If you're looking to learn from some other guy's mistakes when it comes to torpedoing your marriage with stupid oversights and selfish dumb-ass-ness, well, you've just waltzed in to the right place, partner. I've got the goods, the knowledge, and the juiciest steaks this side of Texas, so listen up. (And in case you think you don't need what I'm serving -- trust me, you do.)
Chuckle if you want, but take it from moi: even if you think you're happily married, you're probably a whole lot closer to schlepping your six or seven boxes of comic books and old football trophies up to your new crib than you can even imagine.
Here are the four ways I screwed up my marriage:
1. I got fat.
Okay, by "I got fat," I don't necessarily mean that I got fat-fat. I mean, I did get fat as a married guy in the sense that I added a few LBs, but I also got mentally lazy in my marriage. I got way too comfortable and I took everything for granted (just like a lot of married people do). And just like you're doing right now, probably. Marriage seemed pretty easy to me right from the get-go. I thought that my wife, Monica, and I got married because we were perfect together and that was that, and I was 99 percent sure that I could just be me and do whatever the hell I wanted to do (within civilized reason) and we'd be just fine. But I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. I failed to address so many things, so many little things. "Hey, how was work today?" or "Yo, do you want me to rub your feet while we watch TV?" I didn't think of my marriage or my wife in the way that I was constantly thinking about, say, my job or how much money I had in my wallet or what I was going to have for lunch. I barely gave the marriage much thought at all. I was on auto-pilot, and that was a monumental mistake on my part. So start paying attention to your marriage the way you pay attention to stupid crap like the NFL or what music you're downloading into your new iPhone. If you don't, you're doomed. That's a promise.
2. Sex was all about me.
I was just about one of the worst lovers of all time. You might feel a little bit smug hearing me say that, and that's cool. I live my life close to the honesty bone now and I'm a better man because of it. I'd be willing to wager a cold six-pack that you have no idea how badly you actually suck in the bedroom. You're probably saying, "But Serge, I'm pretty happy with the way things are going. I still have sex pretty regularly and that's more than most of the guys at work can say, huh?" I get it, bud. I thought the same thing. I'm 42 and I'm pretty fit and I can still have sex and dig it like the main-line narcotic of Biblical proportions that it is. But I must confess: the sex in my marriage was almost always about me. Not intentionally, mind you. I wasn't some sweaty drunk college linebacker trying to date-rape my wife. But year after year, even though she was fairly articulate and open about trying to tell me things that "worked" for her, or "didn't work", I never got it -- because I was never really listening. In fact, sometimes I interpreted her intimate act of honest trust and confidence as her telling me I was doing it wrong. I loved having sex with a hot woman and that was it for me. But be forewarned, you horny meatheads: These days, I have sex with no one.
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3. I didn't help pay the bills.
Look, I don't care how much your wife loves handling the finances, or how good at it she is, you should have a role in helping connect financial dots beyond just having a job. Don't get me wrong, I made money. I was never, ever happily unemployed. I made as much money as I could at every job I ever had. But I let her handle the family finances, and no matter how much more responsible and skilled my wife was at it, that was a huge mistake in retrospect. Most women want and deserve to feel cared for, no matter how independent and strong-minded they are. They want to feel that kind of security that can only ever come with knowing that her partner is both aware and proactive when it comes to sustaining a life together. And part of that is the actual act of paying the bills, making investments, and knowing what you're spending at the grocery store. So deal with it and play your part.
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4. I said things I can never take back.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, can ever erase the things you say to another human being. You can try for years to wipe certain slates clean, but take it from me, when it comes to hurtful words (even words mostly spat out in the heat of some argument or insults you didn't mean at all) you will regret them for the rest of your life. I know because I've spit venom. Many times. It was my main line of defense when my wife and I battled over this little thing or that. I didn't realize at the time how immature and stupid it was to deal with adversarial situations by throwing up castle walls of protection just so I wouldn't be hurt by someone else's accusations or attempts at grown-up discussions. Hopefully, this nugget of advice doesn't apply to you. Hopefully, you are the soul of calm/cool/and collected and you never, ever say mean or nasty things when you argue with your significant other. Seriously, I hope you're one of those guys. Because then you have nothing to worry about when it comes to the #1 absolute worst mistake I ever made in my marriage. But if you DO have that certain chip in you that sometimes kicks in when you're overwhelmed or hurt or outmatched or drunk, get help, however you can. I found a way to control my emotions and the things I say to the people I love. It certainly wasn't easy, but by being mindful every second of every day since my marriage ended, I've finally come to a place as a man where I wish I arrived long ago. Think before you speak. Really THINK before you speak. Breathe. Bite your lip until it bleeds. Walk the f*ck away. Just don't say things that hurt, okay? Because you'll never undo the hurt, my man. Yeah, I know, I know: you think you're so tough. You think you'd actually dig having ESPN blaring all the time in that little one-bedroom apartment where you'll end up when the marriage falls apart.
You think you will be just fine, microwaving your own dinners, the newly single dude, free as a bird, dining alone on his new (used) futon couch.
But buddy, you have no idea.