Beanie: “Don’t even start with me, Franklin, okay? You need to walk away from this ASAP.”
Beanie: “You need to get out, Frankie. This is it. It’s now or never. You need to get out of here while you’re still single.”
Frank: “I’m not single.”
Beanie: “She’s 30 yards away. You’re single now.”
Frank: “Come on, Marissa’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Beanie: “Why don’t you give that six months. You don’t think that’ll change? I got a wife, kids. Do I seem like a happy guy to you, Frankie?”
Beanie: “There’s my wife. See that? Always smiling? Hi, honey. Judging, watching, ‘Look at the baby.’”
Mitch Martin: “She’s coming down the aisle, Beanie. Let it go.”
Author’s Note: I think the #1 problem in the world is how poorly humans manage their relationships. Even if you disagree, follow my logic, please. The biggest influence on whether our lives suck or are awesome is the quality of our closest relationships. For most of our lives, that’s the relationship with our spouses or long-term romantic partners. Human conflict is problematic everywhere. But when it’s two people who decided to pool resources and promised to love one another forever, and make and share children? It’s a crisis. The ripple-effect consequences know no bounds. Divorce breaks people, and then broken people break other things.
I think the #1 cause of divorce is relationship-damaging behavior by men who honestly don’t recognize it. Good men with good intentions who damage their wives’ emotional and mental health with behaviors they don’t understand to be as damaging as they are.
How? Why? There are no easy answers. But I think the closest one is: No one knows. Just like people spent decades smoking tobacco without knowing it had dire health consequences.
I think we don’t teach our children the truth about adulthood. That we don’t teach our boys the truth about manhood. Not because we’re liars. But because we didn’t know either.
This is the sixth in a series of posts about The Things We Don’t Teach Men (And How It Ruins Everything).
The Things We Don’t Teach Men: You Don’t Have to Get Married
I can’t prove this, but I believe almost everything we do in life is based off of us modeling the behaviors of others or doing things we believe we are “supposed” to because we think: This is how everyone does it!
Like when we stop our vehicles at red lights or “STOP” signs even though we can see that no other cars or pedestrians could be hurt or affected by us disregarding the traffic signal. Humans are creatures of behavioral habits. And many of those habits start before we can even talk, watching others around us do all the things.
I think that’s why most people get married. Because we grow up with adults who are mostly married or in some stage of dating, and that then makes us believe “Getting married is just what you do when you’re old enough!” Sprinkle in any beliefs about sex being sinful and wrong outside of marriage, and it’s not hard to see why most people make a beeline for a relationship model well known to fail painfully half of the time, and on average, spending $30,000-$40,000 between the engagement rings, wedding bands, wedding receptions and honeymoon trips just to get started.
A few key points here:
I am NOT pro-marriage (unless people plan to have children).
I am NOT anti-marriage.
What I AM is anti-divorce.
I am, I believe, a well-informed pragmatist on the subject. And I know that 95% of people WILL marry, or are planning to marry someday. That’s real-life math. Of all people ages 18 and up in the United States, 9.5 out of 10 are married, used to be married, or are planning to get married.
Thought exercise: Name something besides air, food and water that affects 9.5 out of every 10 people.
Other than cataclysmic apocalyptic things like asteroids striking earth or nuclear holocaust, there aren’t many things capable of impacting the human population as significantly as marriage does. Yet, the majority of people in positions to improve or optimize marriage, and to teach young children the things they need to know to have healthy and successful marriages, don’t seem to be talking about or thinking about any of this stuff.
We tend to not worry about cancer until we’re diagnosed with it.
We tend to not worry about marriage until we’re sobbing in the kitchen watching our wives drive away for the last time with our kids in the backseat.
The Masks We Wear Doom Our Relationships and Families
I got engaged and married sooner than I wanted to. I didn’t feel ready. But all around me, my friends and other couples we knew were getting married.
I was afraid to lose her. My fear of not being with her was bigger than my fear of getting married.
Which is all well and good. My biggest mistake was NOT being more fearful of divorce. But really, there was no way I could have known what I do today. And I never believed divorce was a realistic eventuality. My parents split when I was 4. I always said I would NEVER get divorced, and I meant it.
But I was just a kid. And you can’t know what you don’t know.
I was worried, but it wasn’t enough to scare me off. I assumed EVERYONE worried. I assumed EVERYONE doubted themselves. I assumed EVERYONE must feel this way leading up to their weddings.
The math for me was simple: I loved her and wanted to be with her, and I perceived marriage to be the only way that was going to happen.
We were married at 25.
Prior to marriage, we never had a legitimately honest and vulnerable conversation about sex. Likes, dislikes, fantasies, preferences, etc.
I blame me for this. I have some weird guilt-shame hang-ups about sex. Maybe all boys growing up in Catholic school in small, conservative Midwest towns do.
I wasn’t fully honest about things I liked and felt and wanted in the bedroom. I thought I was being a gentleman because I never wanted my wife to feel like she wasn’t good enough. And I never felt comfortable telling her all of the things I really thought about and felt, because What if she thinks I’m a weird perv and doesn’t want to be with me anymore?!?!
I never wanted to “plan” a date night or to have sex because I had this ridiculous idea in my head that all sex should be an act of passionate spontaneity.
I rarely flirted with my wife the way I did as a young single guy, or the way I can now as an old single guy.
There are several examples, I’m sure, of my wife and I not being as intentionally transparent and honest with one another as we should have out of fear of what the other might think.
The concept of being ACCEPTED is really important to a lot of people. It was always really important to me. Intellectually, I care less today. But emotionally? It still feels the same. There are people I want to like me and it’s not fun when it feels as if they don’t.
But a magical thought occurred to me over the past couple of years of dating, and once I recognized The Truth, almost everything about being single started to feel positive.
It has forever changed the way I feel about human relationships, about career opportunities, and about many significant Life events.
You DO NOT Want to Marry Someone Who Doesn’t Like the REAL You
I can’t begin to explain how powerful this realization was for me.
What am I so afraid of? That someone who is truly not a good fit, or a company that is truly not a good place for me to work, will reject me for being the most honest and real version of myself?
What is the motivation to date or marry someone, or to earn a job, where the true and authentic version of yourself is incompatible with the other person, or with the place you spend most of your time every day?
Yet, so many people put on masks and try to say things and behave in ways they believe the person they’re dating or the person interviewing them for a job wants to hear and see. So many people are afraid if someone knows the REAL us that we’ll be deemed unworthy of love or employment.
People go to great lengths for acceptance. To feel part of something with the best of intentions. What we often don’t realize until much too late is how many bad things could have been avoided if we were more courageous in sharing our innermost selves and thoughts and desires and beliefs, because the people who want THAT version of you—romantically or professionally—THOSE are the great matches with an incredibly high chance for success.
When you’re young and ignorant like I was, it feels safer to hide certain thoughts and feelings that might earn you a rejection from someone you want to like you. But when the stakes are as high as a marriage, or even a job where you will spend most of your time, there couldn’t be a more important time to be YOU.
Because you’re already good enough. Whether they like you or whether they hire you can’t and won’t change who you really are.
So we must own all the things that make us who we are.
And if we have to suffer dozens or hundreds of personal and professional heartbreaks and disappointments in order to get to our highly filtered matches? On the back end of a difficult divorce, I’m confident saying it feels worth it.
And even if it didn’t? Bad matches are bad matches, no matter how much they like you. And bad matches don’t have happy endings.
When people enforce their boundaries vigilantly while dating, ONLY people with a high probability for success will ever end up exchanging wedding vows with one another.
Your life will suck less and you will have a better chance for succeeding in your relationships if you read and behave according to this:
Please Read This:
You don’t HAVE to get married. You don’t.
And even if you feel like you do, I promise you don’t want to marry someone with whom you have significant compatibility issues. Every day turns into a shit show, and you kind of want to die.
When we exercise bravery, we can embrace disappointment and those BAD things that happen because we understand that all the future good things can’t happen without these moments; then we all have the opportunity to write stories with less horror and trauma and tragedy, and with more humor and hope and happiness.
You know—all the good shit.