Tag Archives: Cheating

How Marital Affairs Happen: The Beautiful Stranger I Wanted to Sleep With While I Was Married

man sitting at bar drinking

(Image/Shutterstock)

Because I am sometimes a walking cliché who struggles with controlling negative emotion, I found myself sitting at a bar on a Sunday afternoon with a shot and a beer in front of me.

I’d walked out of the house after another fight with my wife who hated me. My marriage was complete shit and I’d convinced myself that it was mostly her fault. She’d suffered a difficult personal loss, and because her emotional calibration and mindset had the “wrong” settings, she wasn’t prioritizing our marriage over her sadness.

I’d been sleeping in the guest room ever since the night she told me over dinner that she didn’t love me anymore and didn’t know whether she wanted to stay married. That had been more than a year earlier.

Don’t love me, huh? Neat. Way to screw me over after I pledged my entire life to you.

Instead of exercising humility and putting all of the effort I could muster into understanding why my wife was unhappy, I felt sorry for myself and moved into the guest room.

I couldn’t explain how we’d arrived here—a depressed wife seemingly apathetic toward her husband and marriage, and a depressed husband trying simply to not suffocate. It felt like a problem that was too big for me. When things feel too big for me, I tend to avoid them.

Help always came during life’s hardest moments growing up. Maybe I thought my wife would snap out of it and we’d find a way back from this.

I’d been sleeping in the guest room for more than a year because I’m not sharing a bed with a woman who tells me she doesn’t love me and doesn’t know if she wants to be married to me anymore.

It seemed like a reasonable decision at the time if you don’t count the part where I was an adult male approaching 18 consecutive months of celibacy I’d never wanted nor asked for.

So, a Fuck this, I’m not going to sit here and take any more of this crap reaction came naturally when something she said struck me as extra bullshitty.

And then I did what all the sad and angry guys do in the movies.

I went to the bar to drink and smoke cigarettes, leaving my wife at home to care for our toddler and reflect on how her husband always puts himself first during disagreements, completely dismisses her thoughts and feelings when they conflict with his interpretation of truth, and consider a future where she wouldn’t have to put up with any of that.

I ordered a shot and a beer. And then another. And then another.

I’m good at drinking. I tend not to get sloppy drunk and stupid. Sitting there alone on a Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t planning on getting either sloppy or stupid. I was just trying to medicate enough to numb the tightness in my chest and throat.

I was probably doing a lot of staring at my phone and the bottom of my glass because I didn’t see them walk in. I only remember lifting my head and locking eyes with a beautiful brunette woman sitting with her friend on the far side of the bar.

I won’t be mistaken for a Gucci underwear model or anything, but considering it was a Sunday afternoon and the bar was mostly empty, I was the obvious choice for any women interested in meeting a guy.

After our eyes had met a few times, the two ladies invited me to the other side of the bar to sit with them.

I obliged.

Drinking alone isn’t any fun.

Her name was Donna. Donna’s friend was cute and friendly too, but I don’t remember her name. Just Donna.

She was beautiful. Educated. Fun to talk to and drink with.

But what really stood out—and why I still remember her today—is that she liked me.

She liked me. She wanted to meet someone who enjoyed cooking and weekend-afternoon orgasms which is totally a demographic of which I’m a member.

We spent hours drinking and joking and talking and laughing. Donna, me, and her friend I can’t remember.

Donna and I didn’t have an affair.

We didn’t make out, hold hands, or even exchange text messages after that. I loved my wife and absolutely wanted to be married to her for the rest of my life.

But no amount of alcohol could make me forget how horrible it felt to be home in my loveless and stressful marriage.

No amount of alcohol could prevent me from feeling the excitement of an attractive person demonstrating genuine interest in me after so many months of craving my wife’s affection and being denied it.

No amount of family values, codes of moral conduct, or of being philosophically against sexual unfaithfulness in marriage could stop this from being true: I wanted to sleep with Donna.

I did. I wanted to.

I was married. I loved my wife. We had a little boy at home. And I believed it was fundamentally wrong up and down the social and spiritual spectrum of acceptable human behavior.

Cheating = bad, is how I felt about it—no matter how painful and shitty my life and marriage felt.

So I didn’t.

But still. I wanted to.

She made me feel good, simply by paying attention to me, demonstrating interest in me, and expressing verbally and non-verbally that she liked me. All of that paired with her attractiveness was enough to trigger the feeling inside.

I wanted to.

This is How Affairs Happen

As many of you know, it was largely me—not my wife—whose behavior slowly led us down the sneakily disguised path to resentment and divorce. I didn’t know it back then while I was feeling sorry for myself and drunk-flirting with strange women at a bar. I managed to do that WHILE blaming my wife for the state of our marriage.

She doesn’t like me or want me anyway, so who cares? The rules are different now.

I really thought and felt that.

I’m telling this story because I think—save for various details unique to our individual lives—it’s a story that most people reading will understand and relate to. I think this story is a VERY common example of how marital affairs happen.

It’s not usually someone who loses all sense of reason and self-control and gives himself or herself over to lustful temptation.

It’s usually that someone in a committed relationship feels abandoned and alone and miserable inside their home and relationship. And THEN, someone attractive and interesting starts demonstrating emotional, intellectual, or sexual interest—and it’s how amazingly good that feels after months and years of being deprived those feelings that intoxicates people and lures them into submitting to the craving.

That feeling.

They want me.

A powerful drug. Appealing. Addicting.

I want more.

I never really understood how a husband or wife could sleep with someone else. But then my marriage turned to shit and I felt like dying every day, and then she eventually left and it somehow got worse.

And now I do understand.

When something hurts all the time, it’s easy to chase things that relieve the pain.

When we’re deprived of powerful wants and needs like food and water, we starve and dehydrate. Starving people will eat unspeakably disgusting things. Dehydrated people will drink desert sand if the mirage looks real enough.

When we feel deprived of love, attention, physical intimacy, respect—and then we get a taste of that elsewhere? It’s easy to want more.

Maybe if my wife had held on to our broken marriage for another year, I’d have cracked eventually. I don’t know.

I just know this: I messed up big-time in our marriage, and failed my wife and family. In 2017, I can see it clear as day. Despite that, I STILL felt genuinely like a victim. And in all my victimhood, I felt justified in letting my mind want sexual and romantic fulfillment, even if it meant wanting it from someone else. It seemed totally okay to me since my wife ignored me all the time when she wasn’t acting annoyed that I lived in the same house.

A Thought Exercise

I’m a reasonably evolved human being. Even when I was a shitty husband, I could still mostly be counted on to treat people well and make choices that wouldn’t hurt my wife or son.

I was the problem in my marriage, and STILL played the victim card inside of my head and chest.

So, what do you think the people are doing who are ACTUALLY being emotionally neglected and mistreated by their spouses?

There are women and men out there who are married to way bigger screw-ups than me.

What do you think the real victims of shitty spousal treatment are thinking and feeling when their hot co-worker flirts with them, or when their high school sweetheart reaches out to them on Facebook?

There are a lot of marital affairs happening. Too many.

There are also a lot of people who aren’t physically acting on their impulses… but they WANT to.

If your wife or husband doesn’t actually sleep with your best friend, or her work-trip partner, but they WANT to… how do you feel about that?

And we can choose to get all morally righteous and holier-than-thou about it, always pointing fingers at someone who succumbed to an affair as the reason a marriage fell apart.

Or we can tell the truth, even if it’s a little bit inconvenient.

We can talk about root causes. We can talk about all of the little things that did or did not happen over many months and years which resulted in two previously happy and in-love people becoming totally Bizarro versions of themselves who sleep with other people and feel morally justified in doing so.

It’s rarely about the sex.

It’s usually about human connection.

Affairs don’t lead to disconnection, per se.

Disconnection leads to affairs.

And then the world is a little darker and uglier than it was before.

But it doesn’t have to be.

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No, the Affair Didn’t Cause the Divorce

fractured glass

(Image/quotesgram.com)

Sometimes, a married person has an affair, and everyone screams: “Oh my God, Roger and Beth got divorced because he/she had an affair!!!”

Wrong.

And that’s bad because everyone sits around thinking: That was so stupid of [Insert Name Here] to do that. And now they’re divorced. I would never cheat on my spouse, and he/she would never cheat on me. So we have nothing to worry about.

No one is afraid of what ACTUALLY ends marriages.

Hurt, scorned spouses suffering from the fallout of betrayal hurt about as bad as humans can. Let’s not trivialize that agony, nor act like it doesn’t matter. But in the end, people burned by marital affairs fall into one of two camps:

1. Spouses Who Repeatedly Fail Their Partners Until the Pain of Feeling Neglected Outweighs Any Guilt They Might Feel From the Affair (By far, the most common.)

2. Spouses Who Were Excellent at Marriage and 100% Innocent Victims of Con Artistry

I’m not defending people who have affairs. Betrayal is a horrible thing to do to anyone. To do it to the person you vowed to love forever (and/or your child(ren)’s other parent, is next-level wretched).

The affairs make the headlines. The affairs are big and dramatic. The affairs are gossip-worthy.

So many people then think affairs end marriages, thus concluding: “If I simply don’t have affairs, I won’t get divorced!”

The root cause of the marriage failure goes ignored or undetected.

No lessons are learned. No one grows.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

NOTE: Regular readers of this blog are about to be bored with another overly wordy recap of things I always write, including the most recent post on Married Men Taxonomy. (Much of what’s below is stuff that spewed out of me while trying to write that post.)

Your time (and the time of any reader truly interested in improving relationships and marriage) would be better spent with this gem from Dr. Brent Atkinson which helps explain WHY couples struggle so mightly with communication, called “Core Differences in Ways of Maintaining Emotional Stability (Legitimately Different Ways of Navigating Life).”

It’s brilliant and important, and I’m certain you’ll recognize yourself and your partner in the words, and God-willing, maybe even find some answers you’ve been searching for.

The Everyday Divorce

Two adults voluntarily marry one another. Thousands of times per day, on average. Good people, too. They promise with all the sincerity they possess to love one another for life.

Five to 10 years later, half of them divorce and a large percentage of still-married people are sad, angry, scared, frustrated, having affairs, and often only still married because they feel trapped.

In the context of what’s at stake for all involved, and what people invest to be part of it, I’d call marriage (the institution) the biggest societal failure we have.

I also call it the biggest social crisis of our time, and I don’t think it’s even close to being an exaggeration.

The inability of human beings to functionally coexist with those they profess to love, have children with, and share homes and other resources with; and then the negative trickle-down effects of all those broken people and relationships and behavior models for the kids involved, causes damage to humanity and society that can’t be calculated.

It’s very bad.

Evil people aren’t causing this very bad thing. It’s a bunch of good people accidentally making mistakes — and because it’s not common knowledge that these things are mistakes, there isn’t enough awareness to solve the problem.

How the History of Cigarettes Can Save Marriage

Just in my lifetime (I’m 37), we’ve gone from smoking in airplanes and restaurants, and in the car with the windows rolled up and our kids in the backseat, to very little public smoking, and essentially ZERO people who don’t realize that smoking causes major health problems.

All it took was enough people giving a shit. Once a critical mass of people get it, everything changes forever.

I think the bad things that stem from broken families and divorce cause infinitely more societal harm than smoking does.

Hell, all I wanted to do in the midst of my own divorce was smoke and drink vodka.

People are getting divorced and breaking their marriages for the same reasons people used to accidentally die of lung cancer — they were making lifestyle choices based on incomplete or false information.

They simply don’t realize what they are doing has dire consequences.

So, Roger and Beth get married. Roger starts leaving a glass by the sink each night before bed. And each morning, Beth finds it sitting by the sink and wonders why he won’t just put it in the dishwasher. For a while, she puts it in the dishwasher or washes it herself.

But then other things like this start happening. Leaving shoes on the living room floor. Leaving damp towels on the bedroom floor. Leaving the toilet seat up (with the added bonus of pee stains on the toilet rim).

Beth finally speaks up.

Roger laughs it off, telling her she’s making a big deal about nothing.

The next time they have the conversation, Beth shares that it hurts her when these things happen — when even after asking him to do things differently, he continues to do it his way, regardless of the hurt she feels.

What Happens Next is Why Our Marriages End

(Note: These things don’t always manifest as husbands doing this, and wives doing that. There are exceptions. But it looks like this MOST of the time.)

She tries to explain why these things hurt her. A dish by the sink. Leaving laundry on the floor. Spending hours and hours playing video games or watching sports but being unwilling to spend 15 minutes replacing the lightbulb above the kitchen sink. For months.

Dishes and laundry and lightbulbs don’t matter to him. He doesn’t care and never will.

There’s no switch he knows how to flip to make himself care, not that he’d ever want to anyway. It all seems too minor. Life would suck if I let petty crap like this bother me!

Beth says it matters. But he “knows” it doesn’t.

The problem is not with me, Roger thinks. The problem is Beth’s emotional calibration! It’s wrong!

She lets inconsequential things negatively affect her, he thinks. And it all adds up to a simple fix: All I need to do is show her how silly and meaningless these things are. Once she learns how to feel like me, everything will be awesome.

He tells her: “That’s a stupid reason. Stop making such a big deal out of this. What are you going to do someday when something that’s ACTUALLY bad happens?”

That’s not theory. That’s pretty much exactly what I used to say to my wife every time I told her all of the things she said and felt didn’t matter.

Beth hears her husband, for the thousandth time, say her feelings don’t matter, aren’t real, are not his problem or responsibility, and that the quality of their relationship rests solely on whether she’s willing to start accepting things she finds unacceptable.

Because he has no intention of changing.

That’s when it gets scary. Because Beth realizes: Oh my God. He’s never going to change. This is my life. Where I must feel hurt and unloved every day until one of us dies. How did I get here?

She feels trapped and betrayed. She agreed to build a life with someone but he’s not keeping his promises. She withdraws.

She’s been hurt so many times, she can no longer carry on like she normally does. He asks what’s wrong. She drops the hammer: “I don’t feel like myself anymore. I feel like a stranger in my own life. I don’t know if I love you anymore.”

They start sleeping apart. Spending little time together. Hardly speaking.

He jerks off to internet porn, justifying it because she doesn’t want to touch him anyway. Beth knows it, too.

She fantasizes about the guy at work who is always so nice to her and actually listens to all the things Roger does not. This man really understands me!

When Home Stops Being Home

Everything they used to think, feel and believe about love and marriage morphs into something else.

They dread coming home at the end of the work day. It feels so much freer when they’re not trapped in that prison.

Gone are feelings of love. Gone is any sense of the values they grew up believing in and committed to when they married.

When every moment of every day hurts, and the rules people have always followed led them to the misery, then people start writing new rules.

When people feel dead inside, they just want to feel alive.

More months go by in the loveless, sexless marriage.

Beth or Roger finally crack, and take the marital affair plunge with someone they’d built an intimate relationship with, either at work or online.

That’s usually where the story ends.

But Then Everyone, Including Divorcees Themselves, Get it Wrong

“Oh my God, Roger and Beth got divorced because he/she had an affair!!!”

Everyone who knows them writes off another relationship due to heinous, inexcusable actions of the person who had the affair. No one really sees how everything poisoned and fractured along the imperceptibly slow march toward their deaths.

All those smokers were dying of respiratory illnesses, but the doctors just kept smoking their cigarettes and scratching their heads about their patients’ cause of death. Everyone stood around the funeral parlor smoking cigarettes and saying: “Frank was so young and healthy. This is so sad and unexpected.”

And for the longest time, no one ever learned anything.

It’s NOT okay that the affair happened.

But intellectually honest people recognize that the affair never, ever comes close to happening without the smaller marital indiscretions slowly eroding the relationship leading up to it.

Our marriages don’t fail JUST because we’re shitty at marriage.

Our marriages fail because everyone just keeps on metaphorically smoking and blaming the resulting lung cancer on anything and everything except the sick person’s choices.

Our marriages fail because we’re shitty at marriage, and even with a failure rate of more than half, nobody realizes it.

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The Magic Boner

Old-man-looking-sad-eating-alone-547114

(Image/express.uk.com)

Men frequently demonstrate wisdom and foresight to protect future interests.

Saving money for retirement. Physical fitness and healthy eating. Career advancement. Thoughtful real estate and home-improvement investments. Paying for insurance policies.

These things are all done in the spirit of sacrificing now, so that their future lives might be better for having done so.

And it begs the question: For those who showcase this level of forward-thinking, disciplined decision making, why not apply the same logic to our sex lives and marriage?

There are many good reasons for a man to love his wife faithfully.

There are also bad reasons.

I want to believe when guys invest money in engagement rings, and thoughtfully execute marriage proposals, and make the internal decision to swear off other women for the rest of their lives, it is their honest intention to follow through.

I think men aspire to this. Because their fathers married and loved their mothers, and now they want to live up to that same standard, or maybe their fathers DIDN’T, and they tell themselves they’ll never do that to their kids.

My good friend’s dog passed recently. A bulldog. Let’s call him H. Super-close canine pal for the past 12 years. Got him through a difficult divorce. He knew H was struggling and didn’t have much time left. But he felt mentally and emotionally prepared for it, he said.

Then it happened, and it was MUCH harder than he thought it would be.

And I think I know why. I think we have a bunch of moments in life that we anticipate and think about and imagine a certain way. Our minds almost involuntarily predict how it’s going to be, whether it’s a date, high school reunion, wedding reception, business presentation, pet death, or marriage.

But we’re kind of shitty at predicting things. Moreover, when human emotion—specifically pain—is involved, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to know how we’ll feel during this future thing. It’s hard for someone who feels good now to know how they’ll respond to something later when they’re feeling unexpectedly bad.

Men propose to their girlfriends and enter marriage with good intentions, “predicting” that it will always be and feel like it is today. We have a great relationship! She’s the one! Failing to account for all the times (and more importantly, how it will feel) when the relationship is no longer a positive experience.

The good reasons for making marriage last are obvious. But, just in case that’s not enough for you, there’s also a bad reason to make marriage last, and we should talk about it.

Thinking With the ‘Other’ Head 

Men like and want sex. Lots of it. No reason to sugarcoat it.

Don’t tell me how much women like it too. I get it. I know women also like and want sex. But it’s often different with guys. Common is the man that would walk into any busy bar on Saturday night and sleep with any (literally any) woman that passes his Would I sleep with her? pass-or-fail test which probably gets less stringent with each drink. Much rarer is the woman who would do the same.

I don’t know what the adult entertainment industry is raking in these days (I’m totally talking about pornography, by the way), but the numbers are always scary-high. The Rockefellers could have probably just as easily built their fortune on sex films as they did on oil. Those eye-popping dollar amounts have everything to do with men’s appetite for it. (Which I think is bad, and we can talk about why someday.)

Man’s general desire for sex appears to be a root cause for many life choices. How he grooms, how he smells, how he dresses, the cars he drives, the stuff he buys, the way he behaves.

Any choice a guy makes along those lines has EVERYTHING to do with wanting to be sexually attractive. I promise he’s not trying to impress his buddies.

Men totally like sex.

If you’re a woman, you probably know this already from your personal experiences. If you’re a woman currently dating online, you FOR SURE know it, because dudes online are shameless and tactless and fail to exhibit whatever little manners they might in a real-world, face-to-face scenario.

Men sometimes are dishonest with their wives (and girlfriends) about how much they crave sex, and what kinds they like. I think it happens a lot to guys who grew up in conservative families where wholesomeness was a virtue to which everyone aspired. They’re taught their entire lives that premarital sex is bad, and God is mad at them for masturbating at 13, and that sex is only appropriate with their demure wives in the missionary position IF they’re trying to have a baby. They develop weird guilt-shame complexes about sex.

Secretly, they might want to go to European sex parties, or have BDSM dungeon sex, or have a three-way with a couple Asian chicks.

Even conservative guys want infinitely more than Demure Missionary™, but might feel uncomfortable having open and honest conversations with their wives about it. If she knows I’m into this, she’ll think I’m a sexually deviant pervert and won’t love me anymore!

One thing leads to another, and some couples go years without ever having a real conversation about what they want (or need?) from their partner, sexually (and emotionally).

Sex is no longer a positive in their marriage, because even at its best, it’s only moderately satisfying. Wives fantasize about being romanced by the cute guy at work who will spend a little more time doting on her collarbone and inner thighs. Husbands turn to porn and “take care of themselves,” while they fantasize about someone else. Sometimes, their respective fantasies lead to affairs. Even if they don’t, the sexlessness is an eventual marriage killer.

When he proposed to his girlfriend, he was eager to marry her and swear off all others. She wanted him. He felt really good.

Now? Both of them are justifiably sad, confused and angry. The marriage looks nothing like they thought it would.

Sometimes that, combined with months or years of a sexless marriage, lead men to look outside their marriage for sexual relief. They like feeling wanted again. And they justify it because their wives clearly don’t want them anymore. She changed, not me! What did she expect me to do!?

Tomorrow Always Comes

That’s a really long and tedious way of saying: sometimes men cheat on their wives for a variety of psychologically sexual motivations the rest of us often don’t understand.

Whatever the reasons, we should all agree it’s bad to break wedding vows or engage in deceiving our spouses, and that some component of the cheating is rooted in a desire for immediate gratification even at the risk of jeopardizing long-term security.

And the question is: Why? Why so much effort to work hard now and save money for later in this one area of life, but a total disregard for the long term in this other area?

Chump Lady gifted me this thought (and fantastic post title) in one of her posts from last week:

“The Dan Savages of the world would excuse such unilateral decision making (as a response to what they’d blameshift as your unilateral decision to Deny Him Sex), because Sex Is Of Paramount Importance! It trumps considering your partner and his or her health! Obey the Boner! Is cheating “optimal”? No, but hey, the MAN NEEDED SEX!

“Okay, you know what, cheaters? — go for it. Please, fuck the younger woman, the Thai prostitutes, the Craigslist hookups, the slutty co-worker. Do it all in service to Almighty SEX. Make that your paramount value. And good luck later when you need someone to change your colostomy bag. When you’ve traded all your gold for a magic boner — who’s going to love you when you’re old and vulnerable? When your equipment fails? When you’ve invested all those years in the magic boner and not in meaningful relationships — then what?”

And she’s right.

She is.

Tomorrow always comes, guys. Where you’re bald or sick or fat or ugly or can’t get it up anymore.

And all those cheap orgasms you chased? When you’re alone and unloved in your condo? What good did any of it do? What was it worth?

Tomorrow is gonna come, and your wants and needs will shift accordingly. It’s totally possible dying sick and alone with herpes on your penis is a super-fun time. I won’t pretend to know.

But I have to believe growing old with someone who stuck with you through it all, and feeling grateful for her every day, and falling asleep and waking up each day free of guilt and shame, might be a preferable alternative.

With fun holidays. And grandchildren. And self-respect.

Maybe not chasing cheap pieces of ass at the expense of your wife and family isn’t something you want to avoid because of your particular moral bent. Maybe it just doesn’t seem wrong enough to you. Some people seem okay with shooting and blowing up innocent people as much as possible, forcing me to admit there is some human behavior I can never understand.

Maybe “doing the wrong thing” isn’t a big-enough deterrent for you, and never will be. Maybe all the good reasons for excelling at marriage don’t register with you.

But why not, at the very least, give it a shot in the spirit of long-term security and your future self-interests?

Why not do a good job in your marriage for bad reasons?

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Divorce is Bad, but Some Things are Worse

Escape the cage

(Image/Glogster)

Divorce is bad.

I wish it wasn’t a thing. I don’t mean Let’s ban divorce! I mean, I wish we didn’t live in a world where it was statistically likely that two people who invest their lives in one another, and share resources, and build their life’s foundation on top of this living arrangement, and often have children together, will eventually divorce and secretly wish they had never met their ex.

All of us who were married for a while privately roll our eyes at all those people who marry and divorce within a year or two. But really? They’re kind of lucky.

I was married nine years. Many other divorced couples were married MUCH longer.

And in a life where the clock always seems to tick louder with each passing year, we have a hard time reconciling the loss of that time.

More than a third of my life was invested in that relationship. And if my favorite little person on Earth hadn’t resulted from it, I’d have a hard time finding the silver lining in losing my twenties and early-thirties to an investment reminiscent of a Bernie Madoff dick in the ass.

At least I have a little boy to hang my hat on—to help justify the pain—even though my geography choices, finances and dating life suffer for it.

Childless divorcées have many more options as they take stock of their post-divorce lives, but maybe nothing of lasting value to pull from the experience.

Divorce is a necessary choice and freedom. Sometimes people find themselves married to mentally ill or straight-up evil frauds and abusers. Victims of domestic violence, sexual and verbal abuse, financial fraud, partners who endanger their children, infidelity, crime, and all the other sucky things that happen in this world, deserve the liberating choice to escape. To give themselves a new start where they can choose hope and reclaim their lives.

But I still hate it.

Divorce and all the accompanying shittiness are heavy contributors to most of the world’s wrongs.

There’s a huge (and growing) group of “progressive,” “enlightened” thinkers who believe everyone who gets married is simply brainwashed by hundreds of years of Puritanical influence, and that marriage and monogamy goes against our natural biological instincts as Eat-Sleep-Fuck mammals—that we’re all unwitting slaves to our primal urges.

I think they say that for two reasons:

1. For most people who never had to fight in wars, or stand in bread lines, or experience extreme violence or sexual assault, or lose someone super-close like a child or parent or spouse or sibling or best friend to an untimely death, divorce is the most difficult thing they have ever experienced.

I have a pretty positive disposition and, on paper, have lived a reasonably pleasant life. I like being alive and hope to stay this way for many years.

But throughout my separation and divorce, the thoughts and feelings I experienced were all so new and terrifying and unexpected. You either know what it feels like to completely lose control of yourself, or you don’t. You feel crazy. You hurt, fucking everywhere. Inside. Outside. In your chest. In your head. In your stomach. And no matter where you are. At work. Watching TV. The million times you wake up every night. During holidays. At parties. On dates with a stranger.

Everything feels wrong. And there’s no escape. We try to mask it with alcohol or sex or drugs or God or other forms of escapism. You don’t know as it’s happening that there’s no way around it. Just through it. And it feels impossibly long when you’re feeling it.

Once I realized I was going to feel that shitty no matter what I did—worse than I knew a person could feel on the inside, and no matter where I went, or who I was with—I finally understood how a person could take his or her own life. When there’s no escaping pain and horror, shutting it off somehow starts to make sense to a brain desperate for solutions. Just make this stop!

I never wanted to actually die. But I finally stopped being afraid of it. That oncoming semi-truck wants to cross over center and hit me head on? Bring it. I don’t give a shit anymore.

Once a human being has felt that, I can understand why they would be too afraid to put themselves in another vulnerable position to possibly feel it again. Self-preservation is a powerful instinct.

2. They don’t want to grow up. And I don’t blame them because I don’t want to grow up either. It’s juvenile and immature and impractical. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t a real feeling inside of us. We yearn for the innocence of childhood. Desperate for a life where all we have to do is hang out with our friends and play every day. Bottom line: Being an adult isn’t as fun as being a child. And some people (and I’m occasionally among them) are too selfish to choose responsibility over fun.

Brett and Kate McKay nail it in this excellent piece from The Art of Manliness:

“The world of children is made possible by the world of adults.

“When people say they don’t want to embrace adulthood, what they really mean is that they don’t want to be a grownup themselves, but they want to live in a world where everyone else is. They want competent, effective politicians to represent them; they want their journalists and doctors to be smart and level-headed with a comforting mantle of gravitas; they want their children’s teachers to be dedicated and on-the-ball; they want customer service to be friendly and efficient; they want police officers to be honest and fair. They want the world to be stable, predictable…so they can afford to be erratic and irresponsible. They want to be kids, but live in an adult world, where grownups are at the ready to take care of their every need.”

I think it’s possible to live in a society where most people have the smarts and know-how necessary to make their marriages an oasis of love and peace and goodness in their lives, rather than this unpleasant black hole of shit from which so many people crave escape.

I remain hopeful for a future where influencers take seriously the positive societal benefits of stable families and recognize the horribleness of divorce enough to start having real conversations about how to do it better.

All That Said, Yes, Your Spouse is an Asshole. GTFO.

The entire point of this post is supposed to be: Even though I’m a quasi-radical proponent of saving marriage and despise divorce, sometimes I’m like: What the hell are you WAITING for!?

I get lots and lots of blog comments and emails with awful marriage stories. Often, at the end of the story (sometimes people just need to tell someone), they ask for my opinion.

Here I am, a 36-year-old divorced guy hammering out pro-marriage messages on the internet. My mom and dad divorced when I was 4, and it probably fucked me up a little. My mom and stepdad divorced when I was 28, and it probably fucked me up a little more. My wife and I divorced when I was 33, and it felt so bad that suicide, while never an option (I promise), at least made sense.

I’ve never had a cause. But I think I have one now. I think this whole Hey World! Divorce is Horrible and You Seem to be Ignoring Just How Much, Which is Stupid, Here’s Why! crusade is the closest thing to a cause I’ve ever had.

It really matters to me. Because so much of it feels wasteful. Two decent people who don’t know better giving it their best shot without the information or resources they need to succeed in marriage. I think that’s most divorces. Those are the people I encourage to persevere. To choose courage. To choose love.

Two people who want to make it, can make it. 

But sometimes I get emails or blog comments from wives (and occasionally husbands) who have a different kind of story.

I’ll combine and paraphrase all of them into one, using the husband as the bad guy because that’s more than 90 percent of the stories I read: “My husband cheats on me and hits me and is never around and uses all our money to have fun and support his vices and affair partners. If he is home, he is never affectionate, doesn’t pay attention to the kids, and calls me a fat, nagging bitch (even though I’m trying to lose weight after bearing his children!) If I ever even hint at leaving him, he threatens me with money and the children. But I still love him and want to make it work! What should I do?”

First of all, everyone, ESTABLISH AND ENFORCE STRONG BOUNDARIES. Right now, please.

Secondly, it’s hard for me to understand how someone can be cheated on, physically or verbally abused, threatened, abandoned, neglected, and treated miserably by the one person in the world who made a spiritual and/or legal vow to love and cherish them forever, and still be like: “I’m just not sure what’s best! Maybe he’ll change!”

There are psychological and emotional forces at work I can’t begin to understand.

There are children. Innocent, precious little kids I’ll never meet who love their mommy and daddy just like four-year-old me did in 1983 when my father crouched down in front of me with tears in his eyes after a long day in court and said: “Matt. You are going to go live with your mommy far away in Ohio and you’re not going to see me very much anymore, but I want you to know how much I love you and that we will see each other every chance we get.”

And I think about those little kids who are going to carry all the same scars I did and probably still do. And I ask the mothers follow-up questions because trying to make it work for your kids isn’t as dumb a concept as some people think.

But then they write back and you just know. You know they have no chance.

Not because marriage is a failed idea. Not because humans are beyond redemption. Not because it’s just another example of two people falling out of love.

But because these men are not actually husbands.

Here’s how you can tell the difference:

Actions A, B, C and D cause your wife to hurt more than she has ever hurt before. She’s terrified and cries often. If you continue those things moving forward, you intentionally are choosing to inflict serious harm on her. By choosing those things, you lose her forever, and put your children through life-changing hell. By choosing those things, you lose everything.

When a husband/father figures this out, he strives to grow and change. He apologizes with unmistakable remorse. He demonstrates clear intentions to right his wrongs and makes choices moving forward that contribute to the welfare of his wife/family. That will happen 100-percent of the time.

Men like that are worthy of redemption. Tragically flawed, but good-hearted.

And then, there are the other guys.

The ones who figure it out, or already know, and continue to do A, B, C and D. Why? Because they want to.

That’s it. That’s the reason. Because they want to.

“That’s the whole thing? Those things matter more than me? Those things matter more than your children?”

And no matter what actual words come out of their stupid fuck-shit mouths, the answer is clearly “yes.”

These men (and women) have earned their inevitable comeuppance. You shouldn’t be aboard the same ship when it starts to sink.

Yes, I believe in honoring vows.

Yes, I believe in marriage and love (not the kind you feel; the kind you choose).

Yes, I hate divorce and think it is an underestimated destructive force in our world.

But sometimes, the union you’re part of isn’t an actual marriage.

And sometimes, people are in so much pain they can’t tell the difference.

We don’t want to be the ones to call it off. We don’t want to throw the time investment away. We don’t want to be the person “responsible” for ending the marriage by choosing divorce, and hurting our children, and disappointing our families, and creating dysfunction for our friends.

We want someone else to do the dirty work for us. Or maybe we just want someone to reassure us that it’s okay. Absolution that isn’t ours to give.

The moment you know your partner understands your pain and the real-world consequences of certain behaviors, but chooses them anyway?

Then. Right then. That’s when it’s time.

Run.

I wish it wasn’t a thing.

Divorce is bad.

But some things are worse.

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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

…..

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Wanting What You Can’t Have

want-need-things

Maybe we’re all doomed.

More than half of our marriages fail already. Some of the ones still intact are brimming with misery. Others are ticking time bombs.

The human condition is a real bitch.

Because sometimes we really want things we can’t have, and other times, we lose interest in the things and people we do have.

It’s a condition that creates a perpetual cycle of never feeling satisfied.

A condition that makes people want to have sex with people they shouldn’t.

A condition that causes feelings of boredom in people who have already achieved goals or acquired the things or people they want.

A condition that makes us profoundly unhappy.

Because we lose no matter what.

We either never get what we want. Or we do, and then it’s not as great as we thought it was going to be.

Like the thirsty man who drinks from the sea to quench his thirst. Only to become more and more thirsty. And die.

Humans.

So much love and beauty. And so much ugliness and savagery.

We feel compelled to acquire or are attracted to things we can’t or shouldn’t have.

Some think it’s in our DNA.

My friend’s wife is cheating on him and he knows it.

While a bunch of cute little kids played in a nearby room the other night, oblivious to the challenges and occasional horrors of adulthood, I sat in a room with several adults, including the cheater, and everyone there knew, but she didn’t know we all knew.

It was more uncomfortable than the time a girl I was sort-of dating for a few months came to my son’s birthday party (because her son and mine are friends), and within 30 minutes of the party ending, receiving text messages from both her and my ex-wife telling me how impolite and unpleasant they both considered the other to be.

At least that was kind of funny.

I know about many instances of people wanting to sleep with (or actually sleeping with) people they shouldn’t.

One time I got an email from a reader because they discovered one of my commenters was engaged in an extramarital affair because they’d written about it on their blog. The concerned reader didn’t think it was cool that this person was commenting on my posts about healthy marriages.

Fair enough, I guess. I try not to judge.

The older I get, the more I learn just how human everyone is. It doesn’t excuse reckless, abhorrent or irresponsible behavior, but I’ve grown to understand it’s all part of the deal.

Once you learn there’s no Santa Claus, it’s a lot easier to see things for what they really are.

Everyone is going to mess up. EVERYONE. No exceptions. And I think the real beauty is with all the people who try really hard, and all the great redemption stories that emerge from the messiness.

Why?

Why do we want things we can’t or shouldn’t have?

A bunch of reasons, according to people smarter than me.

A lovely human being from the other side of the world introduced me recently to Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, considered among the world’s top experts on romantic love. Fisher says that levels of dopamine—the brain chemical that makes us feel happy and sense pleasure—actually increase as we wait for something we want. Essentially scientific proof that anticipation is often greater than the thing we’re looking forward to.

Another big part? Simple curiosity. Psychologist George Lowenstein’s Information-Gap Theory suggests people feel compelled to take action to bridge the gap between what we know and what we want to learn.

An Elite Daily article cites a study published by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology which I think is pretty telling:

“Women were presented with a photograph of their potential dream man. Half of the women were told their Mr. Right was single; while the other half were told he was in a relationship. The photographs were the same across all participants.

“Though 59 percent were interested in pursuing the single guy, that figured jumped to 90 percent when they were under the impression he was already in a committed relationship.”

Since getting divorced and falling apart and putting most of me back together again, I’ve taken a greater interest in human psychology. I’m fascinated.

Why does politician after politician after politician continue to find himself in a sex scandal?

Why do most criminals tend to already have criminal records?

Why do we procrastinate?

Why are we so afraid to tell people what really goes on under the masks we wear?

We’re all just people. And we all basically want the same things. We want to feel good. We want to feel safe. We want someone to love us. We want to have fun. We want to be able to acquire things and go places. We want to succeed in our individual pursuits.

We get confused a lot. But when you break it all down, all any of us really want is to be happy.

But much of the time we do things that are counter-intuitive to those efforts.

Those politicians don’t want to hurt their families. Or their candidacy. Or disappoint their colleagues. Or friends. Or constituents. They’re just human. That’s the one thing you can always count on people to be.

I think people can be infinitely better at marriage than they are. And I think mindset has almost everything to do with it.

It’s the reason I felt like my house was a prison when I wanted more money and a bigger place, and the reason when I thought I might lose it after my divorce that I’m so grateful to live there now.

It’s the reason I used to spend hours watching television alone or playing online poker while my wife was sitting alone in another room of the house, and the reason all I wanted to do was spend every second with her the minute I realized she didn’t love me or want to be married to me anymore.

We’re a bunch of freaks. I mean, maybe it’s just me. But I really think it’s everyone.

We’re all madly in love. Then we get married. Then we get bored. Then we do a bunch of stupid things to ruin it.

I’ve made lifestyle changes over the past few months to help me look and feel the way I want to look and feel. Healthy eating has been part of that. I don’t eat ice cream and brownies and cake and drink a bunch of beer because I don’t want to gain weight or sabotage my daily workout efforts.

I want to eat Halloween candy. I want to eat lots of it. But I don’t. Because I care about feeling good more than I care about 10 seconds of pleasure.

I think people are smart enough to figure it out if they take a few minutes to mentally walk through it: When you first meet people, you feel attracted. You’d run through walls for them. On your mind constantly. But even as your love grows for them over the years, monotony and boredom and taking them for granted sets in.

It seems like a lot of people think that’s happening because they married a shitty person, when most of the time it’s just human nature doing what human nature does.

Before long, while you’re sitting around feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled in your life and relationships, other people make you feel like your spouse used to. Because they pay attention to you. Because they think you’re smart and funny and attractive. Because they want you.

I wonder why some people think if they go have a long-term relationship with this new person that the cycle won’t continue.

What goes on inside their hearts and minds that makes them believe everything will be different with someone new? Why don’t they know it’s going to wear off? That if they don’t choose to love, they’re always going to feel unfulfilled?

Isn’t having sex with people you’re not supposed to a bit like indulging in Halloween candy while trying to get physically fit?

Yeah. That’s probably not a good analogy.

Maybe we’re all doomed.

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How to Be Loyal

Like this. Only with boy thumbs.

Like this. Only with boy thumbs.

I cheated on her.

I did.

She’s engaged to be married to someone else. But still. We have a thing, she and I. It’s been going on for years.

And I cheated on her.

This is the third time.

I feel dirty. I do. Ugly on the inside.

Her name popped up on my phone this morning. A text message.

“Haven’t seen ya… hope all is well!” she wrote.

Guilt.

It just washed over me.

We had a quick back-and-forth. And agreed to meet up next Tuesday.

I’ll give her a sheepish grin. She’ll forgive me. She always does.

Then she’ll run her fingers through my hair and ask me about my life before we get down to business.

And afterward, I’ll pay her for her time.

Ugh. I’m a bad person.

Loyalty Matters

“This is a moral test of oneself. Whether or not one can maintain loyalty. Because being loyal is very important.” – Vincent Vega, Pulp Fiction

Being loyal is important. Vincent was right.

We’re faced with these decisions, big and small. All the time.

We often order from the same pizza places. Or hit up the same restaurants for lunch or breakfast. Maybe we’re regulars at our favorite local pubs.

We often exhibit loyalty to other kinds of businesses. Doctors. Landscapers. Contractors.

And to the people in our lives.

We’re loyal to our families. To our friends. To our children. To our teammates. To our siblings. To our employers. To our romantic partners.

Responsibility Matters

Sometimes, we fail other people because of our own irresponsibility.

I do this all the time. All. The. Time.

For example, people I love sometimes don’t get birthday or Christmas presents from me. Because I waited too long to get them something, or because I completely forgot.

Maybe I told someone at work I’d get something over to them by the end of the day, and then don’t. And then I make their job harder. Because of simple irresponsibility.

Maybe my son had to eat a crappy lunch at school because I waited too long to update his lunch money account online.

Maybe my snowblower sat dormant the entire snowy-as-all-hell winter because I didn’t work hard enough to get it repaired.

But sometimes we display disloyalty of sorts for purely selfish reasons.

We don’t return someone’s phone call or email because we’re so self-absorbed.

We choose a new restaurant over the old one we’ve been supporting for years, even though the old one did nothing to warrant losing our business.

We switch brands in our various shopping adventures for any number of reasons.

I cheated on this girl because I’m irresponsible.

She didn’t deserve that.

The Last Time I Saw Her

“Do you want to schedule an appointment for next time?” she said.

She knows I can’t wait too long. I’m needy. I am.

“No, I’ll just fire you a text and see when you’re available in a few days,” I said before walking out.

But she gets busy. She’s in demand.

And yeah, she likes me, but I can never be No. 1 in her life. She has other clients, too.

She’s not going to bump well-paying clients just because I want to see her.

So I went to see someone else.

And yes. I feel bad about it. I mean, it was good. This new girl got the job done. But the experience ultimately left me dissatisfied.

It just wasn’t the same.

So Tuesday I’ll go back. Back to where I’m supposed to be.

And she’ll take care of me.

Those familiar hands.

And I’ll feel balanced again.

We’ll talk for a bit afterward.

I’ll pay her for her time. She’s thoughtful and attentive.

Only this time, I’ll schedule our next rendezvous before leaving.

To be loyal.

To be responsible.

Because she deserves it.

And, honestly?

My hair just looks shitty when I let other people cut it.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

You have a couple choices. I hope you'll make the correct one.

You have a couple choices. I hope you’ll make the correct one.

She’s going to leave you.

And even if she doesn’t, she’s going to want to. She’s going to fantasize about your best friend. Or her friend’s husband. Or her co-worker who pays attention to her. Or the guy who smiled at her at Starbucks. Or the UPS man. Or me.

A 5’9” guy with a kid who got dumped this year and cries a little more than he should. She fantasizes about THAT guy.

That’s how shitty you are.

She won’t even be able to help herself.

Despite what a total self-absorbed prick you are, she still loves you and wants YOU to be the one who makes her feel good.

But you don’t.

You make her feel like shit. When she tries to talk to you, you tell her the things she thinks and feels are stupid.

When she asks you nicely to do something simple for her, you refuse.

When she asks you nicely to not do something anymore, you do it anyway.

You make her feel bad when you put your immediate wants ahead of the needs of your relationship or family.

When you don’t tell her she looks good. When you don’t tell her she makes you feel good. When you don’t show her that you want her.

That situation is unsustainable. And she’s going to leave you.

Or she’s going to sleep with someone else. And then leave you.

Don’t shake your head no. You’re in denial.

I’m right.

She will. Or she’ll really, really want to which I submit is equally bad.

Then you’re going to get divorced. Because a human being can only take so much, and sooner or later, the misery of divorce is going to seem like a lesser pain than the misery of living with you.

That one’s going to sting.

And then you’re going to be alone and your life is going to be shitty. And one day you’re going to have a really rough morning with your kids. And then the day care lady is going to come over and pick up your son and he isn’t going to want to leave you because he knows he’s not going to see you for three days and he’s going to cry as the day care lady peels him off of your leg so that he’s not late for school and you’re not late for work. And he’s going to scream “Daddy! Daddy!” as he gets carried away sobbing and you can’t help him because you can’t even help yourself.

And then you’re going to cry in your kitchen and call your ex-wife names between the sobs.

But really?

It’s going to be your fucking fault. Because you brought this on yourself.

Don’t ever forget it.

When Two Become One

When you’re a kid, your parents are the most-important figures in your life. You can barely imagine life without them.

But you grow. Mature. Gain independence.

Then you meet someone. Someone you decide is going to replace your parents as the central figure in your life. They become the most-important thing.

But now, you don’t always treat her that way. It’s because you’re a shitty husband. Don’t worry. It’s not just you. Most of us are.

You see, I know you’re not a bad person. I’m not either.

You don’t have to be a bad person to be a shitty husband. The shitty-husband badge isn’t only reserved for assholes.

By assholes, I mean guys who cheat, guys who are physically or mentally abusive, guys who drink excessively or do drugs, guys who go out every night leaving their wives to fend for themselves or to care for children alone.

You might even be nice like me. Kind. Empathetic. Caring.

But there’s a demon inside you that you can’t quite fight off. The sex isn’t quite as stimulating as it used to be. You probably think it’s her fault.

Because she used to really get your blood pumping. Back when she wanted you. Needed you. You didn’t have to ask. You could see the need. Feel the need. And you loved it. Because we all have a little Alpha in us.

And now she doesn’t make you feel wanted. She doesn’t make you feel needed.

It’s not because she doesn’t want to. She wants to. It’s an involuntary sort-of apathy she feels now. Because you robbed her of the passion she once had for you. And she resents you for it.

This isn’t the life she’d hoped for. The one you’d promised her curled up in the sheets and one another on a Saturday morning when you were young and nothing else mattered.

She can’t want you now. Because the fire’s gone. Extinguished.

And the pain and frustration of that realization is almost unbearable for her. That you don’t love her anymore. That you don’t want her anymore. That she matters so little to you now that your job, or your friends, or your video games, or your drinking, or your golfing, or your TV watching, or whatever, has taken priority over her. You’re the person she chose over her parents. The person she trusted with the rest of her life.

Because you’d rather play Call of Duty or watch reruns on the couch, than tell your wife she looks sexy, than clean up the kitchen for her, than spend a couple hours making her climax over and over again.

Right now, maybe you’re nodding your head.

“Yeah, Matt. I would rather do something for myself.”

  1. You’ll regret thinking that.
  2. You deserve what’s coming.

What Divorce is Like

According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, divorce and marital separation are the second- and third-most-stressful things that can happen to us in our entire lives, behind only the death of a spouse. But if she had died rather than leave you, you’d at least sleep at night dreaming of the good times together, rather than thinking about the new guy sticking his penis inside your wife and imagining how much happier she is now.

Do you like stress?

Divorce is bad.

Worse than I thought. And I’m relatively smart.

Especially if you’re a dad.

When you’re a divorced dad, no childless woman wants you. It’s hard enough being a parent when you love the child more than all other things on Earth. Imagine having to be a parent when you don’t love the child that much. And you’re asking her to do that after someone who lived with you for a long time, intentionally had children with you, then decided life without you was more attractive than life with you.

So, hope you wanted more kids. Because if you want to date someone, that’s what you’re looking at.

Good luck with that.

When you’re divorced, you have less money than you used to, so you can’t even afford to distract yourself from how shitty your life is now with small pockets of fun. You have to stay home where no one comes to visit you because all of your friends liked it better when you were with your wife, and none of your couples friends want to hang out on the weekend with the sad, single guy.

When you’re divorced, your kids are sad, and it’s mostly your fault.

When you’re divorced, the ONLY thing about your life that doesn’t change is all of the things you do now that push her away.

But once she’s left you, you’re not going to want to do those things anymore. Because the things you thought were bringing you happiness ended up bringing you the most misery you’ve ever felt.

When you’re divorced, everything is three times as hard, because you’re only half of yourself, and no one’s there to help.

If you do get divorced, I hope you have your family nearby. That will help. But if you’re honest with them, and if they’re honest with you, everyone’s going to be disappointed in you and miss when you were still a couple. They might even say so. That will make you feel bad and you’ll want to see your family less.

What to Do if You Want to Get a Divorce

You think it might be cool? You think it’s going to be a bunch of sex with hot strangers and parties and football with the boys?

Maybe it will. Maybe you really will like the single life better.

No one to tell you you’re making them feel bad. No one to interrupt you watching Thursday Night Football. No one to tell you you can’t order pizza from your favorite place. No one to nag you about your laundry or bathroom habits.

It will be just like high school or college again! Freedom!

You’re wrong. But you’re a guy. So you’re not going to listen to me anyway.

If you want to get a divorce, just go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. Watching Bones reruns. Playing video games. Ignoring her.

But here’s the thing: I know you don’t really want to get divorced.

If you did, you’d have already filed.

You want to stay married. I’d like to help.

What to Do if You Want to Stay Married

First, evaluate your wife’s state of being.

If she’s acting scared and needy and clingy or nagging and begging for attention, that’s a GOOD thing. That means she hasn’t reached the apathetic stage yet where she’s highly likely to sleep with other men, leave you, or both.

If she’s acting like a different person. Quiet. Reserved. Doesn’t “bother” you as much about the stuff that troubles her, I’ve got bad news, man. It’s not because it’s no longer bothering her or that she’s turned a corner and understands you more now.

It’s because she doesn’t give a shit about you, she’s learning to do everything by herself as she prepares for her life as a single, divorced woman, and she might be having sex with someone else. If she’s not, she’s strongly entertaining the idea.

She’d rather pleasure herself while thinking about your friend or her co-worker or some blogger she’s never met than have you touch her.

Chew on that for a minute.

She needs to feel something. And every night you choose TV, beer, video games, whatever, over her. She’s given you a million and a half chances. And you just keep doing the wrong thing.

It’s not okay for her to go have sex with someone else. It’s not. I’m not defending her.

But it does make sense, right? When you process it in that non-emotional, logical brain of yours?

The thing we all crave the most is happiness. You make her sad. If you didn’t have children, money, real estate and family ties, she’d already be gone.

I can’t promise that if you do any of these things, she’ll forgive you. But I do promise you’ll give yourself a fighting chance to keep your marriage and family intact.

  1. Do not say anything negative toward her for an entire day. Once you pull that off, go an entire week. If you can do it for an entire week, you can do it forever. Say kind things. Not mean things. Every day. When you mess up, apologize. Twice.
  2. Hug her daily. Mean it. While you’re hugging her, ask this question: “What can I do for you to make your day better?” You’re going to want her to say have sex with her. But she’s not going to. She’s going to want you to clean the kitchen, bathe the kids and walk the dog. She’s going to want you to do those things so that she has time to do two loads of laundry AND maybe take a bath or whatever she likes to do when she has a precious few minutes to herself. Ask that question every day with love and sincerity. Do whatever she asks to the best of your ability, without complaining about it. Do that enough times, and she’s going to want you to have sex with her. And it’s going to feel like it used to. Yay you. You’re making progress.
  3. Flirt with her. Not pervy-douchebag flirt, either, unless she takes it to the dirty place herself. Send her a nice text once or twice a day: “Thinking about you. Please let me know what I can do to make your day better,” and later “I can’t wait to see you later. I hope you know how loved and wanted you are.”
  4. Kiss her. The really nice kind. The first-date kind. Don’t try to have sex with her. Do this three or four times per week. If she makes you have sex with her one of those times, it’s okay.
  5. Take one of her “jobs” away from her. The one she likes the least. You know how she always does laundry and you always mow the lawn? How she always does the dishes and you always take out the trash? Take one of those off her plate. Ask her which one. And take it. And work your ass off to do a good job. You’ll learn to respect how challenging her life is, how amazing she is at multi-tasking and time-management, and you’ll get another taste of how much shittier your life would be as a single guy doing all of this alone. Why should you take one of her jobs away? Because she does more than you do. And if you want a successful marriage, you have to give more than you take. You give her support. She gets more time to relax and feel good about her life. You get a happy wife who wants to have sex with you. The good kind of sex. Everyone wins.
  6. If you’re not exercising, start. You don’t have to be Adonis. You just have to not be a fat slob. You might be surprised how far 50 pushups, 50 sit-ups and 60 seconds in the plank position can take you right when you wake up, and right before bed. We’re talking 10-15 minutes a day, tops.
  7. Learn about your wife. Two parts. First, read a book about why women do what they do. There are several. You’ve probably heard of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. I personally prefer How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. It’s a book that will gain fast credibility with you because the authors clearly understand why you do and feel many of the things you do. You’ll appreciate that they “get” you. And then you’ll believe them when they tell you why your wife does and feels the things she does. And if you have an empathetic bone in your body, you’ll instantly feel terrible for all of the pain you’ve caused the person you love over the years, and you’ll learn how to communicate in healthy ways. You’ll learn why you have the same fights over and over and over again about the exact same things. It’s NOT just you! It’s every couple. Everyone has the same natural instincts and tendencies and defense mechanisms that cause conflict in our human relationships. And once you learn what those are, you can navigate those waters. The “mystery” of women that you hear other guys talk about. It’s not a mystery. She REALLY IS different than you. Don’t treat her like a man. Second, learn about your wife like you did when you first started dating. Because she’s not the same person she used to be. She’s matured. Maybe she’s a mother now. Maybe she doesn’t like the missionary position as much as used to. She has different hopes and dreams than she used to. And if you help her achieve them? You can have a truly happy life and marriage. And that’s what I want for you. And for her. And for your children. And for your friends. And for your extended family.

Or you can just get divorced like me.

You can spend Christmas Day alone. You can never have sex. You can never have anyone there to listen to how hard your day was. You can do all of your laundry alone. The house is REALLY quiet when you’re folding laundry alone. You can pay all the bills yourself. Hope you’re good at managing time and money. You can watch movies and television shows alone. You can never see all of your old couples friends. You can clean the kitchen and bathrooms alone. Or you can let them get disgusting as a daily reminder of just how far you’ve fallen.

Please fight for your life and family.

Like a warrior.

She’s worth it.

And so are 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. 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

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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