Why Women Leave Men

I am sharing an article printed on Marriage Builders Website. You can visit that site by going here – http://www.marriagebuilders.com/

Why Women Leave Men

by Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D.

“I hurt all the time because I feel alone and abandoned.”“My husband is no longer my friend.”

“The only time he pays attention to me is when he wants sex.”

“He is never there for me when I need him the most.”

“When he hurts my feelings he doesn’t apologize.”

“He lives his life as if we weren’t married; he rarely considers me.”

“We’re like ships passing in the night, he goes his way and I go mine.”

“My husband has become a stranger to me, I don’t even know who he is anymore.”

“He doesn’t show any interest in me or what I do.”

Women tend to be more concerned about their marriages than men. They buy most of the books on marriage to try to improve them and initiate most marriage counseling. They often complain about their marriages to their closest friends and sometimes to anyone who will listen. And they also file for divorce twice as often as men.

Why do women seem so dissatisfied with marriage? What do they want from their husbands? What bothers them so much about marriage that most are willing to risk their families’ future to escape it?

Why do women leave men?

Each day I am confronted by women who are extremely frustrated with their marriages. They usually express no hope that their husbands will ever understand what it is that frustrates them, let alone change enough to solve the problem. From their perspective, marital problems are created by their husbands who do little or nothing to solve them. Wives tend to see themselves as the major force for resolving conflicts, and when they give up their effort, the marriage is usually over.

When I talk to their husbands, they usually have a very different explanation as to why their wives feel the way they do. They often feel that the expectations of women in general, and their wives in particular, have grown completely out of reach. These men, who feel that they’ve made a gigantic effort to be caring and sensitive to their wives, get no credit whatsoever for their sizeable contribution to the family. They feel under enormous pressure to improve their financial support, improve the way they raise their children, and improve the way they treat their wives. Many men I see are emotionally exhausted and feel that for all their effort, they get nothing but criticism.

The simpler role of husbands in decades past has now been replaced by a much more complex and confusing role, especially in their relationship with their wives. Some conclude that women are born to complain and men must ignore it to survive. Others feel that women have come to expect so much of men that they are impossible to please, so there’s no point in even trying. Very few men, these days, feel that they have learned to become the husbands that their wives have wanted, and the job seems to be getting more and more difficult.

Grounds for Divorce

Men’s perceived failure to satisfy their wives is punctuated by the fact that women file for divorce twice as often as men. In other words, their unhappiness with marriage often results in divorce.

The most common reason women give for leaving their husbands is “mental cruelty.” When legal grounds for divorce are stated, about half report they have been emotionally abused. But the mental cruelty they describe is rarely the result of their husband’s efforts to drive them crazy. It is usually husbands being indifferent, failing to communicate and demonstrating other forms of neglect.

Another reason for divorce reported almost as much as mental cruelty is “neglect” itself. These include both emotional abandonment and physical abandonment. Husbands that work away from the home, sometimes leaving their wives alone for weeks at a time, fall into this category.

When all forms of spousal neglect are grouped together, we find that it is far ahead of all the other reasons combined that women leave men. Surprisingly few women divorce because of physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, criminal behavior, fraud, or other serious grounds. In fact, I find myself bewildered by women in serious physical danger refusing to leave men that threaten their safety.

Simply stated, women leave men when they are neglected. Neglect accounts for almost all of the reasons women leave and divorce men.

I have little trouble convincing most men that verbal and physical abuse are legitimate reasons for their wives to leave. And there has been increasing social pressure on men lately to avoid hurting their wives physically and verbally, which makes my job even easier.

But neglect is a much tougher sell, and it is also much more difficult to overcome than abuse. While it is the most important reason women leave men, it is hard to convince men that it is a legitimate reason, something they should avoid at all costs.

Some of the common complaints I hear from women is, “He ignores me except when he wants sex, he sits and watches television when he could be talking to me, he rarely calls me to see how I’m doing, he hurts my feelings and then never apologizes: Instead, he tells me I’m too sensitive.”

Most husbands are mystified by these complaints. They feel that their wives demand too much, and that most other women would be ecstatic if married to them. Their wives have become spoiled, take their efforts for granted and have unrealistic expectations.

Do women expect too much of their husbands or are men doing less for their wives than they should? I’ve proven to husbands over and over again that their wives usually do not expect too much of them, and when they understand and respond to their wives’ frustration, the complaining ends and a terrific marriage begins.

What’s more, their wives are not expecting more effort from them. Instead, they expect efforts in a different direction. It isn’t more difficult to please women these days, it simply requires a change in the priority of effort.

What are women looking for in men? They want a soul mate, someone they trust who is there for them when they have a problem, who takes their feelings into account when decisions are being made. Someone to whom they feel emotionally connected.

A Man’s House

I use a house as an illustration to help husbands understand how their wives feel. Each room in the house represents one of the husband’s roles in life. There is a room for his job as a production manager, there is another for golf, another for his new sports car, one for his garden, one for his children, one for church, and, yes, one for his wife.

As he makes his way through an average day, he visits various rooms when he is faced with the role the room defines. And when he’s in a certain room, the others are blocked out of his mind so that he can focus his undivided attention on the role he plays at the time. He does his best when he’s not faced with distractions, and prefers to deal with each problem with all his energy and creativity so that he does the best he can in each role he plays.

The wives of most men are only one of many rooms in this imaginary house. It represents the “husband” role. When they are in that room, they usually try to give their wives undivided attention and make a special effort to meet their needs. They also go to that room to have their own needs met, particularly the need for sex.

What frustrates wives most is that they are relegated to only one room in their husbands’ imaginary house instead of every room. In other words, they want to be integrated into a man’s entire life, not relegated to one corner. Without such integration, there can be no emotional bonding, no uniting of the spirit, no feeling of intimacy and, in many cases, no sex.

To help husbands learn to avoid this unpleasant outcome, I have tried to show them how to become and stay emotionally connected to their wives by inviting them into each room of their house. They learn to become more than the role of “husband” to their wives. They learn to integrate their wives into every aspect of their lives.

When I counsel a husband, I explain that he is to invite his wife into each room of his house. Regardless of his role or responsibility, his wife should be considered in each decision he makes. Once the invitation is made, the results are startling!

When a husband invites his wife into each room of his house, she helps change his priorities. She reminds him that her feelings are very different from his. As a result, he begins to live his life in a way that is compatible to her needs and values.

He learns how to avoid habits that cause his wife to be unhappy, and he learns how to meet her most important emotional needs. He also learn how to give his undivided attention to her and schedule time to be alone with her.

The Policy of Joint Agreement

To help men integrate their wives into each room, I have encouraged husbands to follow the Policy of Joint Agreement: Never do anything without an enthusiastic agreement between you and your spouse.

This policy helps men take their wives’ feelings into account whenever they make a decision. They avoid thoughtless habits, learn to meet emotional needs with mutual enjoyment and resolve their conflicts. All of this creates marital compatibility and emotional bonding.

The word “anything” in the policy applies to all the activities of a husband that go on in each of his rooms. So whenever he follows it, he learns to think about his wife’s reaction to everything he does, not just what goes on in the “husband” room.

Some argue that just an agreement would be a big help, why insist on enthusiastic agreement? It’s because I want couples to avoid agreements that are coerced or self-sacrificing. I want couples to learn how to come to agreements that take both of their interests into account at once. I have encouraged couples to continue to negotiate until they arrive at an enthusiastic agreement because they’re the ones that stand up to the test of time.

Most men complain that if they invite their wives into every room of their imaginary houses, their wives will take over completely and they will lose all their peace and freedom. They imagine their identities shriveling away and finding themselves a shadow of their former selves.

But the Policy of Joint Agreement prevents that unfortunate outcome. Joint agreement means that both husband and wife must be enthusiastic together, and no one risks losing their identity or subjecting themselves to slavery when they themselves must be enthusiastic about each decision. The goal is to become united in purpose and spirit, not to overpower or control each other.

How Easy Is It?

Couples that are already emotionally bonded have little or no trouble following this policy because they have already learned how to behave in sensitive and caring ways in each of their life’s roles. But emotionally distant couples have great difficulty with the policy at first. They are accustomed to doing what they please regardless of it’s effect on each other, especially when they play certain roles. But if they follow the policy for even one day, they begin to see how their thoughtlessness has created emotional distance.

As couples apply the policy to each of their daily plans and activities, they begin to feel cared for by each other and are encouraged by each other’s thoughtfulness. Over time, their emotional bonding becomes more and more firm, and the policy becomes easier and easier to follow as they become soul mates.

Men who follow the Policy of Joint Agreement think about their wives throughout the day, because as they make decisions they ask themselves how their wives would feel. Phone calls are made whenever there is any doubt. As time passes, these men become increasingly sensitive to their wives’ feelings.

If men consider their wives feelings in each decision they make, asking their wives when there is any uncertainty, they create a compatible lifestyle. The Policy of Joint Agreement helps create understanding, emotional bonding, intimacy and romantic love in marriage. Men that learn to take their wives feelings into account meet their most important emotional needs. They also learn to overcome the selfish habits that make their wives so unhappy, because these habits do not meet the standard of mutual agreement. Over time, they experience what every couple hopes to create in marriage: A loving and compatible relationship.

A woman doesn’t leave the man who has invited her into every room of his house. That’s because she doesn’t stand outside the rooms of his house feeling like a stranger. She is welcomed into his entire home as his cherished life partner.

CLICK HERE for information about Dr. Harley’s successful Home Study Program.

Phil Petachenko – Boost, Believe, Live

Small Podcast ArtworkThis is round two with Phil, a long time friend and teacher. Phil is an excellent teacher because he can convey important information clearly and simply; and he knows how to deliver practical tools that are easy to use and really help.

If you live in the San Diego area you are lucky, because Phil leads a group in Encinitas, CA (a beachside community north of San Diego) on Thursday nights. Go join him. You can find out more about those Thursday nights and a whole lot more by going to his website located here.

Wanna Help Me Write My Book?

Great! Here is the DRAFT Preface and I will post the DRAFT chapters as I finish them. Any comments or help are GREATLY appreciated! If you prefer to send me comments directly please use my email david@quietclarity.com.

Preface

In the beginning there was consciousness.

A long time ago, man understood the power of fire but was afraid of it. He had not yet learned how to control this powerful force of nature. It became something of a mystery, one that every human had keen interest in.

Then, one day, alone in the meadowland, a hunter was throwing stones at a small animal sitting on a large boulder and noticed a strange red circle form in the dry grass nearby. The lone hunter reached out to touch the odd red circle, drawing his finger back quickly for it was hot. Now the odd red circle was blackened grass. Curious, and excited, he quickly realized it was fire or something close to it, and that he had caused it by throwing rocks at the large boulder. He began throwing rocks over and over, eventually reproducing the same event. This time he got very close, without touching, to study the red circle more closely, and as he breathed out the circle got bigger. He breathed out again with the same result. Eventually, the embers grew to create fire, and the start of human mastery over the physical environment began.

What the man did not know is that similar events were happening in meadows and grasslands throughout the world. Each hunter believing that only he had discovered this incredible power. Each hunter quickly believing they controlled their world, each hunter now having important decisions to make about whether this information should be shared freely or kept private for their own purposes. These decisions would define the outcome of each man’s community and the destiny of nearby villages.

But the Universe had not been willing to roll the dice, the need for a consensus of consciousness on the matter was paramount. This consensus of consciousness is what we call the Collective Consciousness and the Universe encouraged humanity to develop one. In particular, there was a need to form a common morality – standards of behavior and social rules – important to the destiny of the species. So there were many different hunters making many different decisions.

Many years later, as the descendants of those early hunters gained greater control over their physical environment, man no longer feared being eaten by animals or any of the other problems that arise from darkness and cold weather. Mankind had gained freedom from the problems that had previously consumed their waking hours and this gave man the freedom and time to develop and master his intellect.

The Universe continued to make sure that no one person discovered too much, and that knowledge and awareness from new discoveries were widely known and contemplated so that all of mankind could be involved in important new decisions to the collective consciousness.

The industrial revolution gave way to the technical revolution that we are now in, and man’s intellect continues to grow exponentially. Important decisions must be made. We must adapt our morality and ideas about what make right and wrong to a new world, just as we have done since well before man discovered fire. The Universe awaits our choices.

Unfortunately, it is more difficult today for mankind to come to a consensus and move forward together as a species. Man has become arrogant and acts as though the Universe is indebted to him, that there is a predetermined requirement and need to keep mankind around. But this is not true, we could vanish today and all would be fine.

We have reached a critical juncture for our species, the consequence for poor collective decisions is far greater than ever before, and time is of the essence. The Collective Consciousness must now grow at a faster pace than technology, because before we reach the end of this century a small child will possess the technology in an object smaller than his hand to destroy the human race. This may seem hard to believe until you reflect on the speed at which technology has moved over the last fifty years and will continue to move over the next fifty years.

The collective consciousness of humanity, and whatever else has assisted us along the way, is well aware of the circumstances in which we now find ourselves. The dawning of Aquarius, new-age spirituality, the interest in eastern philosophies, self-help books and courses, new mind technology, and a greater awareness in the power of the mind are all part of a paradigm shift that is taking place. We are the slice of humanity that is critical, and we must take our role in the stewardship of our species seriously. The survival of humanity truly depends on us.

In the past we had human-wide commonality through religious and spiritual belief in a higher power. The benefits of that commonality have been greatly diminished by the abuse of spirituality and religion that have taken place throughout our history. We have lost much of this important part of our consciousness and human nature, and there has been far less interest in developing new understanding or greater awareness about the nature of things unknown.

The hope I have in writing this book is that people will find their own inner desire to become more aware, that there will be a resurgent interest in spirituality and God – whatever those things might be – even if they can never be understood – and that more and more individuals will want to explore the power of the mind and consciousness that have only been guessed at by the great thinkers of the last few millennia. My desire is for the reader to feel a greater power over their thinking and consciousness, and to have a better and easier life.

Just as the discovery of fire gave man the freedom to evolve, the technology revolution has given our generation the time and ability to contribute greatly to the collective consciousness. Lets offer up thoughtful, mindful and loving choices, for ourselves and for all of mankind, present and future.

Suicide and Depression

Tim Ferriss continues to amaze me with his honesty and care for human beings. This was an important post that I want to share because by sharing, we feel less alone. You can read the entire posting on Tim’s site here or read below.

Some Practical Thoughts on Suicide

timterrace___Flickr_-_Photo_Sharing_This happy-looking shot was taken in 1999, when I almost destroyed myself.

In this post, I’m going to talk about suicide, and why I’m still on this planet.

These are stories I’ve kept secret from my family, girlfriends, and closest friends for years. Recently, however, I had an experience that shook me — woke me up — and I decided that it was time to share it all.

So, despite the shame I might feel, the fear that is making my palms sweat as I type this, allow me to get started.

Here we go…

A TWIST OF FATE

“Could you please sign this for my brother? It would mean a lot to him.”

He was a kind fan. There were perhaps a dozen people around me asking questions, and he had politely waited his turn. The ask: A simple signature.

It was Friday night, around 7pm, and a live recording of the TWiST podcast had just ended. There was electricity in the air. Jason Calacanis, the host and interviewer, sure knows how to put on a show. He’d hyped up the crowd and kept things rolling for more than 2 hours on stage, asking me every imaginable question. The venue–Pivotal Labs’ offices in downtown SF–had been packed to capacity. Now, more than 200 people were milling about, drinking wine, or heading off for their weekends.

A handful of attendees gathered near the mics for pics and book inscriptions.

“Anything in particular you’d like me to say to him? To your brother?” I asked this one gent, who was immaculately dressed in a suit. His name was Silas.

He froze for few seconds but kept eye contact. I saw his eyes flutter. There was something unusual that I couldn’t put a finger on.

I decided to take the pressure off: “I’m sure I can come up with something. Are you cool with that?” Silas nodded.

I wrote a few lines, added a smiley face, signed the book he’d brought, and handed it back. He thanked me and backed out of the crowd. I waived and returned to chatting with the others.

Roughly 30 minutes later, I had to run. My girlfriend had just landed at SFO and I needed to meet her for dinner. I started walking towards the elevators.

“Excuse me, Tim?” It was Silas. He’d been waiting for me. “Can I talk to you for a second?”

“Sure,” I said, “but walk with me.”

We meandered around tables and desks to the relative privacy of the elevator vestibule, and I hit the Down button. As soon as Silas started his story, I forgot about the elevator.

He apologized for freezing earlier, for not having an answer. His younger brother–the one I signed the book for–had recently committed suicide. He was 22.

“He looked up to you,” Silas explained, “He loved listening to you and Joe Rogan. I wanted to get your signature for him. I’m going to put this in his room.” He gestured to the book. I could see tears welling up in his eyes, and I felt my own doing the same. He continued.

“People listen to you. Have you ever thought about talking about these things? About suicide or depression? You might be able to save someone.” Now, it was my turn to stare at him blankly. I didn’t know what to say.

I also didn’t have an excuse. Unbeknownst to him, I had every reason to talk about suicide. I’d only skimmed the surface with a few short posts about depression.

Some of my closest high school friends killed themselves.
Some of my closest college friends killed themselves.
I almost killed myself.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” I said to Silas. I wondered if he’d waited more than three hours just to tell me this. I suspected he had. Good for him. He had bigger balls than I. Certainly, I’d failed his brother by being such a coward in my writing. How many othershad I failed? These questions swam in my mind.

“I will write about this” I said to Silas, awkwardly patting his shoulder. I was thrown off. “I promise.”

And with that, I got into the elevator.

INTO THE DARKNESS

“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”
– Mexican proverb

There are some secrets we don’t share because they’re embarrassing.

Like that time I met an icon by accidentally hitting on his girlfriend at a coffee shop? That’s a good one (Sorry, N!). Or the time a celebrity panelist borrowed my laptop to project a boring corporate video, and a flicker of porn popped up–a la Fight Club–in front of a crowd of 400 people? Another good example.

But then there are dark secrets. The things we tell no one. The shadows we keep covered for fear of unraveling our lives.

For me, 1999 was full of shadows.

So much so that I never wanted to revisit them.

I hadn’t talked about this traumatic period publicly until last week, first in a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), then in greater depth on Derek Halpern’s podcast.

What follows is the sequence of my downward spiral.

Reading the below, it’s incredible how trivial some of it seems in retrospect. At the time, though, it was the perfect storm.

I include wording like “impossible situation,” which was reflective of my thinking at the time, not objective reality.

I still vividly recall these events, but any quotes are paraphrased. Please also excuse any grammatical/tense errors, as it was hard for me to put this down. So, starting where it began…

  • It’s my senior year at Princeton. I’m slated to graduate around June of 1999. Somewhere in the first six months, several things happen in the span of a few weeks:
  • I fail to make it to final interviews for McKinsey Consulting and Trilogy Software, in addition to others. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong, and I start losing confidence after “winning” in the game of academics for so long.
  • A long-term (for a college kid, anyway) girlfriend breaks up with me shortly thereafter. Not because of the job stuff, but because I became more insecure during that period, wanted more time with her, and was massively disruptive to her final varsity sports season. What’s wrong with me?
  • I have a fateful meeting with one of my thesis advisors in the East Asian Studies department. Having read a partial draft of my work, he presents a large stack of original research in Japanese for me to incorporate. I walk out with my head spinning — how am I going to finish this thesis (which generally run 60-100 pages or more) before graduation? What am I going to do?

It’s important to note that at Princeton, the senior thesis is largely viewed as the pinnacle of your four-year undergrad career. That’s reflected in its grading. The thesis is often worth around 25% of your entire departmental GPA (English department example here).

After all of the above, things continued as follows…

  • I find a rescue option! In the course of researching language learning for the thesis, I’m introduced to a wonderful PhD who works at Berlitz International. Bernie was his name. We have a late dinner one night on Witherspoon Street in Princeton. He speaks multiple languages and is a nerd, just like me. One hour turns into two, which turns into three. At the end, he says, “You know, it’s too bad you’re graduating in a few months. I have a project that would be perfect for you, but it’s starting sooner.” This could be exactly the solution I’m looking for!
  • I chat with my parents about potentially taking a year off, beginning in the middle of my senior year. This would allow me time to finish a world-class thesis, while simultaneously testing jobs in the “real world.” It seems like a huge win-win, and my parents— to their credit —are hugely supportive.
  • The Princeton powers OK the idea, and I meet with the aforementioned thesis advisor to inform him of my decision. Instead of being happy that I’m taking time to get the thesis right (what I expected), he seems furious: “So you’re just going to quit?! To cop out?! This better be the best thesis I’ve ever seen in my life.” In my stressed out state, and in the exchange that follows, I hear a series of thinly veiled threats and ultimatums… but no professor would actually do that, right? The meeting ends with a dismissive laugh and a curt “Good luck.” I’m crushed and wander out in a daze.
  • Once I’ve regained my composure, my shock turns to anger. How could a thesis advisor threaten a student with a bad grade just because they’re taking time off? I knew my thesis wouldn’t be “the best thesis” he’d ever seen, so it was practically a guarantee of a bad grade, even if I did a great job. This would be obvious to anyone, right?
  • I meet with multiple people in the Princeton administration, and the response is — simply put — “He wouldn’t do that.” I’m speechless. Am I being called a liar? Why would I lie? What was my incentive? It seemed like no one was willing to rock the boat with a senior (I think tenured) professor. I’m speechless and feel betrayed. Faculty politics matter more than I do.
  • I leave my friends behind at school and move off campus to work — I find out remotely — for Berlitz. “Remote” means I end up working at home by myself. This is a recipe for disaster. The work is rewarding, but I spend all of my non-work time — from when I wake to when I go to bed — looking at hundreds of pages of thesis notes and research spread out on my bedroom floor. It’s an uncontainable mess.
  • After 2-3 months of attempting to incorporate my advisor’s original-language Japanese research, the thesis is a disaster. Despite (or perhaps because of) staring at paper alone for 8-16 hours a day, it’s a Frankenstein’s monster of false starts, dead ends, and research that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Totally unusable. I am, without a doubt, in worse shape than when I left school.
  • My friends are graduating, celebrating, and leaving Princeton behind. I am sitting in a condo off campus, trapped in an impossible situation. My thesis work is going nowhere, and even if it turns out spectacular, I have (in my mind) a vindictive advisor who’s going to burn me. By burning me, he’ll destroy everything I’ve sacrificed for since high school: great grades in high school got me to Princeton, great grades in Princeton should get me to a dream job, etc. By burning me, he’ll make Princeton’s astronomical tuition wasted money, nothing more than a small fortune my family has pissed away. I start sleeping in until 2 or 3pm. I can’t face the piles of unfinished work surrounding me. My coping mechanism is to cover myself in sheets, minimize time awake, and hope for a miracle.
  • No miracle arrives. Then one afternoon, as I’m wandering through a Barnes and Noble with no goal in particular, I chance upon a book about suicide. Right there in front of me on a display table. Perhaps this is the “miracle”? I sit down and read the entire book, taking copious notes into a journal, including other books listed in the bibliography. For the first time in ages, I’m excited about research. In a sea of uncertainty and hopeless situations, I feel like I’ve found hope: the final solution.
  • I return to Princeton campus. This time, I go straight to Firestone Library to check out all of the suicide-related books on my to-do list. One particularly promising-sounding title is out, so I reserve it. I’ll be next in line when it comes back. I wonder what poor bastard is reading it, and if they’ll be able to return it.
  • It’s important to mention here that, by this point, I was past deciding. The decision was obvious to me. I’d somehow failed, painted myself into this ridiculous corner, wasted a fortune on a school that didn’t care about me, and what would be the point of doing otherwise? To repeat these types of mistakes forever? To be a hopeless burden to myself and my family and friends? Fuck that. The world was better off without a loser who couldn’t figure this basic shit out. What would I ever contribute? Nothing. So the decision was made, and I was in full-on planning mode.
  • In this case, I was dangerously good at planning. I had 4-6 scenarios all spec’d out, start to finish, including collaborators and covers when needed. And that’s when I got the phone call.
  • [My mom?! That wasn’t in the plan.]
  • I’d forgotten that Firestone Library now had my family home address on file, as I’d technically taken a year of absence. This meant a note was mailed to my parents, something along the lines of “Good news! The suicide book you requested is now available at the library for pick up!”
  • Oops (and thank fucking God).
  • Suddenly caught on the phone with my mom, I was unprepared. She nervously asked about the book, so I thought fast and lied: “Oh, no need to worry about that. Sorry! One of my friends goes to Rutgers and didn’t have access to Firestone, so I reserved it for him. He’s writing about depression and stuff.”
  • I was shocked out of my own delusion by a one-in-a-million accident. It was only then that I realized something: my death wasn’t just about me. It would completely destroy the lives of those I cared most about. I imagined my mom, who had no part in creating my thesis mess, suffering until her dying day, blaming herself.
  • The very next week, I decided to take the rest of my “year off” truly off (to hell with the thesis) and focus on physical and mental health. That’s how the entire “sumo” story of the 1999 Chinese Kickboxing (Sanshou) Championships came to be, if you’ve read The 4-Hour Workweek.
  • Months later, after focusing on my body instead of being trapped in my head, things were much clearer. Everything seemed more manageable. The “hopeless” situation seemed like shitty luck but nothing permanent.
  • I returned to Princeton, turned in my now-finished thesis to my still-sour advisor, got chewed up in my thesis defense, and didn’t give a fuck. It wasn’t the best thesis he’d ever read, nor the best thing I’d ever written, but I had moved on.
  • Many thanks are due to a few people who helped me regain my confidence that final semester. None of them have heard this story, but I’d like to give them credit here. Among others: My parents and family (of course), Professor Ed Zschau (Entrepreneurship), John McPhee (Non-Fiction Writing–the irony!), Sympoh dance troupe, and my friends at the amazing Terrace Food Club.
  • I graduated with the class of 2000, and bid goodbye to Nassau Hall. I rarely go back, unless it’s to help one of the people mentioned above.

Given the purported jump in “suicidal gestures” at Princeton and its close cousins (Harvard appears to have 2x the national average for undergrad suicides), I hope the administration is taking things seriously.  If nearly half of your student population reports feeling depressed, there might be systemic issues to fix.

Left unfixed, you’ll have more dead kids on your hands, guaranteed.

It’s not enough to wait for people to reach out, or to request at-risk kids take a leave of absence “off the clock” of the university.

Perhaps reach out to the entire student body regularly to catch people before they fall?  It could be as simple as email.

[Sidenote: After graduating, I promised myself that I would never write anything longer than an email ever again. Pretty hilarious that I now write 500-plus-page books, eh?]

OUT OF THE DARKNESS

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage…”
– Lao Tzu

First, let me give a retrospective analysis of my near obliteration.  Then, I’ll give you a bunch of tools and tricks that I still use for keeping the darkness at arm’s length.

Now, at this point, some of you might also be thinking “That’s it?! A Princeton student was at risk of getting a bad grade? Boo-fuckin’-hoo, man. Give me a break…”

But… that’s the entire point.  It’s easy to blow things out of proportion, to get lost in the story you tell yourself, and to think that your entire life hinges on one thing you’ll barely remember 5-10 years later. That seemingly all-important thing could be a bad grade, getting into college, a relationship, a divorce, getting fired, or just a bunch of hecklers on the Internet.

So, back to our story–why didn’t I kill myself?

Below are the realizations that helped me (and a few friends).  They certainly won’t work for everyone suffering from depression, but my hope is that they help some of you.

1. Call this number : 1 (800) 273-8255. I didn’t have it, and I wish I had. It’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (website and live chat here). It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in both English and Spanish.

If you’re outside of the US, please click here for a list of international hotlines.

Sometimes, it just takes one conversation with one rational person to stop a horrible irrational decision. If you’re considering ending your life, please reach out to them.  If you’re too embarrassed to admit that, as I was, then you can ping them “just to chat for a few minutes.” Pretend you’re killing time or testing different suicide hotlines for a directory you’re compiling. Whatever works.

Speaking personally, I want to see the gifts you have to offer the world. And speaking from personal experience, believe me: this too shall pass, whatever it is.

2. I realized it would destroy other people’s lives. Killing yourself can spiritually kill other people.

Even if you’re not lucky enough, as I was, to feel loved by other people, I think this is worth meditating on.

Your death is not perfectly isolated. It can destroy a lot, whether your family (who will blame themselves), other loved ones, or simply the law enforcement officers or coroners who have to haul your death mask-wearing carcass out of an apartment or the woods. The guaranteed outcome of suicide is NOT things improving for you (or going blank), but creating a catastrophe for others. Even if your intention is to get revenge through suicide, the damage won’t be limited to your targets.

A friend once told me that killing yourself is like taking your pain, multiplying it 10x, and giving it to the ones who love you.  I agree with this, but there’s more.  Beyond any loved ones, you could include neighbors, innocent bystanders exposed to your death, and people — often kids — who commit “copycat suicides” when they read about your demise. This is the reality, not the cure-all fantasy, of suicide.

If think about killing yourself, imagine yourself wearing a suicide bomber’s vest of explosives and walking into a crowd of innocents.

That’s effectively what it is.  Even if you “feel” like no one loves you or cares about you, you are most likely loved–and most definitely lovable and worthy of love.

3. There’s no guarantee that killing yourself improves things!

In a tragically comic way, this was a depressing realization when I was considering blowing my head off or getting run over.  Damnation!  No guarantees.  Death and taxes, yes, but not a breezy afterlife.

The “afterlife” could be 1,000x worse than life, even at its worst.  No one knows. I personally believe that consciousness persists after physical death, and it dawned on me that I literally had zero evidence that my death would improve things. It’s a terrible bet. At least here, in this life, we have known variables we can tweak and change. The unknown void could be Dante’s Inferno or far worse. When we just “want the pain to stop,” it’s easy to forget this. You simply don’t know what’s behind door #3.

In our desperation, we often just don’t think it through. It’s kind of like the murder-suicide joke by one of my favorite comics, Demetri Martin:

“Someone who commits a murder-suicide is probably somebody who isn’t thinking through the afterlife. Bam! You’re dead. Bam! I’m dead. Oh shit … this is going to be awkward forever.”

4. Tips from friends, related to #2 above.

For some of my friends (all high achievers, for those wondering), a “non-suicide vow” is what made all the difference. Here is one friend’s description:

“It only mattered when I made a vow to the one person in my life I knew I would never break it to [a sibling]. It’s powerful when you do that. All of a sudden, this option that I sometimes played around in my mind, it was off the table. I would never break a vow to my brother, ever. After the vow and him accepting it, I’ve had to approach life in a different way. There is no fantasy escape hatch. I’m in it. In the end, making a vow to him is the greatest gift I could have given myself.”

As silly as it might sound, it’s sometimes easier to focus on keeping your word, and avoiding hurting someone, than preserving your own life.

And that’s OK. Use what works first, and you can fix the rest later. If you need to disguise a vow out of embarrassment (“How would I confess that to a friend?!”), find a struggling friend to make a mutual “non-suicide vow” with.  Make it seem like you’re only trying to protect him or her. Still too much? Make it a “mutual non-self-hurt” vow with a friend who beats themselves up.

Make it about him or her as much as you.

If you don’t care about yourself, make it about other people.

Make a promise you can’t break, or at the very least realize this: killing yourself will destroy other people’s lives.

PRACTICAL GREMLIN DEFENSE

Now, let’s talk day-to-day tactics.

The fact of the matter is this: if you’re driven, an entrepreneur, a type-A personality, or a hundred other things, mood swings are part of your genetic hardwiring.  It’s a blessing and a curse.

Below are a number of habits and routines that help me. They might seem simplistic, but they keep me from careening too far off the tracks.  They are my defense against the abyss. They might help you find your own, or use them as a starting point.

Most of this boxed text is from a previous post on “productivity ‘hacks’ for the neurotic, manic-depressive, and crazy (like me)“, but I’ve added a few things:

Most “superheroes” are nothing of the sort. They’re weird, neurotic creatures who do big things DESPITE lots of self-defeating habits and self-talk.

Here are some of my coping mechanisms for making it through the day:

1) Wake up at least 1 hour before you have to be at a computer screen. E-mail is the mind killer.

2) Make a cup of tea (I like pu-erh like this) and sit down with a pen/pencil and paper.

3) Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually = most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.

4) For each item, ask yourself:

– “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”
– “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”

5) Look only at the items you’ve answered “yes” to for at least one of these questions.

6) Block out at 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow.

7) TO BE CLEAR: Block out at 2-3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work.

8) If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward spiral; just gently come back to your ONE to-do.

9) Physically MOVE for at least 20 minutes each day. Go for a long walk, lift weights, take a free online yoga class (YouTube), anything. Ideally, get outside. I was once asked by friend for advice on overcoming debilitating stress. The answer I repeated over and over again was: “Remember to EXERCISE daily. That is 80% of the battle.”

10) Follow a diet that prevents wild blood sugar swings. This means avoiding grains and refined carbohydrates most of the time. I follow the slow-carb diet with one cheat day per week and have done so for 10+ years.  Paleo also works great. Don’t forget to eat plenty of fat. High protein and low fat can give you low-grade symptoms of rabbit starvation.

11) Schedule at least one group dinner with friends per week.  Get it on the calendar no later than 5pm on Monday.  Ideal to have at least three people, but two is still great medicine.

12) Take a minute each day to call or email someone to express gratitude of some type. Consider someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time.  It can be a one-line text or a 5-second voicemail.

Congratulations! That’s it.

Those are the rules I use, and they help steer the ship in the right direction.

Routines are the only way I can feel “successful” despite my never-ending impulse to procrastinate, hit snooze, nap, and otherwise fritter away my days with bullshit. If I have 10 “important” things to do in a day, I’ll feel overwhelmed, and it’s 100% certain nothing important will get done that day. On the other hand, I can usually handle 1 must-do item and block out my lesser behaviors for 2-3 hours a day.

And when — despite your best efforts — you feel like you’re losing at the game of life, never forget: Even the best of the best feel this way sometimes. When I’m in the pit of despair with new book projects, I recall what iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut said about his process: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.

TO WRAP UP THIS LONG-ASS POST

My “perfect storm” was nothing permanent.

If we let the storms pass and choose to reflect, we come out better than ever. In the end, regardless of the fucked up acts of others, we have to reach within ourselves and grow. It’s our responsibility to ourselves and–just as critical–to those who love and surround us.

You have gifts to share with the world.

You are not alone.

You are not flawed.

You are human.

And when the darkness comes, when you are fighting the demons, just remember: I’m right there fighting with you.

The gems I’ve found were forged in the struggle. Never ever give up.

Much love,

Tim

P.S. If you have tips that have helped you overcome or manage depression, please share in the comments. I would love for this post to become a growing resource for people. I will also do my best to improve it over time. Thank you.


Additional Resources:

If you occasionally struggle like me, these resources, videos, and articles might help you rebound. I watch the video of Nick Vujicic quite often, just as a reminder of how fortunate I am:

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1 (800) 273-8255 (website and live chat here). It’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in both English and Spanish. Outside the US? Please click here for a list of international hotlines.

My recent interview with Derek Halpern – The core of the conversation is about how to overcome struggle and the above suicide-related story, but it also includes business strategies and other lessons learned.  My apologies for the weird lip smacking, which is a nervous tic. I thought I’d fixed it, but these stories brought it back :)

15-Minute Audio from Tony Robbins I asked Tony for his thoughts on suicide. He responded with a very insightful audio clip, recorded while in the air. It covers a lot, and the hilarious anecdote about the raw-foodist mom at the end alone makes it worth a listen. NOTE: Of course, NEVER stop taking anti-depressants or any medicine without medical supervision. That is not what Tony is recommending.

Listen in the player above, or download by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”

The Prescription for Self-Doubt? Watch This Short Video (Nick Vujicic)

Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression: Making the Rollercoaster Work for You

Two Root Causes of My Recent Depression – This article is by Brad Feld, one of my favorite start-up investors and a world-class entrepreneur in his own right. It’s just more proof that you’re not alone. Even the best out there feel hopeless at times.  It can be beaten.

Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.  This book is not nearly as woo-woo as it might seem.  It was recommended to me by a neuroscience PhD who said it changed her life, then by another cynical friend who said the same.  It is one of the most useful books I’ve read in the last two years.  It’s easy to digest, and I suggest one short chapter before bed each night.  For those of us who beat ourselves up, it’s a godsend.

Phil Petachenko – Chiropractor and Spiritual Teacher?

Small Podcast ArtworkPhil is a long time friend and explorer. Of what? From my point of view we are all explorers of the mind, soul, emotions, body, whatever it all is that makes up a human being, and Phil is willing to explore, willing to journey without knowing for sure where the journey will take him. So, for me, Phil is an explorer, but he is also an excellent chiropractor and teacher. You can find out more on his website located here, I highly recommend his classes on posture. Phil also holds a Thursday night group that we discuss in the interview and you can find out more about that here.

This “journey” is 1:09:52 and we start out talking about spiritual teachers, students, and hierarchy.

06:30 Words, words, words.

08:40 SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship), Encinitas, CA, Paramahansa Yogananda, and the movie Awake.

13:40 How do you find a good teacher? Gurdjieff “The Work”.

19:20 Dealing with difficult students.

31:00 Breathing. Belly breathing.

37:00 Processing.

50:30 Accessing an “alternate operating system”.

53:40 Difficult feelings are the doorway into the alternate operating system.

56:25 Opening energy and emotional blocks in the body.

1:00:50 What is meditation? Tim Ferriss. Exercise as meditation and stress reduction tool.