She’s going to leave you.
And even if she doesn’t, she’s going to want to. She’s going to fantasize about your best friend. Or her friend’s husband. Or her co-worker who pays attention to her. Or the guy who smiled at her at Starbucks. Or the UPS man. Or me.
A 5’9” guy with a kid who got dumped this year and cries a little more than he should. She fantasizes about THAT guy.
That’s how shitty you are.
She won’t even be able to help herself.
Despite what a total self-absorbed prick you are, she still loves you and wants YOU to be the one who makes her feel good.
But you don’t.
You make her feel like shit. When she tries to talk to you, you tell her the things she thinks and feels are stupid.
When she asks you nicely to do something simple for her, you refuse.
When she asks you nicely to not do something anymore, you do it anyway.
You make her feel bad when you put your immediate wants ahead of the needs of your relationship or family.
When you don’t tell her she looks good. When you don’t tell her she makes you feel good. When you don’t show her that you want her.
That situation is unsustainable. And she’s going to leave you.
Or she’s going to sleep with someone else. And then leave you.
Don’t shake your head no. You’re in denial.
She will. Or she’ll really, really want to which I submit is equally bad.
Then you’re going to get divorced. Because a human being can only take so much, and sooner or later, the misery of divorce is going to seem like a lesser pain than the misery of living with you.
That one’s going to sting.
And then you’re going to be alone and your life is going to be shitty. And one day you’re going to have a really rough morning with your kids. And then the day care lady is going to come over and pick up your son and he isn’t going to want to leave you because he knows he’s not going to see you for three days and he’s going to cry as the day care lady peels him off of your leg so that he’s not late for school and you’re not late for work. And he’s going to scream “Daddy! Daddy!” as he gets carried away sobbing and you can’t help him because you can’t even help yourself.
And then you’re going to cry in your kitchen and call your ex-wife names between the sobs.
It’s going to be your fucking fault. Because you brought this on yourself.
Don’t ever forget it.
When Two Become One
When you’re a kid, your parents are the most-important figures in your life. You can barely imagine life without them.
But you grow. Mature. Gain independence.
Then you meet someone. Someone you decide is going to replace your parents as the central figure in your life. They become the most-important thing.
But now, you don’t always treat her that way. It’s because you’re a shitty husband. Don’t worry. It’s not just you. Most of us are.
You see, I know you’re not a bad person. I’m not either.
You don’t have to be a bad person to be a shitty husband. The shitty-husband badge isn’t only reserved for assholes.
By assholes, I mean guys who cheat, guys who are physically or mentally abusive, guys who drink excessively or do drugs, guys who go out every night leaving their wives to fend for themselves or to care for children alone.
You might even be nice like me. Kind. Empathetic. Caring.
But there’s a demon inside you that you can’t quite fight off. The sex isn’t quite as stimulating as it used to be. You probably think it’s her fault.
Because she used to really get your blood pumping. Back when she wanted you. Needed you. You didn’t have to ask. You could see the need. Feel the need. And you loved it. Because we all have a little Alpha in us.
And now she doesn’t make you feel wanted. She doesn’t make you feel needed.
It’s not because she doesn’t want to. She wants to. It’s an involuntary sort-of apathy she feels now. Because you robbed her of the passion she once had for you. And she resents you for it.
This isn’t the life she’d hoped for. The one you’d promised her curled up in the sheets and one another on a Saturday morning when you were young and nothing else mattered.
She can’t want you now. Because the fire’s gone. Extinguished.
And the pain and frustration of that realization is almost unbearable for her. That you don’t love her anymore. That you don’t want her anymore. That she matters so little to you now that your job, or your friends, or your video games, or your drinking, or your golfing, or your TV watching, or whatever, has taken priority over her. You’re the person she chose over her parents. The person she trusted with the rest of her life.
Because you’d rather play Call of Duty or watch reruns on the couch, than tell your wife she looks sexy, than clean up the kitchen for her, than spend a couple hours making her climax over and over again.
Right now, maybe you’re nodding your head.
“Yeah, Matt. I would rather do something for myself.”
- You’ll regret thinking that.
- You deserve what’s coming.
What Divorce is Like
According to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, divorce and marital separation are the second- and third-most-stressful things that can happen to us in our entire lives, behind only the death of a spouse. But if she had died rather than leave you, you’d at least sleep at night dreaming of the good times together, rather than thinking about the new guy sticking his penis inside your wife and imagining how much happier she is now.
Do you like stress?
Divorce is bad.
Worse than I thought. And I’m relatively smart.
Especially if you’re a dad.
When you’re a divorced dad, no childless woman wants you. It’s hard enough being a parent when you love the child more than all other things on Earth. Imagine having to be a parent when you don’t love the child that much. And you’re asking her to do that after someone who lived with you for a long time, intentionally had children with you, then decided life without you was more attractive than life with you.
So, hope you wanted more kids. Because if you want to date someone, that’s what you’re looking at.
Good luck with that.
When you’re divorced, you have less money than you used to, so you can’t even afford to distract yourself from how shitty your life is now with small pockets of fun. You have to stay home where no one comes to visit you because all of your friends liked it better when you were with your wife, and none of your couples friends want to hang out on the weekend with the sad, single guy.
When you’re divorced, your kids are sad, and it’s mostly your fault.
When you’re divorced, the ONLY thing about your life that doesn’t change is all of the things you do now that push her away.
But once she’s left you, you’re not going to want to do those things anymore. Because the things you thought were bringing you happiness ended up bringing you the most misery you’ve ever felt.
When you’re divorced, everything is three times as hard, because you’re only half of yourself, and no one’s there to help.
If you do get divorced, I hope you have your family nearby. That will help. But if you’re honest with them, and if they’re honest with you, everyone’s going to be disappointed in you and miss when you were still a couple. They might even say so. That will make you feel bad and you’ll want to see your family less.
What to Do if You Want to Get a Divorce
You think it might be cool? You think it’s going to be a bunch of sex with hot strangers and parties and football with the boys?
Maybe it will. Maybe you really will like the single life better.
No one to tell you you’re making them feel bad. No one to interrupt you watching Thursday Night Football. No one to tell you you can’t order pizza from your favorite place. No one to nag you about your laundry or bathroom habits.
It will be just like high school or college again! Freedom!
You’re wrong. But you’re a guy. So you’re not going to listen to me anyway.
If you want to get a divorce, just go ahead and keep doing what you’re doing. Watching Bonesreruns. Playing video games. Ignoring her.
But here’s the thing: I know you don’t really want to get divorced.
If you did, you’d have already filed.
You want to stay married. I’d like to help.
What to Do if You Want to Stay Married
First, evaluate your wife’s state of being.
If she’s acting scared and needy and clingy or nagging and begging for attention, that’s a GOOD thing. That means she hasn’t reached the apathetic stage yet where she’s highly likely to sleep with other men, leave you, or both.
If she’s acting like a different person. Quiet. Reserved. Doesn’t “bother” you as much about the stuff that troubles her, I’ve got bad news, man. It’s not because it’s no longer bothering her or that she’s turned a corner and understands you more now.
It’s because she doesn’t give a shit about you, she’s learning to do everything by herself as she prepares for her life as a single, divorced woman, and she might be having sex with someone else. If she’s not, she’s strongly entertaining the idea.
She’d rather pleasure herself while thinking about your friend or her co-worker or some blogger she’s never met than have you touch her.
Chew on that for a minute.
She needs to feel something. And every night you choose TV, beer, video games, whatever, over her. She’s given you a million and a half chances. And you just keep doing the wrong thing.
It’s not okay for her to go have sex with someone else. It’s not. I’m not defending her.
But it does make sense, right? When you process it in that non-emotional, logical brain of yours?
The thing we all crave the most is happiness. You make her sad. If you didn’t have children, money, real estate, and family ties, she’d already be gone.
I can’t promise that if you do any of these things, she’ll forgive you. But I do promise you’ll give yourself a fighting chance to keep your marriage and family intact.
Do not say anything negative toward her for an entire day.
Once you pull that off, go an entire week. If you can do it for an entire week, you can do it forever. Say kind things. Not mean things. Every day. When you mess up, apologize. Twice.
Hug her daily.
Mean it. While you’re hugging her, ask this question: “What can I do for you to make your day better?” You’re going to want her to say have sex with her. But she’s not going to. She’s going to want you to clean the kitchen, bathe the kids, and walk the dog. She’s going to want you to do those things so that she has time to do two loads of laundry AND maybe take a bath or whatever she likes to do when she has a precious few minutes to herself. Ask that question every day with love and sincerity. Do whatever she asks to the best of your ability, without complaining about it. Do that enough times, and she’s going to want you to have sex with her. And it’s going to feel like it used to. Yay you. You’re making progress.
Flirt with her.
Not pervy-douchebag flirt, either, unless she takes it to the dirty place herself. Send her a nice text once or twice a day: “Thinking about you. Please let me know what I can do to make your day better,” and later “I can’t wait to see you later. I hope you know how loved and wanted you are.”
The really nice kind. The first-date kind. Don’t try to have sex with her. Do this three or four times per week. If she makes you have sex with her one of those times, it’s okay.
Take one of her “jobs” away from her.
The one she likes the least. You know how she always does laundry and you always mow the lawn? How she always does the dishes and you always take out the trash? Take one of those off her plate. Ask her which one. And take it. And work your ass off to do a good job. You’ll learn to respect how challenging her life is, how amazing she is at multi-tasking and time-management, and you’ll get another taste of how much shittier your life would be as a single guy doing all of this alone. Why should you take one of her jobs away? Because she does more than you do. And if you want a successful marriage, you have to give more than you take. You give her support. She gets more time to relax and feel good about her life. You get a happy wife who wants to have sex with you. The good kind of sex. Everyone wins.
If you’re not exercising, start.
You don’t have to be Adonis. You just have to not be a fat slob. You might be surprised how far 50 pushups, 50 sit-ups and 60 seconds in the plank position can take you right when you wake up, and right before bed. We’re talking 10-15 minutes a day, tops.
Learn about your wife.
First, read a book about why women do what they do.
There are several. You’ve probably heard of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. I personally prefer How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. It’s a book that will gain fast credibility with you because the authors clearly understand why you do and feel many of the things you do. You’ll appreciate that they “get” you. And then you’ll believe them when they tell you why your wife does and feels the things she does. And if you have an empathetic bone in your body, you’ll instantly feel terrible for all of the pain you’ve caused the person you love over the years, and you’ll learn how to communicate in healthy ways. You’ll learn why you have the same fights over and over and over again about the exact same things. It’s NOT just you! It’s every couple. Everyone has the same natural instincts and tendencies and defense mechanisms that cause conflict in our human relationships. And once you learn what those are, you can navigate those waters. The “mystery” of women that you hear other guys talk about. It’s not a mystery. She REALLY IS different than you. Don’t treat her like a man.
Second, learn about your wife like you did when you first started dating.
Because she’s not the same person she used to be. She’s matured. Maybe she’s a mother now. Maybe she doesn’t like the missionary position as much as used to. She has different hopes and dreams than she used to. And if you help her achieve them? You can have a truly happy life and marriage.
And that’s what I want for you.
And for her.
And for your children.
And for your friends.
And for your extended family.
Or you can just get divorced like me.
You can spend Christmas Day alone. You can never have sex. You can never have anyone there to listen to how hard your day was. You can do all of your laundry alone. The house is REALLY quiet when you’re folding laundry alone. You can pay all the bills yourself. Hope you’re good at managing time and money. You can watch movies and television shows alone. You can never see all of your old couples friends. You can clean the kitchen and bathrooms alone. Or you can let them get disgusting as a daily reminder of just how far you’ve fallen.
Please fight for your life and family.
Like a warrior.
She’s worth it.
And so are you.
Photo:Ale Vergara Frade/Flickr
This essay originally appeared on Must Be This Tall to Ride.
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