Chapter 20

There is a moment when every man is at his most honest. When his defences are down and he can do nothing but succumb to his true thoughts and feelings. In this moment, gone are the thoughts and fantasies of what propelled him to erupt in ecstasy mere seconds ago (unless, of course, he’s actually with the object of these thoughts and fantasies). In this moment, he thinks about what he truly wants, how his needs can truly be met, well beyond the pale of ephemeral sexual satisfaction, his mind unclouded by biological urges.

I refer of course to the moment just after orgasm, when, spent and satiated, a man lies back and allows his mind to drift to the places it truly wants to go. When truths he can normally suppress come floating to the surface and he’s both powerless to prevent it and disinterested in doing so.

It’s a perfect time for him to acknowledge who he truly loves.

My wife is trying very hard. In every way, she’s trying to be the wife I didn’t have for many years. At first that angered me, made me resentful for the fact that it took me telling her I was leaving before she was willing to do this. I’m not angry anymore. I can see how much effort she is putting in and I’m torn between feeling incredibly appreciative of what she’s doing and desperately sad because I think it’s too late. Things that should be touching me deeply are recognised and acknowledged but there is a vacuum where my feelings should be.

She says she is going to make me fall in love with her again. The thing is, nobody can make anybody do anything. I’m trying to be open to that possibility, but when I lay there catching my breath, the endorphins rushing through me and my heart rate returning to normal, when the daytime filter drops away and I let myself acknowledge what I really want, who I really love, it is not her.

Regardless, that is neither here nor there. Thinking about what I want is jumping the gun. Needs must be my focus. Not just mine. As much as I need to understand my own needs, I also need to consider those of the people closest to me, and whether or not I’m truly the person who can help to meet them. Currently, I’m functioning as a good husband and father, outwardly doing all the right things. Still, that vacuum where my feelings should be persists. I wonder if I can trick myself into having the feelings she wants me to have for her again. Then I remind myself that that’s exactly how we got here in the first place. No. Not again.

For my children, there is no need for trickery. I’m their father and I will do whatever I must to meet their needs. It’s everything beyond them that I must consider.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the notion that my relationship with my wife was never really given an option to fail. The stakes were simply too high, right from the start. Holiday romance. Long distance relationship. Moving countries to be together. Moving in together immediately. At no point along that time line was there ever the option to say hold up, I need some time and space to figure out if this is the right thing for me. If this is really a person who helps meet my needs.

To have done that would have left the other person alone and isolated in a place they knew nobody. First her. Then me, when I moved.

Outside of a single month (June 1999), I haven’t been single since I was 18 years old. I’ve spent my entire adult life in relationships. I don’t actually know what life is like standing on my own two feet. True, I moved out of home as soon as I could, and have worked continuously since I was 15, but I’ve always had some kind of partner along the way. A crutch, maybe? Did I think I couldn’t do life on my own? I’m not sure. Maybe. Probably.

I know I can now. As to whether or not I should, again, I don’t know. Right now it’s one day at a time. Maintain positivity in my outlook. Address negativity with composure and patience and without compromising my integrity. (Well, no more than I have already.) That all has to come from in me. I can’t lay responsibility for my behaviour on anyone but me. The rest, working things out, will come.

 

Chapter 19

Just ten more minutes. I’ll give it ten more, in case she appears. And if ten minutes happens to pass without her appearing, what’s another ten? It would be worth it for a chance to talk to her. And so it goes on.

I always thought that if things ended, they would end with our respect for one another intact, and a fondness, a soft spot when we thought of one another. I didn’t think it would end like this, with poisonous words not even spoken in anger, but with calculated intent.

Not a man. Must grow up. Adolescent, narcissistic, pathetic and childlike. Lacking joy and happiness and light. A black cloud of misery, guilt, resentment, anger and shame encompassing everything I touch.

These are the things she says, among many others. There was a time when she wanted to know things – the things I shared that ultimately ruined us. When she came to me, soft-voiced and gentle in the early hours and asked me to tell her what was going on, and instead of telling her no, instead of just keeping it to myself, I opened my fool mouth.

I should have known better. She just wanted to know that I was hers, and she was mine, and fuck everyone else. Safe in our bubble.

Of course, bubbles burst. It’s not possible to maintain the kind of suspended animation we existed in when it was us and only us. Reality has a way of seeping in.

Ten more minutes have passed. There’s no sign of her. Of course, it’s Saturday night, and deep down I wasn’t expecting her to be around. She messaged me today to correct what I wrote in the previous chapter. To confirm that I am, in fact, definitely a selfish cunt. A selfish, selfish cunt, to be precise. And to throw a few fuck you’s my way. Not out of anger. To speak the truth.

I never had a chance to get to know her properly. Now, I have to let her go. This woman I am in love with. The first thing on my mind each morning, and the last thing each night. Because she’s right. I couldn’t provide the things I wanted to give her. The happiness. The safety, security and sunshine. Maybe early on, for a while. Before we got into the excessive detail of my life, and the lack of detail of hers. The reality we’re in.

Reality has once again taken over, and it’s pretty much the only place to be. The only show in town. Bubbles are only ever temporary.

 

Chapter 18

I have been called selfish often, especially by those closest to me. I had an interesting discussion about this yesterday, when I was told that my behaviour is not selfish, but self-centred.

My immediate reaction to that was, what’s the bloody difference? They’re both terrible traits.

The difference, I was told, is with regard to intent. Selfish people don’t care about the ramifications of their behaviour on others as long as they get what they want, whereas self- centred people care too much about what other people think about them, so much so that they are fearful of saying anything that might upset others, to the point that they will mask what they want or need if they think it might upset another person.

I’m not denying there are aspects of selfishness in my behaviour, but I am inclined to agree that I’m self-centred to a greater degree than I am selfish. I get so caught up in worrying that I’ve wronged people that my immediate reaction in almost every situation is “what have I done to cause them to react like this?”.

I need to reframe this tendency, so when someone responds to me, regardless of how, I should ask myself why are they reacting to me in this way? How likely is it to be because of something I’ve done? How much more likely is it to be because of something they’ve got going on that has nothing to do with me?

It sounds ludicrous, but this is going to be extremely challenging for me. I’m so self-centred that my comfort zone is to expect the behaviour in every interaction to be about something I have done, or failed to do. It’s going to take a lot of effort to pause and recognise this, then deal with it as it crops up. However, I expect as that behaviour is repeated, it becomes normalised and my brain eventually will become accustomed to reacting like that, instead of the self-centred way it currently reacts. That’s my working theory, anyway.

Something I found slightly mind-blowing this week is the notion that in order to change your future, you don’t necessarily need to understand your past. I’d always believed that in order to change I needed to analyse my past to understand why I am how I am, and in turn to allow me to change. Not so. In fact focusing on my past has done approximately fuck all for my development, so I think it’s safe to say that dwelling on one’s past is not a particularly productive course of action.

Another challenge to face is how I communicate with the world, and like most effective behavioural traits, it is actually simple to understand, but many of us fail to put into practice. To communicate effectively, we only need to know three things about any given topic:

  1. How I/you feel.
  2. What I/you need.
  3. What to request to obtain what I/you need.

At its most basic:

I feel exhausted. I need a rest. I want to take a nap for an hour.

Or:

I feel hungry. I need food. I want to eat a ham sandwich.

And so on. Obviously complexity grows with competing and often contradictory needs but the basic premise for how to communicate is there. I must be clear about my needs and what I want to address them.

I also need to be specific. It’s not enough to say, for example “I want sex” or “I want food”. Being specific is crucial to effective communication. So those statements become “I want to make love to you tonight as soon as The Blacklist is over” or “I want two poached eggs with some lightly toasted brown bread and a venti blonde roast four and four”.

I’m actually enjoying this, finding the flaws in my behaviour and trying to fix them. I just need the right tools to do it.

Chapter 17

My Needs: Redux.

I need to understand and address why I can’t let go of things from my past.

I need to understand and address why I won’t allow myself to be happy.

I need to understand and address why I am self-destructive with my personal life.

I need to understand and address why I have allowed my financial situation to get into the state it’s in.

I need to understand and address why I use food as a coping mechanism.

I need to understand and address why I’m locked into the same patterns of thinking even when I fully believe I’ve moved on.

I need to understand and address – one way or another – my part in the slow disintegration of my marriage.

Following on from that, I need to make a decision on my future with my wife.

I need to understand and address why I am weak.

Chapter 16

This is an extract from something that I received today. I’m documenting it here because it gives me a reminder of how I appear to the world when I let my guard down. Everything that is being said here, it wounds, very deeply. Which most likely means that it is true. I hope to digest what is said in the following and work out how I can use it to improve myself.

Here it is:

(removed)

It makes my throat close up and my eyes water each time I read it (which is often). I can’t work out if it’s because the words are truthful or because they were used to inflict the maximum possible damage. Probably it’s both.

However. That’s short term. I’ll get over it. What I’m trying to take away from this is how to handle my priorities. What my true needs are. My next post was going to be analysing the needs I recorded in Chapter 14 to understand which are needs and which are just the ramblings of a confused man. Then, when I had a condensed list of genuine needs, I wanted to understand which of them my wife helps me to meet.

First though. First I need to parse through this feedback. Get my head around it. Separate out what was said to hurt from what is true. I’m fucking terrified to do this, because I think there’s a lot of truth there. It’s necessary though.

Chapter 15

I took my daughter on a date tonight. A couple of months ago we were in a restaurant and I realised that soon some horny teenage slob with an awful haircut would likely be asking her out and she doesn’t really have any idea how she ought to be treated. So I told her that I would take her out, just she and I, to have some daddy-daughter time, and to show her how she should expect to be treated by a man.

I think I was unconsciously hoping for her to have some Wonder Years-like epiphany, where Daniel Stern’s voice-over comes on and says “Before that night, I’d never really looked at my father as anything but “Dad”, but here he was, a person with feelings and dreams and a whole life I knew nothing about. In that moment I saw my Dad as a man, imperfect but doing his best to raise me well” while some melancholy ditty plays in the background and brings a tear to the viewer’s eye. Of course, the reality was nothing like that. Tonight there were no deep and meaningful conversations. There was chatter about going back to school, about which of her friends had stopped speaking to which other friends and how she always felt caught in the middle, about Minecraft and having fun with her brothers, about clothes and other things she wanted. There was no big breakthrough, no awkward silences where both of us were unsure what to say. It was just…normal.

And you know something? Normal is just fine by me. One thing I’ve realised since having children is that the barometer of childhood happiness (or otherwise) doesn’t swing based on the big one-off events, the amazing birthday present or the surprise trip to Legoland, but on the cumulative aggregate of the hundreds of smaller events where you are their stability where there is uncertainty, their north star when they feel lost.

It can only be considered a success if you maintain the discipline to be that anchor for them for as long as they need you. Some day, she and the boys will want to cast off and go out on their own to live their lives. The best I can hope for is that they keep that anchor with them, knowing they can use it whenever they need to, that I’ll be there for them no matter what storms they have to endure.

 

Chapter 14

(I deleted this after some fairly scathing feedback about how immature and weak it shows me to be. Having thought about it, I’ve reinstated the post. Everything I was told may be true, but I’ve also promised to tell the truth of how I feel here. That said, I now appreciate that much of what I wrote in this post was stuff I want as opposed to stuff I need. Clearly I have some work to do to understand the difference between the two.)

Needs. Obviously we all have them, but I don’t know if I’ve ever actually stopped and worked out what mine are. And if I’ve never done that, how can I possibly work out if they’re being met? Considering that, it’s actually rather unfair to blame my partner for not meeting my needs when I’ve probably never been very good at articulating them, or even understanding them.

Consequently, I want to take the time to figure out what my needs are, and hopefully I can explore them here so that I’m at least some way prepared for these therapy sessions.

While I’m fully aware that this list is more or less a pipe dream – or rather, expecting another human to be able to meet these needs is a pipe dream – it’s going to be helpful to get my needs down on paper, if nothing else.

My Needs:

I need to feel respected, trusted and admired for the person I am, not the person they want me to be. I need a high level of intimacy with my partner.

I need to be financially secure enough to provide for my children.

I need to provide my children with everything necessary to meet their needs.

I need to be a good father.

I need someone who respects my desire not to live outside my means and won’t continually pressure me to do this.

I need someone who focuses on appreciating what we have as opposed to complaining about what we don’t have.

I need someone who doesn’t dwell in negativity. I need someone who appreciates that I am doing my best to make them happy, not who continually points out all the things I haven’t managed to provide.

I need someone who will not withhold physical affection and intimacy as a way of controlling the relationship.

I need someone who communicates with me, and is willing to do more than drop hints in the hope I might guess what problems they are having.

I need someone who understands that sometimes – often – I want to wrap them in my arms and hold them and caress them and kiss them, and that pushing me away in those moments feels like rejection and it hurts.

I need someone who understands that I have outlets, and supports and encourages me in those outlets.

I need a partner who doesn’t get irritated or impatient with me when I’m unwell, simply because I am unwell.

I need someone who understands and appreciates my views on religion and sex.

I need someone who can move on after a quarrel, not endlessly bring up the things I “always” do continually in future arguments.

I need affirmation. Yes I am needy. Yes I am insecure. Not with the rest of the world, but sometimes around her, I need to be able to let my guard down. And I need someone who doesn’t consider me weak for being that way, but who affirms me and reassures me because they are the only person in the world I can be this vulnerable with.

I need sexual submission in my partner. I need to feel that she trusts me enough to allow me to take control. True, I need her to take control sometimes…but ultimately I need her to submit to me as her man.

I need sexual fulfilment, sex that is vital and urgent, passionate and patient. I need a woman who will surrender completely to me. I need a woman who will sometimes surprise me by taking control.

I need to feel appreciated in my role as a provider. I’m happy to be one, it’s lack of appreciation that’s the killer.

I need to feel desired by my partner, and not that she initiates physical contact like she’s trying to fulfil a quota.

I need to be loving and romantic and need my partner to reciprocate.

I need to be open about my sexual desires, and I need my partner to be willing to do the same.

I need someone I find physically attractive.

I need to feel acknowledged and respected and desired as a man, not treated like a child.

I need to feel accepted, not continually told why I don’t quite measure up.

I need a few minutes of peace and quiet sometimes. I’m not being rude if I zone out, it’s not that I never listen to you. Sometimes I’m just exhausted and I need a breather.

I need someone who understands that me being introverted does not mean I am antisocial. That me recharging with some alone time does not equate to sullenness.

I need trust, and for me that means talking about everything. I can’t do hiding stuff away anymore. No subject should be off the table.

I need to have some things in common with her. I need to share some activities with her and not feel belittled for the things I enjoy, or mocked publicly for enjoying them.

I need sex, the kind of sex I described elsewhere, ideally three or four times a week. Less than twice a week and I get tetchy and feel rejected.

I need to feel wanted, not needed.

I need to feel like I’m being taken care of, and not just a hassle that my partner has to endure.

I need someone who is happy to put our relationship first, because they understand that if we’re happy in our relationship, we’ll be happy in every other relationship, including raising children.

I need my partner to be excited and enthusiastic and generally positive – about sex, about life in general, about everything. I try to be positive but sometimes I fail. I don’t want to feel drained and guilty about normal things.

I need someone who can accept a compliment, not just complain that it’s a lie or I’m only saying it because I’m her partner.

I need to seduce and to be seduced. I need to not be laughed at when I’m at my most vulnerable.

I need for my views about any problems I feel we’re experiencing to not be downplayed or otherwise glossed over by my partner. I need to feel like she hears me and is willing to work on them.

I need to feel like my home is mine, that I have a right and entitlement to be there and not that I get in the way and it would be better if I wasn’t around.

I need mental and intellectual stimulation.

That will do for now, I think. I can consolidate later – there’s a lot of duplication in there, most likely.