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.
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.”
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.
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:
- They were highschool classmates or met in college.
- She asked him out or he was pushed by friends to talk to her.
- 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.
- He hasn’t had a woman before or since he met her.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
A recent email exchange with a reader reminded me of something. The most often asked question I get by guys who have discovered infidelity and see divorce on the horizon:
“So… what’s dating like?“
These poor guys are so conditioned to having a female by their side that the knee jerk reaction to losing one is to immediately look for a replacement. While some may say they just want to have fun with ladies while playing bachelor… they secretly all desire to find “the one” and get comfortable again.
My advice to them is always the same.. and it’s always ignored. Always.
“Forget about chicks for a while. Focus on you.”
I see men jump right into dating, get crushed, crawl back to their cave and say “Yeah… maybe I should give dating a rest for while.” Over and over and over again.
I know… I was one of them.
I am now with a genuinely GOOD woman. That is NOT because I bounced around for a while in online dating, worked my network of friends and neighbors and eventually connected with somebody I had a lot in common with. No… I just got lucky. Seriously. It had nothing to do with my repaired emotional state or doing everything by the book. No… I just happened to find a good woman who was going through much of what I was going through… at pretty much the exact same time. She was there through my annoying three year post-divorce emotional journey, and I was there for hers. We both agreed that we were dating way too soon.. but did it anyway. This could’ve ended in a catastrophe of epic proportions. Thankfully it didn’t.
In spite of doing everything wrong, we got it right.
Don’t do what I did. Just because I hit the lottery doesn’t mean you should go out and spend your next paycheck on Powerball tickets. Just because Jimi Hendrix did drugs doesn’t mean that you can be an awesome guitar player by shooting up heroin. You get the idea.
Oh yeah, I did some dating. I’m familiar with that world. As I’ve often said, 90% of the single women out there are not long-term relationship material. Have fun, go out every now and then, do your thing.. but realize that the chances of finding somebody worth calling your one girl are very very low.
YOU HAVE TO BE OK WITH THAT.
Hearing somebody tell you that you will probably spend your remaining years casually dating and enjoying the single life should put a big fat smile on your face. It’s shouldn’t make you sad. You’re a dude. FREEDOM is everything to you.
Don’t quite feel that way? You’re conditioned. You’re broken. Don’t start dating yet.
When you are in a super vulnerable state of being shit on and dumped… you tend to want to remedy the extreme anxiety as quickly as possible. Some of us figure out that you just have to power through it slowly and occupy your mind with stuff like the gym, work, hobbies, reading, writing, friends… but most of us look for the quick fix. That touch. That physical feeling. That warmth. A WOMAN.
Hey, it all sounds good. You go about doing all of those things that come with new found freedom, and you have NEEDS, so why not casually date? Well… I agree with the sentiment… BUT recognize that you will most likely set your progress back a little (or a lot) by jumping into bed with women right away. Recognize that it will whip up all kinds of feelings. Recognize that you may very well start falling for girls REALLY quickly. Recognize that you CANNOT TRUST YOURSELF right now to make the most rational decision. You cannot trust yourself to do what is right for YOU RIGHT NOW. What you can trust is that you are hurting and you will want to fix that hurt right away. You will ignore red flag after red flag if it means you feel good again.
Your feelings are perfectly valid… Your conclusions and remedies are not. You cannot trust yourself right now. You are an addict looking for a fix. “I can stop at any time. I’m cool. Don’t worry about me.”
Another way to look at it: You are an adult. You are probably a dad. You have an entire world of work, home, and family that depends on your to keep your shit together. Don’t run out there and jump on the first woman that makes you feel good again. Realize that you have a 1/10 chance of finding a good one… which means the remaining 9/10 are varying degrees of broken. They are cheaters, liars, depressed, angry, abuse-survivors, abusers, borderlines, bipolars, manic depressives… you name it, you will run into it. You want to risk bringing THAT into your world? You’re willing to risk having a crazy woman show up at your door on Taco Tuesday night with the kids, screaming “WHY HAVEN’T YOU TEXTED ME BACK, ASSHOLE!? IT’S BEEN TWO HOURS!!”
You’re better than that. You’re a man. It’s ok to hurt. It’s okay to want it to all go away. What you don’t do is look for the easy way out. You work through the pain. You work through the anxiety. You work on yourself. It’s introspection time. It’s time to pick apart yourself and rebuild. It sucks… but it sucks worse to be sitting at the kitchen table with your head in your hands saying “God dammit… I did it again” as you find out your new girlfriend gave you the clap.