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 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.
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."
I will pause here as you all stare at the screen and say "DUDE!" repeatedly. I know... I deserve it.
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?