Tag Archives: Gender difference

Try Something Else

Author and food systems expert Anna Lappe said that. Probably about food systems. But it could have been about marriage.

Author and food systems expert Anna Lappe said that. Probably about food systems. But it could have been about marriage.

I was 15 minutes early for the church thing.

My ex-wife lives close so I expected her and our son to show up soon. The church thing was for him and other kids his age.

His mom and I are good about going to events together to support him. It’s the kind of thing that was uncomfortable in the early months of separation and divorce, but I now find totally okay and occasionally pleasant two and a half years later.

I asked a guy if he knew where the kids and families were sitting. He pointed to a spot on the far side of the large church. I recognized a few faces. Whenever my son and his mom showed up, we’d sit over there.

But the minutes ticked by. And everyone filing in for the 9:30 a.m. start time wasn’t my son and his mom.

At 9:26, I finally sent a text: “Are you here?”

She replied at 9:29: “Walking thru parking lot now. Where are you?”

I told her to go through a back entrance. There are two of them. I stood by one while I waited, guessing incorrectly that she would choose it. It was 9:31 and church was starting. I sent a text describing a lady passing out things our son would need to grab.

She asked again where I was sitting, but instead of answering, I told her where the kids and families were sitting together.

Because I’m divorced and feel shame easily, particularly among the school and church parents where it seems like all their families are still intact, I didn’t go sit with them, electing to wait for my son and ex to arrive.

For that same reason, I also chose not to walk across the front of the entire church in front of hundreds of people to meet them after the Catholic mass started.

Long story short: My son wasn’t sitting with his parents together like we’d planned. Mission: failed.

My non-Catholic ex-wife spent the next hour with our son who was upset because he didn’t know where I was, and was forced to do a semi-ceremonial Catholicy thing with him that she might have felt some discomfort doing.

I was a little pissed because she arrived late and perceived her lack of punctuality as a sign she didn’t respect this Catholic thing she wouldn’t have to worry about if it wasn’t for me (which isn’t true).

She was a little pissed because she felt I didn’t try hard enough to sit with them and didn’t like that me not being with them upset our son.

She lives close. So I assumed she just didn’t try hard enough. But what actually happened was they spent the night at his grandma’s house much farther away, and when they arrived with what would typically be enough time, they found no parking spots and ended up having a long walk to get there.

She thought I was being unhelpful not telling her where I was sitting, instead telling her where our son was supposed to sit with his classmates.

OF COURSE I wanted to be next to my son. But I thought him being with his classmates for this special occasion was the bigger priority.

That probably seems like a typical misunderstanding.

But that’s exactly my point in telling it. THIS RIGHT HERE, is how divorce happens. She didn’t do anything wrong and tried her hardest to make the moment special for our son. I didn’t do anything wrong and tried my hardest to do the same. With limited information about one another’s thoughts and feelings, we were both a little bit pissed at one another, even though NO ONE DID ANYTHING WRONG.

That’s How Your Marriage Ends

Sometimes he’s a drunk or an addict.

Sometimes she’s financially manipulative.

Sometimes he’s a degenerate gambler.

Sometimes she’s sleeping with a guy at work.

BUT.

That’s not usually what happens. Usually, two well-meaning people get married with the heartfelt intention to love one another forever, and raise good kids, and enjoy backyard barbecues with friends, and holiday gatherings with family, and trips together to Disney World and the Grand Canyon.

And then slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, little moments like the one I described above start to invade and infect our psyche and emotional chemistry.

She thinks he’s thoughtless and irresponsible.

He thinks she’s unfairly bitchy and never happy.

She thinks he’s selfish and that all his decisions revolve around self-interests.

He thinks he’s already changed so much of his behavior and lifestyle for her, he doesn’t understand why she’s always so dissatisfied with him.

She decides he’s never going to change and eventually grows exhausted by him. Because there are only two possibilities: He’s a childlike moron incapable of being a responsible adult partner and co-parent, OR he’s as smart as she thinks he is and cares so little about her feelings that every day he chooses all the fuck-you-I’m-going-to-do-things-my-way stuff that she’s been pleading with him to stop.

In either case, she can’t trust him anymore. He’s no longer SAFE.

Not because he had sex with someone else.

Not because he gambled away their money.

Not because he’s an unreliable financial provider or not physically capable of protecting her from harm.

But because when she bares her soul to him, nothing changes. So she must not matter enough to him. She loves him in theory, but the feelings go away. It’s hard to stay in love with the person who hurts you every single day. Because he’s no longer safe and behaves like someone who doesn’t love her, she stops being sexually attracted to him. Sex becomes super-infrequent or dries up altogether.

All this time, her husband thinks she must be a little bit crazy. She’s hormonal and imbalanced. SHE MUST BE. Because he does love her. Very much. Of everyone he has ever known or currently knows, she’s the one he chose to spend the rest of his life with. She’s the one he was willing to forsake all others for. If he’s a father, there’s a secondary layer of love and protection he feels. He loves his kids a lot and he knows how amazing she is at caring for them. He could NEVER do what she does, thus her safety and wellbeing become even more important to him.

He spent his entire life going to school and hanging out with his friends.

Many of his best memories are Friday nights on the football field, or up in the stands at basketball games, or playing golf or soccer or poker or video games, or watching MMA or boxing or pro wrestling with his friends.

He has this loyalty he innately feels to his friends. They’re like brothers. Either because they played sports together, or roomed together in college, or served in the military together, or worked together, or any other bond-forming activity guys often do.

Now, he spends maybe 5-10% of his social time with them, or participating in hobbies ingrained in him from all those years. He thinks it’s REALLY unfair that even though he gave up the vast majority of those activities and hobbies for his marriage, she still complains about what little time he spends on all those things he has always loved.

She didn’t sign up for this. Not a life where she constantly feels invalidated because he either offers a hundred reasons why she’s being an unreasonable, nagging bitch, or he totally withdraws and doesn’t communicate with her at all.

He didn’t sign up for this. Not a life where he is constantly disrespected and made to feel inadequate even though his PURPOSE in life is to provide the best life possible for his family.

She stops sleeping with him.

He starts jerking off thinking about the office receptionist or that waitress at his favorite lunch spot.

She gets huge crushes on any man who appears to show genuine interest in her because her husband hasn’t talked to her or looked at her that way in years. He really gets me, she thinks. I want to sleep with him.

He gets his kicks from the female friend or coworker who listens to him complain about how unappreciated he is at home. She feels bad and wants to help so she puts his penis in her mouth, and he justifies it because his wife hasn’t slept with him in several months. What did she expect me to do!?, he thinks.

The guilt and shame pile up for everyone.

The shoulders are just a little bit heavier every second of every day.

Quiet moments alone are no longer peaceful because those are the moments the skeletons rattle loudest.

No one feels peace or innocence anymore. Not like when you were kids. You miss it so much, and it’s amplified by watching your kids. Because they’re pure and innocent and you want them to stay that way, but you can’t protect them from all the shit. There’s just way too much of it.

You feel like you’re constantly failing them because how can a broken, flawed person like me ever expect to raise children to be great people while protecting them from every danger?

What You’re Doing Isn’t Working

Two things:

  1. The above example is a fictional hypothetical situation that is NOT autobiographical but I believe is one super-common example of how marriages break and deteriorate into tar pits of shit.
  2. Your marriage or relationship has some element of all this going on in it. The reason it’s so easy to write this off-the-cuff example that will probably resonate with a kajillion people is because I read and hear the same stories over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. It’s totally frustrating and depressing.

You’re doing the same things everyone does, and when you do that, you get divorced and often end up sad and angry and hurting with sad and angry and hurting kids. It’s a real shit show.

A suggestion: TRY SOMETHING ELSE.

Hey Husbands: Your wife is going to leave you, and may or may not start sleeping with another man and take your children away. It’s horrible, and you and your family deserve better. If your wife tells you there’s a problem, and you don’t agree because you don’t think it’s as big a deal as she does? I have bad news. There’s a problem, and she’s going to leave.

Hey Wives: You’re not wrong that your husband who pledged to love you forever is a little oblivious and thoughtless, and should absolutely be prioritizing your feelings on all matters related to your emotional wellbeing so you can feel safe in your own life and trust that it will be here tomorrow. But you are wrong about your husband not loving or caring about you. And you’re doing a piss-poor job choosing WHEN, HOW and in what TONE OF VOICE to tell him how dissatisfied you are.

If I knew how to cure marriage problems, I’d have already written the magic-bullet bestselling book of all time, and currently be enjoying the spoils of commercial success while also kind of saving the world.

Every couple, and every individual, is different. Unique. Nuanced. Special.

And when we pledge to love and cherish and serve one another for as long as we live, it is our solemn duty to figure out what we can do to make our partner’s lives better.

Guys, marriage isn’t for you. It’s for your wives. You don’t need to agree with her. You simply have to care that the person you love most feels serious pain and fear. And if you put your mind to solving that problem—alleviating her pain and fear—you’re going to be much happier.

Ladies, marriage isn’t for you. It’s for your husbands. You don’t need to agree with him. You simply have to care that the person you love most in the world feels seriously unappreciated and undervalued. And if you put your mind to solving that problem—making him feel respected for all of the positive traits for which you originally fell in love with him, and valued for his many contributions to your life—you’re going to be much happier.

My ex-wife had a choice: Be pissed because I wasn’t with them during the church thing. Or appreciate that I tried my best at the expense of my own happiness to make sure our son was getting the most out of the moment.

I had a choice: Be pissed my ex-wife didn’t make a better effort to arrive sooner. Or appreciate that she—a non-Catholic—goes out of her way to support and participate in things she doesn’t always understand or agree with.

The moment passed.

Later that night, I had to run a pair of our son’s pants to her house. We do little favors like this all the time.

The anger and frustration from earlier was gone.

Despite her annoyance, she had sent me a video in the afternoon of our son riding his bike like a big boy. I appreciated it.

Despite my annoyance, it was my pleasure to bring clothes to her that he needed for school. She appreciated it.

Gratitude.

It’s the baseline emotion necessary to achieve happiness.

And just maybe, while you’re searching for answers on what to do next? On how to get through to him? On how to get her to respect you or sleep with you? On how to save your marriage? On what else you can try?

Maybe you can start with something you learned before entering kindergarten.

Saying thank you.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Fantasy Life

Fantasy football trophy

Let the record show that I am skinnier than this guy and do not own an incredibly rad old-school helmet.

Because I’ve been busy getting divorced and stuff, I was woefully ill-prepared for my fantasy football draft weekend extravaganza these past few days.

There are only three kinds of people in the United States:

  1. Girls
  2. Men who don’t watch football
  3. Everyone else

And everyone else plays fantasy football.

For the uninitiated, fantasy football is a game in which a bunch of guys (and sometimes a super-rare, almost-mythical girl) form a league with typically 10-12 players. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.

And what we do is draft players—real-life football players—to play for our fake fantasy teams.

As their performance on the field goes throughout the NFL football season, so goes the relative success or failure of your fantasy football team. If they play well, your team does well.

Fantasy Football Tip #1 – Do NOT draft Danario Alexander. Someone did that in both of my drafts. He tore his ACL and is out for the year. When you draft guys who will not play this season, you look like an asshole.

Fantasy football is almost universally hated by wives.

Non-football fan wives simply can’t understand why their husbands would spend so much time poring over football stats and watching relatively meaningless games for the sole purpose of fake-managing a fake team of players.

Ladies, it’s not so different from how men feel about women who go to the bathroom together, or your propensity to watch television programs that exploit fake-tanned, catty, drunk women who spend every episode bitching about their husbands and/or one another.

Did I just totally nail every episode of Real Housewives of <insert random place here>, ever? I bet I did, and I have never seen one.

Let’s chalk this up to gender differences.

Boys Have Penises, Girls Have Vaginas

Men are different than women.

Always have been.

Always will be.

We have known that boys and girls are different since the dawn of pink “It’s a Girl!” balloons versus blue “It’s a Boy!” ones.

This idea was made popular by John Gray in 1992 when he published Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.

I can’t emphasize how important I think this fact of life is, particularly in the context of making a male-female romantic relationship work.

Fantasy Football Tip #2 – Every year, a running back or two comes out of nowhere to have a big year. This year’s guys are going to be St. Louis Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard.

Men, respect women. They’re not dumber than you because they don’t understand the rules of football, or why we like it, or because they tend to be driven by emotional swings more than we are. The female’s fear response, while a source of stress for you, served as an early warning threat system throughout our early ancestry, alerting tribal and other hunter-gatherer communities to danger. We might be extinct and unable to drink beer and play fantasy football without this system. RESPECT it. Understand and appreciate it. And work hard to alleviate whatever fear she feels, even if you consider her fears irrational. The chemical response to fear didn’t disappear just because we all live in relatively safe houses, condos and apartments now.

Women, respect men. We’re not dumber than you because we don’t understand why it costs so much to have your hair done when we’re unable to tell the difference anyway, or why you like shoes, or because we do the same thoughtless thing over and over and over again even though you’ve asked us not to. Like what we do with our clothes when they’re not put back in the closet or dresser, but are not yet dirty enough to be tossed in the laundry. (This is very common with guys and jeans.) Nor are we emotionally stunted because we don’t handle conflict in the same ways you do. In fact, we feel one emotion VERY strongly. And it will help us if you learn to understand it.

Shame. We feel shame. In profound and relationship-damaging ways.

If you’re complaining about something we do, big or small, we feel shame. Because it suggests we’re not good enough at something. We’re failing you. We’re not providing for you. We are inadequate. And most of the time, you don’t even mean it that way. You just want us to be better for the health of the relationship. But this is important.

You don’t want us to feel shame. Because when we feel shame, we withdraw, almost involuntarily. It is ingrained in our DNA as much as your fear response is ingrained in you.

And if you’re the kind of person who chases and engages men who are trying to withdraw, and/or interprets that withdrawing as a sign that he doesn’t love you or respect your relationship, then you’re already halfway to your breakup or divorce.

Ladies, I know that same little thing done over and over eventually adds up to a big thing.

Not putting dishes in the dishwasher. Leaving clothes laying on the floor. Not putting the toilet seat down.

That those thoughtless actions (or inaction) directly correlate to how loved and respected you feel. And that you deserve a better effort from us to respect how doing or not doing something little might make you feel unloved or like your feelings don’t matter.

And guys, I understand how frustrated and helpless and shamed you feel when your female partner has an emotional reaction to something you did without bad intentions. And turns it into “You don’t love me.”

Fantasy Football Tip #3 – Kenbrell Thompkins. Draft him. DRAFT. HIM. He’s a wide receiver for the New England Patriots. Those same Patriots who lost Wes Welker to free agency and Aaron Hernandez to a murder rap. Danny Amendola will assume the Welker position. Thompkins is going to do most of the damage outside of him until Rob Gronkowski returns from his injury. You’re welcome.

I know what it feels like to NEVER be good enough. No matter what you do, it sometimes feels like she’s always telling you that you’re not good enough. You feel unappreciated. You feel like you’ve changed so much to accommodate her wants and needs and STILL she wants more and more and more. Like she only focuses on the bad, and whatever good you do isn’t worth acknowledging.

We all need to learn to respect these gender differences. If we can all find a way to do that. To truly learn the ins and outs of one another’s differences (and it’s not rocket science! Everyone can do this.) Then we can have peaceful, satisfying, and sustainable relationships.

I believe this strongly.

Fantasy Life Tip #1 – Read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. I don’t care if you’re married, about to be, think everything is great, single and want to be married someday, or believe your relationship is beyond saving. READ THIS BOOK. Might save your life. Better yet, you might save someone else’s. No joke.

The Return of Normalcy

This is the 20-year anniversary of the fantasy league my friend started the summer before our freshman year of high school.

I won the championship last year for the first time in 19 tries. We have a little bobble-head football player trophy to commemorate the victory. It’s sitting proudly on my fireplace mantle.

To prove that almost all men have at least a little misogyny coursing through their veins, we also have a sombrero with the word “LOSER” dangling from it along with a dozen or so tampons. You get your photo taken in it if you finish in last place.

“Normalcy” is probably not the right word, actually.

I still live alone half the time, and as a single father the rest.

My son started kindergarten today. I wasn’t there to walk him in because it wasn’t one of “my days” with him.

And I’m legally single again. It all still feels so strange sometimes.

But that said, I’m better than I’ve been since Easter.

Fake Rich Guy is a memory. And that has eliminated about 90 percent of the anger and stress I have been carrying around.

And it was a simple thing like a fantasy football draft with some old friends that showed me just how far I’ve come.

We drank. We ate. We laughed. We mocked picks. We envied others. We used bad words and told off-color jokes. And we talked about football.

Normal stuff.

Stuff I used to do back when there was balance.

Pleasant diversions.

And it was beautiful to get a taste of that again. A taste of normalcy.

I’m eager for more.

And for the first time in several months, it’s more than just a hope.

It’s an expectation.

Tagged , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: