Tag Archives: relationship

The Myth of the Nagging Wife — It’s Invisible Burns That Actually End Marriages

Burn victim with medical bandages

Sometimes we’ll find it’s the husbands, or men, in relationships whose invisible wounds aren’t properly cared for. Just not most of the time. (Image/RawStory)

We sometimes hear husbands complain about their stupid, bitchy, nagging wives.

Some of them probably are married to petty, unkind women who’ve been plotting all along to make their husbands’ lives miserable. Statistical probability and whatnot.

But that’s NOT who most women are.

Most women said yes to a man’s voluntarily offered marriage proposal.

This isn’t arranged marriage in medieval times. This is one adult voluntarily asking another adult to give up being single together to form a partnership and live together faithfully for the rest of their lives, share property and finances, and maybe have children together.

Maybe some people don’t mentally grasp the parameters of a typical marriage agreement, but I feel confident in speculating that most do. Most people know what they’re signing up for, and then they sign up voluntarily.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where we go wrong, but Dr. John Gottman and the Gottman Institute identify husbands (I’m paraphrasing): “failing or refusing to accept their wives’ influence” as the No. 1 reason for—and predictor of—divorce. For those who don’t know, the Gottman Institute is to marriage and relationships what FiveThirtyEight is to sports and political election data, with Dr. Gottman playing the role of Nate Silver.

The math is the math, and math is truth. Math doesn’t have an agenda.

Statistics can lie, but that’s not what we’re dealing with here, no matter how uncomfortable it makes all the men who want to be “right,” or want to “win,” or want to perpetuate the narrative that it’s not the common male behavior that needs adjusting, but it’s actually the female response to it that’s “wrong” or “broken” or “inappropriate.”

Husbands vs. Wives and the Battle of the Sexes

One of the most common complaints I get from male readers on several blog posts is the (totally false and misguided) accusation that I’m advocating that men be submissive in their marriage and do whatever their wives want.

It annoys me, but I can’t reasonably expect everyone to have read everything I’ve ever written (and remember it) to know what I think and am advocating at any given time.

What I struggle with most is when people frame the husband-wife relationship as adversarial. As if two people should agree to marry, and then spend the rest of their partnership jockeying for control in the household.

What about that arrangement sounds appealing, or as if there’s a chance for any sort of happy ending?

Advice: DO NOT MARRY PEOPLE WHO WANT TO CONTROL YOU. And make sure you rule out that possibility BEFORE you marry them. Also, maybe don’t try to control others. That’s one effective way to avoid being a thundering asshole.

One novel idea is to actually LOVE the human being you are vowing to marry for life.

If we can start the conversation with LOVE assumed to be a foundational element in this arrangement, then I feel like there’s a chance to understand one another.

Love is generous. It’s kind. It’s unselfish.

Love is not about winning. Love is not about power and control. Love is not about who’s right and who’s wrong.

Love is freely given in action, word and spirit—a conscious choice that is constantly being made—to support and communicate to a spouse or relationship partner how much value they have.

So, when talking about marriage, I begin with three assumptions:

  1. Two people loved each other and wanted to get married.
  2. Both people knew what they were promising—a lifetime of faithful love and support.
  3. Both people entered marriage with the best of intentions, setting out to have a good marriage that looked and felt like however they idealized it in their heads throughout their dating and engagement.

But Then the Invisible Burns Start to Hurt

There are various things men often do (or don’t do) that cause women to feel shitty in their relationships.

These behaviors HURT wives and girlfriends. They cause legitimate pain, the same as if you were punched, kicked, cut, stabbed or shot. A thing happens. Someone hurts because of it.

And it’s in THIS MOMENT that marriages die along with countless relationships that never reach marriage status. 

This painful, damage-causing behavior isn’t happening because men are systematically plotting to upset their partners. It’s happening because many men don’t realize that these things hurt their wives. These men don’t realize it in most instances because that same situation DOES NOT hurt them.

It’s hard to understand how something we KNOW doesn’t hurt could hurt someone else.

Which is why I like the second-degree burn analogy.

If someone places their finger on our arm, it doesn’t typically hurt us. “Brace yourself, I’m going to lightly touch your arm with the tip of my finger,” is potentially a sentence that’s never been written or spoken before.

However, what if we have a second-degree burn that’s an open wound and THEN someone puts their finger on it?

That shit will feel like a horror show and we’ll want to stab them.

Point being: One event can occur and be experienced in radically different ways by two different people. In relationships, that often breaks down as husbands or boyfriends tending to do things one way, and wives or girlfriends tending to do things another. It’s not gender-specific, nor is it universal. It’s simply what we can observe while looking at vast amounts of data, and I think most of us can see it and feel it in various parts of our personal lives.

The Change We Need is for Men to “See” the Hurt

I don’t think men are bad. I don’t think men are intentionally hurting their wives or girlfriends.

What I do think is that wives have invisible second-degree burns, and then husbands and boyfriends are touching painful burn wounds that they have no idea are even there.

Their wives say, “Oh my God, that hurts me when you do that. Could you please stop?”

And then the confused and startled husbands reply, “All I did was touch your arm! Why don’t you make a bigger deal out of it? It seems like you’re always finding something else to complain about.”

And then she says, “When you touch my arm it hurts me.”

And then we husbands say: “God, that’s stupid. It doesn’t hurt when people touch your arm. You’re being crazy and overly emotional. Again.”

What happens next seems logical enough when you truly see this hidden, misunderstood and poorly translated interaction play out.

She feels unloved, neglected, abused, abandoned and unwanted by the person she loves most and who promised her forever. She explains exactly what’s hurting, and he tells her she’s wrong and making it up in her head.

He feels as if he’s being treated unfairly, receiving unjust accusations, not being given the benefit of the doubt, nor credit for all of the good he does, and all of the internal and external changes he’s made to be his wife’s partner for life. He ALSO feels as if his reality and intentions are being unfairly and inaccurately misrepresented.

Like clockwork, the relationship breakdown is inevitable unless there’s some kind of magical empathy breakthrough. Usually, there’s not, which is why MOST relationships fail. Most dating couples never make it to marriage at all. The ones who do, divorce half the time. And many of the couples that don’t divorce are hopelessly miserable and wish they weren’t together.

So guys, this isn’t about feminism or trying to emasculate men.

This is about ACTUALLY SEEING the mechanics of how relationships really are, and then adjusting accordingly even if it’s “inconvenient.”

We can do that by NOT getting married. And we can do that by NOT saying or doing things that hurt the people we claim to love and promised to love and serve for life.

It’s clearly difficult to see and effectively communicate this thing that too often ends our relationships—this inability to “see the hurt.”

But, when you finally do see it, you realize quickly enough that it was never very complicated.

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8 Christmas Gift Ideas That Can Save Your Marriage

christmas gift

If you’re a married man, celebrate Christmas and don’t already know what gift you’re giving your wife, I’m inclined to make two assumptions about you:

  1. You can benefit from this blog post because you are probably a me-focused shitty husband like I was; and,
  2. You probably don’t know (and maybe even actively deny) there’s a problem with your marriage.

This post is my gift to you.

Because if you’re the kind of guy totally bewildered as to why your wife gets upset with you OR are the kind of guy who secretly knows he’s shortchanging his marriage and would like to step up his efforts to be a better man, these eight gifts to your wife will change your entire life. In a good way.

“What’s the catch?” You got me, smarty! There’s always a catch.

You might think of gifts as something you give your wife Christmas morning, and then move on, not thinking about them again. These are not those kinds of gifts.

These gifts require you to change yourself, perhaps radically so, every day for the rest of your life. And maybe that scares you because it sounds hard, you don’t like change, and you already have enough difficulty in your life.

Here’s my promise to you: Divorce is more difficult and introduces more life change than these behavior changes will. The substantial reward you feel inside you because you stepped up as a better husband and father—a better man—and the reward you feel when your wife begins treating you differently in return (with genuine admiration, appreciation, and sexual desire), will more than compensate for whatever you might feel you’re giving up in the process.

All wives want thoughtful, meaningful gifts from their husbands.

All wives who are mothers crave attention from adults (especially from their husbands), and also quality time for themselves.

In a way, these gifts are just as much for you as they are for her. Because when you give these gifts from a place of unselfish love and sincerity, she will regularly feel as if you’re providing the thoughtfulness and meaningfulness she seeks. She will feel like you are paying attention to her and she will have more time to herself. Afterward, your wife will love you, respect you, trust you, appreciate you, and want you more than you’ve ever felt before.

I promise it’s true.

8 Christmas Gifts For Your Wife That Will Change Your Lives Forever

1. Six-Second Hugs

Yale Law graduate and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk Gretchen Rubin figured out what every smart person does sooner or later: Feeling happy is a human being’s top priority. You might not think so. You might think making money or having sex or achieving goals or having fun is. But stop and think for a second. What you actually like is how it feels when you have fun, get money, orgasm, or achieve goals.

Chemicals produced by your brain are what make people feel good. The three linked to feelings of happiness are: oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. There are many ways to naturally (and artificially) get your brain to release these “happy chemicals.” One of the easiest ways is to simply prolong your hugs for a few seconds. Hugging for six seconds (not four, not five—SIX!) releases these chemicals in your body, and that of the person you’re hugging. Make that person your wife. Six-second hugs. Every day.

2. Don’t Be a Dick

You are sometimes a dick to your buddies. It’s cool because they give it right back to you. It’s a cultural male-bonding ritual, and by giving one another shit, we show our friends they are accepted into our tribe. Once in a while, we stumble on a girl who likes this too. Often, she grew up with all brothers, has mostly male friends, or is naturally wired for “tomboy”-ish interests. We like to call these women the “cool girls,” and we wonder why more women aren’t like that.

The answer is the same reason some people have brown skin while others have light skin, or why some people have different hair and eye color: Human beings have naturally occurring chemical and genetic differences outside of our control. So. STOP PUNISHING YOUR WIFE FOR BEING DIFFERENT THAN YOU.

When you make snide, critical, biting remarks, or call her names, you likely make her feel really shitty. This might confuse you because it’s cool when you do it with your friends, and she should totally understand that by now!

Read this, and NEVER forget it: Your wife, through no fault of her own—just like people with different skin and eye color—feels TOTALLY different than your buddies on the golf course, in your fantasy league, or at the office, do when you crack on them.

Use positive, kind, loving language toward your wife. Always. Especially when she’s upset and you really have to man up and swallow your pride to do so.

That’s what heroes do. The right thing, even when it’s challenging and inconvenient.

3. Prolonged Eye Contact for Compliments and Saying “I Love You”

I have a son in second grade. Maybe you have kids also. Sometimes, when you talk to them, they don’t hear what you’re saying because they’re playing a video game or building something with Legos and thinking: Maybe if I don’t answer and just keep doing this, mom and dad will shut up and go away! You know? Just like you do when you’re playing Call of Duty or watching football, and your wife interrupts from the other room.

It really pisses you off when your kid isn’t listening, so you give them the Dad Voice® or put their face between your two hands and sort of force them to hold your gaze. You do this so that you can be confident they are fully hearing and understanding what you’re saying.

You need to do that same thing (minus Dad Voice®) when you say “I love you” to your wife, or pay her a compliment.

Maybe you can take her hands in yours, or put your hands on her shoulders while you hold her gaze. It’s IMPORTANT that she knows you really mean the words coming out of your mouth.

“No. I don’t think you’re hearing me. Please. Hear this. Feel this. Know that I mean it: You are [insert special thing about your wife here], and I love so much that you [insert special things she does here]. You’re awesome. You’re beautiful. I couldn’t love or appreciate you more,” you say, in your own authentic and sincere way while maintaining eye contact.

Every day. EVERY day. When you say something kind and meaningful to her meant to convey your love and appreciation, make the extra effort to make sure your message is being properly received.

4. Send Flirty Texts

There are a million reasons your wife might not feel sexy or desirable. And some of those things are NOT your fault. But as a man who vowed to faithfully love her forever, in good times and bad, it IS your responsibility (and hopefully, your pleasure) to make your wife feel good. Remember the “Your wife is different than you” speech from before? That applies equally to her sexual chemistry, and your life will be INFINITELY better sexually if you figure this out. (This book, even though it’s largely about dating, will be a great resource for you, but make DAMN SURE you openly communicate with your wife about why you want to read it.)

One of the ways your wife isn’t different from you sexually is that she likes feeling pursued. Desired. Wanted.

When you get one of those random and inconvenient Tuesday-afternoon erections at work because of the lunar cycle or whatever? That’s an excellent time to let her know you’re thinking about her, physically.

She likes knowing that, instead of working diligently, you’re hard and achy at the office thinking about her. Tell her: “Babe. I’m seriously trying to work here, but I can’t stop thinking about that noise you make when my tongue slides up your inner thigh. I’ll understand (and behave like an adult, even though I’ll secretly want to die) if it doesn’t work for you tonight. But I’d really, really, really like to hear you make that noise later. And maybe do a few other things.”

While I’d never insult you by suggesting I know how to make your wife feel good physically, I might be able to help you with the text-flirting part. If you want to talk about it, fire me a note.

5. The Next-Best Thing to “I Got This”

“I got this,” followed by you completely taking care of something big or small so that your wife doesn’t have to, is the sexiest thing you can possibly do for her.

But you’re a guy, and your energy levels can swing wildly, and it’s really hard to be sexy 100-percent of the time, so here’s the next-best thing you can do: Ask your wife every morning (or every weekend about the entire week): “What can I do today that will be the biggest help to you?”

It’s VERY IMPORTANT that you recognize how bullshit it is that you’re asking this in the first place, so you might want to apologize while doing so. Simply asking this question demonstrates to your wife that you mentally default to a position of believing life management for your entire household falls to her. That you expect her to be “in charge” of organizing everyone’s lives—from keeping the schedule, maintaining the calendar, running errands, to making sure your kids have what they need for school, or your pets are properly cared for.

It’s an unfair burden your wife inherited by virtue of both of you being raised by mothers who did this without openly questioning the unfairness of that responsibility balance.

Maybe next year, you can graduate to “I got this,” and begin anticipating your wife and family’s needs without someone telling you what needs done next. In the meantime, asking your wife with heartfelt sincerity and appreciation for all she does, how you can be most helpful to her will enhance the bond between the two of you in ways that will reward your marriage, and all those connected to it, for the rest of your lives. Also, when she says “please vacuum the living room” or “fold the laundry” or “put the dishes away,” you actually do those things as well as you possibly can without complaining about it.

6. Listen to Her Without Trying to Fix Anything Unless She Asks For Your Help

This is VERY hard for me. I don’t know if it’s because of my ADHD brain, or my Y chromosome. But I have a very, very, very difficult time silently and patiently listening to someone tell me a story I didn’t ask to hear because I’m naturally disinterested in the subject matter, or because it has no impact on my life and seems pointless, or because I feel like I have an easy solution for the storyteller that will both end the discussion AND solve their problem.

This goes back to that whole she’s-totally-different-than-you stuff. Your brain and body are telling you that you don’t care. She’s talking to you about something. And, no matter what, you can’t care about it. You don’t choose to be disinterested. You just are. You can’t help it.

But THIS is your gift to your wife.

And the only thing you need to do? Look her in the eye and pay attention to what she’s saying. Here’s the reason to care about her otherwise-mundane story: Because she cares. This MATTERS to her. Maybe the story does, maybe it doesn’t. But the physical act of sharing the story, and having someone respect her enough—especially you—to pay attention without judgment or invalidating her feelings or opinions, is an activity that really matters to her. Being present with her and listening to her while she discusses these things you don’t care about makes her feel good in ways you can never understand because you are not like her. But so long as you understand that it DOES make her feel good, and that you like to make her feel good, you can practice patient, attentive listening with your wife.

As a nice bonus, doing so will make her want to play with your penis much more, and divorce you much less.

7. Unleash Adventurous Intimacy

This one’s tricky.

You might not understand this, because you might not understand (or believe) that your wife is unhappy. Maybe you don’t ask her about it, and you don’t make her feel safe enough to tell you. So you both just wear masks all the time, pretending in your own house and to the outside world that everything in your marriage is great, even when it’s not.

You might already have an adventurous sex life, not realizing your wife doesn’t feel comfortable, safe, trusting, or emotionally connected to you. If your wife feels alone in her marriage—the most-common marriage crime men make without realizing it—she starts questioning whether you love her, wondering whether you’re still attracted to her, and whether she can trust you (with life’s responsibilities as well as sexual faithfulness). These insecurities make her feel afraid. When she feels alone and afraid, she loses her sexual interest in you. If you want to give her the gift of sexual adventures, I hope you’ll trust me when I tell you that the path to uniquely adventurous orgasms begins with her emotional wellbeing.

But maybe you’re already an awesomely thoughtful guy. Maybe you were raised in a totally conservative, traditional, small-town environment like me. And maybe you just naturally feel uncomfortable having unfiltered and totally honest conversations with your wife about sex.

That’s fine. Just be brave enough to ask her about it. To assure her that you will not judge her no matter what she says.

And devote your attention to those things.

There is almost no limit to the depths this can go, and everyone’s psychological bent is going to dictate their particular interests. The only thing I know for sure is that if you’re completely honest with one another (and it’s the first time you have been), you WILL discover something new and exciting that can turn a random Wednesday night into a mind-blowing adventure.

Can we have too many of those?

Exactly.

8. Eliminate Behavior That Makes Her Feel Inadequate

Comedian Louis C.K. has a hilarious bit about how being behind the wheel of a car brings out the very worst of his personality. That’s when he’s the worst version of himself, he says.

To illustrate the point, he tells a common story of someone on the highway merging into traffic in front of him, and him yelling from inside his car with the windows up: “Hey! Fuck you! You worthless piece of shit!” Which he points out is a horrible thing to say to another person. “That’s someone’s son!” he says, before describing how that same thing would be much less likely to happen in an elevator. If someone cracks their elbow into yours while getting on an elevator, Louis C.K. says exactly zero people would ever put their face right up to the other person’s and say: “Hey! Fuck you! Worthless piece of shit!”

It’s funny because it’s true.

It’s important because this applies to your marriage.

No matter how “cool” you think your wife is RE: your physical attraction to other women you see on TV or at a restaurant or wherever, I promise you, she never wants to feel feelings of inadequacy.

Pornography is psychologically damaging to your mind and your marriage in ways you don’t fully understand and will likely deny. Someday, we can discuss those things.

Meanwhile, pornography and even just your ogling of women, or careless comments to your friends when you didn’t think she could hear you about how much you desire some woman that’s not your wife, WILL give her feelings of inadequacy. That her physical beauty and overall sexuality is not good enough to satisfy her husband. It will make her feel bad. When your wife feels bad, your relationship suffers. (And also, your wife feels bad! It’s healthy to want to fix that.)

Stop jerking off at your family computer or with your phone in the bathroom. Direct that sexual energy toward the actual human being who, if you treat her right and make her feel good, will provide an actual vagina for you to enjoy.

Also?

Stop saying things around her suggesting you wish you could have sex with other women. That a stranger you know nothing about somehow appeals more to you than the person who sacrifices daily for you. It’s a dickhead thing to do.

Besides, she probably watched Magic Mike and wanted Channing Tatum and/or Matthew McConaughey and/or both at the same time a lot more than she does, you, and thoughtfully never mentioned it.

But if you start giving these gifts to your wife? Every day?

Generously? With authentic, heartfelt sincerity?

Tatum and McConaughey wouldn’t have a chance.

Because you will be all she could ever want or need.

And since you already promised her to be just that, why not get started right now?

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Hypocrisy, Dating & God Hating Me

This_happened_LOGO_S

(Image/thishappened.podbean.com)

So, I met a girl.

She seems to like me.

It’s weird, because that never happens. (Yes, that’s hyperbole.)

But it’s also not weird because when it DOES happen, there’s always some obstacle, major inconvenience or unusual challenge attached to it. Always.

It’s The Matt Way®. Things can never just be normal and easy. Not with me. Luck might have something to do with it. Maybe ADHD, too. But all signs seem to point to this unfortunate probability: God must totally hate me.

I’m an asshole. Let me put that out there. I don’t mean that I’m mean and treat people poorly. I just mean, in a 50-percent-serious, self-deprecating sort of way, I’m an asshole.

Why am I an asshole, you ask?

Because I met her on an online dating site, which you might consider strange, if not impossible, since I swore off online dating more than two years ago and have constantly railed against it as shitty and horrible and unnatural and couldn’t POSSIBLY have an online dating account! And that makes total sense that you’d think that.

If it’s any consolation, I promise I’m really embarrassed about it, and that it’s not my first time being kind of a hypocrite.

A few weeks ago, because I’m a shitty planner, I let a weekend sneak up on me without making plans. One of my friends and I were going to go out for a few drinks. But then he got sick and needed to stay home. And then, because all my local friends are married and/or have children and don’t live in Asshole Single Guy World where smart planning has forsaken these lands, everyone already had full calendars and I ended up spending most of the weekend alone in my house, and that was that. I’d had enough.

Some people like being alone. I’m one of them, sometimes. I was an only child, and I love writing, reading, and poker—all things best accomplished alone or among strangers you don’t really want to talk to. Creeping up on three years removed from my marriage, I’m totally fine being alone.

The flipside? I’m ridiculously social. If I could ONLY choose company or solitude for the rest of my life, I would choose company for sure. Maybe even a lot of people. A lot of people is good. I like energy and connectedness and togetherness and all that shit. Very much. It’s life-giving to me. I’m at my very best in a room full of 40 people I know and love who brought along 10 strangers for me to befriend.

But there I was, watching HBO and football, and writing from my couch two weekend nights in a row, and I was done.

This is bullshit, I thought.

Match—the online dating site I used for a few months when I wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating two and a half years ago—had sent me one of their crap emails telling me someone had winked at me, or whatever.

I texted my friend: “Remind me again that I hate online dating and don’t want to do it.”

Huge mistake. He’s super-smart and I usually listen to him. Even worse? He is more than a year in with a new girlfriend (an excellent one) he met through Match.

I don’t remember what he said, but it felt like a two-handed shove toward the vortex of suck, and I fell in.

Also, I want to deflect some of the blame.

I used to whine here that no girls liked me on Match.

But then I read my profile that was still live from spring/summer 2013. It sounded EXACTLY like an insane, insecure, whiny, crying mess of non-sexy loserness had written it.

Good God, this is bad. No wonder that shit didn’t work.

I rewrote it.

I can’t be certain it’s the best-written Match profile of all time, but there’s a fair chance it’s the best in my 50-mile radius. Girls liked me. I talked to some of them, but there was nothing there. Even though it wasn’t a rejection festival to the degree it was more than two years ago, it still sucked ass.

I’ve said it a hundred times: I’m either someone who passes your primal attractiveness test, or I’m not. And if I do? You’re probably going to like me because, cocky as it may sound, I don’t make it hard. I’m not the smartest, funniest, wittiest, sexiest or most charming, but I have enough of all that stuff to make it work in real life.

But not so much on Match. And that’s what I hate about online dating. It takes away the one thing I tend to excel at: one-on-one interaction.

Even though I’m kind of a hypocrite about online dating, I’m not a hypocrite WHILE online dating. I try hard to be fair. And it’s perfectly fair for women to want to date tall, never-married, childless men. Those aren’t unreasonable preferences. I have preferences, too.

Match would be amazing for casual dating. If it was all about dating simply for the sake of having something to do. And I’d be all for that if I thought legitimate platonic friendships might result from doing so. But it doesn’t work like that. And if something can’t end well, I have a hard time investing in it. Even when I really like the other person and believe it could go somewhere if things were different.

People hear me say that and assume I’m wife hunting.

Not true.

I don’t crave marriage. It’s scary. I don’t even crave a committed, monogamous relationship. That has never been my objective, or even my hope.

My only hope?

To meet someone so amazing that I would want those things with her.

I’ve met some great people since becoming single. Under other circumstances, things could have gone differently.

But no previous encounter had a viable happy ending. Single parents put their children first. And when your loyalties are (appropriately) with your children, it often makes single adulthood more challenging.

Not that this thing now is less challenging.

She lives three hours away, even though she used to live in my town, because God’s hilarious.

Some people don’t think that’s a big deal, but I intentionally don’t date people who live even an hour away. Want to know why? Because that’s three hours, roundtrip on a wintry Tuesday night for dinner and a movie, and that’s some serious bullshit.

I don’t do it because I’m selfish and I want to actually see and spend time with the person I like.

I don’t do it because I think, fundamentally, long-distance relationships are unsustainable.

So, here’s the deal: I’m breaking a ton of my dating rules on this thing. But I’m not compromising ANY values. Not one.

Whether it was radical differences in life philosophy or personality, insurmountable geography, or a bunch of really bad timing, a fatal flaw in any potential relationship tended to rear its head immediately.

But not this time. Even with all the rule breakage. Not this time.

She lives three hours away.

She’s an insanely busy person, personally and professionally, which keeps communication comparatively infrequent.

She’s a mother of three. (I had a no-more-than-two-kids rule, because I already have enough trouble with time- and money-management.)

She might be a fraction of an inch taller than me. (Classic, right?)

Any of those four things would filter you out of my online dating preferences if these hadn’t been particularly unique and unusual circumstances, quite possibly orchestrated by a God intent on smiting me. “Hey guys, check out this dude, Matt. I kind of hate him. Watch this!”

And then, fa-la-la-la-la-la! Alakazam!

This thing.

And it’s way too early to know what “This thing” is, but I insta-turned off my Match account after meeting her and that felt like something.

And it’s way too early to be scared, but it still feels scary.

And it’s way too early to make judgments or predictions about anything, because really? Who knows anything, ever?

I only know that it’s different.

No matter what happens next, this time’s a little bit different. Because I’m still single. But I’m not still available. And that feels like something, too.

Wow, two and a half years feels like a lifetime ago.

Wow, this is crazy and different.

Wow, I’m going to hit Publish.

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The Best Relationship Advice I Know: Give More Than You Take

I feel certain that if one of them dropped their pretzel, the other would give them theirs. (Image/Huffington Post)

I feel certain that if one dropped a pretzel, the other would give them theirs. (Image/Huffington Post)

There are three common reactions to my ‘An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands’ series, and I hate two of them.

Reaction 1: “Atta boy! Good for you for owning up to your part in the divorce and trying to help others.”

I agree because it’s true. I accept praise for my efforts to accept responsibility for the mistakes I’ve made. Mistakes without consequence rarely teach us anything useful.

Reaction 2: “You take on too much, Matt! It takes two to tango! It’s not all your fault! Stop being so hard on yourself!”

I disagree with that one because I’m not being hard on myself. I’m telling you the truth: If I had behaved daily—in good times and in bad—as a husband must to love his wife and thoughtfully tend to his marriage, there’s no way I would be divorced right now, and my son would have both parents at home, which I think is a big deal. Exactly zero people benefit in life from pointing fingers and casting blame for their life circumstances.

Reaction 3 (always from men): “This is bullshit! No matter how hard we work, or what we sacrifice, it’s never good enough! We go to work to pay for their house and their car and their hair and their nails and their jewelry! We give them everything we have! We make them orgasm in bed! And then when we want to have a drink with our buddies or play golf or watch a ballgame, we’re somehow failing them because they’re not getting enough attention? So you’re saying we just have to do whatever they want all the time, or we’re shitty husbands? Fuck them. Fuck that. Fuck you.”

The problem with this is that it rings true for many men. I think most husbands—justified or not— feel this way at times in their relationships.

No, I’m Not Saying ‘Do Whatever They Want’

Some people seem to think I’m telling husbands to submit to their wives’ demands. Let’s deal with that for a second:

Your wife should not be DEMANDING anything from you in your marriage except for you to respect and abide by her personal boundaries. All other “demands” are totally inappropriate.

If you got married without knowing your wife’s personal boundaries, it should come as little surprise that your marriage is shitty and unpleasant. You promised a lifetime to someone you didn’t actually know, and before you were intellectually or emotionally mature enough to make the promise.

If a husband or wife wants to bark orders at one another in their bedroom while they engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual role play, I assume that might build trust and intimacy, and prove good for the marriage in the long term.

But any man or woman who acts like a tyrant, making commands and abusing partners (physically, verbally or emotionally) when they don’t obey them? They can eat dicks.

So many people find themselves in relationships that aren’t partnerships, but constant power struggles as one partner jockeys for position and authority over the other.

“I work harder!”

“I make more money!”

“I’m the man of the house!”

“This household would fall apart if it wasn’t for me!”

Marriage can’t be like a business partnership where one partner owns 70% of the company, and the other owns 30%. The person with the majority share ALWAYS has final say. It makes sense for a wife or husband investing heavily in their marriage while the other doesn’t to feel like their opinions should carry more weight.

In marriage, both partners need to be fully vested in the union. Most people think of it as a 50-50 partnership. But my mom said something to me once, and I knew right away it was true: In a marriage, 50% isn’t enough. Only 100% is. Successful marriages happen when two people both give 100% to the other. Not meeting halfway, but going all the way to one another. A 100-100 partnership.

Give More Than You Take

According to Adam Grant’s business book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, there are three styles of interpersonal dealing:

Takers – They intentionally take more than they give. Self-oriented.

Matchers – They give and take proportionally to what they are given, and their willingness to give is conditional. Others-oriented when it will benefit them to do so because it will help them.

Givers – They always give more than they take. Others-oriented.

All three styles can be successful in the business world, though “taking” will earn you little goodwill.

Through anecdotal evidence backed by mountains of research, Grant concludes that being a giver yields the greatest business success (but also writes about under what conditions giving is a failing strategy).

I think it applies to every transaction we have in our lives. At work. In our spiritual lives. With our friends.

First we give. Then life gives back.

Our emotions are insanely powerful.

We say and do shitty things to the people we love because we are hurt or angry. It’s so easy to say “Oh, just be unselfish and generous to your partner all the time!” But it’s really hard to do. A million things unrelated to our partners preoccupy and stress us out. Pressures at work or school or with family members or with some other thing we’re super-involved in. We forget. We’re thoughtless. We NEVER think: “Gee. What really shitty and thoughtless thing can I do today to make my partner feel horrible and cry?”

Yet, even with the proper give-more-than-you-take mindset, you’ll probably upset your partner more than you’d prefer.

Being a person is hard. It just is. But you have almost no chance of having a satisfying life if you’re not at least generally aware of how to succeed in a committed relationship.

The only responsible choice is to actively seek to give more than you take, every day.

Even if you’re not a natural giver, what’s the downside of giving unselfishly in your relationship knowing YOU will benefit from doing so? Hint: There isn’t one.

Consider it.

Every day, you try to give more of your love and generosity and time and energy and patience to your partner. And maybe you’re like: “Whoa! That sounds draining and unsustainable!”

But wait.

Every day, your partner is ALSO giving more of their love and generosity and time and energy and patience to you.

You are now in a relationship where you’re trying to out-give one another every day.

You both feel good because you’re giving generously to each other. Unselfishness always feels good.

You both feel good because you’re both GETTING everything you need from each other. Getting stuff always feels good too.

I think this is what love looks like. And two people practicing it daily will live a fulfilling, regret-free forever-kind-of marriage together showing friends, family and children the blueprint for sustainable relationships along the way.

I know it’s hard. I did it totally wrong.

I’m selfish and defensive. So any time a future partner might tell me how I’m failing them, my first inclination might be to justify whatever I did and try to convince her why I’m fine and how she’s really the one with the problem. You know, instead of apologizing and meaning it like one does for the people they love.

But if I was in a relationship in which giving more than we take was the very foundation on which we were built, in which that was the code by which we lived, I think we’d figure it out.

I think we’d get through anything. I think everyone living that way will.

I wonder what’s stopping us.

Maybe we could start today and then everything would change.

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Do You Want to Know the Secret, Too?

Woman whispering in man's ear --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Everyone wants to know the secret.

But it seems like no one knows it, and if they do, no one’s telling.

The question haunts me now. Because people keep asking and I never know what to say.

“What could she have done?”

I never knew enough to ask that question during my marriage. In the beginning, I was too immature and oblivious. I figured marrying my girlfriend just meant things would always stay the same, and we were both simply agreeing to stay together, forever. Like forever boyfriend and girlfriend.

When you’re young, people tell you marriage is hard. That you really have to work and communicate and forgive.

But when you’re listening to it, you politely nod your head, but think to yourself: These well-meaning people don’t know anything about us. We love each other and are totally committed. They don’t see how we are together when no one is around. They don’t know how we feel on the inside. We’ve got this.

We hear them. But we don’t hear them.

People keep asking: “What took you so long to figure it out? What more did she have to do?”

I keep telling wives that their husbands don’t know how they actually feel. That they don’t know how much it hurts or actually understand that something does. I don’t think it matters how many times you’ve told him, or how many times you wrote it in a letter. I don’t think it matters how many times you’ve cried or begged him to really HEAR and compute what you’re saying.

You think he’s listening and not caring.

But really he’s listening and trying to think of a solution to your problem he doesn’t understand before mentally moving on to something else.

HE DOESN’T KNOW.

“Is he stupid?”

No. The way he works on the inside is unique to being a man and everything you think you know about the human experience and how he sees, and thinks, and feels about the world around him is probably wrong because you’re applying your female experience to him, which is the equivalent of typing Portuguese into a French-to-English translator and wondering why nothing makes sense.

He is DIFFERENT than you. Not worse. Not better. Different.

You’ve repeatedly tried to explain to him how you feel, and to ask for changes, but nothing changes. He doesn’t hear you.

And when nothing changes, it hurts really badly because you think: I’ve begged, pleaded and cried for his love. And he won’t give it. He doesn’t care about me.

That is a logical conclusion to come to if he was female and wired on the inside to experience life similarly to you. But he’s not.

He’s different.

Men abandon their wives emotionally without realizing they’re doing so, and then their wives who feel totally rejected and unloved, slowly detach from their husbands and sometimes find another person to emotionally attach to. There are always men out there willing to compliment lonely wives and make them feel special. She felt dead inside. But this guy who paid attention to her made her feel again. Made her feel alive. And she’d forgotten what that felt like.

So she fantasizes about romance and (yes, guys—it’s true) sex—really hot sex—with this new guy.

The marriage is now at the breaking point. I think every marriage (and dating relationship, much sooner) hits this point once or twice, at least.

If the husband continues to be emotionally detached, she will leave him, sleep with the new guy, or both.

She NEEDS to feel safe. Like water and oxygen. She’s probably wrong to think the new guy’s penis can provide that safety for her, but chemically it’s the natural and obvious response to her life experience. She was so eager and happy to get married because the idea of a life of loving commitment gave her the security her heart desired.

And now she believes her husband has checked out and abandoned her. And it makes her feel fear. Debilitating, panic-inducing fear. And now she has to run from this unsafe place and find a new safe place.

Men have needs, too. Just like water and oxygen. Just like their wives’ inherent need for security.

Men have a need to feel like they are succeeding at their pursuits. They often pour a lot of themselves into work, or athletic competition, or video games, or some other hobby in which there are gains or victories to be had.

Men have a need to feel like their wives believe in them. Men crave purpose—a reason for existing. And when his wife believes in him and appreciates his successful pursuits and is proud of him for his victories, he thrives.

Men have a DEEP aversion to shame.

When a wife feels afraid, she often tries to talk to her husband in a way one of her girlfriends might understand, but he can’t. She feels like she’s talking to a wall. He feels like she’s telling him what a bad husband he is and that he’s not good enough and that she regrets marrying him. So he feels shame in a profound way, and retreats further, because he needs to feel like he’s succeeding and when he has to have “a talk” with his wife, he’s not succeeding.

He thinks she’s emotionally unstable, because he doesn’t understand what changed. His best effort to understand her while applying man-logic to the situation yields: Wow. She’s a little bit crazy. She always says I do these things that upset her, but I’m not doing anything wrong.

It’s because he literally can’t comprehend a reaction like the one his wife just had. The only logical conclusion for him is that she’s sort of nuts. How could she feel like I don’t love her?

It’s because he has yet to learn his wife isn’t like him. He wasn’t using the right translator.

It won’t be long before they’re both having affairs or fantasizing about a different life because this isn’t what I signed up for!

Divorce is a safe bet.

It’s the same story, everywhere. Every divorced or struggling couple tells a tweaked version of the same story.

And so I write.

And sad and angry wives (and sometimes, husbands) find my stories and think: Wow. This guy’s been right here. He gets it.

Yeah, I get it. I spent many nights crying like a child. It was kind of pathetic. But it’s also what happened.

My wife left. I lost half my little boy’s childhood. Those precious minutes that go too fast even when you’re sitting there staring at them, willing the clock to slow. That got cut in half.

All because neither my wife nor I knew how to speak one another’s language.

But more importantly than that, I didn’t know until too late that this dynamic even existed. That EVERY couple was experiencing this same, relationship-killing cycle.

“What could she have done differently that would have made a difference for you?” they ask me. “What could she have said or done that would have kept it from ending in divorce?”

And I want to answer. It’s a great question. But there aren’t any words.

Because I don’t know.

I don’t know whether there is an answer.

But that has to be the mission now. Finding that answer.

Because it will save marriages, families and lives. I know it.

And if you’ll help me figure it out, we’ll start changing the world together.

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The Eureka Effect: How to Save Marriages

(Image courtesy of iai.tv)

(Image courtesy of iai.tv)

I was crying all the time and sleeping in the guest room. It was a real shit show.

My marriage was dead, but I didn’t know it yet. If I had known it, I would have never experienced the Eureka effect, which might be the most important thing to ever happen to me.

I was reading How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It (which I’ve made no secret is the most important book I’ve read on relationships), and page after page was explaining myself to me. Explaining my wife to me. Explaining my marriage to me.

It was my “Aha” moment. My “Eureka” moment. The moment I truly understood how radically different my wife and I were experiencing our marriage. The moment I could finally see things from her perspective.

I finally understood why all of our fights started and ended the same way. I finally understood why they were so predictable. I finally understood the most important thing there is for a man to know about his wife in a marriage.

She felt alone and abandoned. And that made her feel afraid and like she couldn’t trust me.

I finally understood the most important thing there is for a woman to know about her husband in a marriage.

My wife was not attacking me or telling me I wasn’t good enough. Just like my wife wasn’t actually alone nor abandoned.

It just felt that way.

She was trying to communicate to me how things I did made her feel disrespected and unloved, but she was doing it in a way that only made sense to her and not me.

That tends to make men feel shame. Like their wives are telling them they are not good enough. It fundamentally changes you on the inside when the person you love the most repeatedly tells you you’re not good enough, even if that’s not what she means to do.

I would get defensive because I always felt like I wasn’t guilty of the things she claimed. She would get angry because I WAS doing the things she said I was doing, even if I wasn’t realizing it. I wasn’t validating her anger and sadness and fear and it made her even more angry.

Then when she got angry, I would get equally angry in return.

We were a ticking bomb.

Because she was afraid and didn’t feel safe. The marriage had ceased to be a comfort zone for her.

Because I felt shame that I couldn’t make her happy and frustrated that nothing I did ever seemed to be good enough for her. I always felt like there was a new thing for her to complain about.

Fear. Shame. Fear. Shame. Fear. Shame.

How husbands and wives manage those emotions will prove the No. 1 predictor of whether their marriages will survive.

Wives who are afraid trying to talk to or fight with husbands who feel ashamed are going to fail at marriage a high-percentage of the time.

Something else important happened. Another “Aha!” moment. I realized that EVERYONE has the exact same fights.

There are always outliers and unique circumstances, but by and large, I realized that the reason these books can be written, read by millions of people, and have everyone nod their heads up and down is because these are almost universally true observations about people.

It’s so important to realize you’re not alone.

YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE.

You’re not. No matter what it is you feel. There are many other people who feel it, too. And when you discover that truth, it changes your life because feeling connected is one of our most basic human wants and needs.

The Nine Dot Problem

Nine Dot Problem

The Nine Dot Problem is a classic spatial problem psychologists use to study insight and problem solving. There are nine dots on a page in a perfect 3 x 3 square. The object is to connect all nine dots using exactly four straight lines without retracing or removing the pen from the paper.

The psychologists who conducted the first lab experiment with this problem (Kershaw and Ohlsson) said that in a lab setting where participants are given a time limit of two or three minutes, the expected solution rate is 0%.

You, quite literally, must think “outside the box” to solve it.

How to Save Marriages

I think I experienced something that many (maybe even most) men do not. I experienced the Eureka effect in a very profound way on the subject of marriage and male-female relationships.

And the more I think about it, the more convinced I become: The way to save marriages is to help people have their own Eureka moments.

The question now becomes: How do we get people to have their own Eureka moment?

What is the most effective way to reach people?

I read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It because I was invested in trying to save my marriage. My biggest fear was losing my wife and having my young son growing up a child of divorce like I had.

Fear of loss motivated me.

I don’t know what drives other people, but because I know I’m never the only one, I can infer that there are a lot of other husbands and boyfriends out there who feel as I felt.

So, I start with them.

It will take insightful, creative thinking to change the way people behave in, and think about, their marriages. Habits and evolutionary hardwiring are tough things to overcome.

But there is a way.

I think we just have to draw outside the lines.

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The First Date

Here's to a good night.

Here’s to a good night.

I have a date tomorrow night. My first in eons.

We have dinner plans. Pretty old-fashioned. It’s a good restaurant, so the eating part will be pleasant no matter what.

But Matt!?!? Your first date?!?! I thought you said you went on dates with girls from Match.com!?!?”

Yeah, yeah. Online dating is bullshit. This is a real date. A person I met out in the world, then expressed interest in hanging out with some day, and was fortunate enough to have her reciprocate.

I know very little about her.

I know she’s pretty.

I know she’s about five or six years younger than me.

I know she just finalized her divorce about a month ago under circumstances very similar to mine.

I know she’s not a parent.

I was scared to tell her I was a dad. At least with online dating profiles all those “red flags” are just out there for people to accept or reject upfront.

In real life, you have to drop the hammer and wait for the reaction. My date knows I have a five-year-old son. And still she wants to go out.

So. Yay me.

The Floodgates of Fear

So, I’m afraid of a million things. At least.

Nothing petrifying. I’m not particularly nervous. She and I have already met and spoken for a half hour or so, and then again on the phone. So there isn’t that weird online-dating dynamic where you don’t really know what you’re walking into.

But I tend to over-think things. It’s kind of my modus operandi.

Do we talk about our divorces, since that’s what’s most in common and what’s most affecting our lives?

Do we ignore that topic to avoid discussing emotional and deeply personal things?

I don’t know.

But there really are a million things to be afraid if I allow myself to indulge the fears. Fears, both big and small.

Because I haven’t done this in about 14 years.

What if she doesn’t like me and never wants to see me again? Ouch.

What if she likes me and wants to see me again, but I don’t want to see her? I hate hurting people.

In the big picture, regardless of whoever I date seriously again, isn’t my next relationship doomed from the start? Isn’t your follow-up relationship to a marriage by definition a rebound? Don’t those always fail?

I think they pretty much always do.

I’m not just writing about my date tomorrow. I’m writing about any date. About any girl I meet from now until eternity.

What if I like her but we’re far apart philosophically?

What if she likes me but would make a lousy partner in caring for my son?

What if she finds out I write about my personal life and decides she could never be with someone who does that?

What if she likes me but then reads my spaz-fest writing here and decides she doesn’t?

What if she reads this post!?!?!?!?!?

State of Zen

None of that shit is going to happen.

Well, maybe some of it will. But who cares?

Maybe the world will end today.

Maybe I croak before I pick her up tomorrow.

Maybe we get salmonella poisoning from the food and end up in the hospital together and she falls in love with our doctor.

Maybe spacemen will beam me to another galaxy.

Being afraid of the unknown—while common and sort of standard operating procedure for me—is wasted energy.

When your entire life turns to shit, you toughen up in a hurry. I know I don’t always act like it, but I’m going to need you to trust me.

I’m now tougher than I have ever been.

I don’t know that I’ve been to hell and back, but I’ve been somewhere close. Hell’s suburbs, maybe. Everything’s really shitty there. I didn’t like it.

But it didn’t kill me.

And none of this is going to kill me, either.

I’m confident in ways I’ve never been before. I’m still insecure about my physical appearance sometimes. I don’t like that I don’t have washboard abs. I don’t like that my arms and back aren’t what I want them to be.

But mentally? Spiritually? Emotionally?

I’ve never been more put together than I am today. I’ve never been more confident in my ability to navigate personal waters with grace. With humor. With sensitivity. With wisdom.

Maybe after tomorrow night, she and I will never see each other again.

Or maybe we will.

I can’t control tomorrow.

I can’t control other people.

I can only control me.

So, I’ll smile. I’ll listen. I’ll care. I’ll feel.

I’ll be grateful for the moment.

The silver linings.

The opportunity to feel alive after all that time I felt like dying.

Because there can be no bad outcome as long as honesty exists.

And honestly?

I feel lucky.

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Hey, Match Girls: Piss Off. You Had Your Chance.

Hey Match.com! Stop sending me email. I already broke up with you.

Hey Match.com! Stop sending me email. I already broke up with you.

Now that I no longer have an active Match.com account, women are emailing and “winking” at me, left and right.

It’s total bullshit.

The decision to discontinue online dating was a thoughtful and deliberate one.

First, I considered my options and was leaning toward re-upping my membership for another three months.

Then, I thought: Screw it. And decided to move forward with just Two Poles in the Pond.

Match to Customer: We’ll Be Watching You

I canceled my membership. And I unsubscribed from Match’s email list.

I work in email marketing. When someone unsubscribes, you’re supposed to take them off your send list.

Those cocks at Match are geniuses, though. They have, like, 14 different lists. Oh, you unsubscribed from one of our lists? Don’t worry! We’ll still send you dozens of DIFFERENT kinds of emails!

For three months, they let my profile ride. The results were poor. It made me sad to realize just how undateable I was online.

I always imagine two single girlfriends checking out different guys’ online dating profiles together.

Ewwwwww! Look at this one! He’s got a kid and he’s only 5’9”. Lets masturbate and then make fun of this guy some more!

<10 minutes later>

This stupid guy, again! How much do you want to bet his wife left him for a tall, rich guy? I bet he doesn’t even have couches in his living room! Bwahahaha!

This blog got its name because of the tendency of every woman on the planet to prefer men who are at least 6’0” tall.

They don’t care about personality. Or intelligence. Or employment status.

They don’t care about kindness. Or sense of humor. Or anything like that.

Just be six-feet tall and maybe have a bunch of tattoos! And for the love of God, don’t have any children.

Must. Be. This. Tall. To. Ride.

Eat shit, Match.

My Online Dating Experience

I had an active Match account for three months.

If I logged in at all, this is how each experience went down:

  1. Did anyone email me? Nope.
  2. Did anyone wink at me? Oooh! One. Cool. Let’s check her out! Let’s see, she has three kids, four dogs, weighs 40 pounds more than I do, has a glass eye and spelled 67 percent of all her words correctly. Oh, she’s not fat! She’s just pregnant again! Good God.
  3. Maybe I’ll peruse some profiles and reach out to them! This one’s pretty! Cool, she’s only 5’2”! Prefers men who are: 6’2” or taller. Fuck! Oh look, this one’s outstanding, and she lives close! Prefers men who earn: $150,000+ annually. Fuck! Oh look, this girl’s fantastic. Prefers men who: Worship Satan and have a clubfoot fetish. Fuck!

Almost no one wrote. Almost no one winked at me. Almost no one would return an email I’d send them.

This is the kind of rejection I could have done without every single night alone in my bed while another man stuck his penis in my wife.

Match to Customer: You Can Check Out Anytime You Like, But You Can Never Leave

Fine. I don’t need this shit! Piss off, Match! I’ll meet someone the old-fashioned way when I’m good and ready!

Boom. Done. Canceled.

If you’re a guy under six feet who has cancelled a Match account before, I bet you know what happens next!

I get INUNDATED with emails from Match telling me every time someone sends me an email or a wink.

It happens all the time! Right now, I have a big pile of winks and messages from mystery women floating out there in Matchland.

It’s a communist plot to get me to renew my membership. I know it. Match has a bunch of chicks they pay $4 an hour to write notes to and wink at all the guys who try to walk away.

And every other day, we get these little notifications.

“Hey Customer! All these girls are TOTALLY interested in you! They love that you’re 5’9”! They love that you have a kid! They are DYING to come to your house and camp out on your living room floor and give you back massages and run their fingers through your hair! Don’t give up! You’re really not a loser! And for a limited-time, you can find out we’re not lying to you for just $19.95 for three months!”

There will probably come a day where these tempting emails will get the best of me.

“Dear Matt, you have 26 unread emails in your inbox! Sign up now to see who’s interested in you!”

And I’ll break down and give them some more money.

Most of the girls will be felons, or have a dozen children, or live in other states, or have clubfoot, or try to convert me to Satanism.

But there will be one, I bet. One who’s an absolute angel.

My heart will pitter-patter. And I’ll respond.

“Hey! I’m really sorry. I had to quit online dating for a while because Match is soulless and evil. I’m really flattered by your note. That’s cool that we live so close to one another and enjoy all of the same things. If and when you feel like it, please write back, let me know whether you’re still single and whether you’re still interested. I’d love to talk you. Please take care in the meantime!” I’ll write.

Two days later, she’ll respond.

“Hey. Thank you for writing back. That was so nice of you. I’m really sorry to tell you this, but I’m dating someone now.

“And the truth is, I didn’t see before that you were a father. I hope this doesn’t sound mean, but I just don’t date guys with kids.

“Oh, wait! You’re only 5’9”?!?! Bwahahahahaha!!!”

I hate you, Match.

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Writer’s Block

I need this to matter. For someone. Because I don't know how to write for just me. That might make me vain. It definitely makes me needy.

I need this to matter. For someone. Because I don’t know how to write for just me. That might make me vain. It definitely makes me needy.

I lose sleep over it.

Writer’s block.

Because this project matters to me. Other than my son and job, I don’t dedicate energy to anything like I do this.

I’ve grown to love it. I might even need it.

As more people begin to pay attention—some I know, most I don’t—the pressure mounts. To punch these keys in such a way that provides value for those of you kind enough to read.

And that right there—is where I try to stop myself.

Because my goal here has always been to simply work through this unexpected new reality in which I find myself.

Divorced.

Alone.

Scared.

Depressed.

My journal. To explore who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.

And if telling these stories—stories told with honesty—can help just one human being feel better about themselves or rethink their life choices a little bit, I’ll have done something meaningful.

It’s a wonderful fringe benefit of being honest with myself—having people tell me that these stories matter to them. That honesty matters.

I feel a little better about my life each day now.

I credit friends and family.

I credit God.

I credit time.

I credit you.

I credit this.

What Is This Thing?

And now this exists. This… thing. This place where I write. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what it can be. I don’t know what I want it to be. But I know it needs fed.

And I know I want it to matter.

I want it to be relevant.

I want it to be cathartic. To write and to read.

I want it to entertain. And inform.

A small, positive contribution to humanity, regardless of how many people ever see it or ever care.

I just need one.

Just one shitty husband to change his life—to actively choose to love his wife and save his family.

Just one lost soul lying to herself and everyone around her to start choosing honesty. To choose the truth and feel freedom free from the shackles of living a lie. To really start to feel alive—outside the shadows, with nothing to hide.

Just one young man to learn from the sins of my past and build a strong foundation with the girl he loves to create something lasting. A relationship that will produce beautiful little children who will get to find out what family is supposed to look and feel like. The blueprint for marital success. So that they may grow up making positive choices and being part of generations of people who contribute positively to this planet.

It only takes one. One brave person to influence somebody so profoundly that this new person develops the courage to do the same.

The ripples take effect. And good spreads.

I’m not strong enough or smart enough or credible enough to be the influencer. I don’t know a goddamn thing about what it takes to be a good person, or the meaning of life, or what happens after we die, or how to feel peace when you lay down at night.

I’m an absolute failure at marriage and at always doing the right thing even when no one’s watching.

But I AM brave enough to try. To shine a little light on my skeletons. To try to reach that person who IS strong enough to instill change in their life and the lives of others.

In the hopes that some other husband doesn’t lose his family. That some wife doesn’t have to be afraid. That some innocent children aren’t poisoned by the anger they had no part in creating.

I’ll never know. And that’s okay. Because I have a good imagination. And that’s my fantasy. That one story can make a difference for one person who can REALLY make a difference.

Now What am I Supposed to Write About?

Before, there was scandal. Sex. Drama. Anger. And sadness.

I actually cried writing at least three of these posts. Maybe more.

I understand why people read that stuff.

But, what now?

As the scandal fades. As my anger fades. As I transition from Total Freakout Spaz to Typical Divorced Single Dad Guy, is any of this going to matter?

What will I write about?, I wonder.

I’m scared to lose whatever relevance this has.

Things will come to me.

Old, embarrassing stories. Things I remember from my marriage that are applicable to the idea that we all need to be giving more and taking less.

New stories about dating whenever I get around to trying that again.

Stories about my son as he continues to grow and evolve and experience life and the human condition now that he’s being exposed to all of the challenges that school brings—academically, socially, spiritually.

Even though I want this to be a healing mechanism for me—a way to grow as a human and as a writer—I’m absolutely guilty of wanting to keep you.

I don’t know how to write for nobody. And I don’t want to know what that looks and feels like.

I wrote once about The Fear of Losing What We Love.

And now I’m afraid to lose you. To lose this. Because this is the first and only good thing to happen to me as a direct result of my wife leaving.

Now, I feel like I need you.

I’m going to write a bunch of self-indulgent crap once in a while. I think this may even be self-indulgent crap. But it is sincere.

I’m going to write a bunch of nonsense once in a while. I’m nothing if not juvenile. But I want this to be bigger than that. (*wink*)

I’m afraid of so many things in this world. Some big. Some small.

And that fear is paralyzing. It prevents us from trying.

This—the words on this screen—is me trying.

This is what I know. All I know.

And I hope it’s enough.

Not for me. I’m never satisfied.

Not for everybody. I’m just not tall enough.

But for one.

Just one.

Maybe it’s you.

Hi.

I need you.

And so does everyone else.

Go be great.

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Two Poles in the Pond

I may catch fewer fish. But at least they won't look and smell like this.

I may catch fewer fish. But at least they won’t look and smell like this.

My neighbor Ryan is going to be so disappointed in me.

I changed my mind and canceled my online dating subscription yesterday.

At midnight tomorrow, it’s gone.

I just wrote a week ago that I was going to renew my subscription. And under normal conditions, I really prefer to do what I say I’m going to do.

But I feel good about my decision which probably means it’s a bad one.

I wrote to one final girl yesterday. We have a lot in common. She’s pretty.

My note was charming and funny.

She didn’t write back.

Maybe she didn’t like that I’m a dad.

Maybe she didn’t think I was tall enough.

Maybe she thought I looked fat and ugly.

Why I’m Quitting Online Dating

Yeah, sure, it’s one of the Three Poles in the Pond.

But I’m done. Or at least going on a long hiatus.

Here’s why:

1. I’ve reached my rejection threshold

“You’re too hard on yourself, Matt.”

“You should hold your head up high, Matt. You’re a great catch.”

“You’re amazing. You really are. Any girl would be extremely lucky to have you.”

I hear this crap all the time. From married women and old friends and my grandma.

It’s nonsense. I appreciate their endless concern and support. I like to say nice things to people too.

But I’m me. I’m the guy walking around in this bag of bones. And I need you to accept this as truth: Whatever life skill I possessed that attracted girls in my youth (physical fitness?), I possess in much less quantity now.

2. I like the old-fashioned way better

My best trait is my kindness and friendliness.

I can be a little obnoxious and over the top, sometimes. I’m not for everyone.

But occasionally, I do charm members of the opposite sex with my personality.

And despite my ability to string grammatically correct sentences together, women online still apparently prefer the 6’2” meatheads who type: “ur hot. we shoudl meet so u can play w/ my uncircumsized penis.”

Just kidding. Those clowns can’t spell “uncircumsized.”

3. It’s lazy

If I’m really motivated to meet new people, I need to be out in the world doing it. Not stuck behind the same computer screen where I spend so much time punching the keyboard typing things I hope people I don’t know will read and people I do know, won’t.

I need to be out. Smiling. Having good times. Being adventurous. Feeding off the intoxicating energy of others having fun.

I went to a party at my neighbor Ryan’s house this past Saturday. I met a girl named Stephanie. Ryan incorrectly assumed I was trying to sleep with her, even though she is his fiancée’s oldest childhood friend, 10 years younger than me, and I have a conscience.

But it was nice meeting someone and having a good time. She had made Jell-O shots. We ate a bunch. We snuck off to smoke cigarettes. She was my Beer Pong partner despite having a complex about how poorly she plays it. It was fun.

And those are the moments I want to keep having, rather than having scary women reach out to me online. And that’s another thing…

4. Only women I would never date like me

It’s like a sick joke. Honestly. It’s not that NO women like me. It’s just that no women I like back like me.

“Are your standards a little high, Matt?”

No. Piss off. I like what I like.

“What kind of girls are reaching out to you, Matt?”

Is it mean to say fat and stupid even if it’s true? I think it is. I HATE being mean. Hate it. I’ve carried on email conversations for a couple weeks with a few women I would never date but just didn’t have the heart to tell them so.

“What is it that you’re looking for?”

A. Kindness. B. Intelligence. C. Attractiveness. D. No more than two children. (This is purely a financial decision.) E. Similar life philosophy. F. Relatively close proximity.

Forgive me Person Who Thinks I’m Reaching for the Stars, but I don’t think this is that much to ask for.

5. It sucks ass

And I’m going to stop doing things that suck, not counting bill paying. I’m just going to stop. Things that suck do not enhance my life. And damn it, I’m in the market for some life enhancement. Not male enhancement, Viagra Spammer. Life enhancement.

Who do you respect more? The art history professor or the artist?

Who do you look up to? The college journalism instructor or the crime beat reporter at the local daily?

Who do you aspire to be? The person who’s well read or the person who lived? Really lived?

I don’t want to be one of the railbirds. I want to play in the poker tournament.

I don’t want to watch Sideways. I want to drink in the vineyard.

I don’t want to look at women on a screen. I want to wake up next to one.

I want the next date I go on to be with someone who wants to be there.

Someone I at least kind-of know.

So when she tries to pull some stupid shit like doubling all the guacamole ingredients, I can step in and save the day.

For both our sakes.

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