!?

Sometimes you see guys with super-gorgeous wives (Hugh Grant with Elizabeth Hurley, Tiger Woods with Elin Nordegren, or someone you know in real life, etc.) and you find out they hired a prostitute or had some cheap affair, and you think: What the!?

Sometimes guys appear to be in functional, happy marriages with a couple kids and everything going according to script. Then out of nowhere you hear they’re getting divorced because he was sleeping with someone else. How could he? Why would he want to?

There’s a lot going on here.

Lesson #1 – Physical attractiveness matters little 

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, marriage counselor M. Gary Neuman, author of The Truth About Cheating, reported 88 percent of men who cheated did so with women they didn’t consider more attractive or in better shape than their wives.

Sexual attraction is a funny thing. Show me a photo of an attractive woman making a suggestive face and dressed provocatively, and sure I’m going to think she looks good. Girls walk by me every day who pass the Sure, I’d sleep with her test.

I mean that strictly in a physical attractiveness pass-or-fail kind of way. I think all men do this. When I see a woman, and I know absolutely nothing about her except how she looks, the only judgment to be made is whether I’m physically attracted to her.

Most of the time, that’s the extent of our relationships with people we see but don’t know. But sometimes, we have the opportunity to observe people and talk to them. This is the stage when physically attractive people can become unattractive in a hurry. Or people you find only moderately attractive grow in your esteem because you find out something admirable about them or discover a sexiness that shines through in less-traditional ways.

If she is unkind, judgmental, self-absorbed, uneducated, lacks emotional depth, or demonstrates interest in things I don’t value, she becomes unattractive. That’s always disappointing. When something ugly on the inside ruins the pretty shell.

Sometimes you meet someone and discover she loves the same music you do, or the same books, or learn about some other similar interest or passion. Maybe you find out she volunteers to help people. Or is exceedingly kind to strangers. Or practices the same faith. Or roots for the same sports team. Or is a brilliant doctor.

You feel your heart do the thing hearts do.

That’s the good stuff. It’s all well and good when you’re single like me. This dynamic also happens unfortunately with married people.

It’s why the vast majority of affairs happen between people who meet at their jobs or while practicing a hobby.

Being “hot” means precisely dick. Physical attractiveness in a long-term relationship matters most in the context of health and psychology. The argument for exercise and being in good shape is to live a long time. (Better sex, too.) It subconsciously demonstrates that you value yourself. We are naturally attracted to people who respect themselves and demonstrate self-confidence.

Which leads to the heart of the matter…

Lesson #2 – People cheat because they want to feel something

Neuman the marriage counselor said it but we didn’t need him to: 92 percent of men said sex was not the reason for the affair.

“The majority said it was an emotional disconnection, specifically a sense of feeling underappreciated. A lack of thoughtful gestures,” Neuman said in an interview with CNN. “Men are very emotional beings. They just don’t look like that. Or they don’t seem like that. Or they don’t tell you that.”

Men do not want to participate in activities in which they perform poorly.

It’s the primary reason husbands and boyfriends don’t want to go skiing or salsa dancing or to an art class with their wives. It often has less to do with a lack of interest than in a man avoiding volunteer activities in which he might not succeed.

Guys tend to pursue jobs and activities in which they demonstrate proficiency. It stems from a psychological need to feel like we are winning, or at least progressing toward victory.

You will never read me blame my ex-wife for our divorce. I don’t believe it and I’ve never said it. But if someone were to ask me what she could have done to improve our marriage, this subject would sit atop the list.

She is emotionally colder than I am. Depending on mood and environment, she is not always warm with strangers and isn’t afraid to use a biting tone with people who disappoint her. Because I’m wired the way I am, that behavior sometimes comes off mean and bitchy, and I find it very unattractive.

When it’s directed toward me, I feel disrespected, unwanted, unloved, and like a failure. It also makes me angry because I’m predominantly nice and friendly and have little patience when the courtesy isn’t returned.

I have always believed I was capable of bigger and better things than a ho-hum life in suburbia and a cubicle job. Out of every person I know, my wife was the least likely to make me feel believed in or rooted for. The feedback was primarily constant disappointment.

That is a bad thing for a guy to feel if you want your relationship to work out. That does NOT justify the emotional abandonment my wife felt in our marriage. Nor would it justify someone cheating on their spouse. But I think it’s wise to be aware of WHY humans sometimes behave as they do.

Lesson #3 – People cheat because they are bored 

“Self-control is vital to our success. People who have good self-control tend to be both more popular and more successful in many areas of life,” according to PsyBlog. “Those with low self-control, though, are at risk of overeating, addictions and underachievement. Unfortunately, as we all know to our cost, self-control frequently fails. Part of the problem is we overestimate our ability to resist temptation.”

Psychological research shows that self-control is a limited resource. We need to understand how our bodies work and our limitations if we are going to be the best versions of ourselves. (Read: Top 10 Self-Control Techniques)

Let’s be real: People get bored with one another. I bet there are no two people you could put together who wouldn’t eventually tire of one another (at least secretly).

But to be fair, we get bored with EVERYTHING.

When you get your first massive high-definition TV, you sit around watching movies and ball games and even random nature shows on Discovery because it’s fancy and new.

When you first get your new car, you get this little jolt of excitement every time you climb into it and you hope all the people looking at you think you look successful and amazing. (They don’t.)

When you first hear a new album from your favorite band, you’re super into it and play it over and over again.

When you first get that new video game, you play it and play it and play it because it’s fresh and fun.

But INEVITABLY, every single one of those things lose their shine. You get used to them and eventually take them for granted.

Unfortunately, this same phenomenon happens (but to a lesser extent, thankfully) with people.

Combine boredom in marriage with a disengaged spouse who is connecting emotionally with a new friend at work? Someone who pays attention and makes them feel special?

Prepare for fuckery.

The Grass Is Not Greener 

So, here’s the big, annoying (but important) rah-rah speech.

If there is something VERY wrong with your marriage (abuse, addiction, infidelity), this doesn’t apply to you. But if you’re a guy like me? Just a typical guy in a typical marriage suffering from staleness after kids and a few years? Please think.

You’re either a person who wants to be alone, or a person who wants a partner.

I’m 97 percent certain you’re the kind of person who wants a partner because you already have one.

And if you’re a person who wants a partner, it stands to reason that if you end your current relationship, you will eventually find yourself in a new one. Then, guess what?

THIS EXACT SAME THING IS GOING TO HAPPEN AGAIN.

I wish that wasn’t true. I wish there were magical partners in which it was all giggles and orgasms and freshly baked cookies that didn’t make you fat.

But it is true. The problem is NOT your wife or girlfriend. The problem is YOU. (Go easy on yourself. It’s not your fault you’re a human being. But it IS your job to do something because when something’s wrong, those with the ability to do something about it have the responsibility to.)

There’s a saying: The grass is greener where you water it.

Once you come to terms with the fact there aren’t exotic underwear models with whom you’ll never have fights and always have hot sex, it’s a good idea to walk yourself through the logical eventualities of partner selection.

You can choose the single life. More power to you.

But if you’re someone who wants (needs?) a partner, you MUST accept that conflict and hardships will arise with everyone.

Monogamy is a choice. One NO ONE forces you to make. But once you say “I do,” or even just promise your girlfriend? WATER YOUR LAWN.

We exercise self-control, because if we didn’t, all of our monogamous relationships would end (you don’t think she fantasizes about other men?) in total disaster.

If people simply acted on impulse without restraint all the time, everyone would be dead, sick, in prison, or running for their lives.

Love is a choice. You wake up in the morning, and you decide: I’m going to love my wife today no matter how I feel. Even if I get angry. Even if I get sad. Even if it doesn’t seem like she loves me back. I choose to love her.

That, and only that, is how you make your marriage last a lifetime. Doing that every day.

Maybe if you’re really frustrated with how your wife makes you feel, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how all the bad things will go away if you DID start doing that.

Maybe that’s how you save your soul.

Maybe that’s how to find Happily Ever After.

Maybe you could start right now.

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. 13

…..

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.

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Why I Wrote “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands”

Families matter. And if you believe your husband doesn't think so, there's a good chance you're wrong.

Families matter. And if you believe your husband doesn’t think so, there’s a good chance you’re wrong.

“Wow. Your marriage is a complete replica of mine except I haven’t walked out yet and you sound a bit more attentive than my husband. I wish he would read your blog and consider it, but he probably wouldn’t cause he’s an asshole.” – Anonymous blog comment

Because a lot of wives are unhappy in their marriages, many of them turn to the internet where they type things like, “my husband is an asshole,” or “shitty husband” into Google.

Maybe they’re looking for advice on how to cope with a bad marriage.

Maybe they’re looking for other wives who feel like them.

Maybe they’re looking for a shred of hope that the life they dream of isn’t completely impossible.

More and more, they find one of the “An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands” posts. Usually Vol. 1. What that means is, hundreds of strangers every day—people who have never read anything else I’ve written, nor understand my motives, nor realize I wrote it two years ago when I was totally broken—are stumbling on that post.

I think it’s a bad post. It’s poorly written and lacking any semblance of the wisdom and understanding I’ve acquired in my search for knowledge.

But one thing is clear: The message is resonating. Because people keep reading and sharing.

There’s something here that matters to people in pain. And that, I understand.

What’s a Shitty Husband?

Lee wrote me, “Understand that not all husbands are shitty…I found myself disagreeing with your choices fairly quickly while reading, and I can see how you ended up where you are now.”

Laura wrote me, “You aren’t a ‘shitty husband’ for being human. And labeling yourself as one isn’t making anybody feel better.”

Let’s get something straight. I like the word “shitty.” And I’m not afraid to use it loosely, because it’s a funny word and an attention-grabbing one in a headline.

Some husbands get drunk all the time, are never home, screw other women, hit their wives, and all kinds of bad things no human being should be.

I CANNOT HELP A MAN LIKE THAT.

A woman who marries a man like that probably has really unhealthy boundary and self-esteem issues, or experienced an unplanned pregnancy and decided to marry the father in an effort to do what she felt was best.

I can only help one kind of guy. And I think there are millions of them. And so much of what I think about and write about is for them, their wives, their children, their extended family and friends.

The kind of guy I can help is the shitty husband who doesn’t know he’s shitty.

Guys who get drunk all the time, are never home, screw other women, hit their wives, and all kinds of other bad things, KNOW they’re shitty. They know and don’t care. They do not empathize with their hurting spouses. Unselfishness and improving the lives of his wife and family are not concepts he ever thinks about.

The kind of guy I can help is ACCIDENTALLY SHITTY. A regular guy with an honest desire to keep his marriage vows, raise good kids, and have the kind of family most of us dreamed about when we agreed to get married in the first place. A guy who takes immense pleasure from imagining him and his wife sitting on the porch together 40 years from now, watching grandchildren play in the yard.

I can help the guy who truly loves his wife.

I can help the guy who doesn’t understand why he and his wife always fight about the same things.

I can help the guy who never considered that men and women can describe the exact same situation completely differently with neither of them being wrong.

I can help the guy who doesn’t understand how his wife can feel lonely and unloved even though he’s physically present.

I can help the guy who is too ashamed, embarrassed or afraid to be 100-percent honest about sex.

I can help the guy who feels flattered by the cute girl at work because she makes him feel good, and doesn’t understand why his wife doesn’t do that anymore, nor how dangerous it is.

I can help the guy who doesn’t know what to do when his wife is grieving from the death of a loved one.

I can help the guy whose wife is worried about money and long-term security.

I’ve written it many times before: Good men can be shitty husbands. They’re not bad men. They’re simply bad at marriage. The same way people can be bad at archery, or advanced math, or baking muffins.

Being active and engaged and communicating effectively in marriage is a learned skill, and many men don’t know how to do it because their grandfathers lived in the Mad Men era, and their fathers followed in the same footsteps, or were never around at all.

Being a man in 2015 is so much different than it was 60 years ago. And to succeed, we must evolve.

I write for good men who are getting it wrong and who can and will respond to new information that makes sense to them. I was 33 years old and married for seven years before I understood what I know now.

Men are frustrated because their wives “change” throughout the course of their marriages, especially after becoming mothers.

Men are frustrated because their wives don’t make them feel confident, respected, trusted or loved like they used to.

Men are frustrated because their wives have lost sexual interest.

Men are frustrated because their wives make them feel like they’re no longer good enough for them. Despite all of the changes and sacrifices he has made, she trusts him less, and ‘nags’ him more.

Men are frustrated because their entire lives look nothing like their hopes and dreams, and they feel depressed, and no one understands, and there’s no one to talk to about it.

But really, everyone understands. And you can and should talk to people about it. Especially your wife.

I think I now understand how and why all these things happen. It was completely lost on me during my nine-year marriage. And I think there are a bunch of guys out there just like me.

And I think if every man understood what I know now (especially early in their marriages!), they would radically change the way they behave and communicate in their marriages.

Men are happier when their wives are happier, and most men simply don’t understand why their wives become unhappy. They’re not intentionally neglectful. They are accidentally neglectful. And everyone’s lives will be better if they figure it out before the inevitable affair or divorce.

Broken marriages, broken homes and divorce are really awful things to experience. As children. And as adults.

Not everyone is going to care what I have to say. Probably most won’t.

But once in a while, someone is going to stumble on this stuff and have the same sort of eureka moment I had when this all finally clicked for me.

And even if he’s a great guy, he’s probably a shitty husband. Probably accidentally so.

And his story can have a happy ending.

His children’s stories can have happy endings.

His wife’s story can have a happy ending.

So, yeah. This is all a little bit about me.

But it’s a whole lot about them.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

(Image courtesy of ansnuclearcafe.org)

(Image courtesy of ansnuclearcafe.org)

When a conjoined twin dies, their attached sibling usually dies soon after.

In most cases, one can’t live without the other.

Occasionally, surgeons can separate the deceased twin from the other before the dead infects the living.

Maybe life goes on.

But things will never be the same.

When you exchange wedding vows, your soul becomes conjoined with your spouse’s. Every second after, your life is no longer just your own. A part of you is imprinted on her, and her, on you.

Your life just became infinitely more important than it used to be because now someone else’s life is in your hands.

Don’t Try to Fix Your Marriage

Before every flight, the attendant giving the safety spiel always reminds you that in the event of an emergency in which the plane’s oxygen masks deploy from the ceiling, parents flying with children are strongly encouraged to put on their own masks first before helping the child with his or hers.

It goes against our caretaker and unselfish instincts.

As a parent, we always put our children first.

As friends and family and co-workers, and in many other walks of life, we learn to put others’ needs before our own and are taught that this is virtuous and makes us good people.

We are sometimes taught that it’s selfish to do what we want or need to do for ourselves.

But the truth is, if you aren’t right, you can’t be good to anyone else.

If you don’t have your oxygen mask on and you pass out, you can’t save your child.

If you can’t be your true, authentic, best self in your marriage, then the union is already doomed.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

We’ve been collectively rolling our eyes at that bullshit break-up excuse for eons. But I think in the context of mending a broken marriage, the idea has a lot of merit.

Maybe two sad and angry people who feel trapped, disrespected and unloved, shouldn’t necessarily be trying to work cooperatively all the time.

I believe the right way to attack marriage problems starts with NOT trying to work together.

I’ve sat in front of marriage counselors with an angry spouse. When couples disagree, they spend the entire session telling the therapist what it is their partner does to make them feel sad, angry and miserable in front of the person they’re supposed to love the most.

I think it’s a piss-poor strategy.

Maybe if we took all the finger-pointing out of the equation, we’d see real results.

Not: She makes me feel like this! She does this to me and it isn’t fair!

And more this: What is it that I need to do to make my partner feel safe, and content, and loved, and happy?

And if your spouse is doing that same thing to you in reverse? And attempting to make internal and external changes on your behalf?

I think everyone who wants to make it, will.

I think we just have to choose it.

Rethinking the Problem

Politically conservative people are furious with the number of illegal immigrants flooding into the United States via the southern border. It’s because the undocumented people don’t contribute to the tax system but provide an economic burden on the health care, criminal justice and education systems.

Politically progressive people want to make the path to legal citizenship easier, and in the meantime, appreciate the fact that immigrants most often are performing jobs that help the U.S. economy that most Americans are unwilling to do themselves—namely low-paying agricultural jobs and others in the service industry. They believe innocent children should not be punished or denied access to health care and education because they believe in compassion and helping others and believe the government is in the best position to do it (whether or not that’s true).

Then there are people like me. I agree and disagree with both sides.

I agree that the financial strain on the system is unsustainable, and that our country is a business and should be treated like one. If you can’t pay for anything, you’re screwed.

But I also (mostly) love human beings and believe the value of a human life can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

What’s a political moderate to do on the subject of immigration?

Choose Option C. The road less travelled.

I think you solve the immigration problems in the United States by creating more economic opportunity for people in places like Mexico. I think if Mexico’s economy and health care and education systems improve, Mexicans will want to stay in Mexico, because there’s no place like home.

I vote we make Mexico so awesome that WE want to go there.

Problem solved.

…..

Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

…..

Don’t sit around thinking about how your spouse makes your life miserable every day.

Think about how you can actively change yourself in an effort to bridge the divide between you and her.

Be selfish about making yourself the best you can be so that you’re strong enough to actually be unselfish when the situation calls for it.

Another Definition of Love

“I moved a step farther toward accepting my complete inability to change another person and my inability to change myself. Love has been called many things, but maybe one definition would be the utterly unbridgeable gap between any two humans and the attempt to bridge it anyway.” — from Stumble, by Heather King

It doesn’t start with her.

It doesn’t start with “us.”

It starts with you.

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. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

trust-torn

My wife felt unsafe because she could no longer trust me.

She didn’t feel unsafe because she thought I would physically hurt her or because she thought I couldn’t protect her if someone else tried.

She didn’t stop trusting me because she worried I might have sex with someone else.

My wife stopped trusting me because she determined I could not be counted on to be the partner she needed. As a parent. As a housemate. As a lover. As a financial partner.

It wasn’t the big things that brought her to that point. There often aren’t big things in marriage.

It was the little things. Often, it is the little things that scratch and claw and chip away at the integrity of a marriage until the union and its participants look nothing like they did when first formed.

She was a youthful, fun, vibrant, happy, joyful young woman.

She grew tired, weary, anxious, frightened, sad and angry.

I begged and pleaded for the girl I knew to come back once I stopped recognizing her. I grew sad and angry when she couldn’t or wouldn’t. I blamed her for not trying.

But I think maybe she wanted to. I think she wanted to feel like her old self again. But she simply couldn’t.

Because she couldn’t trust me.

So she kept her guard up.

Because she didn’t feel safe.

Men (I) Have a Problem

And I think maybe women have this same problem but because of the state of the world in which we live (where men sometimes literally believe they’re better than women), I think the male version is worse.

Men think and feel and experience the world around them in certain ways. We experience things, see things, hear things, digest information, and come to what we consider to be very rational, very logical, very sensible, very correct conclusions.

When you think you’re right, everyone who doesn’t see things the same way must be wrong. Thus, your wife or girlfriend is “wrong” A LOT.

For example, despite loving our wives, forsaking all others, being willing to die for them, and spending every day trying to earn more money and respect and admiration for and from them, our wives often FEEL unloved.

And because we don’t think it makes sense for them to feel unloved based on all the things I just listed—because we think it’s crazy, irrational and unreasonable—we pretty much ignore all suggestions to the contrary.

I am mocking and sarcastic. It is a brand of humor my friends and I have enjoyed for as long as I can remember. When I call my male friend a name or laugh at him about something, it is understood that he is my friend, he is loved and respected, and that by virtue of me wanting to be around him and wanting him to be part my social circle, that the comments and laughter are in fun and not mean-spirited.

My wife did not appreciate my mockery and sarcasm directed toward her. She was my wife and deserved a higher standard of treatment, she said.

She was right.

I accidentally hurt her feelings a lot. I NEVER did it on purpose. So I always got pissed when she’d get mad at me over something I did unintentionally.

But.

The “intent” argument only works the first time.

If you’re out hunting and you fire a shot that accidentally kills someone in a nearby home you didn’t realize was there, you are unlikely to be charged with murder or homicide. Because it was an accident.

But if you go out hunting again to that same spot and accidentally kill a second person due to negligence? Have fun in prison.

My crime wasn’t hurting my wife’s feelings the first time. An accidental one-time offense is almost always forgivable. My crime was hurting my wife’s feelings repeatedly, even after she explained why it was happening.

Because I don’t respond to things the same way she does, I never really changed, and expected her to adjust to my “correct” way of thinking and feeling and behaving.

Go ahead and keep that up guys and let me know how it works out for you.

She’s going to fall in love and have sex with someone else, and she’s probably going to tell him and her friends what a chump you are.

You’re not going to like it.

The Thing About Trust

I don’t like to sound like I know everything, because I don’t know anything about you or your life or what you think and feel.

But what I think I’ve learned is that when I feel and experience something, I can feel confident that MANY others have felt and experienced it too. Because we’re not so different, you and me.

…..

Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

…..

I think most men think about trust in the context of infidelity.

I think one of the major hang ups guys have about committing to a relationship or to marriage when they’re young is that by doing so, they’re effectively promising to never have sex with anyone else again. I don’t know whether men like variety or options or freedom or what, but that’s a big deal when we’re younger.

I thought of marriage mostly as agreeing to a permanent girlfriend. By agreeing to marriage in my early twenties, I thought I was agreeing to have an exclusive relationship with my girlfriend forever and to not have sex with anyone else.

And that’s dangerous because a girlfriend isn’t that important and is reasonably easy to replace.

A wife?

In some respects (if you meant your vows) is irreplaceable and a piece of your soul gets poisoned and dies when you lose that fundamental part of you.

You take it for granted. You take her for granted.

Like your eyesight. Or functioning legs.

But they’re really important.

And you figure it out when they’re gone.

The trust is rarely about whether she worries about you cheating.

It’s more about whether she can trust you to not hurt her emotionally. About whether she can trust you to help her by not sabotaging her efforts to keep your house clean, or to plan activities with family and friends, or to be a reliable parenting partner.

We had this little stand in our bedroom. I have this thing—especially with jeans—where I wear them once or twice and consider them too clean for the laundry basket, but too dirty to fold and put away. Laundry limbo, if you will. I used to throw them on this stand in the back of our room.

She didn’t like it because it made the room look disorganized and she prided herself on a clean and tidy home.

She’d get mad at me because I kept thoughtlessly doing it even after repeated attempts to get me to stop.

Men think: Why’s she making a federal case about this? Is a pair of jeans sitting out somewhere in my bedroom where no visitors come really THAT big of a deal?

We rationalize it with our sensible, logical brains. And we don’t necessarily work very hard to change the behavior because: “She’s not going to leave me over laundry!”

No. She’s not going to leave you over laundry.

She’s going to leave you because she can’t trust you to be her partner because you don’t even respect her enough to put your laundry-limbo jeans in a different location.

“If I can’t trust him with this little teeny-tiny thing,” she thinks, “how can I ever trust him with my heart?”

You’re Like a Child

And in EVERY other situation in life, I’d tell you that’s a good thing. Kids laugh 200-300 times a day and love life and are happy and innocent and free. Adults are miserable.

We must never stop playing and laughing and dreaming and seeking fun and adventure.

But in a marriage? Being like a child is bad. That’s why children can’t and don’t get married.

Your wife used to be a girl.

The girl you fell in love with because she was beautiful and fun and playful and wanted you and made you feel good.

And now she doesn’t act like that anymore. She’s worn out. Angry. Short-tempered. Frustrated. Disinterested in your penis. And seems to not even like or respect you anymore.

And now you’re angry and resentful, because your mom never treated your dad like this, or because you thought she was just going to take care of you the way your mother always did.

You’re angry because you haven’t changed that much, but she has, and you feel cheated because she said “I do” and now she’s acting like the man she married isn’t good enough.

You feel unwanted, disrespected, and ashamed.

But, probably without realizing it, you did it to yourself.

Because you have a home, and finances, and maybe children or pets or possessions of significance. You’re not kids anymore. But you still act like one. When you playfully mock your friends or your wife. When you leave your pants out, or a dish in the sink, or forget to do that thing you promised on your way home.

And all these little things add up.

Why are you making such a big deal about this!?, you wonder.

And now she CAN’T be a kid anymore. She can’t play and laugh and live carefree anymore. Because you are. And if she does it too, nothing will ever get done.

The clothes will never get washed. Meals will never be made. The kids will never have what they need.

You refused to take the next step.

So she HAD to.

And now she’s angry, resentful, sad and afraid.

Because you’ve left all the adult work to her.

But, more importantly?

You left her with no choices. And now she doesn’t get to be who she used to be.

And you want that girl back.

But she can’t come back.

Because there’s no such thing as time travel.

But the clock’s still ticking.

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. 11

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

knight-in-shining-armor

Sometimes your wife cries in bed alone because she wants to hang out with you and you’d rather do anything else.

Don’t say you want to be with her. It’s a lie. You don’t. You like watching sports and playing video games and poker and going out with your guy friends and gambling and fishing and drinking and watching movies and TV shows more than you like hanging out with her.

Sometimes she sobs, broken and abandoned.

Because the knight on TV just saved the princess and is going to love her and protect her and make her orgasm every day, forever. Happily Ever After.

And you don’t even want to be in the same room as her. Maybe she’ll talk to you and ask you about your day. Maybe she’ll want to share details of her day.

But you don’t want to talk about it. You definitely don’t want to listen to it.

You just need some ‘Me’ time.

Why can’t she just enjoy doing the things she likes while I enjoy the things I like?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

Why can’t she think and feel like a man thinks and feels?

I mean, it’s not like she’s doing anything to make ME feel good! We used to have great sex! What happened to the blow jobs!? Just look around! I pay for all this for HER! Her hair. Her nails. Her spa treatments. Her jewelry. Her car. Her house. Our kids.

I work hard. And I only have so much time to unwind. This is how I do it. Why can’t she appreciate that? Why can’t she respect me enough to give me space?

Sometimes she panics. The kind where you’re so scared that your hair falls out a little. The kind where you’re so sad and afraid that even your kids know something is wrong.

Maybe you think she’s fat and ugly, she wonders.

Maybe you’re having an affair or wishing you were, she questions.

Maybe you’re going to leave her, she fears.

All you want her to do is treat you like she used to back when she respected and wanted you.

All she wants you to do is treat her like you used to back when you loved and wanted her.

You retreat from her because her neediness is a turnoff and makes you feel bad.

And she keeps chasing, making you want to retreat even more.

You want to be married. You want to keep your family intact. You probably even love her in your own way.

But she doesn’t feel like your best friend anymore. Because she makes you feel inadequate. So you pull away. And when you pull away, she gets even more scared. Feels even less safe.

Divorce or an affair seems inevitable.

My wife and I didn’t like the same things.

So when we fell into the rhythm of marriage and domesticated life, we were often at odds about how to spend our time.

I like watching sports.

She likes watching shows about weddings.

I like watching thrillers, science fiction and gritty dramas that don’t sugarcoat the human condition.

She likes watching romantic comedies and things that make her laugh and feel good (which isn’t dumb).

I like playing poker.

She likes skiing.

I like writing.

She likes dancing.

I always thought the fairest, simplest, most-diplomatic thing was for her and I to do what both of us wanted when we disagreed. Agree to disagree! Everybody does what they want and gets their way! Everyone’s happy!

But that’s not how it is in real life.

Because many of the things my wife wanted required contributions from me. A family activity. What a drag. A home-improvement project. The horror. A healthy sex life. Gasp!

I said what any true asshole would: “Why is it that all of the things you want require something from me? How is that fair?”

You hear it from a table of golfers having beers after a round on a Saturday afternoon.

You hear it from a defensive husband pleading his case to a therapist or marriage counselor or an empathetic buddy.

Sometimes, you simply think it when your wife or girlfriend is “inconveniencing” you with a request to spend time together.

It’s the refrain of assholes, worldwide: “What’s wrong with a little ‘Me’ time?”

The Successful, Still-Married Me

A friend sent me a link this morning.

A writer who seems to care about the same things I care about: Seth Adam Smith.

I like this guy. He reminds me of me, except he’s actually successful and relevant. And probably a much-better person.

He once wrote a post called Marriage Isn’t For You. He became famous (by writer standards) after that post received 2.2 million views in 36 hours.

I hope you’ll read it, because it’s really fantastic.

Smith was freaking out about getting married, asking himself: “Am I ready? Is Kim the right person to marry? Will she make me happy?

Smith writes:

“Then, one fateful night, I shared these thoughts and concerns with my dad.

Perhaps each of us have moments in our lives when it feels like time slows down or the air becomes still and everything around us seems to draw in, marking that moment as one we will never forget.

My dad giving his response to my concerns was such a moment for me. With a knowing smile he said, ‘Seth, you’re being totally selfish. So I’m going to make this really simple: marriage isn’t for you. You don’t marry to make yourself happy, you marry to make someone else happy. More than that, your marriage isn’t for yourself, you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.’

It was in that very moment that I knew that Kim was the right person to marry. I realized that I wanted to make her happy; to see her smile every day, to make her laugh every day. I wanted to be a part of her family, and my family wanted her to be a part of ours. And thinking back on all the times I had seen her play with my nieces, I knew that she was the one with whom I wanted to build our own family.

My father’s advice was both shocking and revelatory. It went against the grain of today’s ‘Walmart philosophy,’ which is if it doesn’t make you happy, you can take it back and get a new one.

No, a true marriage (and true love) is never about you. It’s about the person you love—their wants, their needs, their hopes, and their dreams. Selfishness demands, ‘What’s in it for me?’ while Love asks, ‘What can I give?’”

If you’re single, and you don’t have anyone who needs you and you like it that way, then there’s NOTHING wrong with a little YOU time. In fact, have YOU time for the rest of your life. There are no reasons you should feel guilty about that if that’s what’s in your heart.

I think a lot of people marry just because they think that’s what you do after high school or college. It’s what we see other adults do. It’s what we see on TV. It’s what our friends do.

Most guys think: No big deal! It’s just like having a girlfriend—forever! I can do that.

But it’s not like having a girlfriend forever. Marriage is NOT simply an agreement to never have sex with anyone else again.

It’s an exercise in giving more than you take.

In spending your days helping your wife have the best life she possibly can.

Sometimes that means sitting quietly at the dinner table listening to stories that may not interest you, but if you’re doing it right, you’ll care because of how much it matters to her.

Sometimes that means watching a movie or visiting a vacation destination that isn’t your first choice.

Sometimes it means you go to bed and have lots and lots of sex instead of watching Thursday Night Football.

We’re selfish and broken and messy.

So you ask: How can you expect me to give without asking for anything in return? What’s in it for me? 

I don’t know.

But I’m a good guesser.

And I’m pretty sure you get all the stuff that the world’s richest people can’t buy, but wish they could.

Joy.

Peace.

Contentment.

Happiness.

Love.

I’m pretty sure you get to live without fear and shame. That you get to walk tall with courage and pride. That you get to go to bed and wake up feeling confident and secure.

I’m pretty sure you get to keep your family.

And that your kids will grow up knowing how to secure theirs.

What happens when you make marriage not about you, but about the people you love?

Everything.

Happily Ever After.

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. 10

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

couple fighting

Boys and girls grow up pretending to not like each other while playing together on schoolyard playgrounds.

The Boys vs. Girls theme runs strongly through the elementary school social culture.

Boys like blue.

Girls like pink.

Boys like Army guys.

Girls like Barbies.

Boys like playing sports.

Girls like playing dress-up.

When we’re children, we seem to confuse common interest with friendship. Boys are mean! Girls are silly!

We wanted to be accepted by our peers, so most of us tucked ourselves neatly into these stereotypical gender roles. As we aged, we watched what the older kids were doing and we paid attention to the boy-girl relationships playing out on television which helped us morph into whatever we are today.

In many cases, despite our obvious differences, men and women tend to like one another. Many of the decisions we make are centered around the idea of partnering up with, and having sex with, those we find most attractive.

A conversation that has happened on every park or playground in the history of mankind:

Male Friend 1: “Ooooooooohhhh! You like her!” *sings mocking song*

Male Friend 2: “No, I don’t!!! Girls are stupid!!!” (Even though he totally likes her.)

Then, the next time Male Friends 1 and 2 are with the girl, Male Friend 2 will make fun of her and be kind of mean to her to show off to his friend and demonstrate that he doesn’t “like” her. Also, because first and second graders don’t understand gallantry or charm, boys often resort to playful mocking as a means of flirting with the girls they do like.

This often continues into adulthood forever.

Mars vs. Venus

Men and women are DIFFERENT. Totally not the same make up and inner workings. I’m absolutely convinced the reason we have a 50-percent divorce rate is because so many men and women don’t take the time to learn HOW they’re different and what they can do to bridge those differences and overcome them.

Male friends make fun of one another. Just for fun. Because we like each other. Why? I don’t know. We. Just. Do.

All the time. Almost daily. Even the nicest of us sit around playfully mocking one another.

Doesn’t that make you feel bad, Matt!?!?

No. It doesn’t. Because most guys seem to innately understand that it is being done BECAUSE we are accepted as part of our social group. It is not a display of hate or rejection.

Whatever it is chemically or genetically that makes men do this, we also take into our opposite-sex relationships. And sometimes we do it to our spouses. Sometimes we do it to our female friends. We think it’s the same as when we do it to our guy friends because we’re often dense and thoughtless.

When the females in our lives take our verbal jabs as personal attacks and react emotionally, we get confused and assume they must be hormonal, crazy and imbalanced since everyone else seems totally cool about it.

“How can you treat me that way in front of your friends? Don’t you love me?”

“It was a JOKE! Of course I love you! I married you and would do anything for you.”

“Then please don’t be mean to me.”

“You’re overreacting. Why can’t you take a joke like everyone else? We were all laughing!”

…..

Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

…..

I think I’ve had that conversation, or one just like it, dozens of times. You’ll notice there was no sincere and heartfelt apology in there to the offended party.

If I ever hurt the feelings of a stranger or one of my friends’ wives or girlfriends, I would have gone to great lengths to try to rectify the situation and make sure it never happened again.

I am guilty of thinking my wife was overly emotional. Of feeling like she misunderstood me and punished me based on false premises. I am guilty of not respecting the pain I caused. Of attempting to invalidate her feelings to avoid accepting responsibility. Of not sincerely apologizing for causing pain and never doing it again.

Most importantly?

Despite feeling like my wife was the most-important person in my life, I never demonstrated that in my day-to-day behavior.

I don’t think I can overstate the following: Many times, men have no idea they’re hurting and upsetting the women in their lives EVEN WHEN the women tell them so, because it makes absolutely no sense to the man that the thing that happened could have caused pain.

It makes men dense and stupid, sure.

BUT. It also oftentimes makes them innocent of INTENTIONALLY trying to inflict pain. I think shitty things done on accident should be handled differently than shitty things done on purpose.

However—how many times can she say it before it sinks in? How many times does she have to tell you before you’ll actually believe the words she’s saying?

At what point are you being willfully negligent?

One Wife’s Take

One of my female friends who is also going through separation and divorce married a shitty husband like me. Not a bad man. Just a guy who is bad at marriage.

Because I’ve heard so many stories about him, I knew he was the belitting-your-wife type.

The type of guy to not worry about facts in a debate. He’ll simply tear down and invalidate the person he’s debating in order to win. Even if it’s his wife and the mother of his children.

I asked her to give me some examples of things he would do to make her feel stupid and invalidated.

She wrote this:

My family is all sitting around the brunch table. We are talkers—philosophers and theologians and writers. We discuss politics, theories and ideas. My husband doesn’t like this. He finds our discussion annoying and refuses to enter in the conversation. The truth is—he probably isn’t capable intellectually but that’s okay. No one is pushing him. As the topic rolls around to the inevitable “Why are we here?”-type questions, he starts to roll his eyes. But I love this part of debate and get excited to speak. As I’m explaining my thoughts to my family, he cuts me off. “Isn’t she hilarious?” he mocks. (I’m instantly furious that he addresses me as “she” but let it slide.) He continues: “I try to tell her there isn’t some big, grand life to be lived… ha ha ha. She has so many ideas about fulfillment and striving for some greater good! Ha! This is it, hon. This is your life! There isn’t some great thing out there you’re missing out on! Ha ha ha!”

My whole family stares at him… Did he really just belittle me like that in front of everyone? Yes. Yes he did. No one knew what to say. He’d done it so many times before but never this blatantly.

Some men think it’s a joke. To tease, mock, belittle, make fun of their wives in front of others. It’s not funny. In fact… it makes women feel so so so worthless and lonely and stupid. It made me feel like that, anyway.

To feed into stereotypes that women nag, are bossy, spend money irresponsibly, are sex objects, are only good for cooking/cleaning, etc… to feed into that is to erode the heart of who a woman truly is.

Things that can be said include:

“Well, I’ll have to check with the boss before I can let you know.” (Meaning the wife is in charge of him and all he does… probably somewhat true because she has to be his mother.)

“Did you spend all my money at the store today?” (All his friends laugh like I’m some bimbo-shopping wife. WTF? It’s our money and I am the only financially responsible person here!)

“I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything. She wouldn’t let me! Ha ha.” (Nag implications)

“Why would I pay for her to go to law school? She already has her hands full with the house and the kids! How on earth do you think you could pull all that off, honey?? She gets too ambitious. Ha ha!!” (Implying that 1, the money is all his again, and 2, I’m stupid for even thinking I could accomplish such a thing.)

I really think men who get their kicks from saying these types of things actually aren’t joking all that much. I think, to a certain extent, they truly believe this. And I think that is why it takes away from who their wife or girlfriend really is. If one is so wrapped up in thoughts like this… are they even thinking about the real, live woman in front of them? Who is she really? Do they even know? Chances are she doesn’t think it’s funny to joke like this. BUT, then again, chances are he doesn’t even know that.

What If?

What would it look and feel like if every single day you treated your wife like you did when you first met her and you might not have tomorrow together? What would it look and feel like if someone bad was going to come hurt her or take her away—UNLESS you treat her with the deepest respect and kindness and thoughtfulness possible?

Would she ever nag you?

Bitch about you to her friends?

Make you feel ashamed or disrespected?

Would she ever tell you you’re not good enough? If you gave it your actual best effort?

We spend so much time reacting and responding to others rather than going first. Rather than being the example.

I think maybe if everyone treated their partners (and maybe others) with love and kindness without the expectation of receiving it return, that the world would change overnight.

There are a bunch of us out here who already learned things the hard way or figured it out on our own: Don’t act like a bag of dicks.

And if you, Shitty Husband, figure it out soon enough, she won’t leave you to be with one of us.

You’re a man. Strong. Logical. A skilled problem solver.

So I know you can do it.

And I’ll continue to root for you.

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. 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

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands

man-shrugging-shoulders

I was a shitty husband.

And it’s not because I’m a massive jerk, or abusive, or particularly difficult to get along with.

I was a shitty husband because I didn’t respect my wife’s thoughts and feelings about things I mistakenly believed didn’t matter. When two people disagree, both think they’re right. Which makes the other person wrong.

But sometimes there is no “right.” Sometimes, there is no “wrong.”

You liked the movie. She didn’t. She likes salsa dancing. You don’t. Nobody is right or wrong. But we treat one another like that’s the case. That what I think and believe and feel is right. Therefore, you must be wrong.

I was a shitty husband because I promised her in front of hundreds of people we knew that I would love and honor her all the days of my life. In good times, and in bad. And then I didn’t do that. I didn’t do it in the bad times because I didn’t “feel” like it. Because it wasn’t easy or convenient.

For years, I put my wants and needs ahead of her’s. Not for the “big things,” which is all I thought mattered. I put me first in all the “little things.” Disagreements about housework, passively leaving her to manage our schedules, and the logistics of caring for our son.

She tried to talk to me about it. But I didn’t listen.

I thought she was nagging. Complaining. Being needy. Being a bitch.

I thought because I was a nice person, and that I’d made sacrifices for her, that I was a good husband. I thought because I didn’t do a bunch of bad things some guys do that I was a good husband. I didn’t realize it until much too late: Good men can be bad husbands. Just like good men can be bad at designing bridges, or bad at water-color painting, or bad at water skiing.

We don’t want to hear bad things being said about us. Especially from those we believe we sacrifice daily for. So when we do, we don’t listen. We justify our behavior. Rationalize it. Get defensive. And angry.

We disagree with them, and tell them they’re wrong. Sometimes we tell them they’re crazy. Sometimes we raise our voices or call them a name.

Divorce is the great social crisis of our time, and not enough people are talking about it. Two good, smart, nice people marry voluntarily, and deny it though they will, it’s a coin toss as to whether they’ll be married a decade later.

I tell my story so that maybe other people won’t get divorced like me.

…..

Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

…..

The Posts

Vol. 1

I was in a lot of pain and blaming my ex-wife in the immediate aftermath of her leaving. Vol. 1 represented the first time I began learning to accept responsibility for my very large role in destroying the marriage.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

Vol. 2

I got into a really preachy phase with my writing. I’m sure it was annoying because clearly I’m an asshole who doesn’t know anything. But my heart was in the right place.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

Vol. 3

I was at a party and I had a tiny crush on the married birthday girl, and I watched her husband ignore her all night (and already knew him to be a less-than-ideal partner). The whole scene made me sad because it reminded me of how I used to treat my ex-wife.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

Vol. 4

There’s a really scary phase during a couple’s slow descent to divorce that many husbands don’t realize is scary. When a wife finally snaps and decides to leave or have an affair, her personality often transitions from sad and angry to resigned and apathetic. An observant husband will notice the change immediately. But before she snaps, there’s a period of time in which she’s trying to save your marriage. She wants to be married to you, to love you, and to be together for your children. And in her last-ditch effort to reach you, you often dig in your heels in “manly” defiance. “Stop trying to change me!” If you love winning fights and getting your way more than you love your wife, then you probably deserve what’s about to happen.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

Vol. 5

Yes, guys. You have to help around the house. Not sure if you checked the calendar lately, but it’s not 1960 anymore. No matter how insane you think it sounds, she WILL divorce you for leaving a dish by the sink.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

Vol. 6

You can destroy your marriage by trying to be “nice.” By letting your spouse make all the decisions. You think it’s a nice gesture, letting the other person have their way. But really? You’re killing them, their respect and desire for you, and it’s all going to break one day. All because you don’t want to be responsible for making plans two weekends from now or scheduling the kids’ dentist appointments or planning family meals. Maybe it’s time to rethink your priorities.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

Vol. 7

Men are generally very competitive creatures. I know I am. But despite that, men AREN’T competitive about marriage. And by that, I mean, they tend to not work hard to be the best husband and father imaginable as a measure of pride. They strive for greatness at work, or in a particular organization or social club or hobby. But men don’t seem to think being the best at marriage is a worthwhile endeavor. Considering it’s one of the most-important things we do in this life, and we have such a high failure rate, I wonder why that is.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

Vol. 8

What starts at an early age on playgrounds, turns into a relationship killer in adulthood. Men using jokes, sarcasm and mockery to belittle their wives and girlfriends both privately and publicly. It may not be intended to be cruel. It often isn’t. But the recipient of those “jokes” often feels as if it’s cruel. Beat her down long enough, and only one of two things can happen: She’ll leave you for someone who respects her, or you’ll break her and she won’t be the person you married anymore. Maybe she already isn’t.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

Vol. 9

Guys like “Me”-time. Maybe everyone does. But a lot of time when husbands and fathers do it, it looks and feels to his wife and children like he isn’t interested in them or that he’d rather spend time alone than with his family. When guys get married young, they often think it’s going to be just like having a permanent girlfriend. That marriage is basically just promising to never have sex with any other women. Sometimes, no one teaches us that marriage isn’t about us. That it’s actually for the person we’re marrying. No one teaches us that the key to sustaining love and happiness isn’t taking. It’s giving.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

Vol. 10

Wives sometimes turn into someone else throughout the course of their marriages. Men don’t like it because the person they married is gone. Women don’t like it because they lose the fun, innocent version of themselves they remember from their youth. Husbands lose their wives’ trust. Not over the big things, most of the time. Over the little things. Men won’t change, so their wives MUST. Resentment builds. And much of the time, everything breaks.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

Vol. 11

I think married couples who are sad and angry about their lives and relationships make the mistake of trying to “fix the marriage.” They spend all their time trying to figure out how “we” can do things different, and how the other person can make changes to make life better. But I think people need to work on themselves to fix the marriage. To look inside themselves and figure out how they can be their best self. Two people working to be the best versions of themselves have a great chance to succeed. Two people expecting the other to change on their behalf seem doomed to a life of sadness and frustration.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

Vol. 12

Cheating is never okay. We don’t want to do it. We don’t want it to happen to us. Almost everyone agrees it’s a horrible, destructive thing. Yet, it keeps happening over and over again. Even with a very decent spouse at home. Even with children and a seemingly happy life. I think it’s important for people to understand WHY this happens, so they can be more self-aware, and so that spouses can work to fill the voids people try to fill with extramarital affairs.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

Vol. 13

Maybe somewhere, there’s an example of pornography and masturbation radically improving marriages and relationships. Anything’s possible. But what often happens while couples are slowly drifting apart is that husbands turn to porn and masturbation for sexual relief. Some people don’t think it’s a big deal. I think I’ve seen and heard enough evidence to convince me that heavy porn consumption and masturbation, especially if it’s being hidden as part of a secret life, can negatively affect marriage, and not always in ways people think it will.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

Vol. 14

Of the many things I didn’t do that might have resulted in a successful marriage, my failure to mindfully plan fun activities and make tiny time investments to communicate how much I valued my wife and our marriage is probably the most egregious. There’s no excuse that doesn’t ultimately end with: Thousands of times I could have made a slightly different choice to focus on her and us, instead of me and whatever else. And I didn’t. Of all the things that could have saved the marriage, this would have been the easiest to do differently. In some respects, that makes this my greatest relationship failure.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 14

I Provide Relationship Coaching and Divorce Support Coaching Now

I’ve always liked that I wasn’t a thought leader or subject matter expert about marriage, divorce, or anything in the family therapy realm. After several years of writing here, I’ve heard from hundreds, maybe thousands of people who believed THAT was my secret to connecting with people. I am NOT a counselor or therapist, and I’ll never pretend to be.

What I am is someone who can sometimes bridge the divide between two people struggling to connect with or communicate effectively with their spouse or romantic partner.

If you are searching for a better way to connect, or as if the end of your relationship is inevitable and you are seeking a support network, maybe I can help. To learn more, you can email me at MBTTTR@gmail.com with “Coaching Request” (or whatever) in the subject line, or you can visit the Relationship Coaching & Divorce Support page here.

What Qualifies Me for the Job?

Nothing.

But I have a funny little brain and it works like this: There is nothing exceptional about me. Not a thing.

I am the averageiest average person alive.

I possess average intelligence, average physicality and average skills in many facets of life. I am average looking. I earn an average income. I live in an average house in an average town. I had an average upbringing. And now I’m just your average divorced dad stumbling through adulthood.

You know what I think that means?

I think it means A LOT of people can relate to me. I think it means that the mistakes I made and the things I think and feel are JUST LIKE all of the mistakes you make and things you think and feel.

And I’m willing to write it down.

And I have absolutely no idea why that helps people. But I know that it does. It helps people.

Shitty Husbands Abound

You know a shitty husband.

You are one, or you are married to one, or you were raised by one, or you’re friends with one.

Shitty husbands ARE NOT always bad people. Sometimes they are very good people who are simply not very good at being married.

You don’t have to be abusive or neglectful or adulterous or deceitful to be a shitty husband. You need only put your wants ahead of your spouse’s.

You do that enough times?

All while not listening to her pleas for help? Her cries for attention? Her desire for emotional and intimate connection?

She’s going to start having sex with someone else and leave you, or she’s going to WANT to, which is equally bad. It’s true.

These An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands posts are consistently among my most popular posts.

I like some of them more than others because some are poorly written. But what I’ve heard time and time again from frustrated wives and ex-wives (and some husbands and ex-husbands) is that they recognize the truth in all of this.

Male-female relationships tend to follow the same patterns and tend to result in the same conflicts.

And THIS IS GREAT NEWS.

Because if we’re all experiencing the same afflictions and symptoms, then we can all fix it with the same treatment and medicine.

Losing my family was the worst thing that ever happened to me.

I’m cool now because a lot of time has passed, and a lot of healing happened. But it was all very, very bad. And I don’t want other people to have to go through it. Especially children.

Not everyone is going to make it. We’re human, and we fail.

But there doesn’t have to be this much brokenness in the world. So many marriages fail that don’t have to.

It makes me sad. And I believe it can be better.

And this is my small contribution to trying to be part of the solution.

I hope you’ll join me.

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.

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

Men have been competing for centuries. But we aren't competitive about excelling at marriage. Why?

Men have been competing for centuries. But we aren’t competitive about excelling at marriage. Why?

Divorce and broken homes and dysfunctional relationships are a global epidemic.

Men have the most power to help solve the problem.

Why?

Because women are better at relationships than men. They are. A broad generalization? Sure. A stereotype that isn’t true 100-percent of the time? Yep. But mostly correct? Totally.

I think about it all the time because I’m still trying to figure things out 13 months after my wife left and I became a single guy with a son I only see half the time.

There are a bunch of really shitty things that happen in this world. I focus on divorce because I lived a mostly charmed life prior to turning 30 when I lost a job, and later, my family. So divorce represents the worst thing that ever happened to me. I didn’t take it very well. I freaked out, actually. I was so scared. And then I was shocked by the realization that I could feel that afraid. And then I got EVEN MORE afraid because now I had fear to fear as well.

Sometimes I feel like a wimp because divorce was so hard for me while other people suffer through more-brutal, less-common traumatic life events.

But then I remind myself that I’m not insane. (I don’t think.) Divorce WAS (is) hard. Very. I didn’t just make it up in my head. It’s a brutal thing. It was shitty as a four-year-old boy when my parents got divorced and I didn’t get to see my dad very much. It was shitty when I was in my 20s and my mom and stepdad (who I love dearly) divorced. And the worst thing that ever happened to me happened 13 months ago when my wife moved out because she found life with me intolerable.

And now I only see my son half the time and spend most of my life feeling regret and shame and uncertainty.

Men can lead the way on fixing this. Men can take our 50-percent divorce rate, make it our bitch, and change the world.

Changing the world is not an exaggeration.

Imagine a world where only 5-10 percent of couples divorced. How much ugliness would go away if that were true?

Men have the power to reduce instances of marital infidelity. Men have the power to save billions of dollars in therapy bills for couples, divorced individuals and affected children. Men have the power to stop feeling ashamed. We have the power to be the heroes all of us secretly or not-so-secretly want to be.

We can save the day.

How?

By being awesome at marriage.

…..

Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

…..

You Know, It’s Funny

It’s a big fucking mystery to me why guys don’t want to do this. I sucked at it, too.

Men are the most-competitive species on planet earth. Men will race a stranger in the car next to them from stoplight to stoplight. Men will argue for hours about the most-pointless things imaginable. Men make games out of EVERYTHING, and then work their asses off to win them.

You’ve all seen it (or done it) before.

So, someone answer me this. I’m DYING for the answer. Because I’m not smart enough to figure it out despite my best efforts.

Why aren’t men competitive about being good at marriage?

I’ll argue with you all night about something inconsequential, like whether that shitty movie we watched involved Timothy Olyphant or lookalike Josh Duhamel. Or worse—I’ll try to “win” an opinion-based argument that can’t be won because there is no right answer.

I’m very competitive.

Yet, I didn’t compete to be the best husband and father I could be. Not for the vast majority of my marriage, anyway.

Could there be a higher calling? How could I be so lazy? So negligent?

Men seem more interested in winning a fight against their own spouse than they are at showing other husbands and fathers how much better they can be at marriage than the next guy. (Essentially leading by example and pushing others to greatness along the way.)

Why wouldn’t you want your wife to think she has the perfect guy? To be proud of you? To brag to her friends and family about how great you are, or how hard you try?

Why wouldn’t you want to be the best father imaginable?

What matters if not that?

Just be good at marriage, assholes! If you’re not good at it, try to be! Learn how. Figure stuff out.

It’s not like it’s some big secret. We know how to fly satellites into asteroids flying by our planet at 20,000-plus miles per hour. We know how to split atoms. We know how to build aircraft. Weapons. Buildings. Vehicles. Separate conjoined twins. Transplant hearts. Clone things.

What humans have accomplished just in the past century boggles the mind. Men have played such an enormous role in all that progress.

Yet, we STILL haven’t figured out that the women in our lives don’t think and feel as we do. We STILL haven’t figured out that treating women like men will break a bunch of things. We STILL haven’t figured out why our behavior consistently makes the women in our lives respond the way they do.

In other words, we’re smart! But we’re really stupid, too.

We’re strong! But we’re really weak, too.

We’re courageous! But we’re really afraid, too.

The information is out there. There’s not some great mystery to unlocking the secrets of failed relationships. We have tried-and-true formulas for breaking up marriages and they’re happening every day. And if everyone is okay with this, then just keep doing what you’re doing.

But me?

I’m exhausted. It’s the worst shit I’ve ever gone through by far, and I just can’t believe more people aren’t committed to the cause given just how many of us are affected by it. We’re raising broken, angry kids destined to grow up and repeat our mistakes.

Plus, doesn’t it just suck? If you’re honest with yourself? Are you really happier now than you were back in the good days of your relationship?

Life’s a Game

It is.

Everything is. And I’m not trying to suggest there aren’t things we should be taking seriously. I am taking this seriously. I’m not suggesting women are a prize to be won by cheap psychological ploys. By a game, per se.

The alpha-beta thing—the “red pill” bullshit—that so many people are thinking and talking about? It’s ridiculous. Common sense and life experience tell us all we need to know about the alpha-beta dynamics in a relationship.

Women need you to have alpha traits in order to find you sexually desirable and to feel safe. That’s caveman shit.

Women need you to have beta traits so she can trust you not to treat her like shit or abandon her after procreation. That’s evolution.

It’s not an either-or situation. You must have both to win at marriage in the 21st century. If you’re an alpha, you’re not reading this, and even if you do, you don’t listen to other people because you think you’re right all the time and you’ll just learn the hard way. Probably with herpes on your penis. (Learning how to make women feel emotionally safe might make you more awesome. Life tip. Do with it what you will.)

And if you’re a beta, learn about all of the reasons the alphas get all the chicks. There are things they do which are not morally reprehensible (Physical fitness. Expertise. Confidence.) which can help you become a more-balanced, more-attractive, more successful human being.

Why Aren’t You Competitive About Marriage?

I’m talking to you, Average Guy Like Me. Guy who is a little bit lazy around the house because you feel like you work so hard at your job, providing for your family.

You watch television. Ball games. You play video games. You have your escapes—weekend hobbies you do to “take a break” from your wife or family.

In moderation, none of that is a problem.

But if you’re a shitty husband like me, you might not even know how much damage you’re causing. There are all of these things happening behind the scenes in your life and you don’t even realize it.

You might love her. You might want to stay married. But you’re procrastinating on the most-important thing you can ever do for yourself: Teach yourself how to be good at marriage.

I don’t have any answers. I tried to save my marriage. Too little, too late. She was having none of it.

But the answers are out there. And you owe it to your wife. Your children. Your parents. Your friends. Yourself. You owe it to every guy that doesn’t want to lose his family. To figure this out.

It’s a game.

A game we can win. With coaching and good advice. With how-to manuals. With patience and love and support from our partners who appreciate the effort we’re putting in.

You can get good at the game, just as you can get good at your job, or get good at your video games, or get good at some other challenge.

Heroes rise up.

The brave swallow pride.

A true competitor finds a way to win at all costs.

So, do it. Win at marriage.

The alternative is to live like me. Where your kindergarten son at school draws pictures of his family you helped destroy, and proudly hands it to you: “Look dad! It’s you and mommy and me and my leopard gecko and the dog mommy’s going to get me.”

A fake life that my sweet kid concocted for his teacher yesterday and handed me this morning. (He inherited my artistic talents.)

Be the picture, man.

Win the game.

Mommy and daddy aren't holding hands. But my son wishes we were. Please put in the work.

Mommy and daddy aren’t holding hands. But my son wishes we were. Please put in the work.

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. 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

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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