You can’t beat emotion. Stop trying.

On this site, my most popular podcasts and articles are by far the ones dealing with Dead Bedrooms. The next most popular topics are about Infidelity.

On the way more popular website Talk About Marriage, the two most popular “focused” topics are “Coping with Infidelity” and “Sex in Marriage“. No other topics even come close.

talk about marriage topics

So… bad sex and cheating spouses. That’s the bread and butter of relationship discussion on the web. How nice.

So… what’s going on? Why so many people searching for and commenting on issues related to infidelity and sex in marriage? Is it REALLY that bad?

First of all, yes… lots of people get caught cheating on their spouses AND a lot of people have shitty sex lives. That’s just a fact.

Second, there are a lot of men on the internet just trying to figure out HOW to fix things when they go horribly wrong. They want to know what steps they can take to go back to banging their wife 2 times a day. They want to know what they can do to get their wife to fall back in love with them after catching her riding the guy from her spinning class.

They also want to know WHY and HOW the relationship machine broke so “suddenly”. Surely there’s gotta be a relationship owner’s manual PDF they can download for free somewhere.

For the male victims of infidelity, more often than not the answer they get from their community is some variation of “Dude. Stop. Just leave the whore already.” He doesn’t listen. “Just leave” is an irrational, knee-jerk reaction that has long-lasting and negative repercussions to the family unit. Besides, all these people on the internet don’t know his wife. She’s really not the evil creature his story might make her out to be. She has just lost her way and there is STILL a chance to right this sinking ship. She just needs to be reminded of all the good things they have going on and she will snap out of this “fog” she is in and come to her senses.

This is the equivalent of a guy under the hood of his car, checking the oil and brake fluid while the car is engulfed in flames. “Hold on a sec… Let me just check the wiper fluid real quick. It looks a little low, too.” 

Men are fixers. We apply our RATIONAL, annoying Spock-like minds to these dramatic, emotion-filled situations and do all kinds of calculations and what-if scenarios to find the magic solution.

We are using our inherent manly qualities of tinkering and figuring things out and applying them to a situation where it not only doesn’t belong, but could actually end up making the situation even worse.

Sure the washer fluid is full… but you now have third degree burns over your whole body and the car is a pile of ashes.

DRILL THIS INTO YOUR HEAD: You can’t overcome emotion with rationality.

“I don’t understand. Doesn’t she realize what she’s doing to our family? This doesn’t make any sense.”

“She doesn’t have any money. How is she going to take care of herself if she’s on her own?!”

“The guy is a LOSER! How can she blow up our family with a guy like THAT!?”

“If she would just TRY to have sex with me every day, she would remember how much fun sex is and everyone would be happy!”

“I don’t get it. We just renewed our vows. The whole time we were so loving and devoted to each other… and she was having multiple affairs. It makes no sense.”

In cases of infidelity and sex, you’re not dealing with somebody who took out a spreadsheet and listed all of the pros and cons in their decision making.

You’re dealing with emotion. FEELINGS. Human NATURE.

In the world of emotion, 2+2 can, in fact, equal 5… as long as it feels right.

Emotion wins.  Every time.

Advertisers have known this for decades.

Do you want to sell a product?  Show the consumer how bad things can be without it. Show them how everyone else has it and just look how HAPPY and good looking they are now that they have this product in their lives. Create a culture around your product. Create an image and set of rituals around your product. Tap into their innate human programming while at the same time pushing those buttons that release a potent shot of dopamine. Once they feel like they are part of a community AND better than the other guy AND they feel a euphoric high using the product… then it’s over. They’ll pay a premium for the EXPERIENCE of your product. Doesn’t matter that it was made in China by slave labor and will break in one year.

The nerds say “Why buy the iMac when a PC for half the cost will easily outperform it?” They’re the same type of guy that says “Why would she cheat on me with that loser that works at Taco Bell?”

He doesn’t get it. It has nothing to do with common sense and rational thought. It’s emotion. It’s innate programming. It’s human nature.

You can’t beat it with your rationality, dude.  Don’t even try. You’ll just go crazy in the process.

“She’s nuts. All women are nuts.”

It’s extremely easy to throw your hands up and just proclaim all women to be varying degrees of crazy. It’s the knee-jerk way out of actually trying to think, empathize and understand people who can have a vastly different perspective on life. The problem is that once you DO get a better understanding of women and their psychology in particular, you inevitably come back with some variation of “Wow, it’s like she can’t help it.” This can be even more disturbing and shocking to a lot of men.

I know, “She can’t help it” seems to imply that she is a child that has no control over what she does in life. No, that’s not it at all.

Women are human and all humans have a “just can’t help it” line of autonomous behavior.

The “CLICK-WHIRR” Effect

In his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, social psychologist Robert Cialdini breaks down the mechanisms that cause people to DO certain things for certain people. He dives quickly into the dangerous world of our autonomic animalistic behavior. I say “dangerous” because people REALLY don’t like being told that they don’t have complete free will in their day-to-day behavior. We REALLY REALLY don’t like being told that men and women have different instinctual drives that govern our behavior.

In today’s society we often misconstrue “different” as implying “inferior”. That hurts feelings and causes anxiety. People are more than willing to gladly ignore science if it means not hurting feelings. See the uproar from the latest Google “manifesto” as a perfect example.

We humans feel that we digest every important nugget of information we’re presented with and at least TRY to create the most rational and altruistic response at all times.

Nope.

“You can do what you decide to do — but you cannot decide what you will decide to do.” – Sam Harris

Cialdini illustrates our autonomic programming with something he calls the “Click-Whirr” Effect.

Basically, think of a machine that clicks on and then the mechanism or tape starts spinning… that’s the whirr.  Every living creature has some type of programming in them that is setup to monitor for a specific stimuli (the click) and react accordingly (the whirr).

In a particular species of turkey, for example, they have an internal program that says “When I hear the very specific sound/pitch of a baby turkey that has just hatched, I will sit on it to keep it warm.” Scientists were able to bring a box into a cage… a box with no discernable turkey-like features… and get a female turkey to sit on it just by playing the newly hatched turkey noise.

The baby chick noise was the click. Mama sitting on the box was the whirr.

The turkey didn’t THINK “I hear a noise. Their must be a baby turkey inside this box, I must protect it.” It just REACTED. Instantly. No thought. No rationalizing. Thousands of years of progamming at work.

Cialdini takes the principle of the click-whirr and applies it to humans in the form of persuasion. Getting people to do what you want means knowing what specific buttons to click to get just the right reaction out of them. You can mimic certain innate behavioral triggers and watch again and again just how little free will people actually have.

The Click-Whirr Effect in Real Life

Take, for example, the infamous dead bedroom.

The dead bedroom is a response. You were having sex… something happened… now you’re not. Simple as that.

Responses like these, for the most part, are NOT thought out or intentional. There’s no genuine malice at play here. This is DEEPLY embedded if/then programming statements that have been around for generations. This is the kind of stuff that keeps the species moving along. This is biology. Biology doesn’t care that you are gold medal dad of the year for the past 10 years. Biology doesn’t care that you bring home a steady paycheck and paid for a new furnace last month.

All biology knows is that you did X and you now get Y in return.

Instead of using the harsh terms like “nature” or “programming”, we can also refer to this as “emotion”. They’re all inerchangeable. Calling it emotion softens the blow a bit and gives it a weakened image of “silly little girl” or “weak-willed man”, when in-fact it can be broken down into digestable and predictable chunks of stimuli-response. There’s nothing infantile or crazy about it.

After much life experience and research, I have reached the conclusion that men just need to push the following clicks/buttons, in no particular order, to elicit the classic “dead bedroom/infidelity” whirr responses we all read about again and again:

  1. Don’t look good. Give no shits about your appearance.
  2. Don’t stand up to her. Let her do, say and act however she pleases… even when she’s being an asshole.
  3. Don’t be fun and exciting. Allow life’s obstacles to give you an excuse to be dull and predictable.
  4. Stop being interested in other women. Don’t talk about them and don’t look at them. Pretend they don’t exist.

Show me a guy who says that he’s not getting his intimate needs met in marriage I will show you a guy that will say “Yeah, you’re right”  to three out of the four items above.

When you don’t look good, your wife’s hindbrain says “Not good genetic material for mating purposes… Not attractive to other females…must not procreate with this male.” The whirr: “Not tonight honey. I have a headache.”

 

When you don’t stand up to her and instead just say “yes, dear” twenty times a day, her brain says “This male is weak. He can’t even stand up to me… how will he stand up to things that are truly dangerous and protect me and the family?” The whirr: “I miss being single…”

 

When you stop being fun and exciting, her brain says “He must be getting older and less virile. Testosterone must be down. He won’t be able to procreate successfully or protect me from danger. “ The whirr: “I’m going out for lunch with Tom, my ex-boyfriend from college.”

 

When you stop looking at other women in a sexual way, her brain says “I have no danger of losing my provider. He doesn’t even do the most basic of horny male stuff. He ain’t going anywhere.” The whirr: “I’m tired. I’m going to put on my sweats and just go to bed. But first I will eat three pieces of cake leftover from yesterday.”

These clicks and whirrs are usually not overt or conscious. More often then not they are subtle and pile up over time. The woman is not taking out a flow chart to decide whether or not she still finds her husband attractive. It “just happens”. The subsequent whirr is absolutely mystifying to the unsuspecting husband.

This is when they hear things like:

“I don’t know why I don’t want sex like I used to. I just don’t.”

“It just happened. We were talking, we had a few drinks, he came over… I’m sorry.”

Push the right combination of clicks and the subsequent whirr will wipe your past out as if it never happened. Your history as a couple and all of the past good deeds are NO match for her emotion. “But but… we have marriage VOWS!” Dude… you’re not listening. The programming has already kicked in. There is no line of code that says “If marriage status = true, stop whirr sequence immediately.” It doesn’t work that way.

This is the “affair fog” you read so much about. The spouse becomes a kind of autonomous cheater robot.

*Beep boop* “I love you but I’m not IN LOVE with you.” *Beep boop beep* “It’s not you. It’s me” *Beep bop beep boop* “I think we need to take a break.”

You’re witnessing the whirr happening right before your eyes. Everything in her life but the affair is wiped out. You can call this “being in love”“obsession”“this is not my wife”…. or you can say that the other man came in at the right time, pushed the right buttons and the “copulate with competing male” whirr started spinning away.

Same result either way: She’s cheating. The whirr has started. You just let the machine run its course… and you walk away. For good.

Boundaries

Healthy people recognize the reality of the whirr. They recognize their capability for malevolence. To combat this, they construct what we call “boundaries” around themselves. They don’t put themselves in positions where clicks are abundant.

  • They don’t do girls night outs with that one questionably sane gal from the office. They say “No thank you!” and take their energy home to their husband.
  • They don’t keep the dirty text they got from the hot 19 year old neighbor girl a secret.  They tell the girl that it’s very inappopriate and immediately show their wife.
  • They don’t have drinks alone after work with the charming guy from the office. They tell him that he should ask his wife out instead.
  • They don’t stay and listen to the hot girl at the office talk about how she would kill to have a guy like him in her life. They say “Thanks”, walk away, and tell the wife about it.
  • They don’t keep messages from their ex a secret. They block the number and immediately inform their husband.

Beware the person who gets angry about having to put up boundaries to their behavior. Beware people who repeatedly claim “I would never cheat” and get angry when the thought of boundaries are brought up. That is clue one that they don’t have any boundaries and they are more apt to let their guard down and open themselves up to the dangerous clicks all around them. They’re in denial of their capacity for wrongdoing and they project their fears and insecurities onto you.

Crossing the line

It doesn’t take much to cross the line. Not much at all. People are more apt to cross it if the circumstances are right. They are more apt to give in to the impulses and clicks and let the machine take over and whirr away if they have the right stressors and emotional baggage in place.

In short, if you come from a broken home, have a history of abuse, were sexual at a very early age, have a history of substance abuse …. you are one finely tuned whirring machine. Your defenses are frequently down and it takes A LOT more consistent boundary enforcement to keep car from going off the road.

One common scenario I see again and again:

  1. Wife has baggage galore. Regardless of her past, she has become a successful and well-rounded person.
  2. Red flags are abundant but ignored. Her actions are questionable but they are always short of crossing the line. The man is led to believe that his nagging gut feelings make him a bad person. He looks at all the positives, instead.
  3. One or a series of bad life moments (stressors) take place. A family member dies. Job loss. Demotion. Illness. New job responsibilities. Something happens and it is enough to break down the few boundaries they may have… and they are off to the races. Strange behavior galore. Cheating. “This is not my wife.” The robot has been activated.

So, your wife is cheating on you? Here’s what you do.

I will be the first to admit that I did EVERYTHING WRONG when I discovered by ex-wife’s infidelity. I am the perfect example of a guy who succeeded in spite of my immediate actions. I got lucky. I’ve spoken to enough guys to see patterns and recognize what one should and shouldn’t do when the big bomb is dropped on you. It can go HORRIBLY wrong if you don’t play your cards right.

Here is the DSO prescription that will give you a better chance of coming out on top.

  1. Don’t tell her you know or suspect anything. Do you have a piece of concrete evidence or maybe some circumstantial evidence… or maybe just a hunch that she’s up to something? Keep it to yourself. I don’t care how minute it is. Don’t tell her a damn thing.  Play detective. Gather evidence. Don’t tell anyone.  If she catches wind of you snooping she will play cover-up and you lose your advantage.
  2. Meet with an attorney. You simply go to an attorney with all that you know about your wife’s activities.. along with your financial information. Income. Debts. The attorney will take a look and let you know where you will stand after divorce. Yes… you are divorcing. There’s no coming back from this. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s over. NOTE: Many times the infidelity has zero bearing on the circumstances of the divorce. Just like everyone else on the planet, the courts don’t care that she cheated. What it MAY do is give you some leverage during negotiations. She may not want the world to know all her sordid details and will bend a little more to keep things quiet. “You know about the llama and the five midgets in Mexico? Okay… I’ll let you have the truck.”
  3. Present your evidence to the spouse. Act like an attorney. It should go something like this: “Okay… I know about the affair. Please don’t say anything and make it worse. I have more than enough evidence. Just sit and listen.We are divorcing. I have already met with an attorney and have written up an agreement that is fair to both of us. I suggest you hire an attorney ASAP to also look it over. You may move to the basement, or to a friend’s house or anywhere else.. but our current living arrangements will not remain. I will give you ample time to get all of your things in order. I’m sorry it had to come to this. Good luck.”
  4. Her family is dead. Don’t talk to that sister-in-law you always got along with. Mother-in-law the sweetest thing ever? Good. Be cordial but do not reach out. At all. It will be weird for quite a while.. but that’s ok and better than the alternative. They are all on her team now. Always. No matter what they say she is still their daughter/sister/aunt/cousin… and that means a lot more than “that dude she married that one time”. Even if they just want to talk about how much of a giant slutty crazy woman she is now… you don’t care. You don’t stoop to that level of gossip. You tell them you’re not interested in talking about it and need to go.
  5. If you have kids, you communicate with your ex only through text or email. Transfer of kids? No talking. She texts you and asks how you are doing? No reply. She sends you some photo from your past? Delete. No kids? She’s dead. Let the attorneys talk. She no longer exists.

There’s a reason for all of this. One reason is to cover your butt and not open yourself up to something that will harm you legally, financially or socially. Another is to start the process of removing emotion from the equation. To become indifferent and stoic in the face of all the crazy and awful things you’ve just learned. You have to eventually, might as well start now and hit the ground running. Your future self will thank you.

I know.. easier said than done. Easy for me to say after years of being removed from the situation. But sometimes the right thing is not the easy thing. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing in the world, but you gotta do it.

 

My One Marriage Counseling Experience

How the hell did I get here?

I’m seated across from a very nice and motherly marriage counselor.

My wife is next to me. Tissue in hand. Dabbing at her eyes. I have somehow held back my tears. I don’t know why, but I just poured out my life story to the counselor. It really has no bearing at all on why we’re here… at least not directly… but it seemed right at the time. I was probably hoping for my wife or the counselor to break out into tears and sympathize with me. “We didn’t know you were so complex and interesting! You win dude of the year! Yaay! Let’s get this marriage back on track!” God, I was such an ass. I was in a state of shock and extreme anxiety. I had not slept for two days. My heart was thumping out of my chest. I had already lost 11 lbs. How is that even possible?!

I talked and talked… the counselor sat there with a concerned look on her face. She nodded and hummed sympathetically at all the right times. My wife was normally stoic and emotionless. She had a hard time with intimacy of any kind. Today she was sobbing quietly and wiping tears.. a state I had only seen before when somebody died or she was caught overspending for the 100th time.

I wrapped up my story with the line “… and now here we are with you… because I found evidence of infidelity”. You could see this took the counselor by surprise. “Oh… okay.” Not what she was expecting. My wife went immediately from sobbing damsel to angry bitch in the span of one nanosecond. She had enough of my histrionics.

“Okay, here’s the deal. We were on vacation and I stupidly left my Facebook page open and he saw messages between me and a guy… but it WAS JUST FLIRTING!!” *turning to me* “I know you don’t believe me, BUT IT’S TRUE!! WE NEVER DID ANYTHING!!”

Back to crying. Very convincing. It was a lie. One of many. She has been in an affair for three months with her personal trainer. I would later find evidence and she would admit the full extent of the affair.

The counselor was calm… “Okay then.” She went on to describe people drifting apart in marriages… boundaries… mid-life-crises… the usual boilerplate stuff. I sat and took mental notes. I am a man… a fixer. I was determined to come out of this with some nugget of information that would put things back the way they were.

I just wanted my damn life back.

Then the wife opened up about what’s wrong with me. Some of it was completely false. Reinventing history (a way to rationalize her behavior). Some of it was right on the money. Hearing all this come from her… it hurt. Who was this woman? “And I don’t like having sex with you. I never have. I just want it to hurry up and be over. I’m sorry, but it’s true!” Okay, that did it. I’m crying. She found the button to push.

The counselor has an interesting response to my tears. “You need to learn to be able to take all of her emotional vomiting and just let it roll off of you. You can’t be so hurt so easily.”

Easily?!?! Did she just hear what she said? I haven’t slept in two days because of this! This is my wife and mother of my three kids! What the fuck is going on here!? Has everyone gone mad?!

But I now get what she was saying. “Dude. She’s nuts. Big deal. Most of them are. Deal with it.” A future mantra of mine.

The issue of money came up. The wife admitted that she did have a spending problem, but me constantly picking on her about money and questioning every expense really pissed her off. She was an adult and didn’t need another dad. The counselor agreed. Wow. I was made to feel like a control freak. At one point I said something to the effect of “My wife just needs to…” and the counselor quickly cut me off, raising her voice. “No! She doesn’t NEED to do anything! That’s not for YOU to say!” It was two against one now. I was defeated again.

We wrapped up the session and drove our separate ways. She was now armed with new emotional ammo. I felt like crawling out of the office on all fours. She drove away to be with her new man. I went to pickup two kids at school and the other at daycare.

Part of her “crisis” involved her emotionally and physically disconnecting from the kids (a mental state she is still in). She wasn’t home when they woke up, and not there when they went to bed. She took them to practices and then dropped them off to “go do work stuff”. This was good enough for her.

I was told to let her move out and have her space. I did. She never came back. We only had the one counseling session. She filed for divorce immediately. This was the beginning of the new me. One day I will thank the counselor for giving me the much-needed wake up call. I needed to be torn down completely before I could build myself back up.

Keeping Your Woman from Approaching “The Line”

Let’s be really blunt here for a moment. Monogamy.. it just ain’t right. And by “right”, I mean… it just doesn’t make biological sense. It goes against the strongest of forces: Our primal urge.

I am a firm believer in science. Crazy, I know. Science tells me that we human beings are just animals. Super smart versions of the common ape. As such, we are slaves to certain underlying instinctual drives that seep through the social and moral safeguards that we put around us. In other words, no matter how much we say “I love you and only you” to our wives, that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to bang that hot young thing that keeps smiling at us at the gym. Our programming is setup to say “Bang as many young, fertile women as possible. Spread your seed. It feels good. It’s awesome. Do it again and again until you die.” But, we don’t. We wouldn’t want to do anything that hurts our beloved spouse and causes our life to crumble around us.

That “I wouldn’t want to do anything that hurts my spouse” thing? That’s reason. That’s rationality. That’s your “honor”.  That’s your social intelligence recognizing the visceral feeling you have at that moment, digesting it, and coming up with a pretty good reason why you shouldn’t bend Buffy over the bench press and impregnate her right then and there. “That just wouldn’t be right. I couldn’t live with myself.”

But you know what… people DO bend the proverbial Buffy over ALL THE TIME. My eyes were opened to this after I had my divorce and started dating around and talking to other singles. Holy crap do people cheat a lot.

Yes… this applies to women, as well. Women cheat a whole heck of a lot. They are just as susceptible to the lure and draw of an extra-marital fling.

Why is this? What the heck is going on that people cheat left and right knowing full well the negative implications of an affair? Don’t they have the same voice in their head setting up a roadblock and stopping them from taking the next step towards a really big life mistake?

Yes, they do have that voice. The problem for some is that their moral safeguards may be temporarily down (there’s a whole host of reasons why this happens). This may in turn leave them open to attack from the competition. Once the enemy is in the gates, no amount of social intelligence or intellectual reasoning will be able to drown out the firestorm of feel good brain chemicals that an inappropriate secret relationship will create. Your task, as a man, is to prevent that from ever happening, because once it does… it’s over, Johnny.

The standard advice I give up front to men is to create the best version of you possible. The most attractive YOU may be enough to keep her eye from wandering and daydreaming about that guy from the office. Then again, it just may not be enough. You can’t be around to wow her 24/7.

So now, as a man, we’re in a bit of a pickle. You’ve done a shit ton of hard work on yourself. You’re awesome by every sense of the word … but man, your wife just did or said something that makes your instincts kick in. “Uh oh… something’s up here.” Now what do you do?

Well, two schools of thought here:

  1. Do nothing. If she can’t see the greatness you have created for you, her and the family.. and she STILL acting inappropriately and possibly looking for validation and emotional/physical connection outside of your marriage, you just let her go do her thing. Protect yourself and start a new chapter in your life. More than one fish in the sea, right!?
  2. Do whatever you can to stop the wife from walking towards that inappropriate line. If you sense something is up, you confront her immediately and get to the bottom of it and squash it. You have to do this VERY EARLY in the process. It’s too late if the deed has been done.

With option #1, you do come across as the tough one. “Don’t need ya. Your loss. Beat it, bitch.” You’ve maybe lost a wife, but you keep your ego and masculinity in tact.

With option #2, you’re running the risk of looking weak. “I sense something is wrong! I feel threatened! I’m going to prove to you just how much I NEED you! Please don’t leave me!”
This also has the negative side effect of pushing her more quickly towards the line and away from you. You’re being needy, and needy is unattractive.

So.. my advice? Do a little of both.

Let’s give a very real world example to illustrate how to pull this off. This may be a little familiar to some of you:

Because of your trips to the gym and new wardrobe, your wife has been also hitting the gym and buying sexy panties at Victoria Secret.  She loves showing them off to you. She is looking GOOD. Like, REALLY good. Sex has been amazing. You two are sexting each other almost every day. You’re on cloud nine.

You won the battle of reigniting your sex life, but the war isn’t quite over.

The other day, you were at the grocery store together. You step away from her for just just a moment to get bread in the next aisle. You come back to your wife and she is talking to a man you’ve never seen before. She is beat red in the face. She motions towards you. The guy looks over, gives a little laugh and says “Oh, sorry about that… have a great day!” He walks away.

“What the heck was that all about?” you say.

“I think that guy was about to ask me out!” Her face is still flush and she has a sly smile on her face. “He said ‘Wow.. you are hot! What’s your name?‘ and then you walked up. I just pointed at you and said ‘That’s my husband‘ and he apologized and walk away.”

You listen and just laugh it off. Awesome, your wife is sexy. You already knew that. You reach over and grab her and pull her close to you. “That’s right… you are HOT. Sexy, even. Mmmm…We may have to go home real quick before picking up the kids.”

What you don’t realize is that the mystery grocery guy just set off a cascading series of psychological events. To her, that was REALLY awesome and unexpected and for a brief second she felt like a million bucks. That random guy moment was worth about a million Facebook likes. That was a million “You go girl!” text messages from friends all at once. That was uber validation.

Most people would laugh and be done with it. Smile, shake your head and forget about it. Maybe you take that energy into the bedroom. But, your wife was caught at JUST the right time and this had a profound effect on her. She would like another taste of that drug as soon as possible. It’s perfectly natural.

The next day, you are both lying in bed reading a book. She puts her book down and looks at the ceiling.  “I can’t believe that guy said that to me yesterday at the store! I haven’t had that happen since I was in college! Any idea who that was? Don’t think I’ve seen him before.”

Ding… a little bell just went off in your head. Your antennae are quivering ever so slightly. You forgot about the incident. She obviously hasn’t. What does she care who this guy was? Weird thing to ask.

Three days later her friends come over to drink wine and gossip. They do this every now and then. You walk into the kitchen to get something to eat and hear a friend say “Tell Mary about that guy at the store the other day! Did you ever find out who he was?”

Ding ding… Now your eye is twitching a little. She’s still talking about it. She’s talking about it with friends. What the hell?

A week goes by and all is cool again. Then you walk by the kitchen and your wife is chatting on her cell at the kitchen table. No no… It wasn’t Betty’s ex-husband. No, this guy wasn’t married. He didn’t have a ring on. Oh, he was ok. Kinda rough. No, I’ve never seen him at any school meeting. No idea who he was. It was weird. You’d think I would have seen him before.

She’s STILL talking about this guy?! Jesus. Get a hold of yourself, woman! Some chick at the gym asked me if I was single the other day, I didn’t bring it up and I forgot all about it in an hour. This kind of stuff happens all the time!

Then..the last straw. She approaches you a few days later. “Hey, babe. I’m going to go out Friday night with some ladies from work. You be okay with the kids here? Not sure what time I’ll be back.”

Ding ding ding ding. She hasn’t done this in YEARS. Not on a Friday. Fridays are always your night together watching a movie with the kids, eating popcorn, and then wild sex when they all go to bed. This can’t be a coincidence. Time to probe a little.

You: “Who’s all going out?”

Her: “Oh, Rebecca, Amy, and Sally.”

Ding ding ding ding ding. SALLY. Sally is the lowlife office gal your wife has been bad-mouthing for the past 5 years. Sally has two kids from two different guys. Sally used to be a stripper. She is divorced. You personally know three guys who have banged her. She drinks like a fish. Giant fake boobs and likes to show them off at seedy bars and on every form of social media. Giant YOLO tattoo on her stomach. She is bad news.

You: “Huh.. Sally, eh? Cool. Tell you what, though. I’m going to go ahead and get a babysitter. I don’t feel like being cooped up on a Friday playing Mr. Mom. Need to go do something fun. Haven’t been to that new bar yet on 3rd street. Or that new club outside of town.”

Her: “What? Who are you going with? What club?”

You: “Nobody… just me.  The strip club that opened last week. They have a special on Friday. Free beer with a lap dance. Heard about it on the radio. They said a hot crop of young girls from all over the country are there for the grand opening. I’ll get a cab and go out there. Might do me some good. It’ll be fun.”

Her: “Uhhhh…. what?”

Unless she’s completely dense, she will get it. You just said “That’s a really really stupid idea you have. I can do something equally stupid.  I have options, too. Temptation is around every corner and in the time it takes me to call a cab, I can find it. Don’t forget it, sweet cheeks.”

You didn’t say it with explicit words, but with your actions.

What you’re doing here is a sly form of something called “Mate Guarding”. You sense the enemy circling. Your wife is just too god damn stupid or too caught up in the feel good brain chemicals to realize that with every mention of this mystery guy and with the newfound friendship with Sally the hooker and the unexpected Girl’s Night Out she is repeatedly walking towards that “inappropriate” line. She’s not crossing it… but she’s repeatedly looking at the line and tip-toeing closer and closer to it. This is not appropriate behavior from a wife with a loving and sexy husband and kids and she needs to be told this, but in a careful way.

Unless checked, the wife will continue to tip-toe. It’s just human nature. She will say it’s all innocent…
laugh it off… and then keep inching closer and closer and closer to that line. Most of the time they do so with NO malice. They’re not literally telling themselves “I need something else beyond my husband. The hunky grocery store guy made me realize that I am wanted by other guys. Therefore, I’m going to put myself in situations that will open me up to inappropriate behavior and negative consequences.” If you were to say something about it, they would legitimately be flabbergasted. “I haven’t been out in years with the girls! Sally just wanted to celebrate her promotion! She’s harmless. You’re being stupid!” 

Putting things into a perspective they can relate to, via your ACTIONS, and shocking them a little bit may be enough to snap them out of it. She may suddenly realize that, oh yeah, it is weird that she’s talking about that mystery guy so much and that no, she should NOT want to hang out with a person like Sally. Sally is a a whore.

Or not, and you enjoy a night of hot young strippers and free beer.

It takes NO time at all to cross right over that “inappropriate” line and never come back to this side again. We all innately know this. This is why jealousy is a thing. This is why my woman peaks over my shoulder when she hears my phone vibrate with a new text message.

Here are other “walking towards the the line” scenarios that are common:

  • The wife mentions Chad from work. He is  SUCH an asshole. He said something really stupid in a meeting. She heard he cheated on his wife. Oh my god, Chad said something really bad in front of the boss today! OH MY GOD, listen to what Chad did today! This is insane! (translation: Chad is on my mind a lot and I can’t stop thinking about him.)
    • Your response: “Ya know… We should have Chad and his wife over for dinner. I gotta meet this guy. He sounds like a doozy. Tell him to bring his kids.”
  • “You remember Steve from college? He Facebook friended me yesterday and says he wants to get together for dinner or something to catch up.
    • Your response: “Awesome! Let’s meet him at the new bar in town. Been wanting to check it out.”

The beauty of these responses is what you are NOT saying. You are not explicitly saying “Uhhh.. do you think this is appropriate, sweetie? You should immediately say NO to Sally and NO to Steve. You’re married. Did you forget!?” No, that would be viewed as insecure, jealous and controlling. Instead, you take the higher road of “Sweet! Let’s meet the guy!” or “Sweet! I’m going to go something fun and a little seedy, too.”

You know what happens? “Oh, we’re not going out on Friday now. Sally cancelled it. She’s a bitch. Let’s watch that new Netflix series, instead! Do I need to go buy popcorn? What was that beer you liked? I’ll stop and and get some.”

No matter how moral, intelligent, trustworthy and perfect your woman is, you MUST be the man and keep on alert at all times. You must be able to figuratively grab her by the shoulders and point her back in the direction she should be facing: away from the inappropriate line.

 

 

 

 

“Dear Betrayed Me” – Words of Wisdom From My Future Self

Dear Betrayed Me,

It’s me. You. From the future. I know… whoa. Weird, right? I don’t normally interact with my past self (that whole time travel paradox thing), but I’ve been watching you. I just realized, holy shit, you’re about to hit the big turning point in your life! Probably the biggest… other than that whole “having a fivesome in Amsterdam” thing… oh wait, nevermind. What year is this? Forget I said anything.

So, you just found out, eh? Man… That sucks. I’m going to save you the whole “it gets better” horse shit. You’ve already heard it from everyone at the office. It doesn’t really solve anything RIGHT NOW, does it? You feel like your chest is in a vice and you want it to stop NOW and you want your old life back… NOW.

Well buddy, that life ain’t coming back. It’s done. I know… you can’t accept it. You have to. There’s no way around it. The house is on fire, and you have to get out. No amount of closing your eyes, grabbing on to the burning couch and fanning yourself will stop you from slowly burning to death.

[Let’s stick with the house fire analogy for a while. I know you think in analogies a lot. It’s one of our most endearing qualities.]

Yes, your ex-wife (notice I said EX… stop calling her your wife) set the fire. She doused the sofa in gasoline, lit the match, set the couch ablaze and ran out the front door while screaming “Wheeee! New life!”. She didn’t bother to look back and see that you and the kids were busy playing with Legos on the living room floor. She had tunnel vision. There was a shiny new house on the other end of town.

Here’s the thing though, chief. She was the one to set the fire… but YOU’RE the guy who neatly set out the matches and the can of gasoline.  Then you pointed at the couch and said “I sure hope nobody sets this here couch on fire! That would be bad!” You then looked the other way while whistling the theme to Quantum Leap (awesome show).  What the hell did you expect?

See… about three months from now you’re going to have an epiphany. This was just as much your fault as it was hers. Sure, she made the horrible final decision to cheat… but she gave you EVERY chance in the world to make the right decision about your relationship, and you didn’t. For years she gave you signals. You’ll learn that these are called “Red Flags”. She gave you every hint that this relationship wasn’t meant to be and would end badly. You were so caught up in your own insecurity and the false notion of “that’s just the way marriage is” that you failed to yank your head out of your butt and do what was right for you and her life.

You got comfortable, amigo. Don’t do that again. It’s cowardly.

Over the next few months you’re going to experience some new things.

  1. You’re going to have sex with some women.  I know.. what?! Me?! Yes… you… err, me. These women, though.. they won’t be good quality people. Well, that one chick was ok. That other one had nice boobs. The one chick sure could… never mind. The point is that you’re going to start knocking down targets at a surprisingly fast rate. You’ll soon realize that you’re not just doing the “natural” guy thing, but also trying to prove to yourself that you’re still attractive. You’re trying to heal yourself via strange hoohah. This is totally natural. Thankfully you don’t catch any diseases or knock anyone up.  Oh, and you’re going to cry like a woman after having sex the first couple of times. It’s embarrassing, I know. Don’t worry, the chick doesn’t see you. You go into the bathroom to do it. It’s okay, dude. Totally understandable.
  2. You’re going to have your eyes opened. This whole “cheating” thing? Waaaay too common. You’re going to meet a lot of crazy women who will lie to you. They see a decent looking guy with a job who is good with kids. They will try to sink their teeth into you. This is the real world, my man. You’re outside of your “comfort” zone. Keep dating around and never ever get comfortable. You’ll eventually learn that you’re dating your ex-wife again. Don’t let it bother you. Very common. Move on.
  3. You’re going to try and learn everything you can about what is going on with your ex. You will check out her social media accounts. She will block you. You’ll ask friends about her. It will get back to her. Soon after you will learn that what you’re doing is very sad. Understandable, but a little nutty.
  4. You’re going to try and be the best dad in the history of the universe. Partly it’s because you really worry about the well being of the kids. Another reason is that you have this fantasy in your head of the world seeing you for how awesome you are and consequently… how awful SHE is. Which leads me to my next big point:

Nobody gives a shit.

This was a horrible horrible thing that you’ve experienced. It will be horrible for months. It is horrible for YOU. Not for everyone else around you. They’re not going to be sitting around and talking about how awesome you are. They’re not going to bother talking about how awful SHE is. They know what happened… they don’t care. They have their own lives to worry about. The totality of the brain power people give to your divorce can be summarized as “Better him than me”. 

They will all still be friends with her. The current IN thing is to not judge. No shame. Everyone is awesome no matter what. They will give you concerned looks and small talk when you see them on the street, but that’s about the extent of their empathy. All of these seemingly normal and sweet moms will be over at your ex’s house playing Bunco within the first two weeks of her leaving.

The kids will be fine. After a while.

At first they won’t be fine. Your oldest boy will be more reserved. He eventually opens up again and is goofier than ever. Your daughter will be a mess. She’s old enough to get it. She cries every night for several months. You just be there for her and tell her that if she’s mad, sad, angry, happy… whatever… it’s okay. She can let it all out and you won’t hold it against her. You rub her head the way she likes, tuck her in, talk about the times when you were a kid… like you always do with her. She loves that and it puts her at ease. Her grades will drop. It’ll take a couple of years before she’s back to her old self again. You’ll notice her regressing to very child-like behavior at times. You’ll notice that she doesn’t want you out of her sight. One night she’ll call for you and she’ll be crying about how “Mommy has a boyfriend”. You’ll just reply with “I know”… and that’s all that will be said about it. Whether she gets it right now is not important. She will get the full extent of what happened one day and it will break her heart all over again. No need to speed up the process.

The struggle and heartbreak will make them better people in the long run. Really. They will learn that they can lean on you and others for help, but they need to learn how to cope on their own, too. They will learn that life is NOT like on TV. Life throws shit in your face and it’s up to you to figure out how to still look pretty and come out happy in the end.

Thinks the ex is acting crazy now? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

You’re going to witness some real head-scratching nuttiness from your ex. Some of it will be funny. Some of it will be incredibly depressing and sad. You’ll be back and forth between schadenfreude and genuine concern. She never really does anything to hurt the kids directly, but her life is a huge mess for a while… if that gives you any comfort right now. She made her bed, she can lie in it. She’s a big girl. You’ll stop worrying about her pretty quickly. Your indifference will surprise you.

Guess what?! You’re going to find LOVE again.

It’s going to sneak up on you. You will have zero expectations going into the date with her. Whatever happens, happens. You’ve been on a bunch of these dates already, and know how much they can suck. Your first date with her will be ten hours long. It will feel like five minutes. You’ll feel like you’ve known her your whole life. She will be smart. Very smart. She will be beautiful.  She will be the sexiest thing you’ve ever seen AND she will ADORE every inch of you. She will give you praise with every breath. She will mail you random but thoughtful gifts. You will feel the most confident and strongest you ever have in your life when you’re with her. She will make you want to be a better man.

She will have her sad moments. She was also a victim of infidelity years ago. You both will speak very clearly and openly about everything. Nothing will be off the table. You will both admit about a year and a half into the relationship that you should not have started dating until much later.  You were both hurting way too much early on and still finding your way in life. You just got extremely lucky and found another person going through the same journey.

There will be crying. There will be doubts. There will be minor red flags. Jealousy. You will be openly avoiding a codependent relationship. You’ve both read all the literature and have been to the counseling sessions before ever meeting each other. You both know that things can go south in a hurry. She’s going to lean on you a lot for direction. Be her man and help her out if she asks. Don’t get tied up in her emotion. Let her figure things out on her own.

There will be laughter. Joy. Lots of trips together. Lots and lots of sex. Mind-blowing. You will both talk about the obvious porno honeymoon stage you seem to be in… and you realize it can continue on indefinitely if you both want it bad enough. It’s just going to take work.

The kids…. they adore her. Really. You did the right thing and waited 9 months before introducing them. They were maybe a little cautious at first. Now they literally jump for joy when she pulls into the driveway. She’s a beacon of hope for them. A model for how a woman can be smart, successful, charming, feminine, beautiful… and still have the vulnerability to open her life up to them and you. They see how much she loves you and they love her right back.

She surprises you with just how well she can cook and how motherly she is. She will make things for your house, for the kids, buy them clothes… and none of it feels contrived in any way. She genuinely gets joy from life by making her loved ones smile.

There are going to be many nights where you lie awake and stare at the ceiling and thank the universe for the the gift that she is. For the new life that you have together.

You’re going to want to go back to that burning house. You’re going to gently touch your ex on the shoulder as she strikes the match. “Hold on, sweetie. You don’t have to do that. I understand.” You’ll grab your kids in your strong arms and walk them outside. You’ll turn back one last time to the to the ex-wife and say “Okay… go ahead and burn if you want. It can’t hurt us.”

You’ll all pile into your car together. You new woman will in the passenger seat with a big smile on her face and a pan of brownies in her lap.

Your youngest one in the backseat will yell “Where are we going, daddy?!”

“Not sure, exactly… but we’ll be happy wherever it is.”