Tag Archives: Self-reflection

My Story is Your Story—Even When it’s Not

(Image/churchleaders.com)

(Image/churchleaders.com)

Imagine this: A magical alternative universe where total strangers randomly being in your house isn’t as scary or bizarre as it would actually be. (Because it’s the only way the next few paragraphs make any sense.)

And now imagine a stranger (who isn’t scary) in your house doing things your small child often does: Carelessly peeing on your toilet. Spitting globs of toothpaste in your sink without adequately rinsing the basin. Leaving toys or whatever scattered all over the living room floor. And NO MATTER HOW MANY FREAKING TIMES YOU’VE TOLD HIM, he doesn’t remember to eat over his plate, leaving 47 million crumbs on and around his seat at the table. Or maybe he puts his fingers on the house and car windows, or he gives you a little mouthy elementary-school sass that kind of makes you want to dropkick him.

If some dude off the street does that, I’ll secretly want to embed a golf club in his face, and might actually take a swing if that dumb bastard leaves another trail of crusted toothpaste in the bathroom sink that requires a power sander to clean.

If someone I kind of knew or was renting a room to did it, I might ask them to go away or find another place to live.

But if my little offspring—the absolute love of my life and my greatest earthly source of pride and joy—does it for the thousandth time? I’ll be frustrated with him for 10 seconds, remind him how easy it is to be less messy, and soon after, be laughing about whatever thing we move on to because he’s my favorite.

I think it’s relevant and noteworthy that three different people could do IDENTICAL things, and I’d react three different ways to each: one, I would hug and love unconditionally; the second, I would evict; and the third, I would face-punt.

All of which strike me as reasonable responses to the occasionally thoughtless, make-you-want-to-tear-out-your-hair-and-drink-excessively behaviors of my young grade schooler.

I have a few points, none of which are currently obvious:

1. Marriages Break Because Neglectful Spouses Devolve From Loved One, to Roommate, to Stranger You Want to Face-Punt

Sure, I love, care for, and am super-quick to forgive my young son in all his youthful innocence and cute-facedness. But what if he shows up in his 20s or 30s, pees all over the toilet, and repeatedly drops food and whatever all over the floor no matter how many times I’ve asked him to respect this seemingly reasonable sanitation policy? Maybe I’ll stop inviting him to dinner. Or maybe I’ll visit his house and pee all over his bathroom after brushing my teeth and leaving nasty toothpaste-saliva drippings in his sink.

If our expectations for our children’s behavior and respect for our instruction can change over time, is it unreasonable for a spouse to expect the same from her or his partner as their relationship evolves and grows through time?

A common marriage complaint from husbands is that their wives happiness is always a moving target. That nothing they do is ever good enough. I remember feeling that way, too.

A common marriage complaint I hear or read from frustrated wives is that her husband is “childish.” She doesn’t mean that he goofs off all the time and laughs hysterically at dick and fart jokes even though that could also be true, but that he never grows out of being the little boy who pees on the toilet or gets crumbs all over the floor during dinner. That could be literal, if she married someone with slob-like tendencies, or it could be metaphorical in the sense that he so rarely demonstrates thoughtfulness about things like housework or dinner plans or the schedules of others in the family.

It’s a dynamic that tends to be okay while dating and early in the marriage, but as the other We’re Gonna Get Divorced dominoes begin to fall, cleaning pee off the toilet rim—or worse, the seat—graduates from gross annoyance to murder motive.

She starts to feel like his mother, her sexual attraction for him dies, and then a bunch of other bad things start to happen.

2. Nothing is One-Size-Fits All

I often write in generalities because writing in specific absolutes, covering EVERY angle of EVERY topic would lead to 97-million-word posts that only my mom would read. There simply aren’t enough hours in a day to write or read about every possible scenario. So, when I write that Husbands Do This, or Wives Do That, or Men Often Think This, or Women Often Feel That, I’m doing so for brevity reasons, and I’m totally aware that almost NOTHING applies to everyone.

I was criticized recently by someone who interprets my writing as A. Blaming Men for Marriage Failure, B. Acting Like a Know-It-All Who Tries to Speak for All Men, and C. Never Holding Women Responsible for Their Role in Failing Marriages.

I don’t blame men. I even said so on the radio once.

I also don’t necessarily think it’s men’s fault—all these common relationship shortcomings we accidentally display—but I think it is our responsibility to right whatever wrongs we can as soon as we’re aware of them.

And I do believe there are specific things women can collectively do to improve relationships.

I think everyone who makes mistakes, should own them, and everyone with the power to make something better, should.

Which brings me to…

3. While I Write For Others, the Stories Are Mostly About Me

I’m just some guy.

There is nothing particularly noteworthy or special about me which is EXACTLY why the relationship conversations we have here matter.

If I was some super-unique case study or obvious outlier, it would be easy to dismiss.

But that’s not what I am, nor what my marriage was.

My marriage was THE Common Modern Divorce Story. And that should scare the shit out of everyone.

Because it’s really hard to see it coming.

What’s the “common” divorce story? It’s two good, well-intentioned people with an honest desire to marry and promise one another forever, only to discover 5-10 years later that their marriage has become joyless, stressful, unsteady and on the brink of failure, and neither person can really explain how or why they got there.

They spent 5-10 years having the exact same fight, because neither could ever figure out the right combination of words or the right behavioral response to their conflict.

And after it happened enough times, one or both of them became so angry, sad and emotionally exhausted that the agony of divorce looked like the better choice than the status quo.

And then more kids grow up a little bit sad and a little bit confused and never see the way marriage is SUPPOSED to be.

And then more people remarry thinking their ex was the problem, only to discover they brought their own baggage to the new relationship, and that the new person has some too, and that they’ve seen this movie before.

And then more things break, and it just keeps happening over and over again, and not very many people ever slow down long enough amid all the pain and dysfunction to just stop.

To just breathe.

To just look inside and ask the hard questions. The ones that makes us squirm years later, and maybe forever.

What have I done to cause this?

What could I have done better?

What choices can I make to be better tomorrow than I was yesterday, so nothing like this ever happens again?

I don’t blame men. I blame me.

And women certainly aren’t guilt-free. I promise to start pointing fingers right after I wake up awesome and perfect every day.

In the meantime, I think being an adult is hard, and I think we all get a little confused when things hurt more than we knew was possible, or when we’re missing too much information, or when we feel Life falling apart because adulthood is unsteady in ways many of us never imagined.

Back when we were young and innocent.

Back when we were getting crumbs and toothpaste spittle everywhere, and the fortunate among us were hugged and forgiven instead of beaten and abused.

Back when we were happy and hopeful, as the fortunate among us can be once again.

If only we’re willing to own our crimes and pay our penance.

Because it’s not them. It’s us.

It’s not you. It’s me.

We worry about what we can control, and try to make a difference when and where we can.

Maybe people won’t always get it. But maybe it can still matter.

Because everyone loves a good redemption story.

And somewhere beneath all the humanity, I think everyone has one to tell.

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Maybe It’s Time to Leave

I feel dirty suggesting that leaving a relationship might be a good idea. But honestly? It might be the only way he learns.

I feel dirty suggesting that leaving a relationship might be a good idea. But honestly? It might be the only way he learns.

My ex-wife reads this blog and probably often thinks: “Fuck that fucker,” even though she’s pretty nice to me most of the time.

Why?

Probably because I wasn’t like this when we were married, and sometimes when I write things, ladies will ooh and ahh because they believe I would make decent boyfriend material because I come off more enlightened than all the Neanderthals they date or marry because I am now more enlightened than most of them.

And she probably thinks the entire scene is a massive pile of bullshit.

Hard to blame her.

As with most situations in life, there’s a lesson to be learned here.

Sayonara, Hombre

Ignoring the fact I just sexed up Japanese and Spanish, and ignoring the fact that I REPEATEDLY have pleaded and begged and advocated for people to choose to love and be strong in marriage and fight the good fight even when it’s hard and inconvenient… I wonder…

I wonder whether leaving is the only way to know for sure.

To know whether he loves you.

To know whether he respects you.

To know whether he’ll fight for you.

I don’t know. I just wonder. Because that is how it worked for me.

I met my wife when I was 18—a drunk college freshman at a keg party. She looked, and was, spectacular in every imaginable way. At one point, in the middle of our conversation, I had to excuse myself to vomit in the bathroom. And she still married me.

There’s a joke there somewhere. But I’m busy trying to make an important point amid all the bad words and language-banging. A fantastic writer named Mark Manson made this important point first:

Most people only commit to action if they feel a certain level of motivation. And they only feel motivation when they feel an emotional inspiration.

I’ve won sympathy from hundreds—maybe thousands—of women here because I was crying and scared and missing my son and uncertain I could ever find someone to be with me again.

And that was real. I wasn’t faking. I actually cried. I was actually scared. Still am.

“And they only feel motivation when they feel an emotional inspiration.”

You weren’t there all those nights. Countless nights. Dinner was through and the kitchen was cleaned. And there she was on the couch, presumably open to suggestion. Presumably waiting for me to take the lead and show initiative. To do something together.

Anything, really. Talk. Laugh. Hold. Hug. Kiss. Cum.

But, hey! She was busy watching HGTV! I’ll go do this other thing I like to do!

So, I’d play online poker or watch football or go do this other thing that didn’t involve my wife—the person I loved the most but clearly wasn’t motivated to show in any meaningful way.

Sometimes we’d talk and she’d cry when things got hard. I’d try to comfort her but it wasn’t authentic because I felt secure in the relationship as demonstrated by just how much I took the entire thing for granted.

So, she was never comforted.

The hurt and frustration continued to build.

Me watching 24 on Netflix. Me playing poker. Me immersing myself in pursuit after pursuit, but never pursuing her.

Men don’t always realize it because we’re so focused on infidelity as the primary breach of trust in a relationship and a marriage’s worst crime. And it, along with physical abuse, is VERY bad. But men don’t always realize that emotional abuse can sometimes hurt worse.

Men leave their wives alone in the marriage. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I left my wife alone in our marriage.

And then one day, it all breaks.

Au revoir, marito.

Fuck that fucker.

But I Am Different Now

There is a fundamental part of me that will never change. We are who we are. But we do have an incredible capacity to grow and change and evolve as we learn and experience new things.

And I’ve learned new things. The hard way. And I’m a better person for it.

And maybe most people have to learn things the hard way for changes to stick.

I am a father. And I was a husband. And these things mattered to me very, very much. They defined me, which is why I felt so lost when one of those things went away.

I felt lost and sad and broken and angry. You know what that is? Emotional inspiration! And it works.

From Mark Manson: “And we’ve all slacked off for lack of motivation before. Especially in times where we shouldn’t. We feel lethargic and apathetic towards a certain goal that we’ve set for ourselves because we lack the motivation and we lack the motivation because we don’t feel any overarching emotional desire to accomplish something.”

Emotional Inspiration → Motivation → Desirable Action

My beautiful, crying wife feeling sad and alone wasn’t enough to get me to take desirable action.

Fuck that fucker.

So, without even trying, my wife did the perfect thing to help me finally overcome lethargy and apathy. She checked out, and eventually left.

And now? I’m me. Nice to meet you.

If you’re a hurting spouse or girlfriend, you’re just like millions of other women who fell in love with millions of guys like me. I want so badly for him—especially if he’s a father—to love you the way he’s supposed to. To keep your kids’ parents together. To show your sons how to be a man. To show your daughters what love is supposed to look like. To stand as an example to friends and family and neighbors for what it means to do love and marriage the right way.

Because that’s what we’re called to do. To serve something greater than ourselves. To lead through service. To love through action.

But, we are, inevitably, human.

And sometimes the inertia is so strong, and you’re out of tools in your arsenal to try to get him to move, and you’re out of energy to look for another way.

It’s against EVERYTHING I want to stand for. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t the only thing that will work: Maybe it’s time. Maybe that’s the only way to inspire real change.

It took her leaving for me to ask the right questions. For me to recognize some truths I’d been running from.

And maybe it will for him, too.

There’s only one way to find out, and it doesn’t have to be forever.

But today is today and he’s not the man he promised to be. He’s not the man he’s supposed to be.

I wasn’t either. So, I can’t begrudge her resentment.

Fuck that fucker.

But look at me now.

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