Here are my bona fides for writing A Clueless Man’s Guide To Relationships. In my Everything Else Matters posts, when I don’t have anything that currently interests me, I will write about the rest of my life.
I’ve been married four times—obviously clueless but at least persistent! I don’t know why I had problems with relationships. It’s not important to me now. What I needed was instructions on how to make relationships work.
I spent many years convinced I knew how relationships worked in spite of the fact that all my relationships failed. And because I was wrong about relationships it didn’t help to work at them harder because I kept doing the same wrong things.
I married first when I flunked out of college at age twenty. In the ten years of that marriage I learned most of the things not to do in a relationship. I ignored the problems that came up, that come up in every relationship, and allowed them to become overwhelming. I left when it all got to be too much for me. I didn’t know what else to do.
I met my second wife on Bali. We traveled together, of and on, for several years before we married. We stayed married for five weeks––a vacation romance taken too far. (I had wondered what kind of a jerk would have a five-week marriage until I realized they must be just like me. Ouch!)
My third marriage was the most difficult. I worked hard at that marriage to compensate for my poor relationship history and to satisfy my wife’s expectations about husbands––and I finally began figuring out how relationships work. As the pieces fell into place, however, I realized that we didn’t have the same expectations about marriage.
The only thing my three failed marriages had in common was me. I had lousy relationship skills that needed to be fixed. I had no luck learning anything about relationships, however, until I stopped thinking I could figure relationships out on my own. I have had very few original ideas about relationships. Fortunately, there is a lot of good advice out there. It took me a long time to find it all; even after I was ready to forget what I knew and learned what worked.
I decided to write down what I learned about relationships when my fourth wife, Mary, and I were watching vacationing couples on a beach in Goa. We saw the guys screwing up right and left, angering their partners with stupid mistakes and missed opportunities. I could tell the guys weren’t actually stupid; they were just ignorant–– as clueless as I had been. I couldn’t go up and say “Excuse me, you look like you need some help” so I started to write.
Mary and I have been married sixteen years. We are each happier than we have ever been. Mary is my reward for learning how to act in a relationship, as well as the beneficiary of my good habits. Mary asked me to marry her! At last I was doing things right.