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.

“My wife wouldn’t do that.”

When I talk about my own personal “awakening” during post-divorce life,  I usually mean in terms of recognizing the underlying truths in relationships and the psychology of my fellow humans, ladies in particular. Accepting REALITY and not what SHOULD be, in other words.

The reccuring subtext of this awakening: Just how mind-numbingly stupid men are when it comes to their relationships with women.

My first glimpse into baffling male behavior (other than my own special blend of stupid) came very early on. My ex-wife had just moved out. The kids were at their grandparents’ house and I had a rare night home alone. I was feeling VERY down.  I decided to send a text message to a guy that my therapist had put me in touch with. “His story is a lot like yours” she told me.

He didn’t text me back but instead immediately called me. “I don’t like texting and I’m glad you reached out.” Turns out he was eagerly awaiting my call and couldn’t wait to share his story and get things off his chest. He talked a mile a minute.

Of course, there were many similarities between our stories. He was the first guy who clued me into how all the guy stories are the same. “Let me guess… she did this and this and then did this, right?” It was like I was talking to some kind of psychic medium. Did he have cameras in my house or something?? Creepy how he knew everything.

His story sure was interesting. His world was flipped upside down when he discovered that his wife and mother of his two children was not only having an affair, but an affair with a WOMAN. She proclaimed that she was now gay and probably always had been.

Ouch.

He told me all the details of their storybook life.  Kids, his long hours at work, her going back to school… and then BAM! He sees messages from some guy. BAM! They’re having an affair. BAM! Oh wait, it’s a woman. BAM! She’s moving out. BAM! She wants the girls to live with her and her new lover most of the time… in a little two bedroom apartment in a not-so-nice part of town.

That was quite the five punch combo. Jesus… I thought I had it bad.

He says it looks like he’s going to have to spend some money and hire and attorney to fight for 50/50 custody… or better yet majority custody. She doesn’t work, so he probably has a good chance. “Is she going to try and come after you for money? Alimony, child support, stuff like that?”, I asked.

Here’s the kicker. Wait for it…

No, my wife wouldn’t do that. Everyone always asks me that… but I KNOW MY WIFE BETTER THAN ANYONE and she’s not the type of person to go after my money like that.”

This guy JUST told me all these stories about his life getting yanked out from under him by a wife who had an affair with a woman and is currently trying to take the kids away from him so that they can all live happily in her lesbian lover’s shitty apartment… and he was saying that he KNOWS his wife and she wouldn’t do something like come after his money???

My initial reaction was to chuckle… because surely he was joking.

Nope. He was dead serious.

He was conditioned and in complete denial. This guy probably saw more red flags than a Chinese parade during the course of his relationship. He didn’t do a damn thing about any of them and he STILL had his head in the sand about his cheating wife. His current situation wasn’t just a continuation of more and more red flags. His situation was the RESULT of years of ignored red flags… AND they were signs of even MORE inevitable bad things to come. It’s time to lawyer up and protect yourself, dude! All hands on deck!

But no… his wife wouldn’t do that. He knows her too well.

I have heard some variation of this more than a few times. Usually it’s when a man starts complaining about his wife and her new (not new, just amplified), confusing behavior. “She’s hanging out with the girls from work all the time… she’s ignoring the kids… the house is a mess… she’s always at work… she works out at the gym all the time… she goes down to the basement and listens to music for hours instead of being with the family… she opened up her own bank account… I caught her texting some guy… I caught her lying”.

Then somebody says “Do you think she’s cheating on you?”

“Oh no, dude… she would never do that. She’s not like that. She’s very much against cheating. Always has been.”

Uh huh.

What you’re seeing here is blatant denial. Why? Because a large part of the man’s reality is based upon one giant myth:

His wife is THE ONE.

And as THE ONE, she is above all of those basic stupid negative qualities so many normal HUMANS have. To think she would lower herself to such things… No way. Not his wife.

What about if Ms. Perfect mothered his children? Oh shit… then she’s got moral superiority points from now until the end of time. Mothers don’t do things like that.

And then… he finds out. She really WAS capable of that thing he said she would never do. Damn. “But you know what… no no… she may have done THAT thing, but she would never do that OTHER thing. I know her… deep down she’s good. Going one step further into awfulness? Nope. Not her.”

He keeps moving the goalposts. He keeps changing the rules so that she never wins the coveted “She’s just an awful human being after all” trophy.

To men with no boundaries and a fear of conflict (and the subsequent abandonement), there is no choice but to put the woman at a higher level than him. She is the beacon of hope in a world filled with dread and anxiety. If that crumbles, what’s he have left to lean on?

To put it in wise grandpa terms: The boy done put the pussy on a pedestal.

 

It starts when we are young.

The hormones kick in. Puberty happens. Girls start looking VERY interesting. A boy just wants to go up to that cute girl in class and say “You are really pretty. Will you be my girlfriend?” But no… he wouldn’t dare. She is a beacon of beauty and sunshine. Just the thought of being rejected by her makes his face flush. He prefers to keep her at a safe distance so he can marvel at her beauty. This guarantees that he doesn’t experience the awfulness of rejection.

Then Jimmy, the confident and really tall kid in class, walks right up to her one day. “Wow. You’re hot. You should be my girlfriend.” And with that… they are officially a couple.

Jimmy knew one thing about Ms. Perfect: She’s just a girl. A pretty girl… but just a girl. She poops. She farts. She gets sick. She picks her nose. She has dandruff. She drools when she sleeps. She’s human. She has no superpowers. The worst she can do is say no… and who cares? A no from her has no more power than the no he got from mom and dad that morning before school. No more power than his coach that said no yesterday at practice. A no is a one word syllable which just means “Ain’t happening here.. try somewhere else.” Oh, ok. No biggy.

To the sad sap, chatting up Ms. Perfect is a monumental feat in overcoming fear and anxiety. It’s the same as jumping out of a plane. His heart is pumping. He’s thinking of all the right things to say. He doesn’t want to look like a moron.

To Jimmy… it’s just a girl.

 

The Teen Years

As we mature and become horny out-of-control teen boys, the pedestalization gets amplified. We are torn between feelings of romance/love and unbridled testosterone-fueled horniness. We dream of walking hand-in-hand with Ms. Perfect and talking on the phone for hours and going to the movies, and also fantasize about banging her in the basement on the washing machine.  Spin cycle, of course.

Our sap sits around with his buddies, staring at Ms. Perfect during lunch time. “I would eat a mile long trail of her shit just to get to that ass” his friend says. The boys all laugh. It’s hilarious and gross, but the message is clear: She is a goddess. Her value is beyond measure. Oh, the things you would do just to spend five filthy minutes with her.

Oh, great. Tall Jimmy again. He walks right up to Ms. Perfect and puts his arm around her. She leans into him and smiles. Wait, wasn’t he going out with Ms. Hotty last week? What’s he doing with Ms. Perfect today?! Man, these pretty girls just love these assholes.

No… Jimmy is not an asshole. He is just not intimidated. He sees what he wants and goes for it. He learned early on not to be intimidated. He can take rejection from a girl.

Remember, you don’t see the 18 other times he struck out. You just see the home runs.

 

Adulthood

Ironically, it’s rare that our timid hero is NOT married during early adulthood. You’d think he would be the one to not have a woman in his life.. but no. He’s the type that of guy that jumps on the first woman that gives him attention. It just snowballs from there.

Here’s the typical timeline:

  1. They were highschool classmates or met in college.
  2. She asked him out or he was pushed by friends to talk to her.
  3. The attention from her is overwhelmingly positive. He quickly dedicates himself to her. Instant monogamous relationship. What are the chances that he meet the one perfect girl for him… and in math class!? Weird how the universe works.
  4. He hasn’t had a woman before or since he met her.
  5. He deals with many red flags during their relationship but always looks at her good side. He thinks he’s a better person because of this.
  6. She leaves him. She usually cites their early relationship and lack of life experience as a motivation. An affair is discovered. This is usually after children are already in the picture.

This is all a result of the childhood female pedestalization continuing on into adulthood. He stil doesn’t dare approach women, so it took a woman to come to HIM or friends to PUSH him to a woman they feel was a good match. Usually this woman has the more masculine/strong energy to his more feminine/soft energy.

Now that he actually has attained the dream of getting a woman’s attention for more than five minutes, he’ll do whatever he can to keep her around. This is like becoming buddies with a celebrity. “Oh, we’re going to go out and party at 3am and do drugs now? Ok, sounds cool Mr. Rock Star. Can I get a photo of us together for Facebook?”

She eventually grows tired of the lack of resistance and longs for somebody with a little more spunk and backbone. This knocks her guard down and she repeatedly approaches the innapropriate line. It doesn’t take much to convince her to cross the line. Affair time.

But, let’s not beat up the poor guy too much. It’s easy to write him off as just being an anxious dude. But, It’s not all his fault.

 

Society doesn’t help.

As much as we strive for equality between the sexes, we can’t deny that there ARE differences. We try our best to push down the innate biology , but society knows. We all know. We just ain’t the same.

Case in point…

The boat is going down. You have an hour before it goes under completely and everyone dies in the cold Atlantic. Time to deploy the lifeboats. What does the captain yell out?

“Women and children first!”

We’re all well aware of this phrase. It’s been popularized in movies for years. Yes, it does happen in real life.

There’s a basic evolutionary basis behind this phenomenon. As far as survival of the community is concerned, the women and kids are more valuable. Her eggs are scarce and the kids can go on to create lots more kids during their lifetime. Men are a dime a dozen. You could also argue that the men are physically stronger than the women and children and so they have a much higher chance of survival on their own. But in the case of the sinking ship… no amount of testosterone will keep a man from drowning.

Regardless of the reason why, a man who pushes ahead of a woman for a seat on the lifeboat will be severely chastized by his community. Know your place, homeboy.

This “men are disposable” and “women are wonderful” theme permeates everything in our popular culture.

And yes, this disposable/wonderful phenomenon is a form of sexism. It’s a perversion of the biological differences between men and women. It makes the men out to be strong, respected, violent, impulsive and replaceable. Women are more thoughtful, timid, empathetic, silly, disrespected and prized.

For the man who already has a natural inclination to put women on a pedestal… the societal pressure to do so pushes him over the edge into full-blown denial and maybe even an unhealthy level of worship.

 

 

The Friendzone

For the sad sap not in a romantic relationship, he’ll very often have a lot of female friends. Why? They are less threatening to him for one. He doesn’t like the feeling he gets when hanging around other men. He feels intimidated and vulnerable. He’s sensitive to the underlying heirarchy that exists among men… and he’s admittedly at the bottom of the pyramid.

He’s also convinced himself that he can have a more open and honest form of friendship with women. Strip away the testosterone and the stupid male competition and you’re left with honesty and emphathy, right? RIGHT!?!

Our sap hopes to escape the primitive and shallow behavior that he perceives with his male friends… but he doesn’t realize he’s also knee deep in that world with his female friends. He’s just blinded by their beauty and female ways.

Completely platonic male-female relationships are extremely rare. There is normally some form of give and take. Usually he gives and she takes. He has no boundaries. She is fully aware of the dynamic at play.

Girls get their homework done for them. Women get free drinks and a shoulder to cry on.

Our sap probably wishes that he WAS in a romantic relationship with one or more of his female friends. Obviously, he can’t tell them this outright. He hopes that his emotion-laden friendship will win him romantic points and she will eventually open to him, sexually. If he eventually gets up the nerve to ask her out, it will be waaaay too late. Due to his excessively emotional and needy behavior, he has ruined any chance of being romantic with her. He’s just another girlfriend.

He feels used. He feels angry because she’s not seeing that he is the perfect guy for her (silly delicate flower of a girl just can’t understand). He gets mad that the Jimmies of the world who win her affection so easily. Years of pedestalization and worship won’t even get him to first base. Yet, he sticks by her side. In fact he will be there to protect her and listen to her when she cries about her relationships with other men.

He’s on the backburner and he knows it. He’s cool with that… because she’s a woman. She’s on a pedestal.

 

Wake Up

Any of these things sound familiar?

“I never understood what you saw in her. You were way outta her league.”
“Dude… you need to stop being a doormat. She’s taking advantage of you.”
“Why do you put up with that from her?”

You’re as disposable as you want to be. You have value.

Your wife “Wouldn’t do that“? Yes she would. Of course she would. She’s a human. We are all capable of awfulness. She is not different. Her vagina gives her no key to the kingdom of heaven. She’s not a magical being worthy of fear. You don’t have to walk on eggshells around her. Tell her no. Tell her to knock it off. Show her the same respect you give to men… by treating her as an equal.

She’s one of a billion. Knock her ass off the pedestal.

Lying

The most insidious and oft-overlooked red flag in the giant book of red flags is without a doubt LYING.

 

Lying is so pervasive that we even have a term for the more “innocent” ones: “little white lies”.

 

How about “fib”? Sounds like a name for a little hamster. Fibster.

 

We’re so accustomed to being lied to that we let is slip by again and again with no consequence or action. When it comes to our saintly women, men like to fall all over themselves explaining away these indiscretions. Our women are just far too innocent to think that they would lie to us for insidious reasons. They’re just little fibs. Chubby hamsters running on their wheel. Adorable.

 

The egg heads explain the phenomenon of the lying wife by pointing out that women are conditioned to lie and be more manipulative from an early age. They don’t have the physical attributes we men have… so they can’t punch and kick and push their way out of a bad situation, so they lie and manipulate their way out of it.

 

That guy just said something mean to you? He’s 9 times the size of you? Turn on the tears, rub your eyes, point to the large man and scream “That man PUNCHED me!” and watch the entire world come to your rescue. Girls learn this pretty early on. Especially the pretty ones.

 

Little White Lies, Deep Dark Secrets: The Truth About Why Women Lie

 

Regardless of WHY it happens, the truth is that yes… Women lie. Women are in fact human beings. They have faults. They have vices.

 

But like all vices and manifestations of psychological baggage, lies must be dealt with. They must not be ignored. There must be a reason for untruths to be spilling out of her mouth, and it’s usually not as innocuous as you think.

 

I’ll give you a real world example.

 

My ex-wife and I were invited to 70’s themed party years ago. Everyone was going to go in fake afros, bell bottoms, big sunglasses, big shirt collars, etc. We didn’t really have anything on hand so we had to put together some outfits from any old clothes we might have. She asked around at work if any ladies had anything she could use and she came back with a giant afro wig and glasses. “Look what Sally at work gave me! She said I could just have it! They’re perfect!”

 

Fast forward to a few days after the party and she asked me to get something out of her purse. Right there on top of a giant wad of crap was a receipt from a costume shop… showing that she had purchased an afro wig, glasses and other things her friends “gave” her to use.

 

What the…? Why would she lie about that? The grand total was about $30. It’s not like she broke the bank by spending $30. Weird.

 

Immediately my mind went to “it must be me” mode. Was I such a hard ass about budgeting that she couldn’t share with me that she spent $30 on something unnecessary? Was she that worried about my reaction? Was I causing her to do things in secret like this? Must be me.

 

I was conditioned. I knew exactly what her reaction would be if I confronted her… and I did… and I was right.

 

“I couldn’t tell you because I knew you would be mad/upset/angry/sad” is the most overused and manipulative excuse of them all. What they’re doing is shifting the blame from themselves to you. “I just HAD to lie about it because you are such a baby about these things! You always blow them out of proportion. It was nothing.”

 

Interesting.

 

Take a moment to think back to all of your interactions with your wife over the years. Were there moments sprinkled in there where she expressed displeasure with something about you? Can’t think of any? Let me help.

 

“You’re not wearing THAT shirt again, are you?”

 

“No… we’re not buying that. It looks really stupid and tacky.”

 

“This place you picked out for us is no good. Next time let me pick.”

 

“Sigh… do you think you could have the kids not look like hobos when I return?”

 

“We have people coming over, try not to be too much of a slob.”

 

Just innocent little wife jabs, right? Little tests here and there to keep you on your toes? What would happen if the roles reversed and you said half of those things to her? You’d be labeled a real abusive jerk of a husband and she’d have six other wives lined up to tell her as much. But I digress…

 

See, during those frequent little jabs… she had absolutely zero care about what your response may be. Your feelings weren’t a factor. She was just stating facts. You need to know that your favorite shirt looks terrible, that thing you want for the bedroom is tacky, the place you picked out for your date is really trashy, the kids look like hobos when she’s not around and you really need to do a better job of keeping yourself and the bathroom looking good. To her, these are all just necessary statements like “You left the oven on again”. It’s not like she’s out to hurt your feelings… your feelings aren’t even a factor.

 

See my point? She constantly takes little jabs at your sense of self-worth with zero thought as to how it may annoy or even hurt you. So why NOW is she suddenly concerned about your reaction to something she might say/do?

 

Because the thing she is hiding with her little lie is just the tip of a much bigger and more sinister iceberg… and she is VERY well aware of that.

 

Otherwise she would rub it right in your face with no regard for your thoughts.

 

The $30 afro wig and glasses ensemble my ex-wife bought? It wasn’t about me at all. It was about her. She had a spending problem. She coped with her anxieties by spending and eating. That was her thing. That receipt was one of about 3,987 red flags that told me “Dude… she has a problem”. This particular red flag was there in black and white and she sure didn’t like that I saw it. Yes, it was just $30, but it was a little receipt that was the first of many receipts that added up to thousands of dollars we needed and didn’t have. She knew that. One little white lie at a time hid this reality from view.

 

Here’s another example you may have run into. I’ve heard some variation of this more than a few times (the names and exact situation are all made up):

 

You wife was married once before to a dude named Randy. She claims that he was abusive and treated her like dirt throughout their relationship. You’ve personally only met the guy once and she hasn’t spoken to him in 10 years. He’s been a total non-factor in your relationship.

 

One day you see the messages app is open on the laptop you share. Buried at the bottom of a list of conversations is the word “Randy”. She had a text conversation with him. This particular conversation was dated over one year ago. You start going through the messages fearing the worst… and thankfully it’s nothing. Just inane blabber about how his family is doing, good to hear from him, so sorry to hear about this brother, etc. They had four different conversations over a period of a month and then it stopped. He ended the conversation with “Would love to see you sometime soon.” She didn’t reply. Now you feel bad for snooping. But now it’s got you thinking…

 

Your wife has been blabbering consistently about how awful this man was for the past decade. Years of horror stories. No details left out. One time she pointed out a bottle of ketchup during a routine grocery store trip and said “Randy threw one of those at my head years ago. I had to get stitches.” If there was ever a concern that you may not be comfortable hearing Randy stories, she sure didn’t show it. She never asked. You just let her vent and all is well.

 

So now that dear old Randy has come out of the woodwork and sent random messages that were friendly and normal and out of character and unexpected… she doesn’t mention them? At all? Not for an entire year? How odd.

 

You get an idea… instead of just coming out and asking about them, let’s do something more passive… something sneaky. Let’s see if she comes clean.

 

You: “Honey… remember that one crazy woman that was married to Randy before you? I saw her at the store the other day and she looks like a total meth head. Really scary.”

 

Her: “Whoa. Yeah, she always had some serious problems. I haven’t seen her in years.”

 

You: “Yeah, she actually recognized me and asked me if we have heard from Randy. I said ‘Nope, we never talk to him… thank god’. She just laughed.”

 

*here’s her chance to come clean…. nothing so far*

 

You: “So.. how long’s it been since we heard from him? Not since you and I started dating… what’s that, like 10 years ago?”

 

Her: “Yep.”

 

Sigh… there it is. You gave her a chance.

 

This woman has been mentioning this creep on a regular basis for years, and never mentions the time he apparently awakened from the dead and communicated with her out of the blue. Why? Because something more is going on. Here comes the rest of the iceberg.

 

He has touched a nerve in her. She felt something inside and she’s a bit ashamed of it. She still has some residual feelings for Randy and she doesn’t like that. Those messages made her feel something good for that short period of time, and she secretly deep down holds out hope that he will message her again. She even started having thoughts of asking him out to lunch. You know… just to catch up. She knows it’s probably wrong… but she isn’t strong enough to overcome those wandering thoughts and she couldn’t bring herself tell you right away that he reached out to her. Why not? Because she knows that telling you would put an end to the communication forever and she’d never hear from Randy again.

 

The woman who wouldn’t shut the hell up about the guy when he was gone is now completely quiet about him when he reappears. She lies to cover for him. Two big strikes and probably a sign that you are in for some serious trouble.

 

There’s always a story behind the little lies. Always. But all of that pesky reality can get wiped out with one phrase: “I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you’d get mad.” The reality of the situation flips and now it’s on you. You’re the crazy, irrational one.

 

Don’t fall for it.

 

Don’t ignore lies. As soon as they appear, you call them out and dig deep. Talk it out. Investigate. Don’t let up. You may not like what you find but it’s better to know the truth.

 

Baggage

Here’s a common term in the world of relationships: BAGGAGE.

“Baggage” is another word for all the negative shit that happened to you in the past and that is presumably deeply embedded in your psyche and ready to bubble up at a moment’s notice.  After a marriage dissolves a man will often talk about all of the ex-wife’s baggage she brought to the relationship and how he should’ve acted on this crucial data earlier on.

Examples of typical female “baggage” may include:

  1. No father figure in her life
  2. Comes from a broken home
  3. History of sexual abuse
  4. History of sexual promiscuity
  5. History of poor past relationships with men
  6. Past drug abuse

You get the idea. This is all a bunch of stuff that when us seasoned guys hear it we wince and say “Ooo… be careful, dude.” What we mean is “The chances of this relationship not working and you getting hurt are much higher than with a low/no baggage girl.”

This is true.

Also true: The chance of you finding a low/no baggage girl are somewhere between slim and none. This isn’t a typical condemnation of current western society, but rather a testimonial to human nature.

We ALL have baggage.  All of us. Every one of us.

What we ALL don’t have is the ability to COPE with said baggage. Therefore your litmus test for a good long-term relationship partner shouldn’t be “Does she have baggage?”, but rather “Awful shit happens to everyone all over the world… how does she DEAL with it?” This is the bread and butter of what makes a good partner. Staring life right in the eye when it gives us a shit sandwich and saying “That’s it?! What else you got?”

I myself have baggage. A good deal of it, actually. I was dumped by my wife for another man (ouch). I was left with three kids that I have most of the time (double ouch). As a result, my professional life has suffered and I would probably have more money if it wasn’t for the divorce and expensive kids (triple ouch). My ex-wife is also fucking nuts (quadruple ouch). These things do not work in my favor. What DOES work in my favor is how I dealt with them and continue to deal with them on a daily basis. This translates into fortitude and strength. The kind of stuff you want in a partner of either sex.

A woman's emotional and psychological baggagePicture baggage as a bunch of luggage in the back of a car. A woman who has a shit ton of baggage is barreling down the road in a car with suitcases and duffle bags poking out of the back windows. The trunk is so full that it’s open and tied down with bungee cords. It’s a mess.

The weight of the baggage is SO much that it actually throws off the balance of the car. She has to keep her hands on wheel at all times and constantly make corrections with little tugs left and right. The second she takes her hands off the wheel… SCREEECH! She’s off the road and headed for a tree. Disaster.

That’s what baggage is. It’s all the shit that happened to you in the past that WILL have a negative impact on your life and relationships with others… UNLESS you recognize the baggage for what it is, live in reality, and take steps towards remedying the situation. If you don’t live in reality and say you have nothing to worry about… SCREECH… you’re running right off the road and into danger.

Here are some real life ways in which mature adults “deal with baggage” successfully:

“My entire family are alcoholics. I watched my mom and dad drink themselves almost to death and it ruined my childhood. Because of that I have vowed never to touch a drop of alcohol. I don’t know need it and I am fine without it.”

“I was sexually abused at a young age. Because of that I have intimacy issues and see a therapist on a regular basis. As a result I recognize that I have issues with impulsive promiscuous behavior, and don’t want to threaten my current relationship… so I don’t put myself in compromising positions. No drinks after work with colleagues. No sexual talk at work. No girls’ nights out drinking and going to clubs. I tell my boyfriend about all of the men that contact me and hit on me at work… I don’t want to leave anything a secret no matter how small. Trust and transparency is important.”

“My mother was abusive to my father. She would always hit him and belittle him and call him names in front of me. Because of that I vowed to never do that to my man… but, I recognize that I’m also attracted to guys like my dad and find myself later loathing them and sometimes acting like my mom. I need to get to the bottom of this and talk to a therapist. I need to learn to better control my anger.”

But, of course… it’s never that easy, is it? It’s VERY tempting to take your hands off the wheel for just a second. “I shouldn’t HAVE to always be steering the car. This is stupid. SALLY doesn’t have to steer HER car all the time! I should be able to take my hands off the wheel whenever I want!” – This is not a good thing. This is what we call a broken woman.  Mature people recognize that life isn’t “fair”. We all have our own little crosses to bear and we all overcome and navigate through life in our own way. We each have our own special prescription bottle with “take these if you want to be healthy and not hurt yourself and others” pills. We take our medicine every day and we deal with it.

So with all that being said…you’ll hear me preach abundance and not tying yourself to one woman to the point of ignoring red flags. I still believe that 100%. If you see things that make you say “uh oh” repeatedly, you don’t walk away… you run. Listen to your gut. If you are repeatedly running into the same issues that means that your woman, with all of her baggage, has taken her hands off the wheel and you’re about to be ejected through the windshield and end up as a quadriplegic face down in a mud puddle. Broken people bring down and destroy all those around them if they have the chance.

Don’t give somebody repeated breaks just because they otherwise make you feel good. This is your life partner we’re talking about here. This woman is potentially the mother to your kids. If she repeatedly crosses the line into inappropriate or destructive behavior, you’re in for big time trouble. Recognize it and get out of the damn car.

If your woman slips up and says “Alright… that was wrong. I’m sorry. I’ll fix this” and she GENUINELY tries to fix it… and DOES fix it? Then bravo to her. You have a winner. She’s an adult and she saw shortcomings in herself and saw a way to improve. There’s nothing more admirable than that.

Unless of course she screwed some other dude… then it’s just over. Sorry guys.

 

 

 

My Story – Part 2 – My Holy Shit Moment Has Arrived

So my wife starts working with the personal trainer. She literally spends at least 2 hours each day at the gym.. and longer on weekends. How the hell does she accomplish this? She gets up at 4:00am every single day. This is her mission now.  This is on top of her very long work schedule. I rarely see her.

I continue playing Mr. Mom at this point. I cook. I clean. Not ALL of the cooking and cleaning… but a good chunk of it. I help with the kids’ homework. This is on top of my full time job and 2 hours of total commuting each day.

Did I ever have enough of this BS and actually tell her that we need to make a change? That she is spending too much time away from home and I need to get out and do things, too? Yep. I sure did. Her response?

“You have never supported me in anything. You made me take this job and don’t let me to do anything I like.”

I… wait.. what just happened??

I still remember that conversation in the kitchen. Seeing her very crazy looking face as she spits out these words. Wow.

I was flabbergasted. This was a total fabrication. I made her take this job? I don’t let her do anything? What in the hell?

COMMON RED FLAG: Sudden obsession/addiction that usually revolves around self-improvement (actual or imagined) or in some way takes them back to a more youthful time. Examples are joining the gym and working out for hours at a time, going back to school, staying out late, making new younger friends, etc. This combined with a sudden rewriting of history is a VERY common red flag and cause for concern. The two always seem to go together.

 

After working out with trainer dude for a few months, the wife is buff. Not really in a good way. Too much so. She was never a petite gal, but this was just bulky, man-like muscle. Not the fitness bunnies you see in the magazines at all. I’ve worked out with athletic women before (when I was a younger attractive gym goer) and I know that chicks who lift weights can look extremely good… but this was not good. Not at all. Steroids? Who knows.

She is now glued to her phone like a teenage girl. Her speech and overall behavior is changing. She’s much more… trashy. Her southern twang is stronger than ever. She didn’t have an accent at all for the first 10 years of our relationship. Even her text messages to me look like they are coming from somebody else. Random misspellings. She has suddenly forgotten the difference between “there, their and they’re”. How weird. Who was this woman? She used to make fun of people like this.

COMMON RED FLAG: Being glued to their phone 24/7 is bad. Sudden change in behavior and personality is also bad. Becoming what she always hated? Watch out.

 

Bad News: My grandma was dying. She was in a nursing home down in Florida. She suffered from dementia and now kidney cancer.  Her days were numbered and my mom wanted to know if I wanted to go down and see her. I hadn’t seen or talked to her in years (since the dementia kicked in and they put her in a home). Maybe we can stay the week at the beach there and make it a vacation. See dying grandma, say our goodbyes, enjoy some sunshine. Sounds like a plan.

(In hindsight… this was every bit as weird as it sounds)

So, we all load up in the minivan and head down to sunny Florida.

We arrive. Wife still glued to her phone. She still wakes up at 4:00AM and goes to the beach to workout.  We hang out at the beach and her physical appearance is jarring. She posts photos on social media… another obsession of hers. Her sister sends me a text. “She looks like a man.”

Day two of our stay in Florida was D-Day. I was in the condo alone putting our baby down for a nap. Wife and two other kids were down on the beach. My mom was away. She spent most of the vacation with my Aunt, thankfully. I fired up the laptop. Wife was logged into Facebook. I saw a conversation between her and her personal trainer dude. This was not appropriate talk for a married mom of three to have with another man. Oh, god. No way.

Is she having an affair!?

No. Fucking. Way.

I approached her right away with what I saw. This was a mistake. The rest of the week was spent very openly talking about all things related to our relationship. This involved her denying any kind of misbehavior on her part… It was only flirting via Facebook. Nothing else.  OK… they did kiss that once. Oh boy.

COMMON RED FLAG: This is called “trickle truth”. The awful truth is not so bad if you let it out just a little at a time. Usually the trickling goes something like: We were just being friendly -> We were just flirting -> We just kissed once -> He came over a few times but all we did was talk ->We may have kissed more than once -> Ok we had full blown monkey sex right on our bed while the neighbors watched and it’s all recorded and on the internet forever.

We agreed to do couples counseling. You can read about the results here.

The next several weeks of my life were pure hell. I’m going to purposely leave out the details. Just trust me, it was bad. It does me no good to expose those old wounds again.

She moved out. The sad part was that she was gone so much anyway, that the kids didn’t even notice. Seriously. After two weeks of that we decided enough of the charade and we sat the kids down to break the news. I remember sitting in our little living room and my wife looked at me with puppy dog eyes… as if to say “Can YOU do it, please??”  I just motioned towards the kids “Oh no… this is all you. Go ahead.”

She told them. No hesitation. Mom was going to go live somewhere else. My daughter collapsed on the chair and immediately cried. My oldest son just sat there with his hands on his knees like an old man. Staring. Frozen. My wife called to him to come sit with her. He screamed like somebody shot him. My littlest boy was 1 and a half years old.. he had no idea what was going on.

Toughest day of my life.

I wished every type of cancer on her that day. I hoped for her to have a long, slow and painful death. She hurt my kids. She put her selfishness above their well being. Their lives will never be the same… and neither will mine. How could she do this?

This was all happening so fast.
Looking over what I have just typed… it seems so sudden. Boom. Boom. Boom. Done. Yep, that’s exactly how it was.

They say when things like this happen that you should “keep busy”. Oh, I kept busy alright. That’s never been a problem. Mom just wasn’t around at all for the kids anymore. She would pick them up from school, drop off, and go to the gym. I would feed them and put them to bed and she would pick them up in the morning for school. I was still commuting to work.

A divorce agreement was written up by her attorney. It was surprisingly fair. She recognized her contribution to our debts and took half. She also took one of the vehicles that was paid for (she would later crash it three times and finally total it). Left me with a car and the little house.  50/50 custody of kids. No fine print. No gotchas. She just wanted out fairly and fast. She had a new life waiting for her.

I couldn’t sign fast enough.

READ PART 3

My Story – Part 1 – The Beginning

Things I hear a lot from guys online: “Well, did YOU ever run into this…” or “What did YOU do when this happened to you?” I just realized,…I never really did share my full story with the world. I hinted at it a bit in the About Me page,  but I haven’t gone into any kind of detail to paint a picture of just HOW and WHY some blowhard bald guy in his forties decided to make a website and declare himself an expert on all things relationshipy.

So, here it is.. PART 1 of my story. Hope you get something out of it and learn a thing or two. If not, at least poke fun at me where applicable.

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I will start with what I consider the PRIME time in my life: My twenties. I was fresh outta college with a degree and a set of skills that actually made me marketable in the workplace. So much so that I had three job offers right out of college. I realize this is basically unheard of these days, and I just want to say to you new college grads out there: “HAHAHAHAHAH!!” Just kidding, you kids are getting hosed. Sorry. Now if you could put almond milk in my cappuccino, that’d be great.

So, there I was in a new town, in a new state, with money, full of dreams and ambition. To have a giant Fortune 50 company ask YOU to come work for THEM and offer you a nice salary and even nicer benefits… well that put me in a good state of mind right off the bat. I’m wanted. I’m pretty ok. The hard work finally paid off. Life is good.

My wife-to-be (high school girlfriend) is living still back in our home state. She’s finishing up school. We meet from time to time, but mostly it’s just me in my apartment. I am quick to make new friends. Coworkers. Actually, they sit right next to me in the cubicle farm we all work in. That’s how guys work. We just randomly point at some dude nearby “You. You’re my new friend. Let’s go hang out and make fun of each other.”  So we all become best buddies. We learn that our job requires that we travel a great deal. Cool. Field trips together!

We go on airplanes, land in a variety of different places, work long hours, go to bars and strip clubs and have a jolly ol’ time. None of us are married. None of us have kids. I have money leftover every month and I save.  I buy toys for myself.

The girlfriend joins me in the new town and we get married. I help get her a new job through my job connections. We move into a nice house. I continue hanging out with my friends most of the time and she has her friends. I develop hobbies that take up a great deal of my time (guitar playing, for one). As with most things I get interested in, I dive into it 100% and become kinda good at it. My two best buddies join me. They don’t last long with actual guitar playing, but they’re happy to tag along when I want to go watch live music at a dive bar.

We also go to the gym a lot together because I like lifting weights and playing basketball. I look pretty good. I get hit on every now and then when we go out. My friends tease me over it. I know I look good. I workout hard. Makes me feel good about myself. I would never cheat because… well.. it honestly never even occurred to me that it was an option. I wasn’t wired like that.

Looking back I realize that I was kind of the “Alpha” of my pack. I wasn’t really all that “strong” or “ultra-manly” of a personality… more like I just really enjoyed a lot of different things, and I think my enthusiasm was infectious. I was a good dude who loved life and loved hanging out with friends.

As I moved on in the company and further up the chain, the buddies and I separated. We all went to different groups. One guy got fed up with his group and went to work for a consulting firm. Then another guy did the same thing. Another guy hates his new job but sticks with it. Me? I’m starting to hate mine, too.

Work is getting depressing. There’s an overall malaise to the the new area. My boss is a giant grump. She hates life and lets me know it. Repeatedly. She’s been at the company for a gajillion years and never fails to tell me how much it sucks. My coworkers are not fun. They’re not anywhere near the definition of fun. They’re all boring parents who can only talk about kids. One time we all decided to do a company volleyball tournament together as a team. The whole time was spent with me getting pissed at them for not giving a damn. One guy showed up to games in jeans. For fuck’s sake… jeans!

I have approximately 19 bosses. None of them are what I would call “Pretty intelligent and cool people.” I am still convinced to this day that one of them was genuinely retarded. The politics are laughably bad. People around me dropping like flies. One guy leaves due to stress.  We still see him at company picnics. He got really bad hair plugs while gone. That’s awkward. One woman died after getting her stomach stapled. Guy next to me has ball cancer.

That’s it. I want out.

I was told I can’t go to any other group for a while. I’m stuck in this position.

I get the harebrained idea to start my own business. This is around the time that my wife wants to have a kid. The big 30 is closing in and her biological clock is ticking so loud the neighbors are complaining. A new kid AND a new career as an entrepreneur?! I can do this! Besides, the wife has a nice career herself! She’ll support us (financially and otherwise) no matter what, right?

HEY YOU: So often I hear the stories of failed careers, sudden firings, layoffs,  start with something to the effect of “Yeah, it sucks… but my wife has a nice job so I don’t have to find something right away. We’ll be ok for a little while.” Dude, NO NO NO. Never take your foot off the gas. In my case I should’ve kept my career and worked a little on the side if I wanted to explore the entrepreneurial thing. My wife’s well-paying job gave me a false sense of security. Like her money was a crutch that would be there just in case. It’s not. I know if the opposite were true you’d be expected to step up for her… but it’s a double standard and that’s reality. She needs the security, not to play the part of provider.

 

Almost everyone I know is telling me not to do this. I listen to the handful that stroke my ego and tell me that I’m smart and work hard and I should strike the iron while it’s hot and take advantage of my youth. I ignore everyone else telling me “Are you fucking out of your mind? You’re going to have a kid and start a new biz at the same time?”

Strangely one of the few to support my idea were my disastrous in-laws.  As much of a mess as they were, they always looked up to me.

Speaking of… did I mention we also move out of state to be closer to her very dysfunctional family? That was a condition she put forth. “Oh you want to do your own business? Then we’re moving closer to my childhood home so I can have my family around me.”

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***I will pause here as you all stare at the screen and say “DUDE!” repeatedly. I know… I deserve it.***

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Nothing could stand in the way of my success. I was determined to move to a new place and get my piece of the pie. I didn’t need to conquer the world right away… but I needed to start work immediately. Hit the phones. Drive around. Join all the networking groups. Go go go. I was up for the task and I was going to show the world what I was made of.

The wife… she’s not really my biggest cheerleader. More stressed and doubtful than anything. She had a job lined up right away. It paid her more than the last place and with good benefits. Still… I need to bring in cash. I know it won’t be a success overnight and it will take time to build my client base. Her patience is very very thin already.

Baby comes. Baby is awesome. Baby is perfect. I love this little girl. She is the apple of my eye. She has turned me into a ball of mush.

We live in a rental home because we can’t afford to buy a new one. Still haven’t sold the old place back home. We have tried but no real bites yet. Priced too high? We lower the price. Stress stress stress. Wife takes time off to be with baby. Three months. She returns to work. She hates that she has to go back and resents that I am not bringing in enough money for her to take off indefinitely. She’s pretty blunt about it. Even though she has a new job, the baby changes everything. I feel worthless, too. I work harder. Everything comes second to my business at this point. I gotta make this work.

Money starts coming in, but in spurts. Feast and famine. I drive all over the state. I work hard, but tell myself I can always work harder. I haven’t seen the gym in months. I look horrible. My hair is falling out. Oh great.. now I’m bald. That does wonders for my self-esteem.

I point out the need for budgeting. It’s ok to not buy things just because you want them. Prioritize our purchasing. Our situation is not forever… doing without now will pay dividends later. We’re still young. The wife’s attitude is basically “You should be better at providing. I shouldn’t have to do without something just because you had the harebrained idea to become an entrepreneur and get rid of a regular paycheck. I’m playing by the rules and bringing home a paycheck. Do your part.” She has a point.

Instead of clipping coupons, she spends. It’s her way of coping. We rack up credit card debt. I’m the only one who seems to care about this and put plans together to pay the debts down. She chooses to ignore the issue. Just bringing it up reinforces my failure. Every negative thing is tied to my failure. Washing machine breaks? Well, maybe if we could afford a better one.

COMMON RED FLAG: Poor coping skills. What do they do when things go bad? Look at it as a problem to be solved? Look to you for help and guidance and support you along the way towards finding a solution? That’s great. Do they blame you and everyone around you and stomp their feet like a child because they don’t “deserve” such awfulness? Do they seem to be sabotaging your efforts to improve? You’re in for a world of hurt.

 

Caring for our finances was now my job. She has zero interest and didn’t want to talk about it.

We live about 45 minutes away from her parents. This introduces a whole other world of problems. Where we lived before was about 7 hours away from her family. This provided a protective buffer away from her dysfunctional past and kept her baggage at bay. Now we have a front row seat into that chaotic world.. and it’s not pretty. Non-stop drama.  This is when my wife begins to morph into her past self. The part of her I never really got to see before.

We move to a different town that’s closer to the area where most of my business comes from (and thankfully two hours away from her family). She’s offered an even better job right away. We buy a home (yes we sold the previous one). A small little starter home… just to last us a few years until we can afford something bigger. In the meantime I am still chugging away in my business. I finally string together a couple of decent years. I had to work my butt off to get there. My network is growing. Clients are happy and I’m getting referrals. Sweet. About fucking time.

My father dies. This is unexpected. He is only 53 years old. Heart attack. Over the next few years my mom ages approximately 20 years. She leans on me a great deal to help with all the logistics of life my dad that took care of… and to empty emotionally on me. She’s a mess. Her entire well being was dependent on that man (codependency 101)… and now he’s gone. She lives almost 4 hours away from us. She refuses to move closer. As a business owner, husband and parent, this is draining and very stressful.

Kid #2 arrives. A boy. My new best buddy. Over the years he will grow to be quite the awesome young dude. Wife takes a shorter maternity leave. This time it’s no big deal.  Daycare it is. Worked well for the first one. That’s what everyone else does, so no big deal, right?

I don’t have hardly any really close friends since we moved. Just acquaintances from work and husbands of my wife’s friends. When you work from home alone, are on the road a lot and raise two kids… you don’t have any random dudes to point to and say “Let’s hang out!” My wife has friends. They’re all her coworkers she sees every day. I’m still in regular contact with buddies from back home, but it’s not the same. I’m lonely. The culture in this new state is completely different… Lots of good ol’ boys and cliques… or maybe I’m just making excuses?

The wife is going back to school. Yay, more debt! She needs her doctorate to compete in her field. I completely support the idea and further pick up the slack as she goes down the road of self-improvement. My wife is now a “Doctor”!? Cool.

She is offered a big fat promotion. Her company wants to have her run one of their business locations. More hours. Lots more hours. I let her know that I don’t like the idea of her being away from home more… but I will support whatever decision she makes. More money is possible if the business does well. She’s been making more than me the last few years. Now she will really make more than me.

I support her and give her lots of advice on how to navigate the new work environment (I have a great deal more business experience than her) and I use my expertise to  help out her office with some things… doing everything I can to make sure she succeeds.  I will also have to step up as dad even more. Kids are getting older and more into sports. I coach them all. I’m there doing what I can to help out around the house.

Uh oh, the economy has crashed. Clients aren’t paying their bills. People are closing up shop. Oh shit, this sucks. What the fuck now!?

Stress. We ain’t leaving this little starter home anytime soon. She is not a happy camper. She’s the breadwinner now. This can’t go on and I know it. I’ve reached the end of my rope. The entrepreneurial world has come to an end.

I asked one of my clients if he would consider hiring me to work for him full time. He says yes. I now have a regular full-time salary again. Hallelujah. I come home with the news and my wife hugs me like she hasn’t in years. The stress has taken a huge toll on her. I am a failure.

Child #3 arrives. Another boy. This is a surprise. Especially considering how infrequently we have sex. She always wanted three kids and I was happy with the two. I actually looked into vasectomies. My doc cancelled on my initial consult appointment and I never got around to rescheduling. Ouch.

(Yes, the kid is mine.)

Wife takes nearly zero time for maternity leave. Her work is above all else. She has started becoming more distant from me and the kids. More time away from home for a “girls night out”. I do the right thing and stay home and continue playing Mr. Mom.  I commute an hour to work every day. I still coach teams. I am exhausted. Stressed. This point in my life is just a fog. I’m on automatic pilot.

I work out sporadically. I’m still out of shape. Wife has lost weight, but she’s also a physical mess. She starts working out more with coworkers.

“My boss uses a personal trainer, and I want to use him, too” she texts me one day. We basically have zero time together and she never sees the kids… and she wants to go to a personal trainer? Well… ok. I will support whatever she wants to do to improve herself. We’re starting to bring in some money and I would like to more stringently pay down down debt instead… but I support her. That’s what being a partner is all about, right?

READ PART 2