Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Every problem in my life got worse

Before I got married, I had one of the crucial components to a happy life in abundance: the freedom to fix my problems and find my goal in life. Because I had the choice in how and when I dealt with my problems, I was in a position to find the best time and method to fix these issues. Sometimes I dealt with problems as they happened, sometimes I waited a bit to plan on how to work through them, and still other times I procrastinated and fixed them when I had the inclination to do so. Of course, I still had problems before I got married. I'd like to share a few examples, and how I dealt with them:

In my first few days abroad, I once met a happy drunk while traveling with my bud from America. The drunk first saw me when I was buying something at a convenience store, then followed me outside. At a bus stop, he shared his bottle of alcohol with me (it was some weird banana-flavored beer), and kept talking about how white women were so hot.

Then, his demeanor changed... I think it was because I was sick with the flu and I couldn't stop coughing, drinking his beer without touching the lip of the bottle. He switched the dialect he was speaking into one I didn't understand, and wouldn't stop staring at me. My bud then calmly took me by the arm and we walked away, then he translated later that the drunk said I was coughing on purpose. Apparently, the lush thought that I thought he smelled, then he threatened to beat me to death. My bud and I then went to go get coffee.

Another time, while I was staying at the hostel in the big city, I was at the subway/train/bus station and using one of the public computers to check my email. A few minutes into my reading, a local woman came up behind me and asked for my help to find a job abroad. She seemed nice enough, so I went on a few international job sites, and tried desperately to find something that met her incredibly narrow, and at times contradictory, requirements for a job. She wanted to work with people, but in the back of an office with a computer. She wanted to work with fixing machines, but didn't want to fix machines. Maybe she was messing with me, maybe her English wasn't that good, I don't know. But after I found her ten or so jobs following her input, I said I had to get ready for a tutoring session that I really had to go to.

She narrowed her eyes and raised her voice in anger immediately. She asked me how I felt when I first came to her country, and when I answered that I felt a bit confused, she condescendingly told me that that's what I would leave her to feel by not helping her more. At the time, I felt guilty (and suddenly understood why her foreign ex-boyfriend that she had mentioned had left her without warning), and I obliged to help her find another dozen jobs, because I still had time.

When that was done, I excused myself from her, only to have her follow me out the door towards my tutoring session. After a little persuasion (and giving her my phone number), she finally left me alone. A few days later, she called me asking what my sign was. I played dumb and said I didn't know her, then hung up and never talked to her again.

Sometimes, when I had a free day on the weekend to spend in the big city with friends, I didn't have enough hours in the day to meet with them all. At that point, I either had to reschedule a friend or two for the following day, or combine several meetings into one big mini-party.

Other times, I would meet up with someone annoying. Once or twice, a girl wanted to date me, but was irritating or flaky. When a chubby one started calling me after midnight, I asked her to stop, then never heard from her again. When another ditched me in the middle of a hang out time because I asked two other friends to come, I never heard from her again. Later, when I tried to date a cute girl who did nothing but criticize my hair, nails, temporary poverty, clothes, gentlemanly nature and so on, I put up with it for about two weeks before I just shrugged my shoulders and said goodbye, then I never heard from her again.

When I got my first job where I worked two hours for one hour of pay, I chafed under the constant, obvious suggestions my boss was throwing at me, the rude children I was teaching, the long hours, the free work I did, the excessive amounts of training I had to do and the advertisements I sometimes had to pass out on the weekends. As a result, I made it my mission to enjoy my free time as much as possible, and to be a lot more careful about the places I signed up to work for in the future.

Sometimes, some kind of money problem would pop up. Once, my girlfriend's dog needed medicine, so my bank account took a nearly thousand dollar hit to save her life. Sometimes I turned the A/C on too long, and my electrical bill was substantially higher the next month. But I just sucked up these costs as part of being a good (or comfortable) guy, and just spent less the next month.

I had to do the laundry once a week at my apartment. Usually, it was a load of two work shirts, two travel shirts, two pants, two shorts, four pairs of socks, my bedsheets and my bath towel. I did the laundry when I felt like it, usually Friday night between two close shifts at work, when I was just hours away from a fun weekend of adventure.

I had to do the dishes every time I cooked and ate at home. It often took up to thirty minutes per meal to not only cook, but to scrub the dishes down as well. Oftentimes, I would simply eat out or buy something packaged from a store just to avoid having to do dishes.

Finally, I had to sweep up dust once a week, a scarcely two minute chore.

I hope you are beginning to notice two things at this point:

- My life was pretty free of challenges; these "problems" were nothing more than barely noticeable stains on an otherwise fun life.
- The solutions to these problems were entirely up to me.

In addition, I hope you don't take this post as me trying to complain about my old life. Mildly annoying as they were, chores made me feel like I was taking care of business and living the life of a responsible, clean and independent man, and the other issues were very easily solved by turning around and walking away from the buttheads who were bothering me.

In almost every case, my "problems" were not only free to be solved in multiple ways, but at my leisure. Eat a delicious home-cooked meal and do the dishes, or just hit up the supermarket or a restaurant? Wear my work clothes an extra day to avoid more laundry, or be clean and change once a day? Help the annoying lady at the station and feel like I accomplished a good deed, or blow her off and enjoy more time by myself?

Everything was up to me... but not so after I got married. Now, every problem is not only multiple times worse, but is treated as some kind of life-threatening issue that needs solving right now. If I delay on anything, one of two things happen:

- My wife takes care of the problem for me. This is added to her side of the "debt scale," and if that scale tips too far in her direction vs. the things I do for her, she has me do other chores or she starts up some drama on some unrelated issue. So, in the end, nothing changes.


- My wife just asks me to take care of the problem. If I refuse, I get the passive-aggressive silent treatment, and a fight within the next few hours about an unrelated issue. If I take care of it, then it's just more work. I usually do what I need to because it's my responsibility; even if I were an unreasonable man, I don't want to deal with angry people making my life hell after I come home from stressful, unsatisfying work that I see no personal benefit from.

When my wife and I have a fight, I have to shut her down and keep her in check every time like she's an out of control child, something I rarely had to do when we were dating. From personal experience, it's easier to train a dog, because at least the dog ends up learning what it's doing wrong instead of repeating the same mistakes and improprieties dozens or hundreds of times over.

If I hate my job, I have to stick with it, because my monthly expenses are literally five times higher than what they used to be. My finances take dents every single month because of this, and it's always something: my son needs more milk, somebody gets sick, somebody forgets to pay their taxes, somebody's out of work, etc... If I don't pay a single one of these sudden debts, then like an anchor strapped around my waist, I get pulled to the bottom of the ocean, too.

I used to do the laundry once a week. Now I do it almost every day, sometimes multiple times in a day. And as the cherry on the turd sundae, 80-90% of the clothes I wash are my wife or son's. For every shirt, shorts and socks of mine, there are two baby shirts, two pairs of baby pants, a jacket, two shirts, panties, pants, a dress, a bra and a pair of socks that belong to my wife or son.

I used to do the dishes once a week, if that; it was up to me when and whether I did them. Now, I do them nearly every day. There's always a dirty plate, used baby bottle or something similar in there for me to wash. If I don't want to have dishes in the sink so I don't have to do them, too bad. My wife cooked, and I'm washing them.

I used to sweep up once a week for two minutes. Now, I clean my son's toys, my wife's junk mail and newspaper stuff, dirty dishes on the coffee table and scads of other assorted things lying around every single night.

It's a common occurrence for me to come home after hours of work and making money I'll never use, only to see a washing machine full of wet laundry, a sink full of dirty dishes and a floor covered in toys and papers for me to take care of.

This isn't even close to the life I lived before. Before I got married, I had few angry people hanging around me (and all of whom could be left in a heartbeat if they didn't change their ways), few chores and even fewer debts to take care of, and I could choose how and when to fix all of these problems. Now, the troubles have piled into a huge mound of unending work and unfortunate surprises that require my immediate, daily attention every time, or I risk hurting someone, or getting passive-aggressive payback or fighting.

I'm a butler. An ATM machine. It's only a few, rare moments in my life where I actually feel like a man.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I'm broke

I've been working nearly all my life. Through the first nine years of school, I was just a kid going to school. But when I got to high school and had the freedom to do so, I got a job every summer to get myself some spending cash. Naturally, I blew it all on a TV, pizza, DVDs, etc... When I got to college, my mother gave me a nearly full ride through. She paid my tuition bills, and I worked one full time and two part-time jobs to pay for my rent, bills and books, and later my food and utilities when I moved off campus.

After graduation, I had no real goals or ambitions. My depression was cleared and squared away, but I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. In the meantime, I worked a chain of pointless, minimum wage jobs to save up some scratch and hopefully move out of my parents' house. Because of this, I saved a few thousand dollars before a chance encounter with a good bud of mine showed me my life goal: to go abroad and enjoy life as a free man.

I followed him here, and when I first went abroad, I had about $3000 or $4000 to spend on an apartment and necessities while I looked for a job. But due to lingering self doubt, fish out of water syndrome, laziness and just general poor planning, when I improved myself and moved out of my bud's aunt's place, I had just $2500 and no idea of what to do.

As I mentioned, moving to the hostel at that point was the best time in my life. It was a time of companionship, adventure, exploration, experience and growth; those three weeks were the very best of my unmarried days, which in turn was the best time of my life.

But of course, with no job and limited savings, my money was dwindling fast. After hostel fees, food and other expenses, I finally found a job and an apartment with about $800 or so left in my pocket. It was hardly enough to cover the down payment of the apartment, much less the food and bills I needed to pay for. Luckily, my new boss came through for me and fronted me the money for the apartment, on the condition that it come out of my next paycheck. That month ended up passing quickly, and finally, after three months of being abroad and a month of working, I was finally in the black.

Being financially independent is a priceless feeling. To know that your work is going towards your house, your food, your toiletries, your fun and your life, and not just to college debts, gas, books and other nonsense is irreplaceable. Every paycheck I took to the bank, and every time I saw that account grow, I was filled with a sense of personal satisfaction. "I earned that," I would tell myself, "and it's mine to use."

My expenditures were fairly routine, as I was (and still am) a very frugal man. Of the $2200 a month I took home:

- $300 went to my apartment.
- $100 went to food.
- $100 went to bills.
- $100 went to taxes.
- $50 went to toiletries and cleaning supplies.

On average, I took home a whopping $1500 or so every month, to do with as I saw fit. My entertainment budget was usually pretty small, maybe a few hundred a month, so I just saved the rest of my cash in the bank. My plan was to save up $5000 in emergency funds, in case I needed to leave the country, I got evicted from my apartment, there was an international crisis I wanted to help with, I had a friend who needed support, etc... After that, I planned to donate $1000 a month to charity: $500 to the country where I was staying, and another $500 to the country in the world whose children needed money the most that month.

Unfortunately, I never even got to save up to my emergency funds goal before my wife got pregnant.

After that, my money began to dwindle bit by bit. We needed a bigger place to stay. We needed to pay hospital bills. We needed to buy baby clothes. She had college debts to pay off. Her mother was sick. Her sister was out of work. It was just one thing after another that piled on, until I was just barely breaking even. When we moved in together, we officially consolidated our earnings into one monthly pool, and this is how it has been spent:

2008-2010 - $3300 a month

- $700 went to my mother-in-law, because she babysat our son for about five hours a day, but doesn't otherwise work.
- $500 went to my son's college fund. The money I saved here during these two years of my marriage was almost completely taken away by my mother-in-law to pay off an old debt of hers.
- $300 went to the apartment.
- $300 went to food.
- $300 went to my wife's old college debts.
- $200 went to my wife's gas, snacks, clothes and other personal stuff.
- $200 went to bills.
- $100 went to my son's clothes.
- $100 went to my son's milk.
- $100 went to trips with my son.
- $100 went to taxes.
- $100 went to toiletries and cleaning supplies.
- $100 went to insurance payments.
- $100 went to my gas, cigarettes and snacks.
- $100 went to miscellaneous expenses, like doctor visits, extended family presents, immigration paperwork, government fees, household, furniture and computer repair, presents and so on.

2010-2012 - $2600 a month

- $700 went to my mother-in-law.
- $300 went to the apartment.
- $300 went to food.
- $300 went to my wife's gas, snacks, clothes and other personal stuff.
- $200 went to bills.
- $100 went to my son's clothes.
- $100 went to my son's milk.
- $100 went to trips with my son.
- $100 went to taxes.
- $100 went to toiletries and cleaning supplies.
- $100 went to insurance payments.
- $100 went to my gas, cigarettes and snacks.
- $100 went to miscellaneous expenses.

2012-now - $3500 a month

- $700 goes to my mother-in-law.
- $500 goes to my wife, and I don't know what she spends it on.
- $500 goes to my son's college fund.
- $300 goes to the apartment.
- $300 goes to food.
- $200 goes to bills.
- $200 goes to insurance payments.
- $100 goes to my son's clothes.
- $100 goes to trips with my son.
- $100 goes to taxes.
- $100 goes to toiletries and cleaning supplies.
- $100 goes to miscellaneous expenses.
- $300 gets secretly tucked away, because I highly doubt that I can get through the next fifteen years without my mother-in-law losing another car, my wife or son needing something really expensive, or some other person in my family bringing more debts and problems for to me to pay off or solve.

This is far different from what I used to make, but that's not only the only problem: a half a dozen financial crises have popped up since I got married (not a one precipitated by me), each of which put an enormous dent in my already paltry savings. Before I got married, even assuming that I gave $1000 a month to charity, I still had almost $20 a day to spend on myself and my fun. If I kept it all for myself, $50 a day would have been mine to spend.

Now, I get $3 a day, which has been completely spent on gas, snacks and/or cigarettes for the past several years. Just the thought that for every twenty days I work, one of those days' wages goes to me, while the others are completely dedicated to working off the debts that marriage has brought to my doorstep, is severely depressing. At this rate, assuming that my mother-in-law is still alive in the next twenty years and no further financial situations pop up, I'm going to continue working off the debts of marriage until I'm 45. As of the time I write this post, I'm not even 30 yet.

I try not to take more than my $3 a day. My wife and my monthly expenses come to just around what we make every month, which means that every dollar I take to buy a hot dog for dinner, gas to take me to work, or a pack of cigarettes to help me get through the day is a dollar I'm snaking from my kid's college fund. What's more, I could have saved (50 years of expected life x $1000 a month x 11 months in a year, with the last one to pay for a plane ticket to a new city) or $550,000 for charity as an unmarried man, but instead, I'll be lucky to raise $100,000.

I suppose I should feel proud that I'm single-handedly supporting a mother-in-law, sister-in-law, wife and kid. But it's a small comfort, really. Things could have been so much different.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I have no free time

Most of us had scads of time to use and abuse until we were out of college. I was no different, so I'll skip that period of my life. Instead, this post will begin at the same time that my life did: when I got abroad.

Even living at my bud's aunt's place, with a bedtime and all, I was still free to do whatever I wanted from around 6 in the morning to 10 at night. I traveled about the city, made friends, did a lot of sightseeing, took many, many pictures and practiced my language skills at every opportunity.

When I moved to the big city a month and a half later, things only got better. During my days in the hostel, I was free to do whatever I wished 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For a month, I lived the life of a man with no attachments, and was enjoying my life through the eyes of the new person I had become. From the moment I woke up in the dorm room to the very late hours of the evening when I laid my head down to sleep, life was mine to live. Nobody told me when to wake up, how long I was allowed to sleep, when I had to come back, what I could do, or anything like that.

Of course, this dream life couldn't last forever, being unemployed as I was, so I had to trade a substantial portion of my time for a paycheck that would keep me afloat. I moved out of the big city, and found a nice, cheap apartment a couple of miles away, and right next to my job.

At this time, I was working a job with long hours (at least, compared to other work I could have found). I was working about 45 hours a week, but only getting paid for 25, because the other time was considered office hours. Even worse, my days off were split between Sunday and Tuesday, with 10 hours of work waiting for me on the Monday in the middle like a rat in the middle of two pieces of cheese bread.

All Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were almost completely glutted with work to do, and I didn't have much choice on what I wanted to do on those days. But every hour before 11:30 in the morning and after 9:00 at night were mine to spend as I wished. 5 hours of video games? A 3 hour walk? Tons of extra sleep? If I wanted to do it, I did.

Saturday was even better, because an early morning four hours of work got me up early, and when I was finished, I was awake and ready to take on the town just after noon. Most every Saturday I had from the moment I took that job was spent in the big city, talking to friends, looking around, trying new foods, seeing sights and just generally having a blast.

In addition, Sunday and Tuesday were my completely free days. Generally, I spent Tuesday holed up in my apartment playing video games all day, or talking to some of my friends in the building I lived in, but when I had the energy, I hit up the big city as normal. Sunday's time was usually spent out in the big city for sixteen straight hours, but sometimes I just stayed home to kick back all day.

Excluding average time for sleep and the hours I spent working, I had more than enough free time to utilize. My weekday work days provided me a good 6 hours each to enjoy, Saturday allowed me 12, and my two days off netted me an additional 17 hours each to do as I wished. All together, I had a bit over 70 hours a week where I wasn't working or sleeping. And I am proud to say, I never let a single day of my very brief unmarried life go to waste.

Now that I'm married, my free time is pathetically short in comparison to my unmarried days. Right now, I'm working a pretty long hours job far away from my house and my free time is pretty much zilch, so I'd like to compare the "best" job I've had during my married life to the life I used to lead.

A year or two ago, I was working a job from Monday to Saturday from 4:00 to 9:30 on the weekdays, and 8:30 to 11:30 Saturday morning. The rest of my time was "free."

From Monday to Friday, assuming the ideal situation where I got 2 hours to myself in the morning before my family got up, and 2 hours when they were napping later, I had 4 hours apiece to spend. After their nap, I went to work, and I came back home to another load of chores to do, and more time to play with my son. Of course, most of the time I either woke up too late, or my family napped for a short time (or not at all), so my free hours were quite lower than what I'm saying now, but let's assume ideal conditions for the sake of argument.

On Saturday, I woke up early, worked, then came home to an empty house while my wife worked and my mother-in-law took care of my son to give me some time alone: about 6 hours. After that, it was back to chores and family time.

On Sunday, I woke up to more chores and family time, then took my son out to go traveling around the city for an hour or two. After that, I took him back so he and my wife could take a nap and I could get a little more time to myself. Then, when he woke up, same story as Saturday: chores and family time until bed. Wash, rinse, repeat the week. Adding up the time I had to myself, and my son and my travel time, that was another good 5 or so hours of fun.

Adding up the best possible time I had in a given week, I had a little over 30 hours to myself. Most of the time, it was more like 15-20.

But having no time to do anything isn't the only problem: the loss of my free time is intricately linked to my loss of freedom. While it is true I had, at best, 30 hours a week to myself, I didn't exactly have a wealth of things to do with my time. Travel, meeting friends and just being outside were all out, as I was locked in the house to watch my son and assist my wife in housework.

All I had left to do, and still have left to do, is play video games... and pretend I really am someone on an adventure. In video games, I'm a questing knight, a starship captain, a martial arts master, a survivor of a demonic apocalypse, or something much more interesting than a dishwashing, clothes hanging, teaching, spaced out dork.

Not only is my free time a fraction of what it once was, but I can't even spend it doing the things I want to do. I'm an automaton, doing as I'm told every hour of the week.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I have no freedom

When the concept of losing freedom to marriage is brought up, the most popular (and often only) example is losing the freedom to sleep with anybody a person wants to. In truth, though, while sexual freedom is certainly one casualty of marriage, there are a lot more important freedoms that are lost when the wedding band comes on. These freedoms are ones that I myself took for granted before my surprise child came, and ones that I dearly miss for every hour of my married life.

The nature of marriage is two people binding themselves to one another, meaning that in order to get along, sacrifices must be made. No longer is a person just accountable for their own decisions, happiness and well-being, but for the decisions, happiness and well-being of their partner. Some of these freedoms, like the freedom to travel, have sex or use my paycheck as I wish, were the most important and noticeable of the many freedoms that I lost. Other "small" freedoms, like playing a video game, taking a walk or even going to the bathroom, were just as much on the chopping block as the most important ones.

At the risk of sounding like a pity monger, I'd like to share a brief synopsis of my life. The point is to provide context for the way my life turned out, not to score emotional points or attention, so I hope you can bear with me.

I grew up in some pretty nasty households. I had four fathers: the first was an alcholic, abusive, drug-using, neglectful racist. The second was apathetic and neglectful. The third was an alcoholic. And finally, the fourth tried to get involved in my life, but after being burned by three fathers in the past, I never put any effort into our relationship, so he just gave up after a while.

My mother was a hyper-critical, hypocritical, neglectful, selfish, condescending, ever running hot and cold shrew who passively let me know that she hated her life because I was born. She completely changed her ways when I graduated high school, though, and we are closer now.

Up to the end of high school, I always got high marks, but was constantly under the magnifying glass and thumb of advanced placement course teachers. And finally, when I got to college, I had bosses to add to that mix. I wasn't allowed to make my own decisions in life, from what I had for mealtime to when I could get up and go to sleep, for most of my unmarried life.

If that wasn't enough, from high school to near the end of college, my past caught up with me, and I entered a period of crippling depression. I wasted my time playing video games all day, or staring at the ceiling, crying, while blasting music into my ears. I even tried to take my own life on four occasions. Whatever of my time that wasn't being carved up and portioned out to me by the people around me was eaten up and run by my depression.

It wasn't until after I spent four years fighting and conquering my depression, and graduating college in the meantime, that I moved abroad and was finally on my own. After a brief and adventurous stint at my good bud's aunt's place, I moved to the city and stayed in a hostel for three weeks before finally landing myself a job and my own apartment.

This was the absolute dream time of my life. After 25 years of abuse, neglect, orders, schedules, routine and hard work, I was finally on top of the world. Everything I had worked for had paid off.

During my time in the hostel, when I was still unemployed and just enjoying my new life, I was out every single day. I made friends there within minutes of coming in: one became a trusted friend for the next few weeks, and another was on my long list of girls that I wanted to date. I put up a personals profile on a public computer and made dozens more friends in just a few days. Every day when I left the hostel, I was either traveling about the city and taking in the wondrous sights around me, hanging with the many friends I had made, going swimming, taking long walks, hitting up clubs, and just basically having a grand time.

In high school and most of college, I was a depressed, depressing, naive, fat, scrubby, moody selfish loser. But abroad, I was completely different: I was outgoing, charismatic, funny, kind, interesting, slim, handsome, generous, responsible, hard-working, adventurous, calm, cool and just generally amazing. People, men and women alike, were falling for my infectious charm by the hundreds.

This amazing portion of my life didn't last forever. My money began to dwindle after a few weeks, so I finally found a good job and a great apartment a couple of miles outside of the city. But even working five days a week didn't squelch my excellent personality, or my lust for companionship, experience and travel, so I made multiple excursions to the big city (or around my new town) every week.

I was buying my own groceries, doing my own housework, taking pictures, seeing sights, watching local movies, making friends, going out for drinks, just taking care of myself and living life to its very fullest. I went to bed and woke up when I wished (or just didn't sleep at all, if I wanted), called up whatever friend I wanted to talk to at any time, went where I pleased and did whatever I decided to do. Even on the days when I had no energy from work to go out and live life, I still had the opportunity to hole up in my pad and just play video games or watch TV all day.

In just two months, there were eight girls, most good friends of mine, who wanted me. I felt spoiled at the attention, especially considering the loser scrub I used to be back in high school and college, one that couldn't even get a date if his life depended on it. It wasn't long before I was in a relationship with one of them. Everything I did outside of work was as I wished. It was the life.

And then, my girlfriend got pregnant. This best period of my life, between going abroad after 25 years of suffering and hard work, to when I got the news of the baby coming, was just a little over six months.

My life now is nothing like it used to be: every day melts into the next in a never ending sludge of work, sleep and home time. Monday is Tuesday is Friday is June is October is 2010 is never any different from any other period of time, ever; routine and repetition run my life now. As a married man with a child, this is the basic schedule I have run every day since 2009:

Monday - I wake up, play video games or spend time with family, go to work, go home, do chores, play with my son, then sleep.
Tuesday - The same as Monday.
Wednesday - The same as Tuesday.
Thursday - The same as Wednesday.
Friday - The same as Thursday.
Saturday - The same as Friday.
Sunday - From 2008 to 2009, and for today, I get a day off and occasionally take a short trip with my family. From 2009-2014, it was the same as Saturday.

Then, the week repeats. Most of the time, I just sit around the house, play with my son or watch TV in "my" free time. I rarely play video games while my family is awake, because my wife says I ignore her too much. I seldom meet friends or look around, because I can't stay out too long with a family back home. Even if I bring my wife and son, our kid is fine, but it takes an hour for her to get ready. Even when we're finally outside, she takes excessive amounts of time to do anything, complains constantly and keeps getting stuck on shopping and other boring activities.

None of this was an issue before I got married.

- Before marriage, my wife listened to everything I had to say and followed everything I wanted to do, and I did the same for her. After marriage, she has become willful and disrespectful, purposefully saying or doing provocative things to bother me and is more interested in being lazy or wasting my money than spending time together.

- Before, I had several hundred friends. After, I have none; I either don't have the opportunity or the time to make more because of the obligations I have to my wife and son. In addition, I can't travel out very far or for very long with my family waiting for me at home, and my life is so boring that I have nothing to talk about besides my unmarried days and video games, so I always make terrible company.

- Before, I used my entire paycheck on the things I wanted and personally used. After, the smallest fraction of the money that I make, by my own work, is given back to me as an allowance like I'm a ten year old kid. I haven't bought anything for myself since late 2009 besides cigarettes, snacks and the two or three video games I buy a year.

- Before, when I was hungry, I went to the supermarket or a restaurant and got something to eat, when I was bored, I bought a new video game or went to a museum, and when I wanted to hang with friends, I treated them to coffee. After, I've not once considered buying something without wondering if I was overspending from my allowance. And in the vast majority of cases, I was, so I just went home.

- Before, I worked where I wanted. After, I have to run every job idea by my wife, and listen to her whine and give up my plans if she doesn't approve.

- Before, I could play video games all day if I wanted. After, I have to wait until everyone goes to sleep, or wake up at 5:00 in the morning, to get a few hours alone.

- Before, I came home to a quiet house of relaxation. After, I come home to chores, routine, staring off into space and sometimes, drama.

- Before, I hardly ever did chores because I ate out to avoid dishes and re-wore clothes for unimportant situations (work, staying home) to avoid laundry. After, I have chores to do every single day. The current records stand at doing the laundry five times in one day, cleaning the floor and table three times on another, and doing the dishes three times on another.

- Before, if I fought with a friend or a girlfriend, I either fixed the problem, or just left them. After, if I fight with my wife (and it's usually because she starts it), I have to act like her father and punish her with less monthly money, silence or cold rebukes. It's like raising another child.

- Before, I had almost a dozen sweet, cute and intelligent girls hanging on my every word. After, my sex life is utterly at the mercy of my wife, who is always tired, busy, uninterested, hot, cold or stressed, or who has early work the next morning, a headache, an emotional problem, or another issue that has led to our "once every month or two" routine. She's also been grossly overweight since 2009.

- Before, I used to have a day or two off a week from work, and five or six days off of chores, to relax. After, I routinely have times where I work for a whole month, even two or three, without a single day off, knowing most of that money will be siphoned away and spent on something I don't want. The chores are even worse; I've recorded lengths between choreless days that lasted lengths like three months, six months, and the very worst, ten whole months before I had a day without cleaning the house.

- Before, on my days off from work, I spent entire days outside having fun, with no accountability to anybody but myself, and no naysayers telling me what I could and could not do with my life. After, I spend most of my paltry time off watching TV, playing video games or taking little trips with my son.

- Before, I would wake up in the morning, not know what the day had in store for me, and nothing excited me more. After, I wake up in the morning, know exactly what will happen from that minute to the minute I go to sleep, and nothing bores me more.

- Before, I went out to find and experience fun and adventure. After, I sit around waiting for sparse scraps of interest to come to me.

- Before, I experienced so much life in a day that twenty four hours felt more like a week. After, I've repeated the same daily routine so many times that twenty four hours feels like four. All of that missing time is spent daydreaming or blanked out from boredom or stress.

- Before, I lived a life of plenty. After, I live a life of rationing.

- Before, I planned to move to a new city every year, and live a new life with a new job and girl (with her consent at a possibly short term relationship, of course) for the rest of my life. After, I have the obligation of staying here with the same people in the same city in the same country working the same job eating the same food and going through the same routine every day until my son goes to college and I'm free again.

- Before, the entire world was open to me. After, the ten mile radius around my house is open to me. But only if my wife's ok with it.

I worked hard to get where I was when I first went abroad, then lost it all when my wife got pregnant and I married her. I worked like a tank and suppressed my dreams for 25 years, and my reward? Another 19 years of work and suppressing my dreams. I advise not making the same mistake. If you have any love for life and have things you want to accomplish and experience, there's no quicker way to wad it all up and throw it in the garbage than to get married.