Four core masculine virtues that led me from hoping my wife would die in her sleep to creating YouTube videos about marriage together.
Who I am
Hey there, I’m Sven Masterson. I am a master coach with Goodguys2Greatmen. My mission is to repair and restore the hearts of men, help them improve their relationships, and show them the path to intimate, deeply satisfying, emotionally and physically connected relationships.
I’m happily married to Zelda, who I married 28 years ago and with whom I’ve been in a continuous romantic relationship for over 30 years.
I spent about half of our marriage in pain, misery, and frustration before encountering a handful of life-altering perspectives that helped me turn everything around. Today, I have a great relationship. One that I often laugh about in sheer surprise, amazement, and gratitude.
Over the next six weeks, I want to share how that happened.
I will tell you how I went from a life and marriage of pain, anger, bitterness, resentment, contempt, disconnection, and despair to a life and marriage reliably and consistently filled with joy, clarity, and confidence.
These truths have not only led me to a life increasingly satisfying emotional and physical connection with Zelda but have been shared with hundreds of men who continue to see them produce the same.
Over the following weeks, I will share with you more about these four soul-crushing and poisonous mindsets that were crippling my marriage, intimacy, and happiness for decades.
I will also share more about the four core masculine virtues that were the essential antidotes to reversing the pain and damage to myself and relationships and have been common denominators in 100% of the men I’ve seen experience likewise.
Before I can share that with you, I want to tell you a bit of my story.
Who I was
When I first entered Steve Horsmon’s Roundtable community after a powerful consultation a handful of years ago, I felt out of place at first.
My wife wasn’t telling me she wanted space. She wasn’t having an emotional or physical affair. I wasn’t in a sexless marriage, and we weren’t facing an imminent separation or divorce.
We were coming out of seven years of intense marital strife, and things seemed like they were slowly getting better, but I had a lot of work to do.
When I started hearing the stories of men experiencing these things, I felt like a first-class fool and like my problems were smaller.
What my life used to be like
There I was, with no high-level threat of the dissolution of my family, losing half of my wealth, or seeing my kids half-time. No affair partner to hate, no walkaway wife to chase.
I had many irritations but no emergencies. In fact, from outside appearances, many thought I had it all – or most of it.
I had created a successful consulting business out of thin air with no education, financial help, and at substantial personal risk, for which I received little to no thanks.
I had secured our family a 25-acre mountain-side homestead in the rural countryside of Pennsylvania. I felt pretty good for a guy who started his career thankful to make $8.50/hr and grew to earn more than most anesthesiologists at one point.
That should be an occasion for a fellow to be happy and proud of himself, right? Right?!
Then, why didn’t I?
Why was it so hard to have the life I wanted?
I’ve always been the sole breadwinner while my wife homeschooled our six children from preschool to graduation. I had a lot of pride in my ability to provide in this way.
I was also a leader in a local faith community. My neighbors and community sought me out for help, advice, guidance, and answers, and I was good at giving those things and was known for it.
People told me I was a great husband and father, including my wife, on infrequent occasions (and usually in a card).
There was just one major problem.
Can you believe that? What piece of shit I was, huh?!
I was deadly serious about my marriage.
Like many people who had grown up in a religious environment, I got married with this “til death do us part” mindset about marriage, committed to never, ever getting divorced. If that meant marriage would become a Bataan Death March, so be it.
I was all in, or at least that was the hypocritical lie I told myself.
It was drilled into my head growing up marriage is “until death do us part”. Divorce wasn’t allowed to be an option. This just made me want the “death do us part” all the more – and usually not my own.
I was totally blind to my hypocrisy and the foolishness of thinking that wanting my wife and mother of my six children to perish was somehow more virtuous than ending an unhappy marriage. Boy, was I mistaken!
But I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and more importantly, brother. I was in pain!
Why won’t she notice, and why is she so irritated with me?!
I thought some of my pain was my wife seemed to overlook my heroic efforts, epic deeds, and acts of self-denial in creating the life we had.
She seemed to never notice! All my hard work, effort, sweat, blood, and a few tears never felt like enough!
In fact, she even seemed to have this uncanny ability to find and point out the infinitesimally minor defect or unfinished thing in whatever I did.
She also seemed constantly angry, irritated, unavailable, and distant.
No matter what I did, it felt like it was never enough for her to get her praise, respect, and admiration. No matter what I did, how much I earned, what European vacation we went on, what house upgrade we performed. Nothing seemed to work to get the warm, soft, affectionate, kind, and inspirational feminine I wanted from Zelda.
This was not what I signed up for!
When my search for “the one” started.
That soft, tender, flowing, radiant, gracefulness, and beauty I wanted from Zelda was a longing I’d had since the first grade when I fell in love with my first-grade teacher, Ms. Wrightson.
She was a soft-spoken, beautiful woman with long hair and a siren’s voice. She often wore this anklet under her super sexy, panty-hosed clad legs, and I was smitten, even as a six-year-old. So much so that I’d want to come home from school and try to fall asleep so I could dream about her.
That’s the first time I can remember being enraptured and intoxicated by the feminine, and boy, was I hooked!
For most of my life, the feminine was like an aroma that I knew yet couldn’t put my finger on. A delightful, elusive, and intoxicating fragrance that though I would get hints of, could never seem to be found and consumed.
It seemed like I was always “in love” with a girl after Ms. Wrightson, and that followed me until I began my relationship with Zelda two weeks before I turned eighteen.
I hoped she’d be “the one.”
So my pain – the real reason I often fantasized that my wife would die in her sleep – was because, after twenty years of marriage, I still had the longing.
Instead, my life felt characterized by an endless unfulfilled longing to find and experience the feeling I’d been sensing all my life, but that never seemed to come my way, even after doing all the right “stuff.”
Even though married and “faithful,” I still found myself constantly infatuated with new women I’d meet and the idea that one of them might be “the one.”
Though I had hoped that my wife was “the one,” after nearly two decades into it, I believed I’d made a colossal mistake!
I wasn’t getting any younger, and it felt like there wasn’t much time left to find the woman who made me feel this way, start a life together with her, and fill my nostrils with that delightful feminine beauty, softness, and delicious, juicy intimate goodness.
Entering Men’s Work
That pain and my search for the intoxicating feminine and the life I had because of it is what brought me into “men’s work” and meeting Steve Horsmon.
I was sure it all meant I should count my losses, divorce my wife, and start toward the life I wanted. I expected a call where he told me “poor you” and justified my resentment and bitterness over my wife’s lack of appreciation and gratitude.
But he didn’t. Instead, he began to show me the way out of resentment.
Little did I know then that my path would take a completely different route and reveal the four toxic mindsets corroding my relationship and onward to find the four core masculine virtues that would steer me toward the life I wanted.
What is my life like now?
I no longer fantasize about Zelda dying in her sleep or being with someone new. Instead, I envision all the men (and, by proxy, women and children) we can have and continue to help with our story. I daydream about what kind of conversations we can share on YouTube about our journey through and beyond disillusionment.
I’ve not felt feelings of being unappreciated, unseen, unvalued, and alone in a crowded room for years. I have a considerably smaller income than I did back in those days, still leave infinitesimally things undone, and yet, I no longer experience critique but warmth, connection, and acceptance.
Most of my days are filled with a new awareness of the haunting intoxicating aroma that used to elude me. Now I live each day in awe and wonder and the realization that the strange aroma I’d previously found so elusive was not an invitation to find someone but to be someone, a staggering reality that settled that feeling and continues to be life-giving.
Now that I don’t feel like time to find love is running short, I enjoy how I spend it and who I spend it with.
And all of that is something I had thought was utterly impossible just a half-decade ago!
What happened to make that possible?
None of the conventional approaches to fractured marriages were a part of our healing. All this has taken place without dragging Zelda to marriage counseling, therapy or insisting that “she fix her shit.”
In fact, that kind of thinking was just the fruit of the four corrosive mindsets I had to let go of along the way. It was ending the insistence that my life would become great when changes take place outside of me that was a significant catalyst for creating the life I have now.
What were those four soul-crushing and poisonous mindsets?
- Conditional & Transactional regard – showing kindness, regard, and love when only it was duly earned.
- Relinquishment – giving others the power to create or take my sense of well-being and refusal to lead my own life.
- Helplessness – believing I was suffering because of what others wouldn’t start or stop doing.
- Isolation – trying to live the masculine life without meaningful connection with other men.
These four mindsets were the fundamental force behind all my suffering, and learning to replace them with superior virtues has been the key to my transformation.
What were the four core masculine virtues that changed everything?
The four simple core masculine virtues that freed my soul from bondage are:
- Unconditional high regard – showing kindness, regard, and love because of who I enjoy being and the value and worth of all humans regardless of their behavior.
- Ownership – owning everything about my life and how I experience it.
- Self-reliance – looking for what needs to start or stop within in order to thrive.
- Brotherhood – realizing that to live a powerful masculine life requires being connected to and influenced by strong masculine men.
Experiencing a shift in these four simple but effective virtues paved the way forward and away from the four soul-crushing mindsets.
“Yeah, but Sven… what if you’re just lucky and just married an exceptional woman?”
After coaching a few hundred men through the disillusionment stage, I have discovered a staggering pattern between men who get the desired results and these four virtues.
A man begins to excel in these virtues, and his life begins to change for the better. The same pattern, over and over again.
It requires serious GRIT to embody these virtues at the level needed to help your marriage. Few men take this path because the pain and effort to let go of the four toxic mindsets requires a heart-level transformation not achievable by reading books and watching YouTube videos.
Most men want easy, and therefore few men achieve greatness.
Over the next four weeks, I will tell you more about each of the four soul-crushing and poisonous mindsets and the core masculine virtue that acts as its antidote. Next week, I will tell you about “Unconditional High Regard”, the first key. Then, in my final post, I’ll wrap them all together and tell you how you can learn more about each.
Can’t wait til next week to discover more about the Four Keys?
Click here for my free introductory class on the Four Keys to Masculine Mastery & Thriving Connected Relationships (no email or credit card required)