After talking to dozens of men and reading stories from hundreds of guys experiencing the pain and regret of divorce and infidelity, you start to see patterns. That's what started this whole website and podcast adventure of mine, after all. Patterns.
Me: "Hmmm... there's something going on here."
Like, for example, the language patterns.
"We were SUPPOSED to be..."
"She SHOULD have..."
"This is NOT how it was SUPPOSED to go..."
"She SHOULD care about..."
"I don't DESERVE this."
He had plans. He did X and was supposed to get Y in return. That didn't happen. This does not compute. He did everything he was supposed to do. This isn't fair. He doesn't DESERVE this. He just doesn't understand. He played by the fucking rules.
All of my initial advice to these men can be summarized as: "Ok. Well... you were wrong. Now what?"
I'm not sure where and when it happened, but somewhere along the line a large portion of the male population got together in a secret meeting and decided to put together a book about just the RIGHT kind male behavior. I'm picturing a giant leather-bound tome called "THE RULES" with the subtitle of "Do these things and you'll have a very happy, sex-filled marriage for decades". I've never seen said book, but from what I can gather the contents include gems like:
Here is an example of one of the readers of the book. This was posted just today on Reddit from a typical dude on the Divorce forum:
"Hi. I am 47 and my stbx is 42. We have been married a long time and have an 18 year old daughter. I found out a month ago she has been seeing another guy she met online. As far as i can work out he is a drunk and is always borrowing money off the stbx. I don't understand where it all went wrong. Pretty much throughout the marriage I have done all the cooking 75% of the housework as well as having a full-time job as well as any gardening etc. I know I am not good-looking but spent half my life looking after her. I feel half my life has been wasted. I gave up soo much and have had nothing in return. Then she does this. She didn't speak before hand and say she was unhappy. I feel so damaged I don't think I will ever find someone I can trust. What now? Thanks for reading."
See the not-so-subtle form of "Hey, what the fuck?! This wasn't in the book!"? He's saying he played by the rules by doing the vast majority of housework, paying the bills and even did the fucking gardening. He actually brings up those not-so-good looks of his, but quickly brushes that aside for the more honorable trait of "looking after" his wife.
He was the maid, the homemaker, the gardener AND dad. Wow... how could this sudden lack of attraction come about?! (HINT: READ THIS)
If that wasn't sad enough, the comments are even sadder. Not ONE person responded with the recognition of him doing absolutely everything WRONG in his own co-dependent description. Instead they all said a variation of "it's not your fault". After all, it's in THE BOOK, right? Must be an anomaly. A data point outside of the bell curve. Carry on, nice dude! Your next princess awaits.
Of course THE BOOK doesn't actually exist. It's not a leather bound creation with actual pages and text... but it's a metaphor for the rules and regulations a large group of today's men have in their mind. Where did these rules comes from? Hollywood? Disney? Conditioning in school? The lack of strong paternal figures? Too many single moms?
Whatever it is, the conditioning has one interesting aspect: It is so damn strong and so damn pervasive that we ignore the obvious that is right in front of our faces. We focus on what SHOULD be versus what IS. We focus on what we DESERVE versus what we actually GOT in life.
"This tiger is eating my face right now. Ouch. This can't be happening... All tigers are awesome. Must be an evil tiger/demon hybrid. That's it. As soon as Demon Tiger is done here I will go to the hospital... then I'll see about finding another tiger."
To further illustrate, here is a peak into the mindset of the typical codependent nice guy/provider at various milestones in his life:
These guys are given an inordinate amount of evidence and hints throughout their life that the present course of action is not correct. At the time the evidence is just vapor and not worthy of their attention. It's not concrete. The evidence is drowned out by the all-too-consuming anxiety and preoccupation for doing what we feel is right and expected.. all to appease a panel of judges that doesn't exist and never has existed. It's not reality. It's just what SHOULD be... and dammit we will go to our graves defending this fake book of rules.
STOP LIVING IN THE IMAGINARY WORLD OF "SHOULD".
Understanding what IS is the starting point for real, true self-improvement. All else is delusion. Everything else does nothing but soothe your inner baby. There is no real end game for the world of the nice guy. There's no mission. There's nothing to strive towards... because it's not a gameplan grounded in reality. It's like grabbing your Xbox controller and screaming at it and wondering why you can't get past level 1 in the game. Dude... Look over and see what your buddy is doing. Just push the fucking buttons.
Let's reexamine the milestones of a typical nice guy life and look at how applying the gift of seeing life as it IS (reality) can help:
If you live in the NOW and in the REAL, things start to make sense. You have more boundaries and a deeper sense of self-respect. You tell others what you think and feel in a given situation, regardless of the potential consequences. You have a strong sense of integrity, but it doesn't come at the expense of your masculinity. You have needs and you're not afraid to express them. You're not afraid to take a loss. You're better able to cope with the inevitable downfalls when they happen. You expected them and you are emotionally prepared. You didn't put all of your eggs into an imaginary basket of comfort and soothing. You played the part of the seasoned adult with an abundance of possibilities. You played the part of a man.