Thursday, May 5, 2011

How I cope

I'm married, and all I want to do is find some way to make all of this end. The chores, the nagging, the work, the fights, the routine, the lack of anything meaningful to do, I just want to work my butt off at SOMETHING to make it all stop. But everything about marriage flies in the face of what life was meant to be, and what people teach you from the moment you're old enough to learn about life: hard work means rewards. The ant toils now so he can survive and thrive later. The sooner you start, the sooner you finish. But no matter how many times I wash the dishes, fight with my wife, go to work or just brace against my own mind while the regret for everything I lost pounds against it, nothing makes my married life more tolerable.

If my room were suddenly bathed in a glowing light, and out of that light stepped the figure of a man who told me, "Do a hundred thousand push-ups, and I'll give you the magic power to fast-forward every moment of your life where you fight with your wife, go to work, do a chore, run an errand, regret your old life, commute, or otherwise feel unhappy about how your life turned out," do you know what I would do?

I would turn the computer off right now, do a hundred push-ups, then change the name of this blog to "John Q. Public: Push-up Beast" and chronicle the quickly approaching deadline to when I got my life back, a deadline whose arrival would be entirely up to me. I would enjoy every fun moment with my family (usually comprising a few hours of any given day), and my married life would be finished in no time.

But that's not marriage. Very few problems on this earth are like marriage.

For example, if I were poor, I would sell everything I owned, move to a very, very small apartment and eat nothing but cheap crap until I got my finances back up. If I didn't have a job, I would beg for food for a few days until I successfully interviewed for one. If nobody had money to spare, I would find a local charity or church to help care for me while I got back on my feet, then once I was, I would pay them back tenfold for the help they had given me.

If I weren't educated enough to get a good job, I would go to college. If I couldn't get into one, I would start at a community college, spend two years studying there and getting stellar grades, then transfer to a university. If I didn't have a high school diploma to begin community college, I would start by getting my GED and working from there.

If I were dying of hunger, I would get a job to support myself. If the whole country had no work, I would farm. If I had no place to farm, I would leave the country and eat garbage on the way until I found a place with land to farm or jobs to work.

If I were a woman in an abusive relationship, I would leave while my abuser was sleeping, then go to the local police station and have them take photographic evidence of my abuse, testify against my abuser, then never date another abusive man.

As a child growing up in abusive households for almost two decades, I did something exactly like this to overcome my depression: I spent four years re-programming my mind, thrusting myself into situations that previously terrorized me, working my ass off at minimum wage jobs to make enough money to realize my dreams, and fighting every negative thought along the way with every last ounce of my strength. And for this, I was rewarded with my six month, unmarried life abroad.

But there is nothing I, a married man, can do to help my current situation. The problems in my married life aren't insurmountable; they're inescapable, and unending, unless I want to destroy my wife and son. For marriage with kids, there is no action a man can perform to make it end without substantial cost. The only way out is dishonor, poverty, death, stagnation, or some combination of these.

Dishonor - Leave your wife and child(ren) to fend for themselves, and lead a life of hedonism and freedom away from them. And, of course, live the rest of your life in shame for the pain you have heaped upon them, and the responsibilities you ran out on... but more importantly, leave your family in dire straits emotionally, physically and financially.

Poverty - Leave your wife and child(ren), but send back alimony and child support every month to take care of them. Combining high poverty and moderate dishonor, this leaves your family financially taken care of, but you without any money, and your child(ren) ever wondering why daddy only wants to see them for a few days out of the month (thanks to the court system).

Death - You or your family dies of disease or accident. Any man with a shred of honor would never wish this upon himself, only to leave his family behind with no support and eternal questions, or his family.

So that leaves the final option, the option that guys like me choose so we can take care of the people that depend upon us: Stagnation. Sit around, do what you must, and wait until the time limit is up so you can live again. Because stagnation cannot be ended early through extra work or effort, it's important to come up with ways to make the jail sentence of marriage more tolerable, and hopefully, speed up faster. And after three years, I've come up with a few ways:

1. I zone out.

I've talked about how I deal with the repetition of marriage. I'm awake for the few fun things, I zone out for the abundance of boring stuff, and I defuse any fights with my wife before they happen by withdrawing from her and denying her battle. Zoning out also speeds up time, so for the vast amount of the day where I'm bored or unengaged by what I'm doing, it doesn't seem to take as long. This has the added bonus of moving days by faster, which helps with my second coping mechanism.

2. I count days.

September 1st, 2027. That day is the beginning of the school year when my son will have finished high school and be off to college. When he is off, so am I. Like a prisoner, counting days makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something every day I live. Every night, I watch another day tick off my cellphone and tell myself that I only have a few thousand more to go.

3. I believe in reincarnation.

This isn't a blog about religion, so I'll keep this brief. I believe that after we die, we review what we did right and wrong in life, then return to the planet as another person. While we lose the memories of our old lives, we retain our core personalities, our goals and the lessons we learned, and continue on to learn more about the world around us and ourselves. If I'm right, then I am currently preparing myself for my next life, which is the amazing life I wanted to live this life.

Overcoming depression and becoming honorable and self-reliant at 15, instead of 21? Going abroad at 22 instead of 25? Being born sterile? Knowing from adolescence that marriage is a raw deal, and never going through it again? These are all things I'm planning and looking forward to now. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say this: I would rather take a bullet in the brain in any other life than be stuck in this position again.

4. I play video games.

My games are a way for me to challenge myself with problems more difficult than "Sit there while your wife complains" or "Big clothes need clothes hangars, small ones use the carousel." They also provide mental rewards for my work, rather than getting nothing more than a pithy "Thanks" for transferring more than a $1000 to my wife every month, or the nothing at all I get for the chores.

In addition, whenever I'm in a position where I have to sit around and wait for something to finish (like my wife getting ready or window shopping or yelling about something, or when I'm doing work training or standing in line or something else), I find that time passes much quicker with the help of video games. I play them in my head, I plan characters for games I plan on playing later, and I remember the successes and fun times I had when playing my favorites. Most importantly, video games let me pass the time pretending I'm someone important and respected. When I'm playing a really good one, I'm even able to completely forget that I'm married while I'm lost in a new world, and not have a single thought about all the things I lost when I tied the knot.

5. I daydream about my wife divorcing me.

There's no point in daydreaming about how life could have been if I hadn't impregnanted my wife. That was the past, this is now. And since I'll never be the one to divorce my wife (for the sake of our son), it only makes sense that to be more realistic, and therefore therapeutic, that my daydreams involve my wife divorcing me.

A divorce would slam my finances hard, but a second job would cure that in no time, and everything else that marriage has taken from me would be returned to me in a heartbeat. The only one who would be hurt would be my son, but if I weren't the one initiating the divorce, I could hardly get down on myself for the troubles that his mother flings on him, problems that I would be there to help him with.

My wife has promised me that she would never divorce me unless I cheated on her or beat our son, neither of which I would ever do. But she also promised me before we married that we would have sex at least twice a week, which not only turned out to be untrue, but she lied later than she ever made the promise. So, this is just even more proof that the divorce scenario could easily come about. It's a very realistic ending to my marriage, and those make for the best and most involving daydreams.

6. I keep this blog.

Going back and reading what I wrote sometimes makes me feel like another person is talking to me, and understands what my life is like. If I told too many people in real life how I feel, my feelings might get back to my wife and hurt her and our son. And when I tried to speak to people anonymously on the internet, I get nothing but derision and derailing. This blog is the only place I wish to voice myself.

7. I ignore my wife when she's being stupid.

When my wife ever does something that makes me unhappy, like when she constantly gives me obvious suggestions and orders that you wouldn't give a ten year old, or when she's in a bad mood, or when she complains about me playing too many video games, or any other thing like that, I just firmly tell her to stop, then I ignore her. Before, I used to politely tell her that some of the things she did bothered me, and she almost always got annoyed and upset for me asking her to stop. And since I don't need (or frankly, want) her for anything, it's easy to focus my attention away from her and onto a daydream, TV or a video game.

When she gets her way, I make sure to give her very little of my attention, because nothing else works to stop her from being selfish or rude. If I act nice, she presses her advantage and demands more, or gets angrier. If I act angrily, she gets angrier. But if I withdraw from her, she suddenly tries her best to get things back to normal. Of course, none of this ever does anything to restore my old life and dreams, but it does make day to day life more bearable.

8. I maintain strict control of my thoughts.

This is the most important of my coping mechanisms. If there's anything my journeys through life have taught me, it's that all emotion and action is the result of one's thoughts. Believe that a certain race of people are thieves, and watch as your body seizes up when you draw near a person of that race. Engage in thoughts of revenge fantasy and murder, and feel your gut tighten, the blood rush to your face and your heart quicken. Anything you think, your body will respond to.

I once kept this blog under the name "marriageisdeath," but I deleted it two months ago when I realized that it was incredibly abrasive towards my wife and other people who were married, instead of focusing solely on marriage and myself. Though I tried to keep things relatively civil, even when I took just a jab or two at my wife, I still unconsciously started to blame her for how my life turned out. That unconscious feeling turned to unconscious resentment, which developed into me being rude to my wife for real.

Controlling my thoughts in a situation that I cannot change is a daily struggle, and in a married life that is comprised mostly of boredom, work and stress, there are many times when my mind begins to wander. During these times, whenever I have a nasty thought about my life or marriage, I accept it and follow it through. But whenever my mind wrongfully blames my wife or my son, I brace and toss the thought away immediately. This happens several hundred times a day, and is one of many kinds of stress that I endure to keep my family safe and in the dark regarding how I feel about marriage.

For the thoughts, I immediately counter negative thoughts with a positive one. I don't care which of the two thoughts is the correct or true one, it just matters that I fool my brain into thinking I'm content when I'm not.

For example:

"Look at all those foreigners walking around down there, enjoying life without a care in the world. Bet they aren't married to a..."
"My wife is a good woman. I take care of her."

For the situations where my wife or mother-in-law are being insulting, controlling, bossy or rude, or someone is berating me for something unimportant, or I have ten hours of work to slog through, or some other real life issue comes up, I do something different: I just shut down my mind and block everything out, and let my zoning out handle disputes, insults and problems with automatic answers and action.

To summarize, I don't engage in thoughts of divorcing my wife. I don't entertain any kind of false thoughts where she or our son ruined my life. Even when I'm daydreaming, and mentally roleplaying the moment I need to explain to a girlfriend why marriage is a terrible idea, I never superimpose my wife's face or name onto that imaginary girl.

In addition, I write this blog in a very mild tone of voice. If you've read this far and think that I'm not truly bothered by marriage because of my semantic choice, then know that this is the reason. If I wrote how I truly felt, those words would translate into upset feelings, which would then foster resentment for my wife and son, which would turn into me becoming angry or sad about the things I don't like in my life.

By keeping my thoughts under strict control, and keeping my unhappy attention focused only on how my married life is a miserable, unsatisfying existence, I keep both my wife and son out of harm's way; I deny the free man in me who wants to be free for the sake of my family's welfare. But I always keep my eyes on the future, when I no longer have to do this.

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