Tag Archives: Emotions

Divorce or Stay? Using Direct vs. Circumstantial Evidence to Decide

Evidence

(Image/Behance)

There’s direct evidence that I was a crap husband and that my ex-wife made the right choice in ending our marriage.

I left her alone and crying in the hospital the night our son was born. Fact.

When given the choice, I often chose myself and my preferences over her and her preferences. Fact.

During disagreements between us in which I felt confident in my beliefs, I treated her as if she was wrong, and as if her ideas or beliefs were stupid. Fact.

Because my ex-wife is female—and in my life experience, I’d seen mostly women handling the lion’s share of household tasks and childcare like laundry, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, decorating, and basically everything related to caring for babies and small children—my general behavior and state-of-being in our marriage was one of passively leaving most life and household management tasks and decisions to her. Men go to work, mow the lawn, take out the trash, and do the “big” jobs! Women do the rest, and it’s totally fair. Even if that’s not, and never has been, my actual belief, my actions—the direct evidence—reflected that. Fact.

My ex-wife is an attractive woman. Always has been. I’m a red-blooded male with the same primitive sex drive and cliché wants and interests as any male caricature depicted in cinema, music or advertising—or the same as most of the guys reading this, or the ones you know. Despite that, there were various phases throughout our marriage where my behavior communicated sexual disinterest in my wife. Fact.

Every Yin Tends to Have a Yang

Of course, there’s also direct evidence that I was—if not a superstar husband—a pretty good or decent one.

[NOTE: Let’s pause for a minute to acknowledge that we’re wading precariously into a neck-deep pool of relativism, and that the “direct evidence” referenced here—defined as “evidence that directly proves a fact”—probably is not ACTUALLY direct evidence in a legal sense. I’ll appreciate whatever latitude you give me here.]

I loved my wife. Fact.

I (given my then-limited understanding of what healthy relationships are made of) tried to put my wife first. In most situations in which I didn’t perceive Right vs. Wrong to be a factor, I went along with whatever she wanted. If I wanted to buy something expensive and she didn’t, we didn’t buy it. If she wanted to spend more money on something than I would prefer, I tried to be cool about it. I wanted her to drive the nicer of our two vehicles. I was happy to hand over to her all of the money I earned at work. We fortunately were never faced with such a terrifying scenario, but I believe with all of my heart I would have taken a bullet for her or otherwise chose certain death if it came down to my life or hers. Fact.

I was pretty nice (though I now understand it wasn’t, and could never be, enough). Friendly. Fun. Polite. Courteous. You know, in all of the surface-level ways we can be those things with people (even though there’s a Continental Divide-sized difference between “common courtesy” and the type of thoughtful, mindful courtesy one must have to foster love and healthy relationships.) I am what I believe most people would generally describe as a “good person.” Fact.

I am not a criminal or con artist. I did not try to manipulate my wife or otherwise knowingly behave in ways that would bring her harm so that I might benefit. When I asked her to marry me, and when I said “I do” 13 months later, I was quite sincere in both desire and intent. Fact.

I wanted our marriage to last the rest of our lives. I wanted to have at least one more child. And I wanted her to feel loved and wanted and secure, and for us to grow old together watching our grandchildren play in the backyard. Fact.

The Evidence of Feelings

None of us are perfect. Not as people. Not as couples. No marriage is perfect. I grew up learning that marriage was a commitment for life—a sacred one. Something spiritual. Something much bigger than our individual wants.

There will always be good and bad. And some might say my marriage was par for the course, and that there was sufficient direct evidence that I was a good guy and husband, and that my wife was selfish and/or “wrong” for choosing to end our relationship.

Every day—including right at this moment—wives and husbands are evaluating their marriages and lives, taking in all of the information available to them which is guiding their thoughts and feelings regarding the health of their relationship.

When people are deciding whether to stay married or get divorced—both of which are scary and stressful to think about in a suffering marriage—all they have to go on are their feelings and beliefs.

Evidence. Facts. We like to think they add up to what we KNOW. But what we “know,” is nothing more than our collection of beliefs, which may or may not be accurate (because we’re wrong a lot).

But the most powerful and important thing is our FEELINGS—which is probably a hard thing for all of the Spock-like emotionless Vulcan logic cyborgs out there to accept.

I’ve always been someone who felt. But it never made sense to me to let our emotions be our Life Compass. If we always acted on our emotional impulses, we’d all be road-rage monsters, child abusers, divorced or never-married, unemployed, and all kinds of other less-than-ideal things.

Facts aren’t feelings!

Facts AREN’T feelings. But the hard truth is, in real life, it’s how we feel in any given moment that tends to dictate what we do, what we think, how we speak, treat others, and ultimately guides most of our decisions. Ask anyone in the funeral industry how much money they’d lose if their customers weren’t highly emotional while grieving the loss of their closest loved ones when facing expensive death-related financial decisions.

For the same reason we will fork over tens of thousands to honor our deceased loved ones even though most of them would rather us spend the money on something more objectively practical, we will uproot our entire lives by ending our relationships because of our beliefs about our spouses and how those beliefs make us feel.

Circumstantial Evidence Doesn’t Lie

One of my childhood best friends—an attorney—said that to me yesterday.

He didn’t mean that circumstantial evidence can’t be misinterpreted or misused to paint a false picture in a court of law. He meant that direct evidence can sometimes lie in ways circumstantial evidence cannot.

But let’s not confuse courtroom procedure with what most of us experience in our daily lives.

Neither O.J. Simpson or Casey Anthony were found guilty in court of the crimes they were charged with. But the circumstantial evidence in both cases is so strong that I’m pretty confident speculating that almost everyone you know assumes the guilt of both accused murderers.

Circumstantial evidence is evidence that indirectly proves a fact. It requires someone to make inferences based on incomplete information. The guilt or innocence of people are decided both in and out of court all the time based on circumstantial evidence.

It is circumstantial evidence that ultimately convicts us in our relationships and foretells their imminent demise.

When a wife discovers her husband looking at porn, she might feel like her husband thinks she’s ugly or as if he wants whatever’s on that screen more than he wants her, even if it isn’t true.

When a wife wants to have sex with her husband, but he declines, she might feel rejected as if he’s no longer interested in touching her when the real truth is he got himself off in the bathroom 20 minutes earlier fantasizing about her, and now physically can’t, even though he wants to.

When a wife finds a dirty dish sitting next to the kitchen sink, she might feel as if her husband doesn’t respect her since it appears he—at best, thoughtlessly; and at worst, intentionally—left another chore for her to do.

When a wife wakes up on her birthday, or a holiday, or her wedding anniversary to discover her husband did nothing—no plans or gifts to acknowledge it in any way—she might feel abandoned and unloved since it might appear that he doesn’t value her or their marriage enough to have put any thought into celebrating the occasion which might feel particularly meaningful to her.

I BELIEVED I was a good husband. I can point to all kinds of direct evidence to demonstrate that.

But it was the circumstances that found me guilty in her mind of being a shitty husband.

And that’s exactly what I was—a shitty husband.

I wasn’t a bad guy. I was just bad at marriage, and didn’t have enough respect for her, myself or our marriage to identify the problem and work hard to turn things around until too much damage had already been done.

The jury of one found me guilty, and sentenced me for life.

Not because of a bunch of things we can touch, taste, or see. But because of circumstantial evidence.

Because of the stuff we can feel.

And for everyone who values lasting marriage, we should work harder to recognize just how much that matters.

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We Put Everything Ahead of Marriage and Then Wonder Why It Fails

downward spiral staircase

Let’s play a game.

Serious multiple-choice quiz:

1. What educational subject interests you most?

A. History

B. Math

C. Science

D. Love, Sex & Relationships/Marriage

2. Ignorance in which subject matter will negatively affect the greatest amount of people?

A. Military History

B. Physics of Sound

C. Creative Writing

D. Love, Sex & Relationships/Marriage

3. The lack of demonstrable skill in which area of life will negatively affect the greatest amount of people?

A. Drafting

B. Web Development

C. Trigonometry

D. Love, Sex & Relationships/Marriage

I about had an aneurysm when I learned that divorce affects 95 percent of the population. That seemed high. But the numbers bear out.

Here’s the breakdown (in the United States): 54 percent of adults (18 and over) are married, 20 percent used to be married, and 21 percent desire marriage.

Name another social issue (so, not the environment, energy policy or our food supply) that affects 95 out of 100 people. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

I’ve complained about it before, because I sometimes complain: WHY ON EARTH DOES IT SEEM LIKE NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS?

Listen, I know there are a million books and websites and therapists out there working on marriage and relationship counseling. That’s not what I mean. I mean, we get so uptight about trans fats that they’ll be illegal nationwide by 2018. We’ve made it weird and political every time we have to choose between saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.” There’s a blood donation van that parks outside my office building several times per year as part of a coordinated nationwide effort to grow the nation’s blood supply.

We care about childhood obesity. We care about getting our pets spayed and neutered. We care about reducing plastic bag use because sometimes they kill wildlife when not properly disposed of.

And that’s fine. You’re not going to hear me suggest we shouldn’t have those conversations. I just can’t figure out why helping people develop relationship skills and educating them on HOW to foster and sustain healthy relationships ISN’T a thing society seems concerned with.

It’s insane. It’s lazy. It’s irresponsible. It’s foolish. And it’s creating generations of dimwits procreating other dimwits who will perpetuate the dysfunction and fuckery.

I started thinking about this because of an insightful comment by @rougedmount on a previous post, where she points out that when wives feel like mothers to their husbands (picking up after them, managing their calendars, reminding them of things they’d forgotten, etc.) they also lose sexual interest in them.

Makes sense to me. Parenting isn’t sexy.

Something interesting happens after that, and if everyone who was married knew it—or better yet—if everyone who was going to marry someday knew it, our marriage success rate would skyrocket.

A Marital Downward Spiral

Sex is very important to a husband. I don’t know why we are wired as we are sexually. I only know that we are. I also know that a man having sex with his wife accomplishes many things for the husband: 1. He feels sexually satisfied. 2. He feels desired by his spouse. 3. He feels chemically and emotionally more connected to his spouse.

Thus, NOT having sex with his wife has an opposite effect. He feels sexually dissatisfied. He feels unwanted by his spouse. He feels chemically and emotionally disconnected.

Usually, bad things happen afterward.

Maybe he starts jerking off to internet porn all the time to feel satisfied. Maybe he starts flirting with someone at work to feel desired. And maybe because he feels chemically and emotionally disconnected from his spouse, he thinks he can justify inappropriate marriage behavior because She doesn’t want me anyway!

Emotional intimacy is very important to a wife. I don’t know why women are wired that way emotionally. I only know that they are. I also know that a man connecting emotionally with his wife accomplishes many things for her: 1. She feels safe, respected and loved. 2. She feels desired by her spouse. 3. She feels comfortable connecting sexually and WANTS to, because she genuinely desires the man who makes her feel these things.

Thus, NOT connecting with his wife emotionally often causes her to feel unsafe having sex with him, or simply so hurt and turned off, that she can’t want to.

The art of seduction between the two genders is so dramatic that most men never figure out that what works for them (her lying naked on the bed with a “do me now” look on her face) would almost NEVER work in reverse.

Seducing one’s wife and/or her initiating sex usually begins with her feeling cherished, respected and validated, so that she can feel emotionally connected, so that it feels good to have sex. I’m not female nor a wife, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t feel good to sleep with someone when it feels like your partner doesn’t like or respect you, which is how many wives feel.

Life tip, guys: Your wife doesn’t want to be your on-demand human masturbation device.

So, she’s craving emotional connection, but he’s not connecting emotionally. In fact, he’s withdrawing because she has cut off his sex supply, which feels like prison since he promised never to sleep with anyone else. More importantly, he doesn’t know that thoughtfully asking about her day and listening to her answer, or keeping his laundry picked up off the floor, or putting his dirty dishes in the dishwasher is DIRECTLY correlated to how bad she feels and why he’s no longer sexually active.

Because even though he seems like part ape, he actually craves emotional connection, too. He’s just weird and man-ish and doesn’t verbalize it effectively. His solution for recreating emotional connection is to have sex because that’s what makes sense to him. But she can’t or won’t. Because she no longer feels safe in her own life, and she often feels used, like he’s only interested in her when he wants an orgasm.

She rejects him because there’s no emotional connection (which produces a physical connection).

He rejects her because there’s no physical connection (which produces an emotional connection).

And they continue to push one another away and grow further apart, eventually seeking physical and emotional connection in new places, because Screw Him/Her! They don’t want me anyway!, which they both feel about one another at the same time for very different reasons.

This happens every day.

The wife feels emotionally and physically abandoned in her marriage, and she will eventually leave because it hurts too much, and/or she will find herself emotionally connecting to a man who isn’t her husband showing her the kind of attention and interest she craves (though his motivations are typically physical).

The husband feels physically and emotionally abandoned in his marriage, and will eventually have a meaningless affair or start sleeping with someone from another broken relationship after they connect emotionally while complaining to one another about the state of their marriages.

And if she just understood that when he absent-mindedly left the toilet seat up, there was no disrespect or malice in the action; and if he just understood that taking whatever life steps are necessary to NEVER leave the toilet seat up will help his wife feel emotionally connected, which will then improve his physical relationship, creating a cycle of fostered love and connection rather than a slow descent into divorce and shittiness; millions of people’s lives would benefit from all the good that comes from great marriages, and from the elimination of all the bad that comes from divorce.

This affects 95 percent of everyone.

So, I ask again: Where’s the social outrage and call to action? Where are our parents and educators fighting for our children to learn the life skills and truths about relationship psychology that will help make things better?

Because I’ve spent a lifetime hoping problems would magically go away on their own.

As it turns out, they never do.

…..

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I Don’t Feel It ‘Til It Hurts Sometimes

Attention

Wives and girlfriends get upset with their husbands and boyfriends because it often seems as if the men in their lives are emotionless, insensitive, oblivious jerks.

It’s because men tend to deal in facts and logic and generally believe saying “I love you” (and meaning it) is evidence enough that they do.

And that’s because for most of human history, man’s brute strength and physical prowess was really important to a community’s survival and it put men into positions of power, where they were given unique opportunities to lead groups and organizations.

Thus, being factual and logical was believed to be “best” or “right.”

Women often deal more in emotion and intention than what men consider logic or fact.

That’s why she sometimes gets upset because he’s going out with his friends AGAIN. She’s crying and angry. And he thinks she’s being a little “crazy” or “unstable.” But he relents, cancels plans with the boys, and spends the entire night really being present with her.

Maybe he makes her dinner. They have a couple drinks and laugh about some funny thing going on in their lives. They watch a show or two together. Hold one another close. Spend an hour or two in bed making a beautiful mess of things.

And then the next night? She ENCOURAGES him to go out with his friends. Because yesterday she was having a bout of insecurity. And today, she’s not. And she genuinely wants him to be happy.

So she encourages him to go even though it’s the exact opposite of what she said before.

And it makes ZERO SENSE to her husband or boyfriend. He secretly thinks she’s a little bit insane. Depending on the type of guy he is, he might tell his buddies about how uneven she can seem from one moment to the next. Other guys will nod, because they’ve been there, too.

“Bitches be crazy,” one will say.

The men think they’re “correct.” They think the way they are and behave is the “better” way to be and behave. They’re often waiting for the women in their lives to recognize the “obvious” truth that it’s better to be emotionally steady and stable and factual and logical.

They figure: “She’s totally smart! Sooner or later, she’ll outgrow this and think like me!” As if it’s some massive flaw in the female genetic code.

That’s in large part because it took until 2010 before there were more females in the workforce than males, and more females earning university graduate degrees than males.

Most men haven’t figured out there even are fundamental chemical gender differences between males and females, let alone that one is neither more “right” nor “better” than the other.

I don’t like this phrase, but: They simply are what they are.

These are broad generalizations. Not ALL men fit into all male stereotypes, just like ALL women don’t fit into all female stereotypes. We’re all our own, individual, customized blend of this and that.

But the above scenario probably seems familiar to most people, even the ones thinking: That’s not how I am at all. We’ve all at least seen it before.

I like to think I’m more evolved than the average male, but it’s probably a lie I tell myself that my ex-wife and any future partner I may have would tell you is a massive pile of bullshit.

I cook and read and like to talk, and think a lot about male-female relationships, but the latter is only true because divorce was really horrible and I want to get smart enough to never do it again AND maybe in the process help someone not go through what I did.

Men have emotions, too. Most of us suppress them because for many years society taught us that it was “girly” to show vulnerability, and being “girly” is BAD, because men are better than women.  (I believe many men, and SADLY, a lot of women still believe this. But it’s improving all the time.)

Burying the Lede

That’s the phrase newspaper folk use to describe when the ACTUAL news or point of your story isn’t the thing you lead with in the first sentence of your news story (otherwise known as the lede).

And that’s what I’ve done here because I felt like it, even though it’s bad writing and storytelling. This isn’t the first time I’ve been guilty of that.

“I don’t feel it ‘til it hurts sometimes,” is a line from my current favorite song and I hear it a lot because when I fall in love with music I tend to play it over and over again.

The lyric makes me think about my tendency to live complacently until some unpleasant threat or consequence forces me to make changes.

I don’t know how many men this applies to, but in my experience, what happens to me is usually something that happens to millions of other people too because all humans are human and we all feel the same stuff.

Your Husband or Boyfriend Isn’t Changing Because It Doesn’t Hurt

For years, my wife would tell me about things I was doing that upset her and hurt her feelings. Over and over again, these “little, insignificant” conflicts would arise where she would be sad or angry with me because of something I did or said.

And because in my “logical” brain, it didn’t make sense, I “knew” she was wrong. And since she was wrong, I didn’t have to change!

About a month after the worst thing that ever happened to her, happened, she looked at me across the dinner table after I offered a “What’s wrong?” and told me she didn’t love me anymore and didn’t know whether she wanted to stay married.

That got my attention.

I don’t feel it ‘til it hurts sometimes.

My first reaction was not to run out and figure out how to be a good husband. It was to pout and whine and act like I was getting screwed over even though that’s exactly how she felt for a really long time.

But after a while, I did want to figure it out.

After a while, I started putting in work. Because even though my behavior might have suggested otherwise, my brain and heart absolutely ALWAYS believed that my marriage and family were the most-important things in my life.

I’ve written a series of posts titled An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands. There are 11 of them now. They get read quite a bit these days. It’s now how the vast majority of people find this blog. Sad and angry wives write to me: “How can I get my husband to understand all this!?!?”

And I don’t know what to say.

I don’t have the first clue what it feels like mentally and emotionally inside another person.

I only know what happened to me.

My wife was honest. She said: I don’t love you and I don’t know whether I want to be married to you anymore.

And it hurt.

A lot. Then a year and a half later we got divorced.

And now I write things about being a better husband. A better boyfriend. A better partner.

I write things about being a better man.

I don’t know how to reach him. The man who just doesn’t get it. Because that guy was me.

I’m afraid the truth is this: Most of us have to learn the hard way.

We don’t feel it ‘til it hurts sometimes.

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