The Smart Man Problem

Some men have what I call the “Smart Man Problem.” I myself am a “Smart Man,” which means that I thought I was smart enough to solve certain relationship problems that had plagued me for years—and refused to accept, in the face of repeated failures, that I was not smart enough to solve them after all. If you are a Smart Man too, and you have used your best thinking to solve your relationship problems, and those problems remain unsolved, then at some point you need to
accept that you are just not smart enough to solve them on your own.

The solution to the problem is going to be either some- thing you have already considered and rejected as wrong, or something you are not able to come up with on your own. In either case, you are going to need a little help. And, most importantly, the solution is likely to make no sense to you at all; otherwise you probably would have figured it out for yourself by now.

Speaking personally, there came a time in my life when I realized that if I wanted to learn to be connected to someone in particular—in this case my daughter—I was going to have to learn how to be connected to people in general. This was not what I had been hoping for, actually; years earlier, I had decided that I wanted out of human society. But when I finally realized that I really did belong here, I also realized that I was going to have to figure out how to make it work.

As I tell people who are on their own roads to recovery, once you acknowledge that a problem exists, you are screwed. There is no going back from that first acknowledgment. You can no longer forget, or go back, and staying put won’t heal the pain that drove you to try to avoid the problem in the first place. I had to do something. This knowledge was the beginning of a long journey through Smart Man territory, where my own initial efforts were successful—to a point.

When I realized that I was going to have to figure out how to become connected with people, I made some major changes in my life. First, I stopped drinking. Drinking had made my life worth living when I was younger. Eventually all it did was help me ignore my relationship problems, and left me pretty much absent in relationships. It also stunted my emotional growth, keeping me at the emotional level of a teenager. As if being a teenager isn’t unfortunate enough, acting like one when I was in my thirties was unpleasant for me and everyone else.

While I was drinking my mind was too cloudy, and my ability to follow through to any goal was too low. I wasn’t able to make commitments because I didn’t know who I was as an adult—I had to find out who I was. Then any changes I made would be based on the firm foundation of who I actually was, not who I imagined myself to be.

I started to see a therapist shortly before I quit drinking and I continued to see her on and off for several years. I still see her every year or two when she comes back to town. I like to check in and get her feedback on how I’m doing. She and I worked long and hard to get me to my goal of being as sane as an average person in all areas of my life. In that period I still went through two more marriages. Yet I was committed to improving myself, and willing, eventually, to accept I had hit the Smart Man Problem. She taught me many of the suggestions about relationships in this book.

If you are a Smart Man who has exhausted his own best effort to make changes, it stands to reason that any solution offered from outside will, at least right now, seem too simple, too silly, or just plain wrong. Results, however, should be your goal. Results are the only markers of success, even when the reason for each success makes no rational sense to you. The Smart Man has to accept his limitations, step into the unfamiliar, and hope for the best. Here is your chance to be really smart.