GET THROUGH YOUR RUT AND BECOME A BETTER MAN.
When you write a blog like this one, you run the risk of it becoming a site where a man stomps his feet and says, “I AM AMAZING AND MY EX IS A DEMON AND I DID NOTHING WRONG”. In looking back on my postings over the past few years, I can see where I may come across that way. Hey, it’s understandable. This is an emotional topic, after all. Am I wrong? Well, no… not completely. She did awful things and it crushed me as her husband and partner, but I’m not some infallible perfect angel of a man, either. I had, and continue to have, my faults as a father, husband and as a human being. I’m human, after all.
If there was an overall theme to my time in marriage number one, it would be “Meh”. That was my disposition for much of my relationship: “Meh”. I wasn’t thrilled, I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t super happy… I wasn’t much of anything. Jesus, I was dull. I think deep down I knew my relationship wasn’t what I always wanted it to be, but it’s what I had. I lived with it. This “Hey, it’s good enough” theme permeated everything about our marriage together. I never once put my foot down and said, “I don’t like THIS. This needs to change and it needs to change now, or else we are done.” I could never conceive of such a stance. To be married, in my mind at the time, meant that you accepted certain shortcomings. You accepted life, warts and all. Were there lots of warts? Yes. But hey, that’s life. It ain’t perfect. You keep going.
I remember distinctly one moment in particular. I don’t know why it sticks out in my mind, and it sounds awful in hindsight, but I remember it vividly. I was on the bed, relaxing, and she was in the adjoining bathroom doing her makeup. She was just wearing her underwear and leaning in towards the mirror. I looked over at her… and I was so completey turned off in that moment. What should’ve been a sexy little candid moment that put a smile on my face was just me looking at my wife, the mother of my three children, and thinking, “… Yuck.”
That’s not right. That’s not a good thing. Not at all.
A real husband sees this situation and says to himself, “Okay… why am I so turned off right now? Because she’s out of shape? She’s overweight? She doesn’t workout anymore? She eats way too much? So, what are you doing about that? Anything? What about yourself? Do you think she’s looking at you and saying ‘Yum’? Probably not. Maybe you need to step up and be an example to her.” But, I didn’t. The thought didn’t even occur to me. I just rolled over and put it out of my mind. She was my wife and mother of my kids. What can I do, right? Such is life…
My passivity was completely and totally deplorable. It was lazy. It wasn’t fair to me, to her, or to our family. It was cowardly.
The bathroom mirror moment was one small moment in a series of dozens of moments over 20 years where life said to me, “Alright… here’s another test. What you gonna do, captain?”… and my answer was always, “Just leave me alone. I’m tired.”
I just didn’t care. Life wore me down. Work, the kids, the wife I lost attraction to… too many things to tackle. I just concentrated on my kids. I coached their teams. I helped with homework. I played with them constantly. I convinced myself that jumping completely into the dad box was proof of my awesomeness as a father and husband. No… it was an escape. I saw the hard work that needed to be done in the marriage… and I ran from it. “I shouldn’t have to do that”, I convinced myself.
My overweight wife was a mirror. I was looking at myself… not only in the most obvious way (I myself was out of shape), but I was also looking at the results of my “work” as her loving husband. I didn’t do the work of instilling in her an urge to keep herself in shape “for her man” (Because, honestly, why should she bother?), and I didn’t set an example for what a good partner does to keep the other one around. I didn’t set any example except one that said, ”Your job as a Lover is done once the kids start coming out”. No wonder she gave up… I gave up, too. I had given up as soon as that first kid came out. The combination of stress and need for comfort swallowed me up and spit me out as some effeminate wad of bubble gum. “Yaaay! I’m a great dad!” Yeah, but you REALLY sucked as a husband, dude.
We grew apart. That was obvious. I did my thing, she did hers. To keep that bond, to keep that attraction… that took real effort. I didn’t have it in me to keep up that level of work. Why? Well, we weren’t “meant to be”. In other words, we both should’ve just walked away very early on in the relationship. I knew it, she knew it, maybe even our families knew it. We kept at it in honor of our vows and in honor of the theme of staying together “no matter what”. It can be argued that it was an honorable goal, but when you ignore red flag after red flag… you realize you’re not just honoring your vows but instead ignoring the giant elephant in the room: We shouldn’t be together.
When you put two incompatible people together, it’s just a matter of time until the union breaks down. In my case, she ended up jumping into bed with another man. It was then that the veneer of marriage was stripped away and all the vices and red flags that were there throughout the relationship were laid bare. She had her compulsive behavior and childhood issues… I had my overly agreeable “lack of backbone nice guy” issues. Both sets of issues were amplified a hundred-fold when our marriage disintegrated.
For a giant chunk of the men I talk to, they are in the same boat. They are completely destroyed by their wife’s infidelity and subsequent divorce… then they have months or maybe years of introspection and growth… and they finally realize it was never “meant to be”. They had so many red flags for YEARS, and they did nothing. The relationship wasn’t some romantic fairy tale of love that would conquer all. It was simply two people that were put together with all of their warts and baggage, and neither had the balls to say, “Yeah… let’s both move on. Sorry.”
Live and learn.