From ladywithatruck: I was in an abusive relationship as you know. I went back to him many times. Why? Because every time we split he would have an epiphany and realize and admit to and apologize for everything he did wrong. I would feel validated, heard, valued, loved and willing to look at my part in things and do my part to save the relationship. We would get back together, I would be putting 110% into “us” and he would recant or “forget” ever admitting fault.
His article is dedicated to her insight.
When I read these words, comments on a recent post, I had a bit of an epiphany myself. I realized, maybe for the first time, that in virtually every relationship I have worked with, if the woman is the one to leave, the man will have an epiphany a day or a week later. I myself was full of epiphanies, that breakup those many years ago that shaped my life. As a guy I knew beyond doubt that if I could just do something, I could salvage this thing. I needed to do a bunch of sentimental things, placating things, say the right words and this situation would be fixed. This was what I would set my mind to until things were back to normal.
The worst part was that I knew better, was a proponent of better. I was a professional, but I was still a guy.
That was the day my journey really began. But I digress.
I know full well that there is something in men that ignores a situation if it seems too daunting or unwinnable. I cannot tell you how many times wives tell me that their husband no longer communicates, no longer wants to date, no longer spends hours in conversation (or minutes). It is very difficult for women to understand that this is a very natural and learned response for many of us, and just because it seems unbelievable to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. As I have written many times men, especially men over thirty, do not grow up in a culture that encourages or teaches emotional connection. Our social connections were and remain mostly shallow. Patrick Warburton in Rules of Engagement is not as much a caricature as we would like to believe. Few men spend hours a week trying to connect emotionally with anything, it’s a lot of work.
Years later, when the relationship breaks up it usually comes as quite a shock to the guy who is left. Things were going along swimmingly, everything seemed “ok” even if she wasn’t interested in sex anymore, at least with him. She was always sort of frigid. What does she want, anyway?
As bizarre as it seems to the leaver, your choice to go really was a shock. Sorry but it’s true. We have an amazing capacity to compartmentalize our lives and ignore issues which are going to cost too much emotionally. It comes as no surprise then, that when men are confronted with the immanent demise of their relationship they tend to do the wrong thing – they do things. ‘Doing’ is an area where I am comfortable and I understand the rules. Women are incredibly difficult to understand (believe it) and there will be so much anger, so many long conversations, so many hours spent talking about stuff that I don’t care about. Even if I did care half as much as you I still would not understand what to do and you refuse to tell me. I need to figure out a way to placate you.
Women who leave understand that they have gotten their hopes up and expected more than he was willing or able to give. Men like projects, and projects end. Understanding that emotional investment in a relationship is a lifelong project is a lot for a man to get his head around. Becoming that guy is a huge commitment (to fundamentally change your personality) and takes a hell of a lot of work with little or no initial rewards. You won’t suddenly enjoy those long talks about things that don’t seem to matter. There is no instant payoff for giving unselfishly and relentlessly to a woman who is suspicious of your motives and prone to become overly critical. And nothing wounds me deeper than a condescending spouse.
Is it worth it? I cannot answer that for you. I only know that for me, the work has occasionally become part of the pleasure. The more I learn about my wife, the better I see her motivations and personality, the easier and more fun it gets. For some reason it isn’t as hard as it used to be.
She certainly seems to be thinking more like me lately…
9 thoughts on “Every Time We Split He Would Have An Epiphany!”
ladywithatruck stated that her man was abusive and that changes the game. You write ‘in virtually every relationship I have worked with, if the woman is the one to leave, the man will have an epiphany a day or a week later’. An abuser or control-freak, though, isn’t necessarily, however, the same guy who, when his wife leaves, invites her over for dinner that he made, or buys her flowers and takes her out to the local performing arts center, or sits down for a long heart-to-heart. My man was an abusive control freak. One way he kept me in line over the years, was to tell me that if I wasn’t the wife he required, he’d leave. It put the fear into me. Unfortunately for him, one day I was the one with the epiphany: he threatened to leave and get someone younger/prettier/more obedient . . . and I realized that I no longer loved him and actually wanted him to go.
He had told me for years to leave. He had turned over an oak dining table to punctuate his point, he had threatened me with his fist, that he would knock my teeth out if I used the word ‘no’ with him. He had broken things. He had chased me out of the house and I locked myself in the car to avoid bruises. He had shoved me so hard one day that my tied shoes came off and I landed on the floor with my head inches from the cast iron woodstove & the brick hearth.
I spent half of one day renting an apartment, then waited for him at home. Dinner wasn’t ready, why was this? It’s because I’m not staying here tonight. I’m not staying here anymore, ever. I have an apartment now. I’m leaving.
After years of his abuse and control, of his making sure I knew he could have someone better if I wasn’t obedient, of him taking all the love I had for him at the start, turning it against me as a weapon, and then completely destroying it, he sat down, stared into space for a short time, and then the tears fell. He was utterly shocked. He had been so confident that he was an incredible prize human being, and so confident in my adoring love all those years, that it never occurred to him that by taking it for granted he could destroy it. “I killed your love for me” he said. “Yes. You did” I answered. Yes, he knew exactly why I was leaving. And he really wanted me to stay. I said ‘no’.
Well, the realization that he’d actually killed something that he thought was unkillable, was his only epiphany. He didn’t have the other kind. For example, he knew for the entire length of the relationship that I dearly adored flowers, but we had become a couple in 1985 and still by 2006 he could not bring himself to show appreciation of me by stopping by a grocery store to pick up a bouquet for $5. A family friend even advised him that if he wanted me back, he was going to have to work for it, show that he was willing to put out some effort. The family friend was incredulous when my husband told him ‘no’. My husband saw things like that as a sign of weakness. He never had the epiphany you speak of. My husband was, I am convinced, a classic example of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I researched it and everything I read seemed to be written by a doctor who had interviewed him. Abusive men of the NPD type, do not have epiphanies that you speak of. They just don’t. My abuser was never the type who hurt me and apologized. I never laid a finger on him–I was too afraid to because he was stronger and I’d have been making a trip to the hospital’s ER. Still, he would tell me he was sorry ‘that we let it go that far’ and that ‘we have to be more careful next time we argue’. Never an apology. Never an epiphany, never a change of behavior.
When I left, his world was turned upside down and round in circles. Still, he never showed up with a bouquet, never sent a bouquet, never picked up the phone and said he wanted to work it out. His pride was too strong. So, I disagree with your words that ‘if the woman is the one to leave, the man will have an epiphany a day or a week later’. If he had one, it did not result in the behavior that is described by you or anyone here. In fact, while he’d already admitted to me that he knew, instinctively, that he had killed the love I’d had for him, instead and to save his pride in front of others, he created an imaginary man and told everyone that I met someone on the internet and left him. He got to look like the wronged husband, and after years of abuse I was the ‘bad guy’. His family never spoke to me from the day I left, not even to ask my side of why I left. Friends he had told his story to, stuck with him and never bothered to ask why I left, or offer support. I was an idiot all those years, covering up what he’d done to me. I should have been shouting it to the rooftops. But I didn’t because I loved him and was afraid it would ruin us. Back then I’d have given anything if he’d had an epiphany.
Interestingly to me, it was only when I finally started to think like him, that I actually realized that he wasn’t worth hanging onto, and I was able to walk away.
No, not all men have epiphanies when their mate leaves. You may want to study Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
p.s. I drive a truck.
I’m very grateful for this article. From my perspective, and in dealing with extremely abusive and pathological men, there SEEMS to be some pathology to how men behave in general.
Aside from that, in reading your article, it underscores my desire to stay single and to enjoy it. Guess I’m kind of a guy that way. 😉
I love the last line, “She certainly seems to be thinking more like me lately….” cute! 🙂
“There is no instant payoff for giving unselfishly and relentlessly to a woman who is suspicious of your motives and prone to become overly critical”
I have been married 3 times and certainly don’t consider myself an expert on how to make a marriage work, but I sure the hell know what doesn’t work and have learned a lot through the years. I think I learned the most from my last relationship, it was a common-in-law relationship that lasted 10 years and was very abusive. It was the most dysfunctional relationship I have ever had or witnessed but it sure gave me insight into appreciating a “normal” man.
My first husband made me supper one night and I was dieting so he (a total meat and potatoes guy) made shrimp salad, using canned shrimp and didn’t drain the tin of shrimp before adding it to the salad so of course the salad was mushy, the kitchen was a mess and I was critical. If a man did that for me today I would sing his praises and thank him over and over again.
It used to matter to me how the bed was made, if the toss cushions got put exactly where they should be and if they weren’t as I thought they should be I would fix them – now I would leave them just as they were put by him and thank him for doing it.
I wouldn’t scream at him about walking in with his shoes on I would be happy he came home at all.
What I appreciate about my ex husbands after being in an abusive relationship is:
Think before I speak, is what I am upset about worth fighting over, in the big picture does it really matter? REALLY matter?
He never hit me when we argued and I wasn’t always wrong.
A real man will answer his phone with “Hi Babe” and end the call with “I love you too” even if he is in a room full of his buddies.
A real man will say, “I gotta get home, my wife will kill me if I’m late, we’ve got company coming and I promised to help her clean.”
A real woman will pull her man aside at the dinner and give him a kiss and say, “Thank you for all your help today, I couldn’t have done it without you. I love you.”
After 10 years of not getting a gift for any occasion and having every special event, family dinner, and holiday ruined by my abusive ex I would be ecstatic with any gift at all that my man picked out on his own, whether it fit, was my colour or if it was wrapped. The fact that he went and got something for me would be gift enough. The fact that he was home with me, drinking hot toddy’s and listening to old Christmas tunes decorating the tree instead of being in the bar with his buddies would make me want to seduce him under the tree.
A few other things I picked up in my 35+ years of adulthood.
Greeting your man at the door in a garter belt, stockings and high heels does wonders for his mood and he tends to come home straight from work.
When you want to discuss something with your man, “we need to talk” is not going to put him in a very receptive mood. A picnic dinner, with a bottle of wine, a quiet place by the river with the soothing sounds of the water rushing by, and saying, “I thought we needed some time just for us.” Tends to get a much better response. and from there try the I feel statements and “what do you think we should do?”
you get the idea.
When I sit and listen to women bitch about their husbands I keep my mouth shut but I am thinking, ” You should be so damn grateful, you have no idea!” and they don’t, thank God for them. I am not saying that men don’t have to try like you said but it is a two way street. I think if women showed a little more appreciation, said thank you more and were less critical they might find that their husbands start to understand them more. I donno. just me rambling again.
Great post Scott.
I LOVE what you wrote. I pinged back to both you and Scott in my blog – http://wp.me/p2PuK0-rj
Great post – we women need to be reminded every now and then that men ARE working at it, but in their own way.
Well-written and insightful. Why can’t we all be as direct?!
Love your writing and love passing these things on to my husband. I also learn a great deal about him and what he is (may be) thinking when I read your words. I see such a difference. When I see a problem in our relationship, I want to engage more. He just wants to ignore it and pull away.
I agree in part. I think we all kind of throw things under the rug and think if we leave them there, things will get better. Out of sight out of mind. Then before you know it hell breaks out and one of you is left standing confused. There are no winners. Great post…hugs Paula xxx