Sons… brother… I want you to know something in case I die before you encounter it. I’ve spent the week, like most weeks, talking with men hopeless about marriage – men who in many ways remind me a lot of you – just a bit older a bit further down the romantic river than you all are. These are men slogging through the muck of disconnection. Most have very little or no intimacy and sexual connection in their relationship. Most of them are wondering “is my marriage fixable” and secretly fear that there isn’t enough time left to experience the life they want before they die. They wonder if trying to make their marriage work is worthwhile or a supreme waste of time.
It’s important to me, that if ever you do find yourself there, that you feel encouragement and my honoring of the painful season that you may also find yourselves in.
It wasn’t long ago that I was living in what felt like a seven year Groundhog Day from the pit of hell.
An existence of just wake, work, eat, drink, sleep, repeat. I hated that period between work and sleep where I felt I was sitting in my own blood and guts for a few hours.
No doubt you remember those days of hollow looks and emptiness when I had very little in the tank for you. God, how I despised being in that state. Even now, years later it’s causing me tears and a tight feeling in my throat writing that.
Sometimes those nights were relatively peaceful – thanks to heavy beers or other drinks, or the distraction of binge watching the latest show about nothing. Other nights – especially nights that included trying to work out these relationship problem with your mom, I can’t even begin to tell you how exasperating, maddening, and toxic those nights were for me.
Where are all the older wiser men who survived despair marriages?
Maybe had I been successful in finding just one single man to walk me through that shit it could have been… I don’t know.. shorter? Less painful? I tried, but couldn’t find those men.
I could find professionals who’d clock me in out, invoice me and show a little compassion for my hour. But I needed men who would enter the pain with me and help me get out of it.
No matter what I seemed to do or say, I felt like I would never be understood by your mom. She made it painfully and persistently clear that she felt likewise. It was absolute gridlock of what felt like epic proportions. I’ve never been the kinda man who could pull the trigger on a gun pointed at my own head son, but let me tell you… I was close as I have ever come.
What I didn’t know then and have come to understand now is that I was smack-dab in the middle of the “power struggle” stage of marriage.
How the power struggle stage feels and why it feels so hopeless
That’s a useless and unhelpful term when you’re living every day feeling hopeless that your marriage can work out and hoping instead that maybe it will be over soon. So let me describe how it felt instead.
You already know I value your mom, marriage, commitment, and family. Yet despite this, I tended to be woefully disappointed with life much of the time. I couldn’t seem to consistently figure out how to feel all “the stuff” that I had gotten married expecting to feel. Stuff like deep emotional connection, interest, warmth. softness, passion, spiritual intimacy.
I didn’t feel seen for the good within me or my virtue or integrity. I felt misunderstood, disrespected, devalued, not honored and to be honest – unloved.
And to top it all off… It felt like just when I was feeling all that, that my deep insides were experiencing the most profound conflict I’ve ever felt – the question of “would I commit to the future of this relationship?” would nag me from within and without. I felt like your mother was simultaneously wanting deeper commitment while also increasingly hostile. That was gloriously frustrating!
Imagine a box…
Inside this box is your future relationship. The box is closed. On the outside are written tons of questions…
Will it be painful? Will it get better? Who will she be? Will I find love? Is there still time?
What if it doesn’t work? Does she even like me? Do I even like her? What is she doesn’t change?
Will there be happiness? Is there even going to be sex?
Is what’s inside of that box better than what has been in there before?
What’s in the box and how much does it cost?
Now imagine that box is on eBay with a button underneath it labeled… “PLACE BID” and the cursor is just sitting there larger than life, blinking. Over and over again it just sits there, waiting for the answer.
WTF am I supposed to enter? I have no idea what is in that box?! What if it’s a big box of venomous vipers? I mean… I’ve had those in the past. What if those are in there?
Or what if it’s a wife who seems impossible for me to please, never seems content with me… always seems to find the one single minuscule defect in what I do no matter how grandiose everything is. What if it’s that criticalness is in there? I can’t take that shit again.
And still that damn cursor sat there blinking… waiting for me to make a bid on the box of mysterious future relationship.
Commence bidding – on a possible future of despair, hopelessness, and pain!
So I enter $20 and see what happens, hoping to relieve the pressure I felt to make the relationship work.
A message appears: “You’ve been outbid” and now the minimum bid is thousands of dollars more!
Okay.. okay. Forget it! I’m not playing this game.
I’m not bidding a single cent on a box of future relationship filled with who the f*ck knows what?!
But that damn blinking cursor won’t leave me alone! It still blinks like it’s shouting “make a higher bid – now sucker!”.
Deep sigh… this is getting pretty real. I up my bid a few hundred bucks. Why? I don’t know! My conscience? The fact that I don’t want to lose my family? Not wanting life as I know it to go away? I had worked hard for what we had and I didn’t want to experience the pain of it breaking apart.
I hit ENTER…
“You’ve been outbid” and now the minimum bid is TENS of thousands of dollars more!
What do I do now?!
Oh my gosh…. I can’t afford this! This will ruin me if that box isn’t full of gold!
Now I’m bidding on a huge box of I don’t know what for tens of thousands of dollars and I can’t even be sure there is ANYTHING in that box? WTF am I doing?!
This cycle repeats itself until I have typed an amount representing every penny I own and a bit more too.
I sit there, waiting… finger on the ENTER key arguing with myself about what kinda stupid idiot bets everything on a big box of mysterious uncertainty?
Maybe if I just keep waiting, she’ll change? Maybe she’ll become nicer?
This is what “the power struggle” felt like to me.
It felt like relentless pressure to be everything and to bet everything I am and have on a big box of uncertainty. All while the day-to-day business of marriage was sure-as-hell not looking good! The box usually looked like it would be filled with an angry, cold, venomous, distant, and disconnected woman. Going all in on that felt like sheer madness.
Boys… you already know hit the ENTER key and trembled in fear, anxiety, and uncertainty.
You know the end results too – that what I got was the ever-deepening, connected, joyful, intimate marriage I have with your mom still and one that keeps getting better.
Was I lucky? Is that why am I writing this to you? Was I just fortunate that the box had good things in it? No!
I’m writing to you because if ever you find yourself facing that pressure to “bid everything on a box of uncertainty”, I want you know what I didn’t in that moment.
It’s not what you think or feel it is
That that the box I was bidding on wasn’t a future relationship at all! It wasn’t a box filled with the future actions and decisions of your mom. I thought it was and so I thought the future would only be good if she stopped doing some things and started doing others.
None of that was true! I was entirely wrong. The box of uncertainty I was had been struggling to bet on all along – was me.
It was always my own uncertainty about myself that was creating all that pressure and uncertainty about the future. Anxiety that I could create a life for myself that was happy instead of painful, abundant instead of lacking, passionate and intimate instead of sexless, hopeful and expectant instead of anxious and fearful.
It was beyond my wildest dreams that love would be found abundantly after-all – but not in a box of your mom’s actions and decisions and behaviors, but by looking inside of me. It was there all along!
A funny thing happened… I realized that your mom liked me more when I didn’t try so hard to make her like me. Likewise, I liked her the more I liked me and that way of holding myself in higher regard was the first step to others – especially her – feeling the same way about me.
Turns out, I was feeling hopeless about marriage because…
I didn’t like or accept me, I critiqued and judged her, and she felt anything but accepted
Part of loathing myself was that I imagined everyone else critiqued me too. I felt a lack of acceptance and just assumed that it was everyone else. With that mindset, I wasn’t emotionally strong. I was constantly triggered and defensive toward other peoples opinions and perspectives. I always felt like I was disappointing to them and interpreted their perspectives as criticism.
That changed and I learned that I was okay! I learned that all the anxiety and resentment I carried within me – damn near all the time – was all from stories in my own head, not what others were doing, saying, being, or believing. That led me to the freedom to control those stories totally change my reality.
It has been like a superpower or having an Iron Man suit to understand that things getting better in the future was within my power. I didn’t have to remain hopeless. I had power to create the marriage I wanted and lead myself and us to experience it. My previous lack of clarity and certainty made me see my future through a murky and unpleasant lens – a future where I wasn’t worthy for love, was suffering somehow, and would be lucky to receive the things I longed to experience.
Oh how melancholy and depressing that was for so long!
What I am desperate for you and others to know
You are never bidding on a future “relationship”, only a future you. A man feeling hopeless about marriage is really just feeling hopeless that his parter will change. When he comes to know himself as his most trustable, masculine, and confident self, all that changes.
Your part of any relationship is an interpretation of experiences within yourself. We think we are experiencing “reality”, but we are really just experiencing our thinking.
You might interpret the hesitation you feel as being uncertainty over how someone else will act in the future, but it isn’t. It is from a lack of confidence that you are worthy for the future you want and capable to bring it to pass.
When you don’t worthy, your worthiness feels like it’s in the box of future uncertainty!
When you don’t feel capable and confident, it too feels like it’s in the box of future uncertainty!
And if you discover this worthiness and capability in yourselves, you can bid everything you have on any box of future mysterious uncertainty because the box has always been and always will be you.
What’s in your box and how much are you bidding?
Are you facing a big box of future uncertainty in your marriage? Do you feel hopeless about your marriage? I specialize in helping men turn hopeless marriages around and bid on the marriage they desire with every thing they’ve got. Let’s talk.
Want to read how other men experienced my help with their uncertainty box? Read more here.