Tag Archives: Respect

What to Do When Your Wife Doesn’t Respect You

Basics of respect

(Image/Respect360.org)

Oh no. You feel disrespected by your wife. This is definitely bad for your marriage and a poor example for any children you might have.

You’ve done the best possible thing you could have in this situation, and I hope you’ll choose to feel good about it. You’ve asked great questions: Why doesn’t my wife respect me? What do I do about it?

But it’s possible you’ve missed one: Are my feelings about my wife’s respect level for me accurate?

One of the biggest problems EVERYONE contends with in life is our inclination to believe everything we think. Just maybe she DOES respect you. That would save you a lot of time, energy, and frustration if that were the case. And for some of you, that will be true.

But for the sake of this exercise, let’s just say that your wife legitimately lacks respect for you. If your brain and/or heart are telling you that this condition is bad for your marriage and that you don’t want to be part of a marriage that lacks basic respect, I applaud you and totally agree. A marriage without respect is a marriage in name only.

I used to be married to a woman who didn’t respect me. It feels really bad, and if that’s where you are right now, I’m so sorry. Eventually, my wife chose to not be my wife anymore. I cried and vomited and felt sorry for myself and blamed everything on her.

I thought she was ungrateful. Cruel. A promise-breaker. Selfish.

And then, over the following six years I asked myself a thousand uncomfortable questions, I wrote about many of the realizations I’d made about how I was showing up in my marriage (spoiler alert: like a piece-of-shit husband), and today, despite being a divorced single guy, people pay me actual money to coach them about relationship stuff.

I know. It’s crazy.

Let’s talk about:

  • Whether your wife respects you; and
  • How you can earn her respect.

Does Your Wife Respect You?

The most important job you have any time you’re faced with a decision or encounter conflict with someone else, is to be damn sure you’re not accidentally being the bigger asshole without realizing it.

This is hard, because we spend the vast majority of our lives making snap judgments about everything, and mostly being right. If we have friends and jobs and are reasonably educated and have mostly avoided things like prison and Darwin Award-worthy near-death experiences, then—mathematically speaking—we have a pretty good track record with our gut reactions.

Recent example from my life: Because I am frequently calling strangers that I meet on the internet for coaching work, I toggle my phone’s Caller ID setting off so that my number shows up ‘Restricted’ or ‘Private’ on people’s phones when I call them.

A few weeks ago, when I was trying to call my dad on his birthday, my calls kept getting rejected. The first couple of times, I didn’t think much of it. But after six or seven tries over the course of many hours, I was feeling shitty. My dad’s too busy to talk to me. He’d rather do whatever he’s doing right now than talk to his son.

On Mother’s Day, the same thing was happening with my mom, though I realized my mistake much faster that time. You’ve no doubt already solved the mystery. I had forgotten to toggle my phone settings to “Show Caller ID,” which resulted in my parents doing EXACTLY what I would do in the same situation—ignore the phone call from an unrecognized number.

Stuff like this happens all of the time in our human relationships—particularly in our marriages.

We FEEL certain negative emotions when an event happens (someone else says or does something) that we would not have felt had we known one simple, but critical, piece of information to put the situation in its most proper and accurate context.

Powerful Questions That Can Help You Make Difficult Decisions (Including How to Feel)

The world’s thought leader on the subject of question-asking once sent me an email asking whether he could interview me for a book he was writing. (I said yes, because duh. Life highlight.) Bestselling author Warren Berger’s The Book of Beautiful Questions is one of my go-to resources for the questions I need to ask—or that my coaching clients might need to be asking—to arrive at answers that can help us achieve clarity about what we believe and why, and which can help us find answers to life’s most difficult problems.

The section of the book that includes things I said about human connection isn’t necessarily where I’ve find found the most value. It was the section on better decision-making—about anything. And because ‘anything’ includes our relationships, I hope you’ll take the following exercise seriously. It might help you.

From Berger’s The Book of Beautiful Questions:

Ask These 4 Questions to Check Your Biases and Beliefs

  • What am I inclined to believe on this particular issue? Start by trying to articulate your beliefs/biases.
  • Why do I believe what I believe? The “jugular question,” per Nobel Prize-winning physicist Arno Penzias, forces you to consider the basis of those beliefs.
  • What would I like to be true? A “desirability bias” may lead you to think something is true because you want it to be true.
  • What if the opposite is true? This question is inspired by ‘debiasing’ experts and Seinfeld’s George Costanza.

That last question is my favorite.

I’d ask you to think about it like a mock courtroom trial. There’s what you believe—The Defense Attorney. And then there’s what the other person believes—The Prosecuting Attorney.

I’ve never been to law school, but I’m pretty sure part of the process involves mock trials where law students (not unlike practicing lawyers) are sometimes required to prepare legal arguments for one side of a case they don’t necessarily believe or agree with.

I’m asking you to do the same thing. Give your best effort to argue the opposite of what you believe. It takes guts. I know you can do it. What evidence is there—what reasonable explanations exist—for how the opposite of what you believe could be true?

What happens afterward is several positive possibilities: 1. You get to be totally sure you believe what you believe, or 2. You get to abandon an incorrect or poorly conceived belief, and replace it with a better one, or 3. You get to, at the very least, come to understand how someone else could come to the conclusions that they did. And maybe when we fully understand The Why behind their actions, we can see that they were never trying to be assholes after all, and we get to feel all that wonderful lovey-dovey stuff again for a few minutes until the dopamine wears off.

‘Oh Shit. My Wife Really Doesn’t Respect Me’

That’s bad.

There’s no reasonable way to offer useful ‘advice,’ because it’s totally possible that the healthiest thing you could do is tell your meanie wife to piss off and file for divorce. But maybe you don’t want to do that because you have three kids together, and you calculate that the most loving fatherly thing you can do is stay married on their behalf.

I get it.

I get it because I’m pretty sure my wife stayed with me for a few more years than she wanted to for that exact same reason.

My wife stopped loving me and wanted to leave our marriage because I didn’t demonstrate the type of respect a wife deserves in a healthy marriage. While it was all pissing and moaning and whining at the beginning of my divorce, once I started asking myself a bunch of difficult questions and figuring out that I was actually a tremendously intolerable asshole throughout the majority of our marriage, I was able to empathize with my wife.

When you discover that you inflicted a bunch of bullshit on someone you care about that they didn’t deserve, and you view their behavior and decision-making through THAT prism, then the mystery of what happened, and the unjustified victimhood you were experiencing disappears.

When you’re a victim, life is happening to you. You’re just there, and a bunch of crap affects your life and there’s nothing you can do about it.

When you accept responsibility for your actions, and realize that what’s happening—or what has happened—are the consequence of your own actions, then it gives you a bunch of control of the situation that you couldn’t otherwise have. It’s powerlessness that’s most terrifying.

I don’t get to go back in time and fix my past mistakes. But I DO get to not feel anger now. I get to not enter future relationships blind to the things that destroys them. I get to make decisions armed with a bunch of critical information I didn’t have before. I like the confidence that gives me.

Just maybe, you execute the skills and duties of a husband at an incredibly high level. You’re a good husband, but you’re still not respected by your spouse. Ugh. Sorry. This won’t do.

Question (an uncomfortable and unpleasant one): Do you respect yourself?

I’m not a psychologist. But. A bunch of bad shit happens to us throughout our entire lives, starting in childhood. And all of that bad shit helps to shape our beliefs about ourselves, which affects what we feel—and how intensely we feel both positive and negative things throughout the rest of our lives.

Just maybe, YOU don’t believe you’re worthy of being respected (even though you might wear a metaphorical mask like I used to, and probably still sometimes do in order to convince others that we’re self-confident).

Do you ever say and do things around your wife one way, say and do things around your guy friends a different way, and say and do things around your coworkers yet a different way?

A component of that is social awareness and politeness, which is totally cool. But another portion of that might be that you adjust your behavior to fit into whatever environment you’re in, because you want to be accepted and/or liked by the people around you.

I totally do this sometimes. It’s lame. I want to be liked. It feels so much better than not being liked.

Self-confident people say and do the things that are true for them regardless of whether someone might not like them afterward. They give no phucks. None. Because they already respect themselves and don’t require others’ approval to know they are a person with inherent value.

They love and accept themselves. (Side note: Narcissists ALSO love and accept themselves and do all of these things, but struggle with gaining respect, because they rarely offer it themselves.)

How You Earn Your Wife’s Respect

  1. Respect yourself. Don’t you dare say that you do until you know it’s true. It’s okay to admit that you don’t. I do not always respect myself or act in my own healthy best interests. You’re not the only one.
  2. Respect your wife. You might be thinking: “But Matt! I do respect my wife! I married her and have children with her and love her more than anyone! I trust her with our finances, and for raising our children, and to not murder me in my sleep! What more could I possibly do?”

Great question.

While you humbly acknowledge to your wife that you’re actively working on learning how to behave with self-respect in order to grow into the best version of yourself you can possibly be because you, and your marriage, and your family deserve that, you also ask your wife what could change within your relationship so that she felt more respected.

You might be surprised by her answers, because there’s a better-than-average chance it will involve things you’ve heard before like housework, how you speak to her in the company of friends and family, and maybe some things you’ve never considered—like her desire to see you let your guard down by being uncomfortably real and honest with her about what goes on in your head and heart. By being vulnerable instead of pretending you’re the toughest guy she knows, she may feel both closer to you and more accepted by you because maybe she’s also sometimes insecure about what goes on in her head and heart.

Have the courage to expose your greatest flaws, weaknesses, and scars. Lovingly accept her greatest flaws, weaknesses, and scars. Regularly demonstrate that the shit that matters to her matters to you—simply because you respect the things that affect her, and you value her wellbeing.

That’s what you could possibly do.

That’s how you might earn back your wife’s respect.

“Being heroic is the ability to conjure hope where there is none.” – Mark Manson, author of Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope.

Go be the best of us.

Go be a hero.

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Love vs. Respect—Which is More Critical for Making Relationships Last?

Love vs Respect

(Image/Deskgram – chrysalisjewels)

I didn’t respect my wife even though I loved her a lot. And even though my wife loved me back, because she respected herself, she eventually divorced me.

I never considered that my freely given unconditional love could ever not be enough. I never considered that my selective demonstrations of respect toward my wife could impact her love for me—both the emotional love one feels, as well as the psychological love one actively chooses to give to someone else.

Now, I showed a requisite amount of respect for my wife for most people—including her most of the time—to observe, think, and feel Matt respects his wife.

And that’s the big secret in all of these complicated relationship conversations. They’re so dangerously nuanced that most of us are capable of interpreting them multiple ways, or—perhaps more commonly—our interpretation is different than another person’s interpretation, and then when discussing the disagreement, one or both people are horrible at navigating the conversation without damaging the relationship they have with whomever they’re having a disagreement.

Often, that’s a romantic partner or spouse.

Often, it’s just one more paper cut on one or both of them that will eventually cause the relationship to bleed to death and die.

My newest coaching client asked me this morning: “What is your view of the relationship between love and respect? Can you love someone with whom you are inconsistent in showing respect? If you lose respect over time, can you recover and still love that person?”

The following is my answer.

Love is NOT All You Need

“Love is all you need,” The Beatles sang over and over again in their smash hit from 1967 that all of us have heard dozens, perhaps hundreds, of times.

And I think I know what John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney intended when writing the song. I’m not here to quibble with their lyrics.

But I am here to quibble with that idea in its most literal interpretation and in the most anal-retentive way possible, because it’s the difference between whether your relationship survives ups and downs, or slowly withers on the vine and dies.

I love my son. Like, LOVE him. Intensely. And philosophically, I respect him. Like, I think and believe that I respect him.

But I think there’s a chance he often feels disrespected by me. Maybe because of my tone when I say something to him, or because of how I react to some outrageous 10-year-old thing he says, instead of simply RESPECTING him.

I shower my son with praise.

I tell him regularly how much he’s loved and cared for and valued. I tell him how proud of him I am.

And that’s real. I FEEL those things, authentically, when I say them. In Dr. Chapman’s 5 Love Languages terms, words of affirmation are my love language.

I don’t know what that child’s love language is.

Maybe his love language is “Hey Dad, show up on time for the last-ever Cub Scouts event of my life because you respected me enough to put it in your calendar and be sure you wouldn’t miss it instead of forcing Mom to text you after it already started, which is the only reason you even showed up.”

(That really happened. Two days ago. ADDitude Magazine should put me on their cover.)

I FEEL intense love for my son. It’s very real to me. But what good does that love do if my son feels disrespected? What good does it do if my son grows up not trusting me with whatever he’s dealing with because—from his perspective—I don’t show him respect?

Maybe all my bullshitty Dad-talk feels to him like disrespectful, unsolicited advice, or worse—like criticism that I don’t think he’s good enough.

Maybe despite telling my son (and believing it) how smart I think he is, he doesn’t FEEL as if I think he’s smart, since sometimes I think he says bullshitty things, and act like it.

Life continues to humble me, and remind me that no matter how much I learn, I’m still as far away from being a finished product as I was when I was still doling out shitty husbandry like a nudie-card peddler on Las Vegas Blvd.

Romantic Love and Marriage is Even More Fragile Than Our Parent-Child Relationships

Kids don’t really choose their living arrangement. But our adult romantic partners DO choose it. It’s a volunteer activity, and if we want them to voluntarily choose us over every other possible option in the world, we should offer some type of value proposition in exchange for their voluntary commitment to being our partners.

I’m not a child psychologist, but our kids just sort of get born into our homes and families, and grow up without enough information to gauge how good or bad it is relative to other homes and families in the world.

So long as we’re not horribly abusive and sadistic, I think our kids often hero-worship us in a lot of ways, even when we don’t deserve it.

But not so much with our spouses or girlfriends/boyfriends.

The most common story of romantic love dying in a relationship is because RESPECT is absent.

What Does Respect Look Like?

I’m polite. Kind. Nice. Well-mannered.

And because I say please and thank you, and generally behave “respectfully,” I always believed that I was demonstrating respect to others. Combined with that intense love that I felt toward my wife, any suggestion that I didn’t love and respect my wife was met with total confusion.

Outrageous! How dare she! OF COURSE I love and respect her! She’s the person I married and share all my things with and made a child with!

That is the 100% true and authentic (and tragically common) thought and feeling residing in the hearts and minds of one or both married/romantic partners that will paradoxically lead them to a messy and painful divorce or breakup.

Outrageous. That doesn’t make any sense at all. I would have never married them or do X, Y, and Z for and with them for all of these years if I didn’t love and respect them! They’re just mistaken. But that’s okay. All you need is love.

When you believe in your heart and soul that you love and respect your partner, then you’re in no way motivated to change your behavior or mindset. Which leads to the exact same things happening over and over again. The exact same things that are leading to one or both relationship partners feeling disrespected and unloved.

Our INTENTION to respect others in no way guarantees that other people FEEL respected.

The math is simple enough.

When your partner doesn’t feel as if they’re respected, they will feel mistreated. They will feel uncared for. They will feel dismissed and marginalized.

A person in that situation has two choices—continue to feel beaten down and unloved, which often leads to a total loss of positive self-image, and a person who feels shitty all of the time ceases to be fun and attractive, so the PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DISRESPECT AND MISTREATMENT actually ends up having “legitimate” reasons to stop feeling attracted to their partner, commonly leading to affairs or a divorce/breakup.

The other choice a person has—and I’m so glad that my ex-wife chose it—is to stand up for oneself. To preserve your own internal self-respect, self-love, personal integrity, etc.

Because God forbid, my son’s mother have turned into some beaten-down, self-loathing, joyless human incapable of demonstrating the kind of love and respect I wish for any child, but especially my son who I love so much and for who I wish so many good things.

“But Matt! What do you mean you didn’t respect your wife? What does that even look like?”

That’s the tricky part. That’s the scary, sneaky part.

It’s difficult to recognize. So, just in case you didn’t see it above, this is what it looks like.

A semi-famous example from this blog and my marriage is the story of me leaving a dish by the sink, and how my habit of doing that led to my divorce.

I saw a dish by the sink. No big deal. I saw something virtually meaningless. Insignificant, at most.

My wife saw a blatant act of disrespect. A huge deal. And FELT it, emotionally, down where it hurts the most. She saw weekly, if not daily, reminders that her husband didn’t respect her enough to do something SUPER-easy for her. She felt so uncared for, and so unheard, and so invalidated, that her choice was either:

  • Spend the rest of her life with someone who constantly makes her feel shitty through common, frequent acts of disrespect.
  • Choose a different option involving infinitely less pain, more hope, better health, and ensuring that she’d continue to be a person she could look at in the mirror and feel proud of.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t think her concerns were valid. It didn’t matter that I disagreed with her.

Even in some magical universe where I was objectively RIGHT in those assumptions, it STILL wouldn’t matter what was true to ME.

My wife felt pain, down in her gut, because she couldn’t trust me to be her adult partner for the rest of her life.

And major change is scary. And facing a lifetime of pain is scary. Especially when a little boy is at the center of it.

Love is great. Love is paramount to humanity’s survival. Love is a necessary and critical component of making marriage or any romantic relationship work.

But, which is MORE important? Which is MORE critical?

Love or respect?

It’s respect.

Respect is something virtually every human deserves on a basic level.

But love? That’s a choice. That’s something we reserve for a select few for our own reasons.

Love is a choice people will no longer choose to make in the absence of respect.

If you’re in a marriage or dating relationship that used to be full of love, but now feels heavy and empty? And you’re wondering where that love and joy went?

This is why.

I didn’t respect my wife, and now I’m divorced.

I hope you’ll make a different choice.

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It Doesn’t Jive Because We’d Just Assume Do Things the Wrong Way

Ptolemy's geocentric model of the solar system

Everything revolves around Earth. We can actually “prove” that. Right? (Image/Khan Academy)

Donkey wrote: “Matt has a post about leaving his crying wife in the hospital after giving birth/having a C-section. Lisa said her husband did something similar (he now can’t believe how he could do that, so credit to him and Matt both for having realized the extreme shittiness of that. Grrrr. Honestly, thinking about it just makes me feel some kind of immense primal rage).
“Do you have any idea as to the thought process of a shitty husband (who isn’t a Dick who gets off on abusing his wife) who makes that ok in his mind? That after 9 months (usually) of pregnancy and the woman, really, risking her life during childbirth/ C-section often suffering through a lot of pain, and then is also left alone with their newborn, it’s ok for him to go to get a good night sleep and leave his crying wife who’s begging him to stay alone?
“I can understand that some people wouldn’t be hurt by a dish by the sink and all of that (and we’ve already had the conversation about accepting influence even if you don’t understand), and I remember Matt saying it was hard for him to empathize with people’s physical discomfort that ha couldn’t relate to. I understand that men can’t really get how pregnancy/birth feels like. But still, isn’t childbirth very much accepted as a VERY Big Deal, a painful and stressful and high risk deal in our society, and that the role of the modern man is to support his wife however she needs? I would think leaving your wife alone after childbirth when she’s crying and begging you to stay would be just as obvious a faux pas as cheating (again, for me, I believe I’d rather have the father of my child cheat on me with 10 prostitutes than leave me crying alone in the hospital after having our baby).
“Matt, if you have any more explanations of your thought process you want to share, I would appreciate that too of course. I’m really just trying to understand the (faulty and frankly, like Lisa said, narcissistic) thought process, because I just don’t get it.”

I left my crying wife alone in the hospital like an asshole just hours after she delivered our son via emergency C-section.

It was a long and difficult labor for her. The doctor induced labor 26 hours and 24 minutes prior to the time of delivery, give or take a few minutes or a false memory.

The anxiety, fear, stress and physical discomfort my wife felt after nine months of pregnancy, followed by a long, painful, vulnerably exposed and at times terrifying delivery ending in emergency surgery, is something only a mother could possibly know.

I won’t pretend to.

But I can understand today in a way I did not eight years ago, what a betrayal and moment of abandonment that was for my ex-wife. She was in pain, frightened, and needed someone simply to BE PRESENT with her. To feel loved and supported. And she asked me to stay. Begged, even.

And I made a different choice.

After years of reflection and additional wisdom earned only by living longer, I can see and understand how much that moment damaged my relationship in a way I couldn’t at the time. I think it’s probably the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Not only did I not recognize that moment for what it was, when my wife would bring it up later as an instance in which I hurt her, I’d actually get mad at her for holding grudges and using the past against me. I’d treat her like she was the problem because she had anger issues she needed to work out. Like there was something wrong with her, because clearly there is nothing wrong with me!

After all, everyone else liked me and thought I was a great guy. She must be wrong since she’s the only one saying it!

I didn’t do all of those things as part of some meticulously planned and conspiratorial attempt to inflict maximum emotional damage on my newborn son’s mother—the woman I vowed to love forever—nor did I defend myself in later disagreements as part of a thoughtful strategy to make her feel shitty, push her away and ultimately destroy my marriage, leaving my little boy with divorced parents and a broken home.

What was the thought process? 

There kind of wasn’t one.

I thought my choices were, if not “best,” at least reasonable every step of the way, and at any point in which there was disagreement, I believed I was correct, and that she was incorrect.

I Make Mistakes Like Every Known Human, Ever

For 1,500 years, early astronomers used Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the solar system to create astronomical charts. “Geocentric” means Earth is the center of the universe, and everything in the night sky is orbiting around it.

Today, we know this isn’t true. Nicolaus Copernicus got suspicious and theorized we were actually the ones moving around the sun. Later, Italian genius Galileo Galilei proved it.

But for 1,500 years prior, every educated person in the world believed the sun revolved around Earth. And it wasn’t because everyone was a bunch of stupid morons. Given the mathematical parameters and limited technology of that time, you can PROVE Ptolemy’s model.

For 1,500 years, every scientist, navigator, educator and thought leader in the world knew how the sun, moon and stars would move in the sky. They could “prove” it convincingly by accurately predicting what would happen next, even though EVERYTHING about their prediction model was based on something completely untrue.

(Note: The following is NOT directed at you, Donkey. I genuinely appreciate your question, and it’s my pleasure to write more about it, because it’s important. I’m simply trying to illustrate my point further.)

You’d just assume your husband or boyfriend cheat on you with 10 prostitutes as opposed to leaving you alone at the hospital after giving birth?

No.

You’d just as soon have that happen.

That doesn’t jive with your expectations of a husband and new father?

No.

It doesn’t jibe with your expectations.

Because I’ve had some wonderful editors through the years who have taught me things, I no longer make the common mistake of saying or writing “assume” when I mean “as soon,” nor do I make the even more-common mistake of saying or writing “jive” when I really mean “jibe.”

I learned the “assume” one in my early twenties when I was the editor of a semi-large university newspaper and working as a summer intern for a daily newspaper. I learned the “jive” one in my late twenties after more than 10 years of being paid to write things.

I didn’t use the two phrases incorrectly on purpose. I remember feeling quite a bit of embarrassment when I realized how many times I must have used each phrase incorrectly up to that point, and how some of the people who heard or read that from me knew I was an ignorant dumbass.

Until I was in a very specific, focused moment in which someone with more knowledge and experience than me corrected my mistake and helped me learn from it, I never even had reason to question the legitimacy of my word usage.

I KNEW I was correct. You know? Even though I was actually incorrect?

You Are Biased and Selfish Without Realizing It

That’s the first of eight reasons Why You Can’t Trust Yourself, according to one of my favorite writers, Mark Manson.

He writes:

“There’s a thing in psychology called the Actor-Observer Bias and it basically says that we’re all assholes.

“For example, if you’re at an intersection and somebody else runs a red light, you will probably think they’re a selfish, inconsiderate scumbag putting the rest of the drivers in danger just to shave a couple seconds off their drive.

“On the other hand, if you are the one who runs the red light, you’ll come to all sorts of conclusions about how it’s an innocent mistake, how the tree was blocking your view, and how running a red light never really hurt anybody.

“Same action, but when someone else does it they’re a horrible person; when you do it, it’s an honest mistake.

“We all do this. And we especially do it in situations of conflict. When people talk about someone who pissed them off for one reason or another, they invariably describe the other person’s actions as senseless, reprehensible, and motivated by a malicious intent to inflict suffering.

“However, when people talk about times when they inflicted harm on someone else, as you might suspect, they can come up with all sorts of reasons about how their actions were reasonable and justified. The way they see it, they had no choice to do what they did. They see the harm experienced by the other person as minor and they think that being blamed for causing it is unjust and unreasonable.

“Both views can’t be right. In fact, both views are wrong. Follow-up studies by psychologists found that both perpetrators and the victims distort the facts of a situation to fit their respective narratives.

“Steven Pinker refers to this as the ‘Moralization Gap.’ It means that whenever a conflict is present, we overestimate our own good intentions and underestimate the intentions of others. This then creates a downward spiral where we believe others deserve more severe punishment and we deserve less severe punishment.

“This is all unconscious, of course. People, while doing this, think they’re being completely reasonable and objective. But they’re not.”

What if We Assumed the Best About One Another?

I don’t pose the question as any sort of defense of the behavior I now believe to have been emotionally abusive.

But the validity of the question remains: How much better might our relationships be if, when something happens and we’re missing too much information to KNOW why it happened, we tell ourselves the most generous, best-possible story to explain it rather than the most cynical, or worst-possible explanation?

One of the most famous and important scenes in the Harry Potter saga takes place near the end of the sixth (second-to-last) book. You either know the story and what I’m talking about, or you should start reading the Harry Potter books right now. Yes, adults. Even you.

Seconds before death, a beloved character faces his killer and says “Please.”

It seems like a man begging for his life to be spared. But his life isn’t spared. Other characters in the book are horrified, as are the emotionally invested readers.

In the absence of information we later learn, the killing seems like the malicious work of an evil murderer. But once the story is told fully, we realize the killer was actually GOOD, and the dying man’s “please” wasn’t a mercy plea, but rather a request for his secret ally to kill him in order to protect a confused teenager from becoming a murderer or from suffering punishment for refusing to.

Not unlike the scientific community during the Ptolemaic period of astronomy versus the scientific community today, we believed one thing under one set of facts, and as more information was gathered, we came to believe something else, which turned out to be the truth.

I left my wife alone in that hospital because I didn’t know better.

It wasn’t my fault. It was simply my responsibility.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

We make choices, learning things along the way. Stuff happens, and we are all constantly interpreting the things happening around us with limited information. Sometimes we’re right. Much of the time, we’re wrong.

In this case, I was wrong, and am deeply sorry for the damage I caused. There are millions of guys out there doing these exact same things. Hurting their spouses accidentally, even when they are told their actions are hurtful. They STILL don’t know. It’s the Secret About Men Most Women Don’t Know.

But I can’t do anything about yesterday. I can only do something about tomorrow.

Life’s too short. I want to live it well.

That jibes with who I want to be. Because I’d just as soon be part of the solution.

By actually doing things the right way.

…..

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‘My Wife is Irrational, Therefore She’s Wrong’

light bulb in sunset

(Image/freewhd.com)

I know it’s hard, guys.

I’ll never be confused for a genius or scholar, but I’m reasonably bright in a Get B+ and A- Grades Without Trying kind-of way. And I made all of the same arguments you’re making. I repeated them until I was blue in the face, sometimes in my best dickhead voice while my wife and I volleyed shots at each other in another fight in which no winner would emerge.

I agreed with you so much that I unknowingly bet my entire family on it. And lost.

Maybe some of you guys are really tough and stoic. Maybe when bad things happen to you, you brush it off like it’s no big deal and move on gracefully.

That’s not how it went for me.

I could barely breathe when my wife and little son weren’t home anymore. This isn’t some “evil monster entitled man-hating feminist” I’m talking about, raging uncontrollably over petty things like dirty dishes. This was my wife. We met at 19. We were married nine years, many of which seemed and felt good. This was someone who very much wanted to stay married. And she reached a breaking point. All humans have them.

I cried. I vomited. After more than 30 years of mostly feeling what I can only describe as normal or very good, I experienced what it means to break on the inside. I don’t know how far away rock bottom was, but it couldn’t have been far.

That experience taught me why people commit suicide. Sometimes, it hurts so much that dying and shutting it off permanently feels less scary than the possibility of feeling that bad forever. I’ve said it a bunch of times: I didn’t want to die. But for a little while there, after a predominantly semi-charmed life, I didn’t really care if I did.

All around me, life went on. The sun kept rising and setting. My friends tried to care, but only people who have been through divorce really understand. People told jokes. Others laughed. People were happy. But I was miserable, no matter how positive of an attitude I tried to keep. I felt like dying every day for months.

THAT is when I learned the lesson so many men complaining about my “dishes” post have not learned: Two people can experience the same thing at the same time, but feel very differently without either of them being wrong.

Maybe all those times I acted like my wife’s post-partum depression was a figment of her imagination since I didn’t get it, were poor, ignorant and insensitive choices.

Are Our Complaining Wives ‘Irrational’?

That’s what John said after reading She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink, a headline that accidentally hookwinked hundreds of thousands of readers.

He called it “irrational” for a wife to be upset about a dish by the sink.

Here’s the common male thought process: Because it’s “irrational” for her to feel that way, a husband is not obligated to cooperate on the matter. After all, “irrational” is not so different than “wrong.”

My wife is wrong. I am right. End of discussion, bitch!

It doesn’t even seem crazy to me because that’s exactly how I felt in those frustrating marriage fights, and I’m reasonably smart. This isn’t something that had ever come up in life until my girlfriend and future-wife started upsetting me with all of her “irrational”ness.

If we fought long enough, she would just cry, at which time I thought she was unstable, but had an easier time speaking with her then because Sad is so much easier to deal with than Angry.

In John’s current form, he has no chance of ever finding common ground with a wife or girlfriend. Because any time he considers her opinions or emotions “irrational,” he will simply dismiss them as inconsequential. Once his little argument is over, he’ll never think about it again.

And maybe he doesn’t care.

Maybe single guys don’t care because they don’t want to be married anyway. I’m cool with that.

What I’m not cool with are the guys suggesting their “rational” opinion that a glass left by the sink—innocently and with ZERO malice—shouldn’t be dismissed or deemed less important than their wives’ “irrational” emotional response to it. I’m not cool with people who want to marry or want to stay married doing things I know to be toxic in relationships.

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Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

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Rational Emotion: Is There Such a Thing?

Emotions are subjective things. The things that make you happy, sad, angry, horny, afraid, ashamed, confident, inspired, etc. are not the exact same things that make other humans feel those same emotions.

I believe, in very general terms (as we cannot pigeonhole every single human into one narrow silo), that men and women—husbands and wives, in this case—have VERY different emotional responses to things.

It’s why a guy can call his buddy an asshole and laugh about it in a male-bonding capacity, but would likely get a different result if he called his aunt one.

A critical lesson of my divorce: We must allow others to have their own individual human experiences, and accept that they’re real even when they react to something differently than we do, or describe a conflicting feeling.

What that means is, some people can be called an asshole and it’s funny, and some people can be called an asshole and it REALLY upsets them.

One is not rational while the other is irrational. One is not logical while the other is illogical.

It’s simply two separate people experiencing the SAME thing two DIFFERENT ways.

It’s not right or wrong. It just IS.

I used to believe my wife was irrational. Because I believed my wife was irrational, I never took seriously her requests for me to more assertively participate in our marriage on MANY levels—not just dish washing, which I actually did reasonably well.

I predict that any man who doesn’t understand the dish metaphor, OR feels offended and reacts defensively to it as if I believe wives’ or women’s feelings are somehow more important than husbands’ or men’s, also doesn’t participate actively in his marriage.

It likely means that when his wife tells him that something he does or doesn’t do hurts her, he dismisses it as her being “irrational.” And because he does that, she feels abandoned and alone in her marriage. Wives who feel abandoned and alone in their marriages will eventually do one of three things: Have sex with other men, leave their husbands, or both.

Deny that at your peril.

Maybe You Could Just Believe Your Wife

When your wife tells you something hurts her enough to bring it up to you in conversation, knowing it will likely create conflict, you should try to believe her.

If you’re a smart guy (and if you’re still reading this, I KNOW you’re smart, because the mouth-breathers stopped more than a thousand words ago), then you are statistically likely to be married to a smart woman.

I KNOW that it doesn’t make sense to you, when she talks about how something you consider minor and meaningless hurts her. That’s basically why EVERY divorce happens. You’re not strange. You’re just like most guys. You’re just like me—the me before I broke and had to start over again.

And Then the Entire Conversation Changes

I hope I’m safe in assuming no man still reading is the kind of guy who would slam his wife’s head against the kitchen counter, or crack her ribs with a baseball bat, or throw her against a wall and scream what a stupid worthless whore you consider her to be.

I hope that you’re the kind of guy who genuinely values her, and would prefer to stay married because divorce is shitty. I believe you are.

When you think of “hurting” your wife, you might think about physical pain, or how she might feel if she discovered an affair or another betrayal.

You don’t currently equate Another Meaningless Fight! with painfully wounding her. It’s not your fault. Your brain doesn’t naturally connect those dots any more than you’d feel afraid of someone throwing a sponge at you.

That’s why YOU NEED TO BELIEVE HER. You need to step outside your own mind for five seconds, and see the world as it really is: That person over there was hurt by something I did. Even though that same thing would never hurt me, it’s still true that it happened. If I care about that person, I need to make sure I never do that again.

Hundreds of men said it. And five years ago, I would have agreed with them: “Why does it always have to be the man changing for the wife? I’m pretty sure the wife could also show love and respect by just putting the glass in the dishwasher and not complaining about it! I hate that men always get blamed for this stuff even though it takes 50/50 to make it work!”

The answer to that is: You’re NOT changing for her. You’re not going to tell her she’s a crazy, nagging, complaining shrew AND also not help her with things she pleads for help with for the same reason you wouldn’t hit her with a baseball bat.

Because it hurts her. And you NEVER want to intentionally hurt her. And once the truth dawns on you: Holy shit. Now I understand why she gets upset about me throwing my socks on the floor, and that it causes her pain in ways I don’t experience. Then, the light bulb can go off.

Ohhhhhh. Because she has told me this 18,000 times, and I always dismiss her as crazy and tell her that she’s wrong, I can finally understand why it FEELS to her like I’m hurting her intentionally. It all makes sense now.

A lot of men think their wives shouldn’t be allowed to feel hurt by things because that same thing would never hurt them. The man makes the conversation about the thing they disagree on, instead of how bad it makes her feel.

But if they had the conversation they could both agree with—the one about how neither of them want to feel disrespected or see their marriage end in divorce—just maybe something really good could come from all this.

Just maybe, when we give, we get.

Just maybe, when we make the first move and are leaders in our relationships, we are treated well in kind.

Just maybe, marriage doesn’t have to suck at all.

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She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink

(Image/jerrywilliamsmedia.com)

(Image/jerrywilliamsmedia.com)

It seems so unreasonable when you put it that way: My wife left me because sometimes I leave dishes by the sink.

It makes her seem ridiculous; and makes me seem like a victim of unfair expectations.

We like to point fingers at other things to explain why something went wrong, like when Biff Tannen crashed George McFly’s car and spilled beer on his clothes, but it was all George’s fault for not telling him the car had a blind spot.

This bad thing happened because of this, that, and the other thing. Not because of anything I did!

Sometimes I leave used drinking glasses by the kitchen sink, just inches away from the dishwasher.

It isn’t a big deal to me now. It wasn’t a big deal to me when I was married. But it WAS a big deal to her.

Every time she’d walk into the kitchen and find a drinking glass by the sink, she moved incrementally closer to moving out and ending our marriage. I just didn’t know it yet. But even if I had, I fear I wouldn’t have worked as hard to change my behavior as I would have stubbornly tried to get her to see things my way.

The idiom “to cut off your nose to spite your face” was created for such occasions.

Men Are Not Children, Even Though We Behave Like Them

Feeling respected by others is important to men.

Feeling respected by one’s wife is essential to living a purposeful and meaningful life. Maybe I thought my wife should respect me simply because I exchanged vows with her. It wouldn’t be the first time I acted entitled. One thing I know for sure is that I never connected putting a dish in the dishwasher with earning my wife’s respect.

Yesterday I responded to a comment by @insanitybytes22, in which she suggested things wives and mothers can do to help men as an olive branch instead of blaming men for every marital breakdown. I appreciated her saying so.

But I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is “I got this,” and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

I always reasoned: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

But she didn’t want to be my mother. She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.

Men Can Do Things

Men invented heavy machines that can fly in the air reliably and safely. Men proved the heliocentric model of the solar system, establishing that the Earth orbits the Sun. Men design and build skyscrapers, and take hearts and other human organs from dead people and replace the corresponding failing organs inside of living people, and then those people stay alive afterward. Which is insane.

Men are totally good at stuff.

Men are perfectly capable of doing a lot of these things our wives complain about. What we are not good at is being psychic, or accurately predicting how our wives might feel about any given thing because male and female emotional responses tend to differ pretty dramatically.

‘Hey Matt! Why would you leave a glass by the sink instead of putting it in the dishwasher?’

Several reasons.

  1. I may want to use it again.
  2. I don’t care if a glass is sitting by the sink unless guests are coming over.
  3. I will never care about a glass sitting by the sink. Ever. It’s impossible. It’s like asking me to make myself interested in crocheting, or to enjoy yardwork. I don’t want to crochet things. And it’s hard for me to imagine a scenario in which doing a bunch of work in my yard sounds more appealing than ANY of several thousand less-sucky things which could be done.

There is only ONE reason I will ever stop leaving that glass by the sink. A lesson I learned much too late: Because I love and respect my partner, and it REALLY matters to her. I understand that when I leave that glass there, it hurts her— literally causes her pain—because it feels to her like I just said: “Hey. I don’t respect you or value your thoughts and opinions. Not taking four seconds to put my glass in the dishwasher is more important to me than you are.”

All the sudden, it’s not about something as benign and meaningless as a (quasi) dirty dish.

Now, it’s a meaningful act of love and sacrifice, and really? Four seconds? That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing too big to do for the person who sacrifices daily for me.

I don’t have to understand WHY she cares so much about that stupid glass.

I just have to understand and respect that she DOES. Then caring about her = putting glass in dishwasher.

Caring about her = keeping your laundry off the floor.

Caring about her = thoughtfully not tracking dirt or whatever on the floor she worked hard to clean.

Caring about her = taking care of kid-related things so she can just chill out for a little bit and not worry about anything.

Caring about her = “Hey babe. Is there anything I can do today or pick up on my way home that will make your day better?”

Caring about her = a million little things that say “I love you” more than speaking the words ever can.

…..

Shameless Self-Promotion Note About My Coaching Services

I started coaching in 2019. Clients and I work collaboratively through current and past relationship stuff in order to improve existing relationships or to prepare for future ones. Other clients are trying to find themselves after divorce or a painful breakup. We talk by phone or video conference. People like it. Or at least they fake it really well by continuing to schedule future coaching calls and give me more money. If you’re going through something and think I might be able to help, it’s really easy to find out for sure. Learn More Here.

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Yes, It’s That Simple

The man capable of that behavioral change—even when he doesn’t understand her or agree with her thought-process—can have a great relationship.

Men want to fight for their right to leave that glass there. It might look like this:

“Eat shit, wife,” we think. “I sacrifice a lot for you, and you’re going to get on me about ONE glass by the sink? THAT little bullshit glass that takes a few seconds to put in the dishwasher, which I’ll gladly do when I know I’m done with it, is so important to you that you want to give me crap about it? You want to take an otherwise peaceful evening and have an argument with me, and tell me how I’m getting something wrong and failing you, over this glass? After all of the big things I do to make our life possible—things I never hear a “thank you” for (and don’t ask for)—you’re going to elevate a glass by the sink into a marriage problem? I couldn’t be THAT petty if I tried. And I need to dig my heels in on this one. If you want that glass in the dishwasher, put it in there yourself without telling me about it. Otherwise, I’ll put it away when people are coming over, or when I’m done with it. This is a bullshit fight that feels unfair and I’m not just going to bend over for you.”

The man DOES NOT want to divorce his wife because she’s nagging him about the glass thing which he thinks is totally irrational. He wants her to agree with him that when you put life in perspective, a glass being by the sink when no one is going to see it anyway, and the solution takes four seconds, is just not a big problem. She should recognize how petty and meaningless it is in the grand scheme of life, he thinks, and he keeps waiting for her to agree with him.

She will never agree with him, because it’s not about the glass for her. The glass situation could be ANY situation in which she feels unappreciated and disrespected by her husband.

The wife doesn’t want to divorce her husband because he leaves used drinking glasses by the sink.

She wants to divorce him because she feels like he doesn’t respect or appreciate her, which suggests he doesn’t love her, and she can’t count on him to be her lifelong partner. She can’t trust him. She can’t be safe with him. Thus, she must leave and find a new situation in which she can feel content and secure.

In theory, the man wants to fight this fight, because he thinks he’s right (and I agree with him): The dirty glass is not more important than marital peace.

If his wife thought and felt like him, he’d be right to defend himself. Unfortunately, most guys don’t know that she’s NOT fighting about the glass. She’s fighting for acknowledgment, respect, validation, and his love.

If he KNEW that—if he fully understood this secret she has never explained to him in a way that doesn’t make her sound crazy to him (causing him to dismiss it as an inconsequential passing moment of emo-ness), and that this drinking glass situation and all similar arguments will eventually end his marriage, I believe he WOULD rethink which battles he chose to fight, and would be more apt to take action doing things he understands to make his wife feel loved and safe.

I think a lot of times, wives don’t agree with me. They don’t think it’s possible that their husbands don’t know how their actions make her feel because she has told him, sometimes with tears in her eyes, over and over and over and over again how upset it makes her and how much it hurts.

And this is important: Telling a man something that doesn’t make sense to him once, or a million times, doesn’t make him “know” something. Right or wrong, he would never feel hurt if the same situation were reversed so he doesn’t think his wife SHOULD hurt. It’s like, he doesn’t think she has the right to (and then use it as a weapon against him) because it feels unfair.

“I never get upset with you about things you do that I don’t like!” men reason, as if their wives are INTENTIONALLY choosing to feel hurt and miserable.

When you choose to love someone, it becomes your pleasure to do things that enhance their lives and bring you closer together, rather than a chore.

It’s not: Sonofabitch, I have to do this bullshit thing for my wife again. It’s: I’m grateful for another opportunity to demonstrate to my wife that she comes first and that I can be counted on to be there for her, and needn’t look elsewhere for happiness and fulfillment.

Once someone figures out how to help a man equate the glass situation (which does not, and will never, affect him emotionally) with DEEPLY wounding his wife and making her feel sad, alone, unloved, abandoned, disrespected, afraid, etc. …  Once men really grasp that and accept it as true even though it doesn’t make sense to them?

Everything changes forever.

…..

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How to Be More Attractive

To-be-yourself-in-w-orld-that-is-constantly-trying-to-make-you-something-else

When you get divorced, you’re forced to say a lot of goodbyes.

One day, I had a brother- and sister-in-law. And a beautiful little niece.

And then I didn’t.

One day, I had extended family I would spend Christmases and other holidays and special events with. Many of whom I had grown to love over more than a decade of knowing them.

And then I didn’t.

One day, I had friends. The hey-how-ya-doin’? kind, and the really-dig-beneath-the-surface kind. People you could count on to show up for birthday parties and stuff.

And then I didn’t.

One of the scariest things about life after divorce is that, unless you want to be lonely and celibate for the rest of your life, you have to start dating after your marriage ends.

When I first started Must Be This Tall To Ride, the entire point, I thought, was going to be about taking a self-deprecating look at the struggles of a thirtysomething single father trying to navigate the dating landscape.

I thought I’d be writing a sitcom.

The only problem was, not very much was funny.

My wife left. I never thought that was going to happen. Despite a whole bunch of evidence to the contrary, I believed she loved me because I wanted to believe it.

And we always believe what we want to believe.

I had nothing.

I was nothing.

Everything that mattered was rooted in the success of my marriage and family. I was a total failure.

I wasn’t attractive enough.

I wasn’t smart enough.

I wasn’t tall enough.

I wasn’t strong enough.

I wasn’t funny enough.

I wasn’t successful enough.

I wasn’t good enough.

Those things HAD to be true, I thought, because my wife loved our son more than anything, and she wanted rid of me so badly that she sacrificed half of his childhood in order to do so.

And now I’m supposed to go find a girl to like me?

This tired, broken, crying, failure who doesn’t even remember what it feels like to be himself?

Who would ever want that guy?

I was so scared to talk to girls. I was broken and everyone could tell.

I put so much stock into what people thought of me, that I was making everyone else’s feelings about me more important than my own.

It didn’t matter to me what I thought of me. It only mattered what others thought.

Anyone who knows anything about human psychology knows it’s really hard to be attractive when the only things you feel about yourself are ugly.

But then you heal just a little bit more. And cry just a little bit less, and then one day, not at all.

Time strips away power from those you had previously given it to. And now you have all this power and influence in your life that you can offer to anyone you want or just keep it for yourself. You get your heart back, also to be shared with whomever you choose.

As you acquire more of this power through the natural course of time, people begin to take notice.

This person likes you. And that person wants you. And this person believes in you. And that person thinks you’re amazing.

Everyone can’t be wrong. So you must be likable and desirable and inspire confidence.

And you start looking at yourself a little bit differently. You walk just a little bit taller. Ask yourself better questions about who that really is looking back at you in the mirror.

It’s subtle at first. Like a whisper in the wind.

But you rediscover feelings for yourself long-forgotten. Love. Respect. I matter.

When you improve 1% every day, you improve 3,800% over the course of a year.

And Then You Make the Rules Again

Not many good things happen as a result of divorce. But I’m back in charge of me again, and the days of sacrificing self-identity are absolutely over.

I’m not afraid of dating or women anymore because the natural result of honesty and vulnerability and authenticity is that it organically weeds out people you aren’t compatible with.

I used to think the goal was to try to get everyone to like me.

Now I know the goal is to just be myself—unapologetic and unafraid, because if you don’t like me, then I want to learn that information as quickly as possible and move on with my life.

If you aren’t enthusiastic about our relationship, then it probably doesn’t make sense for us to have one. Life’s too short to spend it with people who wish you were someone else.

So, I’m not going to.

And I’m not going to lose any sleep over a girl rejecting me for my height or my house or my son or my bank account, nor am I going to spend a lot of time fretting over why this person or that person doesn’t like me as much as I wish they did.

It was when I started investing in my own opinion of myself over the opinions of others, that everything finally felt different.

I don’t recommend divorce because it’s shitty, but it is good training for how to manage your relationships.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve had to say goodbye to people I didn’t want to say goodbye to. Nothing ugly or sinister. Just life happening. Because life just happens.

I don’t mean that it doesn’t hurt to lose things anymore.

It still does.

I don’t mean that I care less about other people now.

I care the same about people as I always did.

But I care MORE about what I think now. MORE about what I feel now. MORE about what I need.

It’s an elegant solution to filtering out your healthy and unhealthy relationships.

We wear masks and perform because we want people to like us.

But the day of reckoning will always come. When they see behind the mask. When they catch you too weak or too tired to perform.

And then maybe the relationship falls apart and you just lost more time. And time is the one thing you can never earn more of.

It sounds corny and rah-rah, but it’s true: We’re worth it. We are. Set your boundaries and enforce them because then everything changes.

I’m worth it.

You’re worth it.

Because we’re attractive enough. Maybe not for the assholes we’re not going to end up liking anyway. But we are for them. That person over there who is going to change everything one day.

We’re smart enough.

Tall enough.

Strong enough.

Funny enough.

Successful enough.

We’re good enough. And with all due respect; the people who don’t see that?

They’re not.

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Adam Levine Is Better-Looking Than Me And Probably Always Will Be

I like you

He reached into one of the side drawers of his desk, pulled out a porn mag and flashed me the cover.

He sort of raised his eyebrows, like: “Hot, right? I know you want some of that.”

I probably did. I was only 16. But the whole scene made me uncomfortable. Because he was bragging about his porn mag in front of his wife. (Which is probably better than hiding it, but that’s not my point.)

I’ll never forget what he said. “Oh, she doesn’t care. She knows this is reality,” he said in his best dissatisfied voice while gesturing toward her. “And this is fantasy,” he said proudly of the pouty sex kitten showing off her goods on the cover of Penthouse.

I looked at his wife. I got the distinct impression she cared.

In nine years of marriage, my wife never once heard me talk about another woman in a lustful way. She never heard me say something that might suggest I didn’t think she was good enough or pretty enough or sexy enough compared to some other woman who I thought was.

I’m not bragging. That DID NOT make me a good husband. It just made me thoughtful and polite in that one particular area.

Part of it was because I try to be nice and respectful.

But another part of it was simply me recognizing behavior that made me feel extra-shitty when done in reverse.

My wife didn’t sit around talking lustily about other men most of the time. But sometimes when she was with her girlfriends, there was always the girl who would bring up how dreamy (insert celebrity of choice here) Ryan Gosling, Adam Levine, sexy vampire or werewolf guy from True Blood or Twilight, etc. is.

The implication being: “I’m totally faithful to my husband, but if one of those guys showed up at my door, I’d let him do whatever he wanted.”

Maybe honesty is a good thing, even in this instance.

Maybe saying that out loud and owning it is better than keeping it to yourself if it’s actually true.

But that sentiment always made me feel shitty.

Because, I have an idea: Don’t be with me if I’m not good enough for you. Because I can’t be those other men.

And the real bitch of it is that no one can be like those people. Because we don’t know about all their negative human qualities, because we only see them looking good in front of cameras. You’re not even being compared to real people. Just personas, or fictional characters on television.

I was at a wedding once where a guy my wife knew from high school was drunk and flirting with her. He was the little brother of one of her old friends, all grown up now.

I heard him tell her that he wanted to have sex with her.

I already knew plenty of men thought it, probably even my friends. We’re human, and I totally get that. But I’d never heard a man say that to my wife before.

She hadn’t done anything to invite it. And she didn’t indicate mutual interest in return.

But I was next-level angry when she and I left the reception with another couple shortly after. I wanted to break a chair over that stupid mook’s face, but I would have just lost the fight against all his friends afterward and felt even worse, but with broken ribs.

She blew off my anger as silly man jealousy. “Oh, he’s harmless. Didn’t mean a thing.”

I get over things pretty quickly. This is the first time I’ve thought about that guy since back when it actually happened.

And I find I don’t care about him at all.

But I still care that my anger didn’t matter to her.

Maybe she thought I deserved it.

And maybe I did.

Must Be This Tall To Ride

Everything about this blog’s beginning is predicated on feelings of inadequacy.

Of not being metaphorically tall enough.

I’ve always cared what other people thought of me. We like to act cool, unfazed, like nothing other people say or think about us matters. Maybe some people really are immune to those fears and insecurities. I’m not, though.

I want you to like me, and when you don’t, I feel like a failure and wonder if everyone feels that way.

When your wife leaves you, you feel like a spotlight is being shined brightly on all of your faults and failings. You start wondering what her family thinks about you. What your family thinks about you. What your friends think about you. What your co-workers think about you.

And to a certain extent, that still happens.

Every woman I meet must think: “I wonder what this douchebag did to make her want to leave. He’s probably just like all my ex-boyfriends who made me miserable.”

And the sick truth is that I probably do share commonalities with their exes. I believe most of our human failings look an awful lot like one another’s. I think most couples break over the same basic things. I think if everyone took off the masks and were really honest with one another, we’d all feel a little better because we’d realize: We’re not the only ones, after all.

In our 2014 Facebook culture, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others.

My house isn’t as big as theirs.

My car isn’t as nice as his.

My writing isn’t as good as hers.

My job isn’t as good as his.

I’m not attractive enough for her.

We don’t get to be a fly on the wall when these people are scream-fighting with their partners in the kitchen. Or when they sing and dance alone in their houses. Or when they trip and fall. Or when they’re jerking off to some freaky fetish porn. Or when they’re rocking out to some really lame pop song in their car that they don’t want anyone to know they like.

We don’t get to be inside their heads when their brains are going a mile a minute with all of the same kinds of insecurities and fears that we have.

We compare our regular, flawed, totally human, everyday stuff to other people’s highlight reels. Their financial successes and exotic vacations and perfect-looking family photos.

It’s all a huge lie. And you believe it because you’re a person, but you don’t have to believe it because you’re smart. You’re smart enough to stop believing it.

Please don’t say or do things in front of the people you love that might make them feel like you’d rather be with someone more than them, unless you actually want to, and maybe then brutal honesty is the best policy.

They deserve better. And so do you.

I’m not Ryan Gosling or Adam Levine. I can’t look or be like them. And maybe if I really got to know them, I wouldn’t even want to be.

But I am kind of smart.

I am kind of funny.

I’m not going to knock anyone over with movie-star looks, but some people think I’m attractive.

I may never be a great writer, but some people like to read my work.

I don’t really know what I am.

What you think of me still matters, and probably always will.

But I know I’m good enough.

Just like that porn-mag lover’s wife.

Just like you.

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How I Could Just Kill a Man

We can be so cruel to one another. When we are kind, who do we choose? And why?

We can be so cruel to one another. Why are we kind to some people and not others? What’s the difference? (Image/Wallpapercave.com)

I could kill a person trying to harm my son.

I could kill a person trying to harm others I love or in self-defense.

I could kill a person trying to harm other innocent people if in the moment it was clear the act would save lives.

I may not have the physical tools or weapons to get the job done on a case-by-case basis. But I could muster the nerve. If the stakes were that high. I’m sure of it.

But what if the person causing harm was my father? Or my sister? Or my childhood best friend?

How long might I hesitate if this hypothetical person I’m so certain I could kill was someone who resides permanently on my “People I Don’t Want to Kill” list?

Who matters?

Who doesn’t?

Where do I draw that line?

Of all the things I never want to do, I think killing someone ranks No. 1. And I don’t mean murder. That should go without saying. But even a “justifiable” killing. The thought of taking a life makes me very uncomfortable.

I don’t know very many people who have killed someone. The few I do are older men who were once soldiers at war. The curiosity in me has always wanted to try to coax those stories out of them. To get a sense of the feelings those memories manifest.

But I’ve always stopped short of asking because I don’t want to ask men to relive what are likely their worst memories.

Is This the World We Want?

I’ve been asking myself the following question every day for about a week now.

What is the difference between the people who matter and the people who don’t?

Where do we draw the line? Between all of the people we care about or treat kindly or help versus those we don’t care about, treat poorly or ignore altogether?

The idea popped into my head while reading Tom Shadyac’s Life’s Operating Manual. Shadyac is something of an anti-capitalist. He and I don’t see eye-to-eye on economic theory. BUT. I do respect very much where he’s coming from when he poses the very thought-provoking question: What separates the people you are willing to profit from, from the people you simply want to help?

He argues that the mindset of capitalism—always trying to maximize profits and charge as much as possible for goods and services—makes the human experience so much uglier than it should be.

For example, he says, if someone you love very much needed help—didn’t have food or clothes or shelter—you would instantly invite them into your home, and feed them, clothe them and let them stay with you (without asking for anything in return.)

Generally speaking, I think this is true of most of us.

But then we walk around major cities, or even suburban Ohio communities like where I live, and occasionally see people asking for help.

Maybe they’re really homeless and have good hearts.

Or maybe they’re really con artists.

Or maybe they’re really drunks or addicts looking to score a fix.

No matter what the situation, I submit all of those people could use help of some kind.

Who Matters?

Everyone ranks the people in their lives relative to their specific circumstances.

But I think this is representative of the general order in which we value people.

1. Spouse/Partner/Significant other and children

2. Parents and siblings

3. Friends

4. Neighbors

5. Co-workers and acquaintances

6. Strangers who are like us (Social, spiritual, economic, cultural, geographic commonalities)

7. Strangers who are not like us

8. Known enemies

Where do you draw the line?

Where on this list do you decide: “That person means so much to me that I want to help them with their problem,” as opposed to your cut-off point? The place where you say: “Screw ‘em. I don’t care. I have enough problems. Let them figure it out for themselves,” or worse: “That person isn’t like me, so I don’t like them and I’m going to hurt them.”

This question about who matters versus who doesn’t makes me think about the post-apocalyptic world on display in The Walking Dead.

It truly is survival of the fittest and every man for himself.

Every stranger is a threat. Someone who might steal your supplies, murder you, or murder you so they can steal your supplies.

But often, after a warming-up, get-to-know-you period—after one of the strangers puts his or her life on the line in service of others—trust is formed.

Bonds are built.

And these strangers, these random people who didn’t care about each other days or weeks ago, morph from stranger to acquaintance, from acquaintance to friend, and (if you believe as I do that you don’t have to share blood to be family) from friend to family.

These people who were threats become people you will sacrifice everything for.

There are bad people in this world. Threats. People who in a lot of ways don’t deserve our kindness, generosity, charity, help, whatever.

An irresponsible or naïve Pollyanna-like view of life benefits no one.

But I don’t know how to muster the cynicism required to not believe that everyone deserves a fair shake. That every person deserves a baseline amount of respect and benefit of the doubt before we rush to judgment.

We don’t need to write a 10-page letter to their boss petitioning for their promotion, but being courteous to the customer service representative on the phone who is NOT responsible for our problem seems reasonable.

We don’t need to invite every kid in school to our birthday party, but smiling at them, not engaging in bullying and treating people kindly doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

We don’t need to give our weekly paycheck to the guy panhandling outside the grocery store, but maybe a sandwich and a bottle of water would serve to nourish more than just his hunger and thirst.

We allow ourselves to disconnect and then we treat people like enemies.

People who, if we were stuck in a survival situation with, might become our family.

I know a little boy who—just seven years ago—wasn’t even a figment of anyone’s imagination.

And today I love him above all else and would do the unthinkable to keep him safe.

And I want him to live in a world where we don’t scream at each other and bully people on social media and hate one another because our skin color isn’t the same or because we care about different things.

Maybe we can be one little ripple in the pond. One kind act at a time.

And maybe those acts can cause more ripples because others agree that these arbitrary barriers we put up between us and other people seems like a silly reason to completely change the way we treat one another.

And maybe good spreads.

And then maybe there are fewer 12-year-old kids in Catholic school cafeterias celebrating the release of a Cypress Hill rap song called “How I Could Just Kill a Man.”

Even if those kids do grow up wanting to be part of the solution.

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