A reader tells me about his relationship with his wife. He tells me stories of her multiple affairs, her substance abuse, her over-spending, her verbal abuse… and he ends the sad story with a recent huge argument he and the wife had. The argument ended with yelling that he should leave her because she is “no good” and “he deserves better” than her.
Me: “Well… that sounds pretty cut and dry. But, based on your email to me… it sounds like you still want to make this work?”
Him: “Because I don’t just walk away from things. I married her for better or for worse. I love her. I’m still her husband.”
We go back and forth for a while and finally get to the nitty gritty of his real “problem”. Like most men in his shoes, he’s hiding behind the wall of “honor” and “duty”. He outwardly tells the world that he’s just being the “good” guy, but the reality is that he is still just a scared little boy.
Show me a guy with these all-too-common relationship issues, and I’ll show you a guy with pervasive childhood baggage. Maybe he was a nerdy kid who was picked on by bullies and made fun of by the girls in his class. Suddenly he gets attention from a hot and an overtly sexual woman who later turns out to be insanely toxic. Why doesn’t he leave her? Because when he mentally removes himself from the shelter of this relationship, he goes back to the old him. The broken boy. Nobody will like him. He will be lost. Beaten up. Made fun of.
Show me a guy who has zero sense of his role as a man and only sees himself in terms of his relationship to his wife, and I’ll show you a guy who didn’t have a relationship with his father.
Show me a guy who feels obligated to fix his wife’s many emotional issues, and I’ll show you a guy who played the part of the emotional caretaker to his very broken mom.
I see it again and again. The childhood baggage always bubbles up and takes over when life get stressful. It’s the same as the all-too-common scenario of the broken little abandoned girl later becoming the adulterous wife and absent mother. The chaos of her childhood was hard-wired into her at a young age and it was never dealt with appropriately. The programming takes over and the malevolent behavior comes out.
For those of you dealing with such a spouse, ex-wife, or girlfriend, have you done the hard work of introspection? Do you ask yourself how you got to this position in life? More importantly, are you working on your issues, coming to terms with your own past, and putting the best you going forward? For most guys, the answer is NO. They’re too busy hanging on to their toxic relationship or very quickly trying to fill the emotional hole with another woman. Both situations end with disastrous results.
Here’s the mantra I try to drill into nearly every man I work with:
You can be WHOEVER the hell you want to be. Seriously.
You are not limited by your past. Not at all. Those imaginary shackles you are putting around yourself are just that… imaginary. Nobody has to know you were a little weak nerd in school. Nobody has to know that your dad wasn’t around. Nobody needs to know that your mom was narcissistic and confided in you way too much at an early age. You can learn to deal with that baggage in a healthy way and not let it color your relationships moving forward in life. Yes, it’s possible.
Even if you don’t overtly TELL the world about your toxic past, you’re still telling them via your actions. You’re picking seemingly helpless women because of your relationship to mom. You’re being a spineless pushover because you never learned otherwise from dad. You’re afraid to leave your relationship because the only time you’ve ever been alone was when you were a high school kid getting abused by classmates on a daily basis.
Pretend for a moment that those things didn’t happen to you. Pretend that you’re one of THOSE guys that seems to have everything going for them in life. Pretend all of that baggage you bring to the table doesn’t exist for you and never has existed. Pretend mom was normal, dad was always around, and you were one of the popular and cool kids in school that got all the girls.
Got that vision in your mind? Great. Be that guy. Drop the shackles. You put those shackles on yourself, so you can take them off.
“Yeah, easier said than done.”
Of course, nobody said the word “easy” here. It takes work. Everything in life that is worth something takes work. But the first step of deciding you have had enough is the most important step. “Wait a minute… I don’t have to be the insecure and socially awkward guy. I can be way more social and fun if I want to be.” That’s how it starts. Then you go do something that moves towards that goal. Then another thing… and another thing.
Make that first step. Stop painting everything you do with the brush of your past. Pick up a new brush and paint a beautiful portrait of the person you’ve always wanted to be. It may take several revisions until you’re ready to hang the painting in the gallery, but you have to start. Do it today.