Ever notice how the most interesting and famous people in the world have been through some of the worst situations in life? You often hear stories of awful early childhood abuse, neglect, drug use, death, disease… and yet there they are on television talking to a rapt audience hanging on their every word. They reminisce fondly about failure after failure. They talk about that crucial life moment where they were juuuuust about to hang it up, but decided to give it one more try. You hear something like “I had $3 in my pocket and I was three months overdue on my rent… then my parents died. I had nothing left to lose.” They’re stripped of everything. All they’re left with is their passion. Their craft. Their calling. Then things finally turned around. The fog lifted. Things clicked.
Finding out your wife is living a double life is about as traumatic as you can get for a man. It rocks the foundation of your reality. You may not have had a horrible childhood or a long history of abuse, but you’re not out of the woods by a long shot. It’s as is the gods of chaos have been snoozing away for years… then you went and did one little stupid thing and they woke up angry and vengeful. They’re pissed and they’re going to give you a taste of reality. They’re surprised that they overlooked you all these years. You slipped through the cracks. They have to make up for lost time. They pluck you from your comfortable sofa/cubicle/soccer field/pizza party existence and thrust you into a dark cave with an angry dragon.
Hitting rock bottom is a gift. STARTING OVER IS A GIFT. The dragon is a gift. Not everyone gets a chance to strip away their ego and rebuild. Not everyone gets the gift of realizing what they are truly capable of. The best version of the gift is when you have NO CHOICE but to fight your way out. You turn around and the cave opening has been closed off. The only way out is through the dragon. There’s no “I’ll just watch Netflix today”.
This “no turning back” moment is when men find out what they’re made of. For many of us, we realize that we’re made of one part man, and three parts blubbering girl. The more self-aware among us realize that we’re not that good at truly coping with the really bad stuff. We’ve dealt with death and loss in our life and came out relatively unscathed… but this.. this is different. This is an altered version of reality we’re dealing with. This is a BIG test of our fortitude, and for many of us our initial grade is an F minus. It’s a true litmus test for our mental health. Thankfully we get several tries at it. We can fall again and again. Remember, nobody gives a shit.
This is the beginning of the powerful ego flush. This is when we start to realize that life as we know it extends beyond our flesh and bone. It extends beyond that which we have created in our minds. The barriers of anxiety and fear we have put up have protected us but also blinded us to truths. To get a quick glimpse of the ugliest of reality is nothing short of traumatic. It’s a genuine look into a different world. A different state of BEING. We didn’t quite realize what life was capable of… nobody told us these things (yes they did, we just weren’t listening).
We’ve been ego-centric for far too long.
You’ve hit rock bottom? Don’t know what to do now? Feel like dying?
GOOD. I’m excited for you.
Now real living begins. Get on with it, my friend. Get help. You’re not alone and never have been. Wake the fuck up and get with the program and realize that every little moment you have is a gift. Earn it.
“What about my ex?”, you ask? What about her? She’s an illusion. What and who you thought she was never existed to begin with. She is as much of a creation as that imaginary friend you had as a kid. Both were constructed in much the same way and both have the same effect on your mental well being: whatever effect you want them to have.
You have much bigger fish to fry now. You have dragons to slay. Missions to complete. A job to do. It doesn’t matter HOW you got here, now you’re here. When the dust settles and you walk out of the cave with the virgin under one arm, the dragon head under the other and gold in your pockets… you’ll start to see things as they are. Then you realize you got another dragon to slay, and another, and another… It doesn’t end. And you don’t want it to. If it does end, that means you’ve veered off the path and started swimming in your own virtual reality again.
Don’t do it.
After talking to dozens of men and reading stories from hundreds of guys experiencing the pain and regret of divorce and infidelity, you start to see patterns. That’s what started this whole website and podcast adventure of mine, after all. Patterns.
Me: “Hmmm… there’s something going on here.”
Like, for example, the language patterns.
“We were SUPPOSED to be…”
“She SHOULD have…”
“This is NOT how it was SUPPOSED to go…”
“She SHOULD care about…”
“I don’t DESERVE this.”
He had plans. He did X and was supposed to get Y in return. That didn’t happen. This does not compute. He did everything he was supposed to do. This isn’t fair. He doesn’t DESERVE this. He just doesn’t understand. He played by the fucking rules.
All of my initial advice to these men can be summarized as: “Ok. Well… you were wrong. Now what?”
I’m not sure where and when it happened, but somewhere along the line a large portion of the male population got together in a secret meeting and decided to put together a book about just the RIGHT kind male behavior. I’m picturing a giant leather-bound tome called “THE RULES” with the subtitle of “Do these things and you’ll have a very happy, sex-filled marriage for decades”. I’ve never seen said book, but from what I can gather the contents include gems like:
- “Household Chores – Your Road to Insane Sex”
- “Happy Wife/Happy Life – Never Rock the Boat Or We Will All Die”
- “Men Are Pigs and Women Are Saints – Coming To Terms With Your Awful Shameful Sexuality”.
Here is an example of one of the readers of the book. This was posted just today on Reddit from a typical dude on the Divorce forum:
“Hi. I am 47 and my stbx is 42. We have been married a long time and have an 18 year old daughter. I found out a month ago she has been seeing another guy she met online. As far as i can work out he is a drunk and is always borrowing money off the stbx. I don’t understand where it all went wrong. Pretty much throughout the marriage I have done all the cooking 75% of the housework as well as having a full-time job as well as any gardening etc. I know I am not good-looking but spent half my life looking after her. I feel half my life has been wasted. I gave up soo much and have had nothing in return. Then she does this. She didn’t speak before hand and say she was unhappy. I feel so damaged I don’t think I will ever find someone I can trust. What now? Thanks for reading.”
See the not-so-subtle form of “Hey, what the fuck?! This wasn’t in the book!”? He’s saying he played by the rules by doing the vast majority of housework, paying the bills and even did the fucking gardening. He actually brings up those not-so-good looks of his, but quickly brushes that aside for the more honorable trait of “looking after” his wife.
He was the maid, the homemaker, the gardener AND dad. Wow… how could this sudden lack of attraction come about?! (HINT: READ THIS)
If that wasn’t sad enough, the comments are even sadder. Not ONE person responded with the recognition of him doing absolutely everything WRONG in his own co-dependent description. Instead they all said a variation of “it’s not your fault”. After all, it’s in THE BOOK, right? Must be an anomaly. A data point outside of the bell curve. Carry on, nice dude! Your next princess awaits.
Of course THE BOOK doesn’t actually exist. It’s not a leather bound creation with actual pages and text… but it’s a metaphor for the rules and regulations a large group of today’s men have in their mind. Where did these rules comes from? Hollywood? Disney? Conditioning in school? The lack of strong paternal figures? Too many single moms?
Whatever it is, the conditioning has one interesting aspect: It is so damn strong and so damn pervasive that we ignore the obvious that is right in front of our faces. We focus on what SHOULD be versus what IS. We focus on what we DESERVE versus what we actually GOT in life.
“This tiger is eating my face right now. Ouch. This can’t be happening… All tigers are awesome. Must be an evil tiger/demon hybrid. That’s it. As soon as Demon Tiger is done here I will go to the hospital… then I’ll see about finding another tiger.”
To further illustrate, here is a peak into the mindset of the typical codependent nice guy/provider at various milestones in his life:
- “Yes, that cute girl at school only likes jocks… but she’s wrong. She is stupid and should like nice guys likes me, instead. I would worship her. Man, a girlfriend would be nice. When will I have sex? All girls are sluts these days.”
- “Sure, the boss passed me over for a promotion… but he’s an idiot. I’m the smartest one here. I hate this company. I should quit. The whole company would crumble without me.”
- “Yes, I caught my wife texting that guy at work, but it wasn’t anything serious and I’m being insecure and controlling. She would never hurt me and the kids. “
- “No, we haven’t had sex in a while and she seems to hate it… but that’s expected. She’s stressed out and tired all the time. I need to help out more around the house. I will do 75% of the work, instead of just 50%. This is what marriage is all about. Sucks, but what can you do?”
- “Sure, my wife left me for the loser douche bag, but she obviously has mental problems and I had nothing to do with this. ”
These guys are given an inordinate amount of evidence and hints throughout their life that the present course of action is not correct. At the time the evidence is just vapor and not worthy of their attention. It’s not concrete. The evidence is drowned out by the all-too-consuming anxiety and preoccupation for doing what we feel is right and expected.. all to appease a panel of judges that doesn’t exist and never has existed. It’s not reality. It’s just what SHOULD be… and dammit we will go to our graves defending this fake book of rules.
STOP LIVING IN THE IMAGINARY WORLD OF “SHOULD”.
Understanding what IS is the starting point for real, true self-improvement. All else is delusion. Everything else does nothing but soothe your inner baby. There is no real end game for the world of the nice guy. There’s no mission. There’s nothing to strive towards… because it’s not a gameplan grounded in reality. It’s like grabbing your Xbox controller and screaming at it and wondering why you can’t get past level 1 in the game. Dude… Look over and see what your buddy is doing. Just push the fucking buttons.
Let’s reexamine the milestones of a typical nice guy life and look at how applying the gift of seeing life as it IS (reality) can help:
- “Yes, that cute girl at school only likes jocks… So maybe looking better and being more outgoing and confident is a good thing. Maybe I’m too shy and out of shape. Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong crowds. My dad always says ‘walk with cripples and you start to limp’. Well… duh.. makes sense. I should see if I can get in at the gym and try to be buddies with the guys there. Can’t hurt.”
- “The boss passed me over for a promotion… Wonder why he picked Joe instead? I’m going to buy Joe lunch and find out what his secret is. Next year that promotion is MINE.”
- “I caught my wife texting that guy from work. I told her that was completely inappropriate and I demand to see her phone right now. She said no. I told her to leave our bedroom and she will hear from my lawyer tomorrow. She started crying and gave me her phone.. and it was a message from the guy calling her cute and she said ‘Thank you, you’re pretty cute too’. Not bad.. but she’s not going to be working with that guy anymore. I also informed his wife. All hell broke loose but that’s not my fault.”
- “No, we haven’t had sex in a while and she seems to hate it… So I need to figure out where it is she lost attraction and work on myself. I’ve slipped a little in the hot husband department and we had a baby, so I don’t blame her. Best I can do is go back to the guy I was when we were dating and work harder on me.”
- “My wife left me for the loser douche bag… so I guess my changes weren’t enough. That sucks. But… we had some great years together. The texting with the guy from work was a huge red flag. So, not a huge surprise. Should’ve followed through with the lawyer when I had the chance. I feel bad for her making such horrible decisions, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I have to make the best of this for my kid and for myself. It’s gonna be tough, but I’ve been through tougher.”
If you live in the NOW and in the REAL, things start to make sense. You have more boundaries and a deeper sense of self-respect. You tell others what you think and feel in a given situation, regardless of the potential consequences. You have a strong sense of integrity, but it doesn’t come at the expense of your masculinity. You have needs and you’re not afraid to express them. You’re not afraid to take a loss. You’re better able to cope with the inevitable downfalls when they happen. You expected them and you are emotionally prepared. You didn’t put all of your eggs into an imaginary basket of comfort and soothing. You played the part of the seasoned adult with an abundance of possibilities. You played the part of a man.