Why People Divorce and Miss the Misery

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Soldiers silhouette
During the 18 months I was sleeping in the guest room, I felt like a lonely stranger uncomfortable in his own home, at best, and suffocating heavy-chest anxiety the rest of the time.

That’s why I loved going to work, and why I dreaded every Friday afternoon when I was staring at a long weekend at home where the best I could hope for was an occasional moment of levity with my pre-school-aged son before spiraling once again into My Marriage Sucks and I’m a Huge Failure.

The Monday commute to work was sweet relief.

But then one Sunday evening, my wife took her ring off, and the next day—a Monday that felt different than the others—she left forever.

And then—even though it should have been impossible—home became more suffocating and miserable than the previous year had been.

Even the shittiest marriage I could have ever imagined felt better than feeling (justified or not) abandoned at home combined with losing half of my young son’s childhood.

When you don’t think falling down further is possible but Life teaches you otherwise? That’s when you start questioning whether waking up tomorrow is actually worth it.

When being awake hurts, there’s nowhere to run and hide.

Home becomes a silent, empty prison. Vodka buys you a couple of hours, but sometimes you cry anyway.

Work no longer provides relief. One day, I thought I was going to hyperventilate in a full conference room in front of most of the department. They’d still be talking about it behind my back.

Friends and family help on a case-by-case basis. But mostly they don’t, even though it’s not their fault. Some things just take time.

I grew up in a big-family environment. Everyone seemed to like me.

I grew up with a pretty large social network relative to where I lived. I liked pretty much everyone. Most of them seemed to like me back.

I had a vibrant and indescribably awesome social life in college. I had a core group of friends who were more like family. I had a college newspaper staff I enjoyed working with. And I had an expanded network throughout campus, ranging from athletes and sketchy stoners to uptight student government leaders and high-ranking administrators.

And then my friends started graduating and moving away. One by one. Sometimes, a few at a time.

Until it was my turn, and I insta-ran-off to Florida with my girlfriend to chase pipedream Pulitzer Prizes and non-existent beach parties.

I felt lonely.

My friends and family felt far away. And the things that made me feel good or made me feel like I was having fun for my entire life didn’t seem to exist, no matter how much I loved the palm trees, blue skies and postcard-worthy beaches.

I missed my friends and all the parties. I missed the chaotic familiarity of holiday gatherings back home.

That’s when I first started to feel inadequate.

Like I couldn’t make friends anymore. Like I couldn’t have fun anymore. Like something was wrong with me because my girlfriend wasn’t filling the void, even though it seemed like she should be enough. Like something was wrong with me because I couldn’t make my girlfriend happy because I wasn’t filling the void for her, even though it seemed as if I should have been enough.

What’s wrong with us?

Why are we failing so hard at adulthood?

We must be freaks since no one else ever feels like this.

Your Tribe Matters More Than You Know

Some of you will remember this topic from a previous post, but when I didn’t know what to write about today, and then today happened, I knew I had to revisit it.

A buddy at work who I don’t think has ever read this blog sent me a link saying “This book sounds fascinating.”

The link was to this The Daily Beast article Why Vets Come Home and Miss the War, which is about Sebastian Junger’s most-recent book, called Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.

“Why is it that you go through this terrible experience of war where you witness death and destruction, and you come home and there’s part of you that misses it?” wondered former-Marine-turned-Congressman Seth Moulton.

At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to compare myself to the bravest people alive (I’m not), the sentiment isn’t so different from: How is it that I can spend every day feeling miserable at home because of my shitty marriage, only to feel EVEN MORE miserable after my wife moved out?

Some soldiers despise one another, but won’t hesitate to take a bullet for those they dislike. Some of these war veterans experience the most horrible things imaginable—watching friends die, being shot at, near-death experiences, constant stress and anxiety the likes of which most of us are too coddled to begin to accurately imagine.

Yet, when they come home to what seems like it should be the safety and security of their homeland among friends and family, they’re unhappy and genuinely miss being in the theater of war.

It’s hard—maybe impossible—to understand the vital role Purpose plays in our lives until we finally experience not having any.

From The Daily Beast article:

“Moulton and his brethren came home to a fractured society where almost no one knows their neighbor, and chats by text or Facebook have replaced face-to-face interaction, the antithesis of the cheek-by-jowl closeness of troops in combat. Author Junger, 54, argues convincingly that Americans need to recapture the best part of their tribal beginnings, when small bands of people depended on each other for survival and so developed deep social ties that protect, bind and even heal, as an antidote to the chronic self-centeredness and loneliness that plague modern living.”

And then later:

“It’s only halfway through the book that he gets around to explaining how that loss is why troops—even those who never actually saw combat—feel bereft when they come home from war zones, missing the brotherhood, the sense of sacrifice and the mission that comes with war.

’You’ve got veterans coming back to a society that not only does it not have that very close human cohesion of your group of people around you, but also seems to be losing its cohesion at the macro level of 320 million people,’ Junger said at a book event in Washington, D.C., sponsored by veterans group The Mission Continues.

’Spiritually, this country is bleeding right now,’ he added, to nods in the crowd of veterans. ‘It’s fractured economically, politically, socially,’ whether you’re left or right, spiritual or agnostic, he added.

“In short, the American community lacks the social skills to connect with each other, much less welcome veterans home. So returning troops don’t miss the blood and guts and mayhem as much as they miss their tribe, or any tribe.”

How to Mend Brokenness

Why was I so miserable three and four years ago, but not today even though my marriage and family didn’t return?

First, it was here. You. This place. Having something to do that mattered.

And now I have my partners and clients in our budding consulting agency. I’ve never been busier. I’ve never been so removed from fun and vibrant weekend nights. I’ve never been so inactive (as a single guy) in the dating scene.

And I feel great. I am excited to wake up every day.

It’s because I have things to do that matter.

It’s because I have Purpose, even when my little boy isn’t home.

Even when there’s no adult around asking about my day, or what’s for dinner, or curling up next to me for a Netflix binge, or who is counting on me for any number of things.

It’s because I am once again part of something. It’s because there are people counting on me, even though they don’t look and feel anything like my spouse did.

I’m not championing the single life. Not by a long shot.

In fact, I’m trying to do the opposite here.

Because, while we certainly have our Dishes by the Sink arguments and laundry list of Shitty Husband things to talk and think about, perhaps what ails you, or your partner, or your relationship most is the purpose and sense of community that disappears in the absence of a tribe.

Maybe he or she isn’t choosing his or her friends over you. Maybe they’re simply trying to feel whole.

Maybe the reason you feel lonely on the couch isn’t because the person you love isn’t paying enough attention. Maybe it’s because, like Charlie Brown, you need involvement.

Maybe the loss of tribe and its impact on our lives is another one of these Life Secrets that most of us never figure out because it lives in The Places We Don’t Talk About.

But not because we can’t. Just because we don’t.

But maybe we can start.

Because living is awesome when you’re actually alive.

68 thoughts on “Why People Divorce and Miss the Misery”

  1. Wow, very thoughtful and insightful. First, I have to say that I’m super sorry that you slept anywhere but in bed with your wife for a year. If you are married you should be sleeping in the same bed as your spouse. That was wrong on so many levels. If it has brought you to the insightful, thoughtful person that you are then it was pain well spent. Still, I’m sorry for what you’ve been through. I’ve been through a ton myself. Ended up being diagnosed with PTSD due to abuse, from my ex spouse. I can actually say that I am a better person now. Anyway, the whole tribe, purpose, being connected thing makes so much sense. We are meant to be needed. It’s been my experience that when the pain subsides and you crack open the window of isolation just a bit that there are a few people willing and eager to welcome you for who you are. Maybe just a few but they will be true to you if you are wise in your choices. Suffering doesn’t have to make a person bitter. It can make you compassionate yet cautious. We do need each other. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I could totally try to be cool and not be one of the first comments, but let’s get real- this IS my Friday afternoon. THIS has become a central community to me. So thank you!
    I felt really isolated in my real life communities. That’s not saying that online formats are better or anything like that…I ghink it really is me and my real life community just were not a good fit. I don’t think we had a shared purpose and goal in my real life community as much as I do here with other folks.
    I can relate to a lot of what is said in this post- about our need for community, and our need for purpose. Sometimes those go hand and hand, sometimes they don’t. But they are both neccessary, even as much as personal intimacy and security that we hope for in our spousal relationships.
    Thanks for writing this, and sharing the resource. It sounds very interesting.
    One other thing that war veterans may feel like they are missing is that comraderie of shared trauma. Only THAT tribe can understand what they really went through.
    On a personal note, Matt, it’s awesome that you are so engaged in and getting joy out of what you are doing ! It’s always awesome to get paid for things we like doing and are good at!!

  3. Well. It’s not 18 months, but five for me. And I’m dreading the day when the house will be completely quiet. I’ll miss the war.

  4. Community, tribe, collective, and belonging all very important and very human needs. Loved reading this.

  5. Pingback: Why People Divorce and Miss the Misery — Must Be This Tall To Ride | A Calmed Heart

  6. This is kind of interesting. I recognize all of what Matt says as true, legitimate and important. Yet I can’t honestly say that I relate closely to it–at least not this element of a non-familial tribe. I believe that’s due to a couple of factors. Firstly, I was born an only child to a single mother. She had two brothers, but only one had children and we saw them somewhat infrequently, so I had almost no extended family, especially around my age group. I was a glasses-wearing, book-reading sci-fi nerd, so making friends was always complicated, broad groups of them impossible. Added to all of this was the fact that we had to move constantly, so any friendships made were severed within a year or two (this being an age before social media). As such, I eventually came to think of friendship as something I could enjoy, but never really rely upon. It was basically just me and my Mom until I reached adulthood. Even now, I find that I’m an odd mix of someone who is very social at work and loves interacting with people, but when it’s time to punch out for the day, all I want to do is go home to my wife and kids. Though I do value them in my own personal way, I seldom ache for time spent with my small group of friends. Sometimes, the idea of doing so even drains me a little, truth be told. I guess my tribe is a tiny, intimate triptych of my wife, son and daughter (and Mom still, of course, LOL). All of my emotional needs are met abundantly by that little group, and I long for nothing beyond them. That does, however, mean that I harbor a dark and chilling fear inside that if I ever lose any of them, I truly can’t fathom what life would look like for me. How it could be anything at all.

      1. Lindsey, I’ve actually taken multiple tests on the issue and I consistently come out as an ambivert. In fact, my occupation involves regular public speaking, not something your typical introvert would ever endure. There are many times when I am inarguably the center of attention/life of the party, but just as many times where I prefer the outside world to stay far, far away. I’m a complicated cat, LOL. Or just a simple nutjob.

        1. That means you can write with both hands, right? Dur-hur.. :).
          Dont think you are a nutjob in the least.

      2. Travis, I can’t really relate to what you’re saying. And my experience with wanting my family to be my primary tribe was, on the one hand, I think a great and important concept that could be wonderful for a marriage but, on the other hand, quite damaging since I was married to a person who was either unable or unwilling to grow together with me throughout our lives. But I still think honoring your spouse as the most important member of your tribe is the best plan possible if you’re going to get married!

      3. Fromscratchmom, I might be being much too pedantic about your choice of words, so forgive me, but I want to be clear that it’s not so much that I “want” my immediate family to be my total tribe so much as that is just what, by default, feels most fulfilling to me, due to my particular life’s path. My mother has been there since day one, and she is as amazing a soul as I’ve ever been lucky to know. My wife and I have been together longer than nearly any close friendship I’ve ever had in my life, and we’re only six years in. My son very recently turned older than any single job I’ve ever had, so he’s been in my life more than any group of co-workers. For me, friendships outside of the family unit have always–and I do mean always–been something fleeting and transitory. Now that I’m an adult with long-term employment and my own home–in other words, now that I’m rooted at last–I have an opportunity to experience the broader tribes most people regularly enjoy, but it’s kind of hard to reinvent the wheel of self when you’re in your 40s. Besides, I don’t even really have an impetus to–everything I need is at home

      4. Oi. I’m really irritated with myself because I didn’t notice when it happened that I had a typo/autocorrect that reversed my meaning! It says that I can’t relate. But it was meant to say that I can.

        In any case, I think I unconsciously filtered your post through my own lens. I’ve always seen family as my main tribe, not my only tribe, just the main one. But as I’m contemplating this further now, I’m wondering about the experiences I’ve had with that and realizing that I’ve never generally received much of that from my ex so it really was my own thing, mostly independent of him. I operated that way. In some ways he operated that way, but only if I filter his behaviors through the lens of how his parents treat each other.

        Now I see why I’m recovering in a new light thanks to Matt and to you. Well, I’m seeing a new facet. First, his dysfunctions on the family relationship skills department certainly effected all the other relationships in the family, badly at times, but it never stopped me loving and bonding with my children. Second, as socially and emotionally isolating as my life with him was, I still had a strong sense of my faith in God and my belonging to the church universal and in some ways to the local church although more with places distant than with what was actually local AND I still had other aspects of larger or different tribes in feeling like a southerner, a campout participant, an FC alumni. (I’m at FC this weekend getting my 18yo moved into her first dorm room.) And his recovery is inherently different from mine because he left to look for drinking buddies and sex and I don’t know what all.

        I can’t tell you what a revelation this all is to me in better understanding why I’ve wanted so badly to move after this divorce! I was away from my “hometown geography” for all these years and that was 100% “for him” but he’s made it a misery in a million ways, which is crazy considering he had never lived here before picking it out anyway, he almost never sees his family in the area because he doesn’t really like them, AND the vast and varied number of places in this country that would have worked for me in my well-traveled and moved around sense of feeling at home in most places southern more than any other part of the world. It’s possible he’ll hold me hostage for another couple of years. But if so, I’ll be planning. And eventually I’ll live in a place that feels like home to me, rather than like the scene of a crime.

        1. G’morning Mom!
          Just wanted to pipe in and say I’ve done that, too. Some how dropped a negative, or added one on without meaning to. Our brains are crazy things. It doesn’t help when you tend to talk in double negatives, either.. 🙂
          The south cant wait to have you back!
          For better or worse North Carolina is about as far North as I ever really wanted to live. Except maybe the Northern West coast- that’s a little different…but anyway-
          just wanted to say, that the south is still here and we’re waiting on ya! 🙂

      5. Hey, Linds! I have this thing that’s happened for years and that my family has often teased me about. As I drive south on a road trip where my southern accent seems to return as I drive through Kentucky as if it’s outside of my control. But then again they also tease and tell me that I get very southern when I’m tired or angry.

        But here’s why brought it up. Weirdly I don’t think it happened, or at least not as much on this trip. But what did happen was that I got joyful as I drove. There are certain things I always see along the road driving through Kentucky that I always notice and appreciate at least a little. The first thing is not that far south of Cincinnati. It’s a road sign for a road named Buttermilk Parkway. You wouldn’t see that in places not part of the south. A ways further down there’s a water tower with the name of it’s town. It says “Verona Y’all!” I could list stuff that says “this is the south” to me personally all the way down the highway through three or four states. Some of its truly southern stuff. Some of its just meaningful to me. I cannot describe how great I felt as I drove this time. I’ve rarely felt that good at a foundational level in the whole of my adult life. Despite how much crap has been projected on me the truth is that I never wanted all the controversy or ugly behaviors or any form of nasty. I was not a drama queen seeking out how to stir stuff up. And I was not doing any of a million other things I’ve been accused of. I was just trying to figure out how to navigate my life, parent a special needs child, deal with my health issues, adapt to being married to a guy chock full of hateful, ugly behaviors who had very little going on by way of relationship skills, communication skills, and healthy coping mechanisms for handling the natural stresses of two people meshing their lives together and facing the hardships that life was throwing at them.

        The converse was that as I drove north again I had to employ every coping skill I’ve ever learned. Being “home” in this house in Ohio that I’ve had to live in for the last 17 years and bizarrely am still stuck in legally since I was dumped. Lord willing, this nightmare of a house (super long story all the things that go into the money pit, emotional pit of s house situation) will be sold and will finally be out of my life sometime this fall!

  7. Matt, the title of this blog is “Why People Divorce and Miss The Misery”. Yet you (without meaning to I think) focused most on the emotional turmoil of MEN after returning from COMBAT. You quoted from sources written by MEN about what was missing from their lives after living “cheek-by-jowl” during the horrors of war.

    I AM NOT ACCUSING YOU OF SEXISM! I just wonder if the other PEOPLE in our communities are as traumatized by divorce and miss the MISERY to an equal degree.

    Somehow, I think not, especially after reading the comment section to your previous blog about MEN seemingly suffering more from divorce than women. I don’t think men miss the MISERY I think they have finally accepted the inevitable. As long as a wife is present in the home, the man may subconsciously believe in the possibility of reconciliation.

    You, yourself said women seem to recover more quickly. The word that comes to mind is ENMESHED. Most women with children are thoroughly ENMESHED in the lives of families and friendships and community. Too many men seem to exist on the periphery of each of those elements. It’s interesting to me that journalists who cover areas of combat are referred to as being ENMESHED with the troops.

    I do absolutely agree that we as people and as country have suffered a painful fracture.We do lead lives of self-centeredness and loneliness. We do need to re capture what it means to belong to something larger than ourselves. Having a mission in our lives is, to me, critical for long-term happiness.

    1. The end of your comment sums it up, Marilyn. It’s about belonging. It’s about serving something greater than ourselves.

      Community. Family. A village.


      You were distracted by my bad writing. No one misses “misery.” They just sometimes miss their marriages and being part of something, even if it was miserable.

      Like war. Soldiers experience the worst of humanity. Yet, they miss the closeness and sense of purpose when they try to reacclimate to civilian life.

      Gender, nor military, has anything to do with this one.

      Here’s my intended summary:

      Being a part of something — a team, a work group, a marriage, a family, the rotary club, whatever — gives a person an identity and purpose that wouldn’t exist in their absence.

      THAT dynamic — being a part of something — is so important to us as people, that we miss having it even when we were miserable when we did have it.

      Thus, if people are sad and lonely and unable to find peace, or if couples are struggling to find happiness in themselves or in one another, I think this macro-level loss of tribe that most Americans go through as they transition from teen to adult could be a MAJOR factor.

      A better way to put it might be: I don’t think there are many sad and miserable people who are actively involved in some type of group or team activity where they feel accepted and like a contributing member.

      A sense of belonging and involvement is profoundly important to people’s wellbeing, and it seems like another one of these things most people really know or talk about.

      1. Matt, there is so much in this I could not have possibly responded last night (or even now) to all the many tangents possible with it. Suffice it to say that I think you’re right on the money and that this is a very important concept.

        I think there’s also something important in this that we can relate to how women view a marriage and the pain they suffer when it feels as though he is not interested in being her primary tribe, when she is missing the shared support and shared goals. I’m astounded by how much your post here set off and me for personal prayer and meditation times! Thank-you!

        1. You’re so welcome. I think this is an important concept for us to stay mindful of. Isolating ourselves has merit for certain activities, but mostly being a part of something and connecting with people who share common goals.

          I’m a super-social person, and I still resist taking deliberate action to expand my network outside of it organically happening. I’m blessed that life is now creating new opportunities for me.

          But it was only two years ago when I had to work for it. So I know it’s hard.

          I just think putting oneself out there in pursuit of some passion or interest has tangible, life-changing benefits. And we don’t think about it enough.

          And then on the flip side, what you said about romantic partners “competing” with their significant others’ friends.

          Context matters so much.

          If we fundamentally understand that the people we love NEED their tribe in order to flourish as a human being, maybe we can all support one another better, instead of fighting about it.

  8. Beautiful, Matt! I’m going to have to come up with a new word for what you write so I don’t sound so redundant, but really, just beautiful.

    I really appreciate the reminder that tribalism can be healthy,vital to our lives. I am often dealing with tribalism in a more negative way, as in politics, racial divisions.

    What your write is quite true, but there can be another part to it, too Our brains can actually become addicted to stress, tension, or in combat, to adrenalin. As strange as it sounds, even unpleasant things can become familiar, they give us a bliss hit of excitement, even if it’s negative, and when you take those experiences away, our brains will actually withdrawl and need time to adjust. There are some high powered men who, when they go to retire they suddenly find themselves in a depression,lost, disoriented. Battered women too, will sometimes find themselves full of anxiety, after the relationship is over, after they are safe. I call it the “too much peace and happiness syndrome”. When we haven’t had peace, contentment for a while, sometimes our brains have gone offline and we have to relearn what that feels like.

  9. Matt,

    Thanks for taking such care in responding. It’s all better now!

    Now, for those of you who gather here for solace, information and/or inspiration, I am suggesting “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” written by Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam. This book caused quite a sensation when it appeared in 1995 because of (in part) the copious research and documentation that it involves.

    I feel a bit hypocritical in suggesting it because I have not read it myself. Believe it or not, the title came to me last night as I was “wrestling” with the contents of this blog.

  10. One thing I was thinking this morning was about how we model friendships to our kids. How they see us function in relationship is how they assume the whole world functions. If mom and/or dad have no friends outside of the family, the kids may not put much of an emphasis on friendships, and connections with other people at all.
    If mom and/or dad have kind of superficial, “nice to your face” relationships, the kids assume that is how relationships/friendships work, and typically wont give of themselves or be authentic. Relationships would likely be about one-up-man-ship and being “better than” the other person.
    If mom and/or dad have fun, authentic relationships with people, the kids will assume that is how relationships/friendships work, and be secure in who they are in different social situations and get a lot of life and their relationships.
    I think for many people the reality and demands of adulthood , are prioritized over friendships. Which is not always unreasonable, because I think many people still tend to view friendships like our high school experiences of friendship…and there were rarely any really important responsibilities that were required of you, if you wanted to, say, – eat next week, or not freeze to death. High school friendships were based mostly around having fun. And that of course is not (always) a reasonable priority in adults lives.
    But, if you value (really value) friendships, the quality of friendships would likely be a lot stronger, and better…and they would hopefully be more centered around those values that are so important. And, adult friendships don’t have to be in competition with family, I know of several examples where those friendships support the family unit- either by not only child care, but creating a culture for the child to grow up in; or at times financially, and at times just personally.
    I’m not sure where it started in our society, but we definitely ended up being very isolated in our own little worlds – our contacts with co-workers shouldn’t get too personal, contact with neighbors non-existent, our “clubs” tend to still be “me” focused, and competition driven but perhaps through our kids.
    I know there have been a lot of studies over the last decade or two about longevity and life satisfaction being improved by those who socialize on a regular basis. I think that, and of course the increased connectivity of the internet, may have something to do with a revival of us getting back connected with relationships and communities. For me, it was a book by Thomas Merton called “No Man is an Island”…
    Both friendship and community should be a priority in life, even and especially, in adult life. My goodness there is such a gift in having a broader perspective than just your own to navigate life!
    One of the things that I think I got hung up on was a need to have a permanent community- a place I could belong to and call my own. I think that tendency is a part of what sparks the negative tribal traits, where we gather our identity from the group and create an “us and them” dynamic- or at least an “us and not-us” dynamic …One of the things I’ve learned over the last 6 months is the importance of bringing community with me. I am very guilty of encountering a group and wanting to belong/fit into it. I think I made some mistakes in doing that. I should have encountered a group of individuals and created a community with each one by “showing up”, being myself and being interested in them.
    I’m pretty sure it was Glennon Melton who talks about showing up in a crowded room and saying “here I am! “, vs. showing up in a crowded room and saying “there you are!”
    I’m guilty of that, -so, so guilty of that. Because I want the belonging so bad, and I think “they” have it to give to me.
    But, in reality, we already all do belong to each other,- I have it in myself and I have it, just as much as they do, to give to others.
    So, I try to practice giving that away to the people I see on a regular basis, and sometimes to people who I probably wont see again.
    While I hope to have friendships that are permanent in my life, I want to be able to take a sense of community with me where ever I go.
    2 cents and all that… 🙂

    1. Please let me know if my thoughts don’t seem cogent, and if you have any questions.
      My excuse is I am not the greatest writer, but the truth is- what is above is likely a real time play by play of my thought processes and they tend to go wherever they want to…scary, huh?

      1. Lindsey:

        1. Brevity is not my strong suit either. :p Like Gottmanfan expressed once, I bow down to Anitavan’s skills in that area! She’s the maestra there.

        But if I may offer one thing as feedback to the way you express yourself, it would be this: Please consider creating paragraphs with an empty line in between. It would make it more inviting and easier to read, at least for me. 🙂 I hope this doesn’t come across as a top-down kind of thing, it’s not meant that way, and I know my writing often leaves a lot to be desired. If you have any feedback to me in that area, I’d be open to hearing it. 🙂

        2. I wrote something to you on the “How to be less of an asshole” post, if you’re interested. As of the moment I’m writing this, it should be on the bottom of the page. 🙂

      2. Donkey, no- that’s great. Writing has its downfall by being a sort of monologue. You cant see how people are responding,and the small interjections here and there I find really valuable in conversations because you can get to know what others really mean.
        I will make a point of pausing between thoughts with a line between paragraphs- sounds very reasonable and doable… 🙂

        1. He is a Catholic Monk, and contemporary of C.S. Lewis. His writing also has a lot of Catholic concepts/beliefs throughout, which I just kind of stare at, and blink. Not saying its wrong, but a lot of stuff I was never taught and so don’t have a good grasp on its importance to the writer, and subsequently the importance in it’s message to me. I read it several years ago, and maybe should read it again. I think my understanding and ideas have grown since the first reading. 🙂

      1. (One) Favorite Merton Quote:
        “God’s will for us is not only that we should be the person He means us to be. Always and in all things, God’s will for me is that I should shape my own destiny, work out my own salvation, forge my own eternal happiness, in the way he has planned it for me. And since no man is an island, since we all depend on one another, I cannot work out God’s will in my own life unless I also consciously help out other men to work out His will in theirs. His will, then, is our sanctification, our transformation in Christ, our deeper and fuller integration with other men. And this integration results not in the absorption and disappearance of our own personality, but its affirmation and perfection.” Thomas Merton “No Man is an Island”

        1. One more (And this may reveal a little bit about myself.. 🙂
          “It is therefor of supreme importance that we consent to live not for ourselves, but for others. When we do this we will be able first of all to face and accept our own limitations. As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement. But, if we live for others, we will gradually discover that no one expects us to be “as gods”. We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important role in our lives. It is because of them that we need others and others need us. We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack of another.” -TM “No Man is an Island”

    2. Just want to clarify: Belongingness is a valid need. Identifying parts of yourself with others around you is a good and validating thing, and maybe essential to growing into a healthy adult. (It validates your experience, when you can see it in others- the whole- “ah-ha! It’s not just me!” thing).

      I was just saying at the end of my post that like many things, the need can become unhealthy, and the actual belonging can become unhealthy.

      Whenever you want to hide out in one particular group because you don’t know who you are outside of it, is an indication of something unhealthy.
      And of course, changing who you are to belong to a group is unhealthy.

      I guess with most things that are human needs they can be warped and misshaped, or people can become warped and misshaped in order to get them.

      That’s why I say give it away, especially to people who are being unhealthy with it.

      Unless you are a psychopath and have absolutely no empathy, you belong to the human race and experience a human experience. I think most people feel a sense of achievement and awe – or just a sense of the human desire for exploration and its ability to achieve when watching clips of the first lunar landing- or some other remarkable feat that we set our minds to; I think people felt a collective sense of grief, and even more- a collective sense of fear after 9/11, or when Paris was recently attacked, or when we see millions of refugees stranded; most of us cheer when our favorite team wins, most of us cry when we lose someone close…

      Identifying others, and accepting others in that very basic way- as human, can give them a sense of belonging and can go a long way in healing them (and slowly but surely, maybe humankind ?)

      Maybe it starts at home-with the family, and in concentric fashion reaches out to extended family and friends, then the wider local community, and our particular communities of choice, and outwards.

      Belonging can identify us in certain ways, both validating us and differentiating us from others. But, there needs to be recognition that there is the ultimate commonality of being human, and respecting that in others.

  11. linds01,

    How awesome you are! Making friends is so, so vital to our health and longevity and yet it, takes — to some degree –SKILL in addition to COMMITMENT, DISCIPLINE AND AWARENESS. For me it has been a case of “I wish I knew then, what I know now!”

    Forming friendships is difficult for us who are essentially introverts, yet, the older I become the more willing I am to make the effort to step outside my comfort zone. I’ve been only moderately successful. Yet I’ve made the commitment to myself to keep trying. It helps to know there are folks who share the struggle.

    Thanks linds01 for being so open about your challenges. I come from a family that did not value friendships and it left a gaping hole in my ability to navigate the social world of school and work. For a long time I felt the fault was entirely mine. Then I found out what growing up amid dysfunctional adults and behavior cost me. I am still recovering from those effects and today I am more able to remain in a positive mood when dark clouds form.

    Please keep writing, you have a gift that we all value.

    1. Aww…Marilyn I appreciate your kind words.
      And same to you!
      Friendships are still very difficult for me, also. I mean real friendships, the ones that will last seem very few and far between.

      I am fortunate for the ones I do have, especially developing them in my adult years. I wish I could take credit for the fact that I do have a friend who welcomes me like family, but it is really all her and her husbands credit. They have just been willing to be accept me. I think they would tell you they have no regrets about that, either- I mean, they keep welcoming me, so…:)

      I used to think (And still do, if I dont watch myself) that I really needed to be impressive for others to want to be my friend. The whole thing about being “Cool” in jr. high and high
      school was a big deal in my eyes. Again, it was because I needed so badly to be accepted.
      Alot of the offhanded criticisms Matt talked about in the “How to not be asshole” (Im paraphrasing the title…can you do that?.. 🙂 ..effected me alot growing up, especially from boys- even if it wasnt directed at me. I still somehow absorbed it as “this is acceptable” and “this is not acceptable” – I couldnt see that they were just a bunch of jack-ass kids, much like myself and they didnt have any more sway in what was deemed cool as I did, except that I gave them that sway. ..

      Anyway (tangent, sorry.. : )…
      The truth is, that if you pay attention to anyone they will walk away thinking you are the most fabulous creature on the planet, and they will want to be your friend.
      We all want to be known, so when you look at someone in the eye, or in some other validate their existence by giving them your attention you are giving them a great big gift.
      I have found that to be at least one part of friendship.

      1. “We all want to be known, so when you look at someone in the eye, or in some other validate their existence by giving them your attention you are giving them a great big gift.
        I have found that to be at least one part of friendship.”

        Very true! And lovely paragraphs. 🙂

  12. You are spot on when you say we need a Purpose in life. I too am divorced after 45-years of marriage but I do not miss the daily poking one bit. I am happy to be single again and do not mind living alone. I moved from Ohio to the Philippines and am happier now than I have ever been in my life. To me, this is heaven on earth with the beautiful weather and people. My Purpose here is to help kids to be what they want to be in life and to provide support for the elementary schools here. Believe it or not, very few elementary schools here have playground equipment and I find that INSANE and plan to fix that problem over time. Thank you for writing your article and may God Bless You!!!

  13. Matt

    I agree completely with the overarching premise of this post – we NEED a tribe. We NEED a purpose. But I want to add a caution to it. I may be reading into what you said – but I feel like you are saying any tribe, any purpose is good and there I strongly disagree.

    My ex to be chose a group of people who drink heavily and have all sorts of other beliefs and behaviors that I find fundamentally incompatible with who I am as his “tribe”. I’m not saying these are bad people in and of themselves, just that their beliefs, behaviors, etc. are completely at odds with who he was when we married. Or maybe not – I don’t know -maybe the person I married was him trying to be someone he wasn’t. I just don’t know any more. But what I’m trying to get at is – if you have already made a lifetime commitment to another person in marriage – you need to find a tribe / purpose they can at least tolerate if not join. And if you are considering a lifetime commitment to someone who you cannot imagine joining your tribe and sharing your purpose – do not get married.

  14. Matt,Drew,Travis – Forgive,please (I’m a little sick of me,too at this point:). )
    It’s been a lazy day, and after watching a documentary on farting (it sounded worthwhile at the time, but it turned out to be a real stinker… ; P…) I came across this article – it’s kind of an advicey sort of thing. At the end it touches a little bit on a some of the things that Matt was talking about, with purpose. But what I wanted to ask about was actually some advice given earlier- about women not worrying about initiating. What the female writer says is that men will even appreciate it, and consider it admirable (para-phrasing). What I’d like to know is if that rings true for you guys.
    I remember some discussion a while about men being motivated by the pursuit (or maybe it was being motivated by the fear of loss?) … Anyway, just want to get some male input, just for general knowledge. Thanks.

    1. linds01 said,

      “But what I wanted to ask about was actually some advice given earlier- about women not worrying about initiating. What the female writer says is that men will even appreciate it, and consider it admirable (para-phrasing). What I’d like to know is if that rings true for you guys.”

      It rings extremely true for me. My wife totally pursued me. I thought she was transcendentally gorgeous, like a new color in an alien rainbow and, as has already been noted, she was markedly younger than me so, from reasons ranging from self-esteem (which I normally have in spades, but come on, we’re talking new color in a rainbow here) to the perception of violating public mores, I found it hard to even look at her, much less flirt with her. So she took 100% of the lead, and stalked me with the same sort of frightening and inescapable focus a lioness displays toward her witless prey. And, yes, I find that very admirable about her. It means she is fearless, driven, strong of heart and will, cares nothing about public perception, and isn’t willing to let important opportunities slip from her grasp. In short, my marriage to her is the greatest fulfillment of my life, and none of it would have happened if she’d passively relied on antiquated 1950s ideas about proper courting.

      1. Travis,
        Love this answer and love the new color in the rainbow analogy :).
        Thanks for answering!
        (Writes in nerdy little pocket notebook : “go ahead and stalk those suckers like prey, muahahah!”)
        Just kidding- but be confident that it’s ok to express your interest – it won’t be seen as a turn off if they are at all interested. Is that sort of about the sum of it from your perspective?
        I bet she knew you were interested though…

      2. She probably noticed the high color in my cheeks when around her, and my furtive glances her way, I’m sure, LOL. And yes, if you demonstrate your interest, that only doubles your chances of getting something good underway. Never underestimate how weak even the strongest men can feel at the idea of a woman turning them down. We enjoy the art of the hunt, sure, but we also relish the safety of a safe bet.

      3. Super good to know :). The only “problem” is that in my experience you can usually get men to engage in physical contact, but anything beyond that is really uncertain. I don’t mean to sound like I have ALOT of experience with that. I’m just thinking of my 19is year old self going to a Flock of Seagulls reunion concert, and seeing someone I knew- I took a chance, we made out, and I walked home on cloud nine thinking this could be the start of something. I found out later that he was actually married and had 2 kids. He was NOT that much older than me..!
        I’ve initiated a few other times, and maybe it was a combination of wrong men at the wrong time- but, obviously it hasn’t worked out. (Not complaining or anything..:)
        So I guess I’m wondering how did she pursue a relationship with you? Or did she? Was it more of a physical thing, but you happened to be the right guy at the right time? (Dumb luck!..;)

      4. She pushed conversations with me, even when I tried to act too busy or disinterested to engage, until I eventually started to crack. She learned my personality and interests through observation, then made a point to mirror my presentational style, and focus conversational topics on things we had in common. She would “harmlessly” slap my shoulder, or touch my hand fleetingly while we talked. She laughed with gusto, but not artificially, when I joked. And she would couch just enough double entendre naughtiness in the occasional one-off line to me that I eventually had to admit to myself that, dude, against all reason, likelihood and expectation, this chick is into you, man!

        Basically, all the crap that’s in any run-of-the-mill book or article about seducing men. We’re so uncomplicated.

      5. :)…I don’t know if you guys are complicated or not, I probably am the one who brings complication to the table. ..but I think I am growing out of that (thank God!).
        Sorry if it was weird to mention the Flock of Seagulls, I just mention it because it stands out in my mind as one the few times I ventured out on my own.
        And, in spite of having great affection for the song “I Ran”, I realized that was about the only song I knew or liked..:) Got to give it to the 80’s for one hit wonders.
        Anyway, thank you for answering. The last guy I was really close to was my best friend in elementary school- so male input is valuable to me.
        I typically don’t trust how to articles.

      6. Don’t diss yourself for transferring affection (anyone catch that? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?) to A Flock of Seagulls. They’re one of the crowned princes of New Wave. Along with “I Ran (So Far Away)”, you should also check out “Space Age Love Song” and “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)”.

    1. Just one comment here, and then I’m done. No more littering the news feed!!
      Travis, I know you have said you are not that much into lyrics. Two things though, first: these guys had a killer drummer, and second: the lyrics are incredibly life giving to me. I am so glad this guy wrote them and sung them- they speak to so much in my life- it is sad to know that the guy who wrote them and sung them ended his own life. It’s just something that strikes me every time.
      I think its a song for those who struggle, or have struggled. But, I do believe in somewhat happier endings. 🙂

      1. Both great songs, especially “In a Big Country”! As someone who’s always fancied learning the drums, I hear you on that mad “horse gallop” beat! And in regards to the lyrics, I feel the same way when I listen to my favorite INXS song, “New Sensation”. I’m like, “Did you even listen to your own lyrics as you sang them, Michael Hutchence?!” Such frustrating losses.

  15. Question: “How many MBTTTR commentators does it take to shut active discussion in a thread completely down?”

    Answer: “Only two, if they get off on a tangent about ’80s New Wave music.”

      1. Y’all are killing me with the fab music. Almost makes me wish I’d not been so busy these last several days. But it was a very good “busy”. I’ve driven to Florida and back. My middle child is safely moved in to her first dorm room and my youngest and I are safely home again.

        I wanted to say, Linds, that I think pursuit can never be just one sided. My husband originally pursued me while I was only wanting friendship. But weird stuff ensued later in his perception of me and my feelings. And yet I’ve also been on the other side of that conundrum before of having done more of the pursuing and really getting burned by that because any lousy guy in the world will respond and appreciate it and take advantage of it whether he is worth your pursuit or not and whether he wants more than something momentary out of it or not. So the balance is better where he has the interest and confidence and self-control and everything else necessary to both pursue and respond and also to develop a healthy relationship over time. (If that makes sense.)

  16. Travis,

    Your experience is very unusual. The vast majority of women like a man to be a man. You know: confident, masculine, take-charge, ambitious, strong, and good with women. There’s a thing that relationship experts call “pre-selection”. This means that a woman is attracted to a man who has options, a man who is attractive to other women.

    Very few women will be attracted to a man who holds no attraction in the eyes of the fairer sex. The whole “I can’t believe my wife chose a loser like me” is not only a laugh line to other men, it is repulsive to women. It is a libido killer.

  17. Loved your post. You summed up what it feels like to go through a divorce or breakup. Your home does become a prison, of memories that you can’t escape. Days at work were unbearable, family gatherings the same, but once you find a purpose, sense of belonging, and know your self-worth it slowly begins to change and healing begins. My blog documents relationships, heartbreak – something that many of us, sadly, have in common.

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