Tag Archives: Responsibility

When Your Spouse Dies and You Miss Their Dirty Socks on the Floor

dirty socks on the floor

(Image/The Livingston Post)

After her husband died unexpectedly, the dirty socks and pants she used to find thrown on the bedroom floor became something she missed.

She avoided washing his last load of laundry as long as she could. Savoring this once-annoying moment as she realized how much she would miss it.

Debbie Wilkins Baisden recounts this story and the life lesson it provided in her article “Stop Being a Butthole Wife.”

Everyone who has ever written about male-female relationships could have predicted what happened next.

Everyone in happy, peaceful marriages read it and said: “Amen, sister! Don’t sweat the small stuff!”

Wives frustrated and angry with their husbands who leave dirty laundry on the floor, and dirty dishes next to the sink said: “I know you’re sad your husband died, but that doesn’t mean we should excuse the disrespectful behavior! I’m not my husband’s maid, and he needs to respect me and pick up after himself!”

And then a guy would reply: “Why do you believe you have the right to command your husband to do things your way, or dictate the terms of your marriage when he feels differently? You’re not his mother!”

And then a married or divorced wife would reply: “The person who does all the cleaning should make the rules!”

And then a married guy would reply: “I suppose that’s what you say and feel when your husband is outside shoveling snow, or fixing the plumbing, or taking garbage to the curb! You feminists have ruined marriage!”

And then a woman would reply: “Actually, you misogynists are the ones who ruined marriage!”

And then more people would internet-scream at each other about who is responsible or to blame for their problems, the premise always being that “If only men/women would stop doing (insert ‘crime’ here), we wouldn’t have all these relationship problems!”

If I Blame Everything on Divorce, Then Nothing is Ever My Fault

That’s my life in a nutshell.

I don’t do it on purpose.

I don’t sit around thinking: This is all totally my fault, but I’ll just blame it on someone or something else for public-relations reasons and trick everyone.

But I do often catch myself blaming divorce for things.

I was popular and well-liked growing up. (Or at least, I THOUGHT I was popular and well-liked, which has the same effect on your mind and body even if it wasn’t true.)

I assumed everyone I met liked me, and I assumed everyone I would meet would like me, and that made me mostly fearless.

I made friends easily. Girls seemed to like me. Friends’ parents, teachers, and coaches all seemed to as well.

I had many friends. Both in high school and college. In two different states because my mom and dad lived in different places.

I struggled with the transition to domesticated, couples-based socializing after my girlfriend/fiancée/wife and I started our life together, and everything converted from big-group activities and parties, to small dinner parties and small-group gatherings.

But as time passed and I matured, I found peace and pleasure with the ebb and flow of being married and couples-based socializing as we all began building careers and families.

Then the hits started coming around age 30.

The fight about where we should live and work.

The birth of our son.

The death of a parent.

The near-universal husband/wife clashes over money, household chores, and how we treated one another when things got rough.

It’s the slow march to divorce most people don’t see coming nor recognize as it’s happening, but it mostly looks the same for everyone in failing or failed marriages.

My wife stopped liking me.

Then, stopped loving me.

She’s not big on pretending, so I felt the change. And one day at a time, it started pecking at my insides.

Next thing I knew, I was sleeping in the guest room and freaking out.

Then, she was gone, and I freaked out harder.

Then—I don’t know. That’s now, I guess. “Then” is now. On April 1, it will be four years since my marriage ended.

It’s a big blur in my head that feels simultaneously lightning-fast and like an agonizing eternity.

I only know this: When the story began, everyone liked me, I wasn’t afraid of anything, and life was awesome. And now? I worry about people liking me. I’m afraid of all kinds of things. And life is just okay.

It’s easy to blame her for my life and feel sorry for myself.

It’s easy to blame her when she goes on vacations with her boyfriend and our old couples friends.

It’s easy to blame her when she goes on trips with our son and families of his new friends from school.

It’s easy to feel: She did this to me. She turned me into someone else, and then dumped the person she made me become.

It’s easy to blame all the hurt and shame and fear and anxiety and inconveniences and difficulties on other people.

I think if men can keep blaming feminism and “nagging wives” for ruining marriage, then men will never have to grow and change.

I think if women can keep blaming misogyny and “shitty husbands” for ruining marriage, then women will never have to grow and change.

Growth and change is hard. Like cooking when you don’t feel like it.

Maybe I’ll just order a pizza.

Maybe someone can start a peaceful-relationship delivery service. Delivering harmony and kindness to our front doors for a small fee.

Nothing Changes Unless We Do

I don’t know Debbie Wilkins Baisden. But as someone helping to popularize the term “shitty husband,” I feel uniquely qualified to guess the following:

Debbie labeling herself a “butthole wife” because she used to complain about her husband’s dirty laundry was NOT to excuse husbands who are slobs, nor to label all wives seeking thoughtfulness and respect from their husbands as “buttholes.”

Me labeling myself a “shitty husband” is NOT me taking on all of the blame for my failed marriage, nor is it to condemn all men who leave laundry on the floor or dishes by the sink as “shitty.”

It’s simply a fun writing convention to talk about where I messed up in my marriage.

Maybe my ex-wife believes she messed up sometimes. I don’t know. I know only that I’m qualified to write about my thoughts, feelings and experiences, and NOT qualified to write about anyone else’s, least of all someone with whom I disagreed with so much, that we ended a marriage with a young child involved.

EVERYTHING is Our Responsibility

Guys LOVE to come back at me with: “This is all just theory and conjecture! If guys do all the stuff you say, they’re just going to get run over by their domineering, emotional, bitchy wives!”

To which I’d reply:

Don’t marry anyone who is domineering, bitchy, or whose emotional reactions you consider intolerable.

I’m simply NOT blaming myself or men for failed marriages. Never have; never will.

I am identifying all of the ways I messed up or made decisions which led to divorce, and asking myself the question: If I hadn’t messed up, and had I made better decisions, isn’t it possible that the events leading to divorce wouldn’t have happened in the first place, and that our marriage would have thrived?

Another good question: If instead of waiting for my wife to grow and change, I proactively grew and changed, isn’t it possible my wife would have felt and responded differently? Isn’t it possible most of our fights would have never happened at all?

Single people can point fingers at certain behaviors and decide for themselves that they’re unacceptable and that they’d never be in a relationship with someone who showcased them. Single people are responsible for their own happiness. Single people are not beholden to others.

Yet, single people almost ALWAYS (to the tune of 95%) pursue long-term relationships with other people, presumably because they believe a long-term relationship will make them happy.

However, the entry fee for a relationship is trading in your Single Person card and exchanging it for a In A Relationship one.

And now, in a certain context, you don’t get to be yourself anymore.

Marriages and Relationships Aren’t Two People Doing Something Together

We talk about two people getting married. And now they’re a couple. Two different people. But a team.

It’s kind of true. But as soon as it gets hard and one person feels like the other is a bad teammate, people start looking for another team to join, or to go back to being a team of one.

But I don’t believe a marriage is two people doing something together.

I believe a marriage is ONE thing. And it’s built from two parts.

What makes an airplane fly? The wings or the engine?

Exactly.

Two different parts, which if EITHER stops functioning, the entire thing goes down.

People fight, fight, fight, fight, and fight some more because they want their spouse to admit to being wrong and acknowledge that he or she was “right.”

And people fight, fight, fight, fight, and fight that EXACT SAME FIGHT until they die or divorce because the husband’s or wife’s goal is to win the fight.

When the airplane’s engine wins enough fights, one of the wings will fall off.

When the airplane’s wings win enough fights, the engine or engines will start to lose thrust.

And then, boom. Fiery explosions and sadness.

The intentions of critical airplane parts should be to maximize the aircraft’s performance, lest they all explode and die.

The intentions of husbands and wives should be to maximize the performance—NOT of themselves, but of the marriage as a unit.

The widowed Debbie missed picking up her husband’s annoying dirty laundry because the marriage was WAY bigger than just her, or just her feelings, or just the laundry, or just anything.

And she shared that experience because it mattered, just as I share mine.

But lost in all the noise, is purpose and meaning. The reasons WHY these stories matter. 

He’s blaming her.

She’s blaming him.

I’m blaming her, and then…

I’m blaming me.

It’s no one’s fault and everyone’s.

And it’s easy to blame, blame, blame, so we all do it some more, even when we don’t need any more blame. We’re totally good on blame now. Quota’s filled.

We need responsibility.

Accountability.

The willingness to serve a thing bigger than just ourselves.

Because that’s where true peace, happiness, love and contentment lives. Or maybe just because you fucking promised. Take your pick.

Maybe we’ll get it right someday.

Maybe even me.

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It’s Not Your Fault, Men; Just Your Responsibility

(Image/dfay.com)

(Image/dfay.com)

Many men neglect and abuse their wives emotionally, and it leads to thousands of new divorces every day.

Husbands do this totally unaware and accidentally, and sometimes wives think it’s a cop-out to say so, but it doesn’t make it less true. Their husbands don’t know, even though their wives have told them once or a thousand times.

There are more than 3,000 daily divorces in the United States, two out of three which are initiated by wives. It’s too depressing to figure out how many children that affects, so I’m not going to. Too many.

But, guys? IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

Sure, some guys are the worst kind of human beings imaginable. Disgusting. Violent. Physically and verbally and sexually abusive. Criminally irresponsible. Dishonest and unreliable. Remorselessly unfaithful. I’m still trying to figure out how women end up marrying men like this, but regardless, these marriages usually end badly, and it’s generally safe to point fingers at the guy in such situations. Your fault, dick.

But that’s not who most of us are. Most of us are—flawed and imperfect though we may be—decent people with aspirations of being “good.” Most of us are good men. Good men who are also bad husbands. Being good at marriage is like being good at your job, or being good at woodworking, or being good at motorcycle repair.

Being a good husband is a skill. And the reason it’s not your fault you’re shitty at it is because no one told you that you were shitty at it until your wife did. The person you gave up your previous identity for and promised to faithfully love and share resources with forever. The person you tell “I love you.” The person you help provide for. The person you trust with your life and the lives of your children.

She’s the first one to break the news, and it doesn’t go down easy: “You are a shitty husband who makes me feel bad and unloved.”

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. It wasn’t my fault, either.

My great-grandfather didn’t teach my grandfather who didn’t teach my father who didn’t teach me. Maybe it’s my great-great grandfather’s fault. Or maybe his dad’s. I don’t know.

I just know that I got married when I was 25, and no one had ever said anything until my wife did around the age of 30. I had the same reaction as the rest of you guys.

Really!? My fault? Why is it ALWAYS the guy’s fault!? The ones who don’t gossip, who stay out of drama, who rarely complain, who never have fights with others, who never start fights at home, who forgive and forget? What a crock of shit.

I’d get really pissed and defensive just like you. Because it wasn’t my fault. And it’s not your fault, either. Maybe other people are blaming you, but I’m not.

IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

But your wife’s wellbeing? The state of your marriage? The stability of your family?

It’s your responsibility.

Come With Me If You Want To Live

Terminator 2: Judgment Day Spoiler Alert: An artificial-intelligence computer called Skynet developed for military applications becomes self-aware, takes control of U.S. military weapons systems, and launches a global nuclear attack to wipe out humanity. Judgment Day.

The computer processor which would evolve into Skynet was invented by a cybernetics scientist named Miles Dyson. He was a decent guy. Married with a young son. He was Director of Special Projects at Cyberdyne Systems Corp. Just a guy doing his job, developing advanced technology. He probably believed he was doing something valuable for the world.

But his greatest achievement led to global destruction.

As most of you know, this was an accidental side effect of Dyson’s work. OF COURSE he wouldn’t have developed those technologies if he knew humanity would face global extinction as a result.

The end of the world WAS NOT HIS FAULT.

But it was his responsibility, which is why he helped the protagonists blow up his lab and destroy all of the research, losing his life in the process.

Sacrificial redemption.

The Secret to Making Your Wife Happy and Your Marriage Awesome

Men are looking for the cypher to crack the code. A solution to the problem. They want someone to say: “Here’s what’s wrong! And if you do X, Y, and Z everything will magically get better!”

Bad news, guys. There is no actual secret code.

There’s no shortcut. There’s only the long, slow way, like saving for retirement or building a successful business:

We love hard. We listen to our partners and believe them when they tell us things. We devote the same energy we devote to learning how to be good at our jobs, or how to succeed in our competitive endeavors and hobbies to learning the intricacies of our spouse.

We don’t stop flirting with them and courting them and learning about their hopes and dreams just because we don’t feel all young and lusty like we did when we were dating.

We give a little bit more to them than we take for ourselves. (And of course they should do the same — so no one ever vampire-sucks the life out of the relationship.)

And then we all show our kids how to do it, so future generations won’t have all this broken shittiness.

It’s not just that our parents and grandparents and ancestors didn’t pass down any secret knowledge about how to not ruin our relationships. No one else talked to us about it either. Not in school. Not in some secret How To Be Married Club. Not even some random older married-couple mentors to talk to you about what this is all supposed to look and feel like. But please don’t blame them. It’s not their fault. Because no one bothered to tell them either.

Someday, we will need to start having these talks before we get married. But no one is motivated to figure this stuff out until their marriages fall apart and it feels like the sky is falling. When we’re young and care-free and ignorant, we don’t know enough to even ask the right questions.

The reason no one can figure it out is because it’s not just one thing. And there isn’t an 80-20 rule either where there’s one big thing to concentrate on that might help.

It’s a million teeny-tiny, imperceptible moments.

And simply by being ourselves, combined with our lack of awareness that being ourselves causes emotional damage to our partners, we fail these little moments over and over again without realizing it.

And it’s fine when we’re dating. And it’s fine in the first couple years. And it might even be fine after the first baby.

But after a couple of kids, and several years, and work and financial stresses, and one of your parents dying unexpectedly?

BOOM.

It’s finished. And you didn’t see it coming because you didn’t know you were supposed to be looking for it.

The vast majority of men have absolutely no idea what it looks and feels like to meet a woman’s emotional needs, and no one has EVER talked about it with him before in his 20-30 years of life prior to engagement and marriage.

These aren’t just foreign concepts. They’re entirely absent.

No one is talking about these things with young men. These kids just think they’re supposed to be well-mannered. Respectful. Polite. Kind. To help protect. To help provide.

You can do almost all of those things through the prism of the male experience and neglect your partner emotionally completely by accident.

Which is what usually happens. Then the emotionally neglected wife is often unable to communicate the emotional neglect in a way that A. Makes sense to him, and B. Doesn’t come off like an ungrateful attack on his faithful husbandry.

Then they both slowly push one another away, one angry disagreement at a time, but with the husband often never considering divorce. Because of that list of things he’s been raised to believe about what he must do for his wife.

Being responsible for her “feelings”!? That seems like an incredibly unfair burden to a man who wasn’t educated on the intricacies of human emotional response and psychology.

He never asks his wife to be responsible for his feelings, but he’ll tell her all about it when she “attacks” him. He’ll fire back about the times he was upset about something she did, but that he never “stooped so low” as to try to make a fight out of it, or suggested marriage might have been a mistake, or tried to make it out like she was an inadequate spouse simply because she hurt him.

It’s unfair to her because he doesn’t give her what she needs, and when she tells him, he simply denies it, or rejects the idea that he owes more.

It’s unfair to him because she doesn’t give him the same courtesy he gives her: He doesn’t EVER threaten the marriage because of disagreements that seem minor and petty compared to his promise to love her and remain faithful forever.

This is where almost everyone waits for the other person to finally “see the light” and agree how right the other is. Then almost everyone ends up divorced because no one ever “sees the light.”

And IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

We husbands do a million little things to destroy our marriages. But until we understand how and why, it’s not our fault that it’s happening.

But is it our responsibility? You’re damn right, it is. And now it’s our responsibility to change it.

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When You Say ‘It’s Not My Fault,’ it Becomes Your Fault

your fault finger point

(Image/TechCrunch)

Imagine for a moment that two people plan and carry out an armed bank robbery.

Just like you’ve seen in the movies. Wearing masks and carrying guns, they barge into a bank, force customers to the floor, demand the tellers hand over money from the registers, and coax the manager at gunpoint into giving them access to the vault.

It’s stressful and scary for both the gunmen and the people fearing for their lives. The robbers are screaming for the bank employees to hurry up and fill their bags with cash. Everyone else is laying still on the floor praying they don’t die.

One customer has a concealed carry license and is armed with a loaded weapon, or maybe he or she is an off-duty police officer. It’s your imagination. Do what you want.

The hero draws the weapon in an attempt to save the day.

A gunfight ensues. Bullets. Blood. More screams.

When it’s all over, nine people are dead, including one of the gunmen. More are in critical condition at the hospital. The second gunman is taken into custody where he is interrogated by police.

The bank robber makes a credible and compelling case to investigators that his partner planned the entire robbery, and fired all of the shots that killed innocent people. Video footage from inside the bank and evidence recovered from the dead gunman’s house corroborates his story.

“I swear! No one was supposed to get hurt!” the bank robber says.

Because he cooperates with police and is willing to testify in court, and because he never fires any bullets or actually kills anyone, the judge and prosecuting attorney agree to an 18- to 24-month prison sentence, down from the standard five-year mandatory sentence for armed robbery.

Eight innocent people are dead simply because they were making bank deposits, or refinancing loans, or because they showed up for work. The victims’ families, the public and the media are outraged, and demand explanations from the judge and district attorney.

And both essentially say: “Welllllllll. We looked at all the evidence, and the entire thing was a lot more the other guy’s fault than this guy’s. The surviving bank robber didn’t even kill anyone! He didn’t mean to hurt anybody. So we’re not going to hold him responsible since it’s clearly WAY more the other one’s fault.”

Sounds Absurd, Right? 

Of course it does.

It doesn’t matter how much more to blame the other gunman is for the robbery or all the deaths. The surviving bank robber is going down hard, and responsibility for the deaths of those people will be appropriately laid at his feet. He will serve life in prison, even though his portion of the It’s-My-Fault Pie Chart is only 20% or whatever.

Yep! You’re Responsible. 

Next to all of the people who missed the point entirely, the second-most annoying response to the inexplicably popular She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes By the Sink post was all of the men who thought all of the women who agreed with the post were a bunch of unfair man-haters, and attempted to prove it by sharing a link to another popular internet post called I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly and it Wasn’t Fair.

Some people dropped the link without commentary, as if to say: “This post about dishes and my irrational wife’s feelings are bullshit. She’s guilty of treating me unfairly and being a nagging shrew, and here’s the proof. BAM. How do you like that, morons!?” 

Let me say this: The “I Wasn’t Treating My Husband Fairly…” post is great. I even included it in a post titled Marriage: A Global Epic Fail more than a year ago.

It appears to be the work of a wife practicing humility and introspection in an effort to grow, treat her spouse with more love and selflessness, and contribute positively to the success of her marriage. It’s awesome.

But it’s not some magical Get of Jail Free card for husbands who don’t understand that they’re hurting their wives or care enough to figure out how and why, any more than my loved AND criticized An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands series is some kind of free pass for wives who fail to honor their marriage vows.

In good times, and in bad.

So many people responded to that “dishes” post, not with introspective humility, but with finger-pointing outrage.

“You’re giving all the wives a pass, you feminist pussy! Be a man! So our wives get to just freak out about whatever they want, and if we don’t cater to their every whim, we’re shitty husbands!? You’re an asshole!”

To which I respond: Let’s pretend for just a moment that we can prove, beyond all doubt, that in a given marriage, the wife is 75% to blame for any relationship problems that exist. Do the people who feel that way also believe that the spouse with only 25% of the blame is somehow not responsible for that share?

If a man is a minority shareholder in the downfall of his marriage, is he NOT obligated to work to be the best-possible husband he can be in an effort to serve the union, or fight for and protect his family?

Maybe I’m wrong. I am sometimes. But it seems like many people believe that. That because their marriage problems are not entirely their fault, they needn’t concern themselves with being part of the solution.

Own your shit, please.

I don’t blame men more than women, philosophically.

I just know up close and personal what it looks like when the average guy fails his average marriage. It’s a whole bunch of stuff, that looked upon as one little incident, like leaving a dish by the sink, seems outrageously insane and unfair to blame for the demise of a marriage.

But I know it’s not one thing, and I still can’t believe so many people took the dish metaphor so literally. It’s a symptom of a larger problem. One where people so often want to point fingers and blame others for their problems in life, instead of looking in the mirror and asking: “What more can I do? What more can I give?” 

So. Guys. I don’t give a shit how petty and irrational you think your wives are. I don’t give a shit how much more responsible you think your wife or girlfriend is for the negative state of your relationship. And I don’t give a shit how much blame my ex-wife deserves for my failed marriage.

A booming voice from the heavens could thunder “HEY MATT! IN THE FINAL ANALYSIS, YOU ARE ONLY 49% RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR DIVORCE! SO, IT’S COOL NOW! YOU CAN JUST BLAME YOUR EX FOR EVERYTHING AND KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING. NO GROWTH AND CHANGE IS REQUIRED!”… and I’d still have to ask you the question: Why don’t you want to be the best person, husband and father you can possibly be? Why don’t you WANT to grow and be better tomorrow than you were yesterday? What good can possibly come from all the ‘It’s not my fault!’ screaming? 

A life without feelings of guilt?

Because if everyone believes your story, does that really make it true?

When it’s just you and the silence, and nothing but your mind and heart, you KNOW what’s real and what’s not. You KNOW what’s right and what’s wrong. You KNOW what really happened.  

In a world full of blamers, take responsibility.

In a world full of hate, choose love.

In a world full of darkness, be the light.

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ADHD is Real and I Have It

(Image/medscape.com)

(Image/medscape.com)

I’ve always been this way, so I never bothered to consider something might be wrong.

It’s not that I procrastinate ALL the time. Often, it’s just because I forget. Sometimes I mark the calendar and write reminder notes and set alerts on my phone. And I still forget.

Sometimes I forget to pay a bill.

Sometimes I forget birthdays.

Sometimes I forget to return a phone call.

Sometimes I schedule two things on the same day at the same time.

Sometimes I don’t remember to do the same thing for several days in a row.

Sometimes I put things off and forget about them and then something bad happens, like my natural gas gets shut off or my auto insurance lapses.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think I was intentionally trying to self-sabotage. As if I prefer when my life is a stressful emergency.

I always thought it was something I’d outgrow. I believed natural maturation would work out many of these little incidents that sometimes cause much bigger problems.

Why I Think Know I Have ADHD

A clinical psychologist several states away was reading some of the stories I write here when it became clear to her that I most likely have ADHD, and like many adults, have gone through life undiagnosed.

You see, when the only thing you know is what goes on inside your own head, it’s impossible to understand how others think and feel and experience life. But this doctor has spent her entire professional career talking to, and working with, people like me. So she knew right away.

She just wanted me to come to the same conclusion on my own. She sent me a few things to read.

This ADHD test for adults was one of the first things to get my attention. Answering “yes” to 15 of them is a big ADHD red flag. I said yes to all but one. And even that’s a maybe.

  1. I have difficulty getting organized.
  2. When given a task, I usually procrastinate rather than doing it right away.
  3. I work on a lot of projects, but can’t seem to complete most of them.
  4. I tend to make decisions and act on them impulsively — like spending money, getting sexually involved with someone, diving into new activities, and changing plans.
  5. I get bored easily.
  6. No matter how much I do or how hard I try, I just can’t seem to reach my goals.
  7. I often get distracted when people are talking; I just tune out or drift off.
  8. I get so wrapped up in some things I do that I can hardly stop to take a break or switch to doing something else.
  9. I tend to overdo things even when they’re not good for me — like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, overworking, and overeating.
  10. I get frustrated easily and I get impatient when things are going too slowly.
  11. My self-esteem is not as high as that of others I know.
  12. I need a lot of stimulation from things like action movies and video games, new purchases, being among lively friends, driving fast or engaging in extreme sports.
  13. I tend to say or do things without thinking, and sometimes that gets me into trouble.
  14. I’d rather do things my own way than follow the rules and procedures of others.
  15. I often find myself tapping a pencil, swinging my leg, or doing something else to work off nervous energy.
  16. I can feel suddenly depressed when I’m separated from people, projects or things that I like to be involved with.
  17. I see myself differently than others see me, and when someone gets angry with me for doing something that upset them I’m often very surprised.
  18. Even though I worry a lot about dangerous things that are unlikely to happen to me, I tend to be careless and accident prone.
  19. Even though I have a lot of fears, people would describe me as a risk taker.
  20. I make a lot of careless mistakes.
  21. I have blood relatives who suffer from ADD, depression, bipolar disorder, or substance abuse.

Another Eureka Moment

I was reading a book about male-female relationships when I had my first major Ah-ha! moment. I was reading stories about common fights and communication breakdowns between spouses, and I realized it wasn’t just my wife and I that have these problems. It was EVERYBODY. It makes you feel better when you realize you’re not the only one. Moreover, this book was explaining to me the evolutionary reasons why men are as they are and women are as they are, and how the two styles (when both parties are unaware of them) cause friction in relationships and often lead to divorce.

It fundamentally changed me on the inside. I finally knew something important and believed I could be the spouse she needed. But it was so broken. I couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This ADHD thing? It’s EXACTLY like that all over again.

Everything I read screams at me: THIS IS THE REASON.

It’s been hard to stomach as I consider the ramifications.

What if I’d known at a much younger age?

What if I’d begun to manage it years ago?

How much better might my marriage have been?

How much further might my career have advanced?

How many more friends might I have kept?

People with ADHD have trouble managing friendships and staying in touch with people.

When my wife first left, I latched on to all my friends because I felt like dying and I just wanted to be around people I cared about and who cared about me in return. As time went on and I went through several stages of healing post-divorce, I lost touch with many friends. When you’re in your mid-thirties, everyone is busy and many have kids. You have to plan several days, often weeks, in advance if you want to see certain people.

I have never planned anything weeks in advance in my entire life. I used to think I preferred spontaneity. But really it’s a stress trigger. I can barely handle everything that needs done today. How can I possibly think about four weeks from now? Four weeks from now is a figment of my imagination.

People with ADHD have trouble with marriage.

Being pleasant and kind-hearted isn’t enough when your spouse thinks you don’t love or respect her because you forget everything, or mindlessly do things that suggest her feelings don’t matter. People with ADHD have trouble with time management, with organization, with financial planning and management, and cleaning the home.

I was reading this article in ADDitude Magazine, and this quote from a frustrated wife totally hit home, because she could have said it about me and my ex-wife.

“We would be late for an appointment, and he would be leisurely doing things when we should have been rushing out the door,” recalls Patricia, who lives with Chris and their three-year-old, Gabriella, in West Chicago, Illinois. “He could walk right by a pair of dirty socks on the floor and not notice them, even if the laundry basket was just a foot away. If the house was a mess, he’d say, ‘Write me a list, and I’ll do everything.’ But I resisted. Why should I have to write a list? He should know what needs to be done.”

My wife thought I was childish and immature. (And I AM childish and immature!) But there was always more going on. Over and over again I’d try to explain myself.

I would NEVER do this to you on purpose! Why would I want you angry with me? Why do you think I want to disappoint you? Why do you believe I want to fight with you?

There were so many things to do when our son was born. I was totally lost, and I wanted to be helpful. I wanted someone to tell me what to do, and then I would do it well and I’d be useful. She always felt like I was too hands-off. Like I wasn’t assertive enough to figure out on my own what needed done and just do it.

Maybe I was supposed to do that. Maybe I’m just making excuses. Maybe this is all bullshit.

But then I read this:

“The Whites, it turns out, are typical of couples in which at least one partner has ADHD. In a survey of such couples, conducted recently by Wayne State University in Detroit, respondents indicated that their spouses ‘don’t remember being told things,’ ‘zone out in conversations,’ ‘have trouble getting started on a task,’ ‘underestimate the time needed to complete a task,’ ‘don’t finish projects,’ and ‘leave a mess.’”

Is this me desperately searching for answers in an attempt to apply meaning to things that have happened to me?

I don’t think so.

If my ex-wife read all these ADHD stories I’ve been digesting the past week, I suspect she’d draw the same conclusion.

I have all these things I want to do with my life.

Career and relationship goals. Financial and physical goals. Social and spiritual goals.

What if this teeny little part of my brain working just a little bit different than most other people is the primary reason I have some of these issues?

What if it’s the reason my marriage ended?

What if it’s the answer to the ever-nagging question: WHY?

Treatment begins Thursday.

And maybe after things will never be the same.

Just maybe, I’ll be unstoppable.

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How to Own Your Shit and Never Be a Victim Again

Dont-Be-A-Victim

Eilene asks:

“Have you ever thought (even if briefly or secretly) that your divorce was more her fault than yours? I ask because I know we’re supposed to accept our part in things but I REALLY think it is more on him. I’m struggling with that.”

No.

I am a lot of things—including occasionally hypocritical—but I am pretty skilled at evaluating a situation and understanding who is responsible for what.

People are horrible at accepting responsibility for their life circumstances. HORRIBLE. And it makes us all feel like victims. And when we feel like victims we can’t make our lives better because everything in life is just happening to us against our will.

It makes us powerless to change anything.

When we accept responsibility for where we are in life and own our choices, THEN, and only then, do we have the power to make things better.

I don’t know Eilene. But on faith, I believe her. In my experience, wives get marriage right INFINITELY more often than husbands do. I’m sure her husband or ex-husband sucks at marriage every bit as much as I did. People often don’t get this: Good people can be awful at marriage. You don’t have to be a bad person to suck at marriage. It’s a skill. I can’t fix a car. That doesn’t make me shitty at life. I just don’t know how to fix cars. But I can learn. I didn’t know the really important information about marriage until it was too late. I think a lot of men might be like that. Objectively, it probably is more on him than Eilene. Just like in my marriage.

But never again can I allow myself to start pointing fingers at others.

 …

Let me walk you through my bouts with victimization since turning 30:

My father offered me a job at his small company 500 miles away. Assuming I’d done a good job (and I would have), I would be making top 1% money in my 40s and 50s and have every opportunity to retire a multimillionaire and live the kind of life most of us dream about. My wife didn’t want to go. It was our first major fight.

Victim Matt: I can’t believe how unfair this is that I can’t secure our financial future simply because she doesn’t want to move eight hours away. How could she be so selfish? This will solve EVERY money problem—forever. And now I’m stuck. Because of her.

Smart Matt: I will lose my family if I do this. Money isn’t, and will never be, more important than family. I chose to marry this woman. We make decisions together. She feels like she can’t do this. Okay. We’ll find a way to make more money here in Ohio.

It wasn’t my wife’s fault that I chose a profession (journalism) where making money is such a challenge. It wasn’t my wife’s fault that she didn’t want to live in Illinois far away from everyone she knew. And once I stopped being angry, I saw it as a good thing I had married someone who valued family more than how much money her husband earned.

I was laid off from my job on Jan. 1, 2010. Only people who have lost a job unexpectedly can appreciate what an enormous loss and psychological impact it can have.

Victim Matt: I can’t believe how unfair it is that I lost my job even though I always did it well. How am I supposed to find work now that I’m 30 and have no experience except in newspapers? Now what am I going to do?

Smart Matt: The company was losing money. Without layoffs, EVERYONE would have lost their jobs. Had I been the best, most-valuable employee at the paper, I would probably still be there. So, work harder next time and don’t take employment for granted, asshole. I accepted that job. I wanted it. No one made me take it. I am responsible for choosing to work there, and I am responsible for not ultimately proving myself indispensable regardless of circumstances.

My marriage ended. On April 1, 2013, technically, but not legally until August a few months later. I thought it was unfair because I didn’t want to get divorced.

Victim Matt: When I was standing on that alter and said: “I do,” I meant it. ‘Til death do us part. Sure, it had gotten bad. Really bad. But I wanted to fight for it. I was in marital limbo. A situation in which I didn’t want to get divorced, but was mentally and emotionally incapable of sleeping in the guest room much longer. It was a brutal time. The hardest thing I’d ever been through. Sometimes I’d cry in the guest room. I could hear her footsteps in our room upstairs. And I’d just cry because: This is so un-fucking-fair. After she left, I learned about a new relationship. All I could think about was how happy she must be with this new guy. And I’m sitting in our empty living room and I can’t even breathe. How could she do this to me?

Smart Matt: I caused this. Not because I’m a bad guy. And not because she doesn’t bear any responsibility also. But because I COULD HAVE and SHOULD HAVE been a good husband. A really good one. I used to not know how to cook or drive a car or read or play poker. But then I took an interest, I learned, and I excelled at those things. What if I’d invested more of my time in the most-important thing in my life? What if I’d EXCELLED at marriage? At being the best man, husband and father possible? Had I spent each day being exceptional at those things—would she have left? She’d have never wanted to. This isn’t something that happened to me. This is something I allowed to happen. Through negligence, irresponsibility and a lack of discipline. Sure, it may not all be my fault. But you can bet your ass I’m responsible.

Own Your Shit, Please

If you ask yourself the right questions, an adult can always come to this conclusion: You are ALWAYS responsible for what happens to you. Somewhere along the way, you made the choices that led you right here, right now. Other people didn’t make the choice. You made the choice.

I am responsible for me. No one else is.

I am not responsible for anyone else. These are the strong personal boundaries we need to establish if we want to have healthy relationships with potential mates, friends, family, business associates, etc.

I’m tired of everyone’s reasons for why they “can’t” do something or why it’s always some outside force or lack of opportunity that prevents everyone from doing whatever it is they say or feel they want to do.

The first step to achieving whatever it is we desire is to accept that the No. 1 factor in whether we will achieve or not achieve that thing is the choices we make.

Good choices yield positive results.

Bad choices yield negative results.

This has always been true and will always be true until the end of time.

And once we come to grips with this—once we shake off the gravity of realizing just how large of a role we play in the vast majority of bad things that happen to us, we can take a deep breath and smile.

This is good news, you think. Because now I can do something about it.

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How to Stop Procrastinating Later

procrastination-flowchart-2

A husband I know got into hot water with his wife after letting the family’s insurance coverage lapse several months ago.

“How could he be so irresponsible? How could he let that happen to his family? What if something happened?” my friend said to me.

I just shrugged. Because I do things just like that.

I am a world-class procrastinator. I think I currently rank No. 2 in the world, just behind my five-year-old son. I’ll check the rankings later.

My friend thinks I’m a good person and totally responsible. She thinks I’m a good sounding board for discussing her marital frustrations.

I got a letter in the mail a few weeks ago. There was a huge “URGENT!” stamped on it in super-duper-emergency red.

The exact wording of the letter from my insurance agent escapes me, but it was VERY close to this:

“Dear Matt,

“Because you are an irresponsible degenerate piece of shit who can’t manage bills like an adult, your insurance policy has been cancelled. We sure hope you haven’t been driving around with lapsed auto coverage, and we have our fingers crossed that your house doesn’t catch fire or get swallowed by a sinkhole.

“But if it does, you’ll deserve it. Because you’re an asshole.

“Life tip: You and your son’s health and wellbeing, along with your house and car are the three most-valuable things you possess. So maybe think about growing up one of these days and taking care of your shit.

<Cue Samir from Office Space> You are a very bad person, Matt.

“Sincerely, Your Insurance Agent”

Yeah, tell me something I don’t know, Insurance People. You should see what I can do to a marriage.

One of the best ways for me to overcome procrastination is to create an emergency.

I respond FABULOUSLY with focus, energy and determination when I’m facing an emergency. I had insurance coverage restored within 24 hours of realizing I had a problem.

You may be wondering: “How the hell could something like that happen?”

I have a three- or four-month supply of unopened mail on my home office desk.

I still have unopened birthday cards laying on my dining room table. My birthday was three weeks ago.

THAT’s how.

I am capable of putting things off in ways you haven’t even thought of yet. And maybe I’ll tell you about it someday if I ever get around to it. Start holding your breath… right… now.

AWOLprocrastination

Procrastination is not a good thing. I’m making light of it because I don’t see the point in flailing about all dramatic-like, AND because this offers you a peek into the guy my ex-wife wanted to leave.

I do want you to know who I am.

One wonders why I wouldn’t want to clean up the sins of my past that lead to the single-worst thing that has ever happened to me. Perhaps there’s a psychological explanation for why I am the way I am. And perhaps I’ll look into that one day. You know, when I get around to it.

I am a negligent person.

Some of you may remember the post where I explored the hypothetical ramifications of my grandmother marrying a Liam Neeson movie character. At the end of that post, I disclosed that my grandmother had been in an accident which forced her to have a variety of surgeries. She was in and out of the hospital for several weeks.

My grandmother is the sweetest woman on the planet, and I think about her often, and did pray earnestly for her recovery.

I called her yesterday for the first time since the accident in January. I left her a message because my grandparents weren’t home. When my grandma called me back last night, I ignored the phone call because I felt “too busy” to answer.

Hopefully, I’ll be disciplined enough to return her call today. Start holding your breath!

I only recently discovered PsyBlog. It’s awesome.

Last month, PsyBlog author Dr. Jeremy Dean wrote a nice post titled 10 Foolproof Tips for Overcoming Procrastination.

If you’re interested, please give it a read.

I’ll list the 10 here, but you’ll need to read his post to get the full context for a few of them.

1. Start easy

2. Start anywhere

3. Beware excuses

4. Up the value

5. Procrastination personality

6. Turn up

7. Think concrete

8. Don’t rely on memory

9. Avoid over-thinking

10. Forgive yourself

There’s a lot of good stuff here that very much applies to my life.

Because I do make excuses. To others and myself.

Because when I “Up the value” (an emergency!) I get shit done.

Because I do have a procrastination personality.

Because I have a subpar memory for task management and short-term things.

Because I over-think EVERYTHING.

And because I have a lot of trouble forgiving myself for… gee, let me think… pretty much every bad thing I’ve ever done.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, I would feel less stressed.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, I could get in great shape again.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, I could make a good book.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, I would feel spiritually balanced.

I bet if I stopped procrastinating, every facet of my life would improve.

This is great! I have something to focus on! An identifiable shortcoming I can do something about!

It’s going to be so gratifying to work on this stuff and grow and evolve into the person I want to be!

But when to start!?!?

Eh.

Maybe later.

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How to Be Loyal

Like this. Only with boy thumbs.

Like this. Only with boy thumbs.

I cheated on her.

I did.

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

And I cheated on her.

This is the third time.

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

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

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

Guilt.

It just washed over me.

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

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

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

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

Ugh. I’m a bad person.

Loyalty Matters

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

Being loyal is important. Vincent was right.

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

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

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

And to the people in our lives.

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

Responsibility Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cheated on this girl because I’m irresponsible.

She didn’t deserve that.

The Last Time I Saw Her

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

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

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

But she gets busy. She’s in demand.

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

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

So I went to see someone else.

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

It just wasn’t the same.

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

And she’ll take care of me.

Those familiar hands.

And I’ll feel balanced again.

We’ll talk for a bit afterward.

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

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

To be loyal.

To be responsible.

Because she deserves it.

And, honestly?

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

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