Tag Archives: Angry

When One Becomes Two

(Image by Nora Whalen.)

(Image by Nora Whalen.)

Ali asks:

You talk about the bottom being pulled out from under you a lot and how to move forward – I’m wondering if you think ur ex felt the same way? Like she tried and tried to get through to you and eventually made the decision to leave. I am the one who initiated the divorce from my husband, and I felt like you describe, but was still in the relationship trying to save it when I felt that way… Just wondering if you thought about that? I felt depressed, alone, experienced the deafening quiet, etc. that you discuss, but my husband was still in the house. Think both partners feel that devastation just at different times? I read your posts and I feel bad for my soon to be ex, and then I remember that I felt that way too, just years ago… When he’s probably feeling it now… Not trying to criticize, just wondering if u think she felt how you felt as well? I started reading ur blog from the beginning, and am up to Sept 2014, so forgive me if u discussed this already. I’ve been finding your writing really helpful in this horrible process. Especially the shitty husband posts – at least now my family somewhat understands why I made this decision, because they are hugely unsupportive of me…

Yes.

I don’t think. I know. Long before I bothered trying to save my marriage, my wife was trying. Her only crime was not knowing how to effectively communicate with me. But, make no mistake, she was the better spouse for many years.

Maybe I was the worst kind of husband. Because I didn’t do that one big thing that totally ruins everything. And I’m nice enough and smart enough where one might have believed I was close to figuring it out.

But I never did.

Not really bad enough to leave. Not really good enough to love. Maybe she felt that way for a long time. I can’t be sure. But I can imagine it must have been hard being that half of the marriage. The one where you feel like you’re the only one giving a shit.

Because, yeah. It flip-flopped at the end. It’s so much harder being the one who cares the most.

The Me-First Only Child

I was an only child.

I have a couple stepsisters I only saw part of the year starting around age 7, and a “half” sister (I don’t like calling her that) who was born when I was 14.

For the purposes of personality and birth-order traits, I’m an only.

And I think that’s fine. Being an only child has its perks, but the older I get, the more I’m realizing how much my only child upbringing may have contributed to my marriage ending.

Here’s the thing: I spent my life having people tell me what to do all the time. My parents. My teachers. My coaches. And I had my bosses at work.

Once I became an adult, it became very important to me to feel liberated. To feel like I didn’t have someone telling me what to do anymore.

So, if I felt like playing online poker, or watching a football game, that’s what I did.

Sometimes, wives want husbands to participate in an activity, or to help with a project that we don’t feel like doing.

Sometimes, I’d fight. Because I don’t want to! AND. You’re not telling me what to do!

I made it a fight. She was going to learn, dammit! No one tells me what to do.

There’s not a lot of room for “I” and “me” in marriage.

There’s you. And there’s the other person. Two distinct identities. Two independent units. And when you’re single, that’s totally fine. Individualism is a nice thing.

Marriage is a union. Like a business merger. When XM and Sirius combined their satellite radio businesses, it was a lot like a marriage. It wasn’t an acquisition, where two companies continued to operate independent of one another. The two combined. Joined forces. Shared resources. And ceased to be just XM or just Sirius. They became something entirely new.

I thought marriage was two individuals agreeing to live together and share resources.

It took me a long time and a separation to realize how mistaken I was.

In marriage, X + Y ≠ XY. Not if you want it to work. If you want it to work, then: X + Y = Z. Something entirely new and different. (Let the record show that the second algebra equation here is incorrect math, but an effective visual aid. I beg your forgiveness.)

It’s We. It’s Us.

Sometimes young people don’t know that. They just think getting married is something you do in the relative near future after high school because that’s what they see everyone else doing.

We’re selfish, by nature. And it’s hard making that adjustment. And a marriage won’t survive without making the adjustment.

My wife spent about a year asking me to help her repaint the concrete floor that makes up half of our basement—the unfinished utility room with laundry and storage and a deep freezer.

No one but us ever went in there. I could not have cared less that the floor needed painted. So every time my wife asked me to make time on a weekend to help her get it done, I’d always find something better to do.

Always.

After many months of letting her frustration build, she just did it herself. The room looked so much nicer when she was finished.

And she did it all herself. Didn’t need me at all.

There were too many moments like that throughout our marriage. It’s an apt metaphor considering how the story ended.

Ali asks:

I felt depressed, alone, experienced the deafening quiet, etc. that you discuss, but my husband was still in the house. Think both partners feel that devastation just at different times?

Yes.

Your husband left you alone in your marriage. Aside from the obvious like infidelity or violence, it’s the most-often cited reason women say they leave a marriage, and a husband’s most-often committed crime.

I left my wife alone in my marriage.

Because I let her paint the basement floor alone.

Because I’d go watch what I wanted in a separate room of the house without trying to engage her to do something together.

Because I’d sometimes decline invitations to go to bed because I was too busy doing something for myself.

Because I was a selfish, me-first only child who took more than 30 years to grow up. And I still have plenty more to do.

Yes, Ali. We both feel the same thing. You just feel it first. When you’re abandoned during the marriage. To the outside world, everything’s fine. He doesn’t cheat or hit you or drink too much or gamble all your money away. He’s nice, so your friends and family don’t understand.

But you can’t take it. And you know you’re not crazy, but no one is validating all of these things that are crushing you.

The marriage train runs out of steam and stops dead on the tracks because one person can only shovel coal into the furnace for so long. If he’d been helping the entire time or started shoveling as you were winding down to keep the pace, the train would have kept moving. But he’d abandoned the job a long time ago. So when you did, too? It was over.

Because a marriage isn’t two separate things. It’s one thing made up of two things mixed together.

I didn’t get it. I was selfish. And I poisoned the one thing I was supposed to be an integral part of.

You see, Ali, we didn’t know what abandonment felt like until you chose to leave.

We never understood that you were feeling that way. It’s excruciating, and now we get it.

Selfish. Dense. Stubborn. Oblivious. Lazy. We are.

And then everything breaks.

And then everyone dies just a little on the inside.

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Marriage: A Global Epic Fail

marriage_fail_by_bytebullet-d4um8y1

Artwork by bytebullet at Deviant Art.

If seven out of 10 children flunked out of school or demonstrated a complete inability to adapt to the classroom and learn basic curriculum, everyone would lose their minds.

The top priority would be to fix this totally broken and dysfunctional system. There would be plenty of blame to go around. But the basic premise would boil down to: Ummm. Maybe we’re doing it wrong!

You think?

Education is already one of the most-important political and social issues of our time, and that’s with 90 percent of our students graduating high school or achieving an equivalent degree. About 34 percent earn a bachelor’s or higher degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

So, I got to thinking. And I came up with this: What the fuck, world!?

SEVEN OUT OF 10 MARRIAGES FAIL AND NO ONE IS DOING DICK ABOUT IT!

To be clear, 70 percent of marriages don’t end in divorce (but more than half do). According to Ty Tashiro, who wrote The Science of Happily Ever After, 70 percent of marriages end in divorce, or feature two people who resent the hell out of one another.

I’m just trying to understand! Plenty of people care about this. It’s impossible for us not to. Divorce affects 95 percent of us!

But there’s no national or global dialogue about the problem. I’m having trouble understanding why.

Maybe People are Out of Fucks to Give

But it couldn’t have started out that way. As a percentage, how many couples do you think wanted to get divorced on their wedding day? Like, con artists aside, we’re dealing in the zero range, right? Right.

So everyone REALLY gave a shit and was like “Hell yeah, let’s get married and love each other forever!!!” and then seven-ish years later were like: “Honestly? This is shitty. I hate my life. I have no more fucks to give.”

Then, BOOM. Divorce. And everyone’s sad. And all the kids cry. And we get boyfriend and girlfriend and step-parent drama. Everyone has less money afterward. It’s seriously so unbelievably horrible and shitty in most instances that despite trying hard, so hard, I can’t come up with multiple reasons why this is happening more than half the time.

There can only be one reason.

We’re Doing It Wrong

Just own it. You’re fucking shit up right now. I know you are. Because you’re a person just like me and even the really, really, really, really, really exceptional ones mess up.

If you’re part of the mythical 30 percent, you needn’t read further. I’m not talking to you. Just carry on being better at life than me and trust that I appreciate you more than you know.

The rest of you? You’re in this pile of shit with me and I’m begging you to start being part of the solution.

“Hey Matt! Why are you being all snide and cheeky today?”

Because of Scott, that’s why. Who’s Scott? Glad you asked.

I wrote a series of posts called An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands and through the magic of SEO and social media sharing, a lot of people (relative to my audience) read them.

Vol. 1 gets read the most these days, and yesterday Scott read it. I don’t think he liked it, because he said: Fuck women! They can’t be pleased! No matter what you do, it’s never good enough! They’re intolerable, crazy and unreasonable! And I’ll never be happy as long as I’m married to her but hopefully I will be happy when I’m dead!

I’m paraphrasing. But he pretty much wrote that.

Some guy. I don’t know him. Maybe he’s awesome. Might be. He’s married with kids and wants to play golf on Saturday and to be left the fuck alone about it.

Which is fine. I’m not privy to his family’s wants and needs and financial situation and how the decision to play golf as an escape from them affects everyone psychologically and emotionally.

Scott could be anyone because millions of men feel this way. MILLIONS. Just like the millions of women who are frustrated with Scott because he doesn’t understand that it’s not the golf that upsets her. Maybe she feels like he values his friends more than his family and it hurts her. Maybe she feels like the money would be better spent on needs for their children and it erodes her trust. Maybe he’s so emotionally disconnected at home that she thinks he’s having an affair and every time he leaves for five hours it triggers inner turmoil because all she can think about is him being with some imaginary woman and: how is she ever going to make it on her own after the divorce?

It goes both ways. I don’t like to write about it because I don’t like to point fingers. Pointing fingers causes defensiveness and then things don’t get better. But sure, ladies. Let’s deal with it. You’re occasionally awful, too. Maybe give this a read and tell me whether it rings any bells: I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly, And It Wasn’t Fair.

I blame dudes all the time because they’re wrong more than you. On balance, I really believe that. But, yeah. You are also capable of extraordinary shittiness, ladies.

But I’m going to trust you to own it after your other half starts owning his. Someone has to fire up the healing train, and I’m perfectly okay with men taking the lead.

Here’s the Thing

We have to fix this. How? If I figure it out, I won’t have any money problems. I don’t have any answers and I’ve never claimed to. But I know one very important thing.

WHAT WE’RE DOING NOW IS THE WRONG WAY.

You’re doing it wrong! Right now. (Not you, 30 percent!) And I just want to know what’s so hard about doing it differently. Try a new way!

“If she is not happy with all that shit then we should fucking leave them,” Scott said. Scott’s angry.

Well, Scott, I’m fucking angry. Because your way is BULLSHIT. It’s a massive failed experiment (70 PERCENT, man!) and you perpetuating it is just about the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.

Getting mad? Leaving? Complaining? Cheating? Playing more golf? Putting your kids through divorce?

That’s your grand plan? That’s the solution to all your problems?

Try Something Different

So, I wrote back to Scott. Because I want him to try something most people don’t. I want him to take the road less traveled and save his family because that’s hero shit. And I said something like this:

We live in a world where everyone is always asking: “What’s in it for me?”

People get married with the idea that their partner is going to make them happy, and so often failing to ask: “What can I do to make them happy?”

And we wonder why everyone is feeling miserable and shitty all the time.

So, again, I ask: Why not try a different tactic? It might seem a little radical. But, desperate times, and all that.

You give all you have to give. Every day. And you make your marriage about the other person. About their wants and needs and happiness.

Expect and demand (kindly) the same in return. And then maybe you get everything and more you want while providing the same to your partner.

So you have two people. Two people who give to the other more than they take for themselves.

I don’t know much, but I do know this: No one’s doing this (again, not talking to you, 30 percent!) and everyone’s getting divorced or wanting to because their relationships are broken and shitty.

So maybe my way is worth trying. And yeah. It’s super hard. All of our human being baggage gets in the way of executing this plan to perfection. I don’t think it’s easy. I just think it’s worth it.

And I’m becoming more and more convinced this is how we can get a bunch of people to wake up in the morning not feeling angry and sad and lonely and shitty and afraid all the time.

This is how.

Give more than you take.

I did it wrong. And everything broke.

And now you’re doing it wrong, too.

But you don’t have to.

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