Charlie: On the verge of my fortieth birthday, I was going strong and fulfilling my life vision.
When it was our turn to share, Linda almost immediately dissolved into a pool of tears and before I knew what was happening, the facilitator invited us both into the center of the circle. Then to put the icing on the cake, the group leader invited the men in the room who had been in my shoes, to describe their version of my scenario; to speak about what they had experienced when their day of reckoning finally came. My focus was so much on Linda’s experience and that of the children that I never saw how much I had missed in the process. I broke down like I never had before in my life and wailed like a baby, my sobs coming from a place deep within myself that I felt was bottomless. Two days later I gave notice at my job and we began the recovery process that would eventually help us all to heal from our collective and personal pain. It was a time of alternately and at times simultaneously experiencing deep sorrow and great joy.
Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. Last updated: 23 Dec 2013Views expressed are those solely of the writer and have not been reviewed. The Difference Between Sex and Love for Men The Life-Saving Power of Purpose Are You Sabotaging Your Brain? Mark: After the relationship I was in I read a lot about personality disorders so as to educate myself. The biggest  challenge for me, particularly in the early days of our relationship was deconstructing some of the less user-friendly beliefs that I had brought into married life, and creating a life that seemed unattainable from within the model that I had grown up with.
The greatest amount of support that I received in confronting this misguided belief came from Linda, who “co-incidentally” had some of the same blind spots and misconceptions that I did. Over the years, it’s become increasingly clear to me  that my responsibility to provide for my own well-being is as important as my responsibility to others. Last updated: 3 Feb 2014Views expressed are those solely of the writer and have not been reviewed. 10 Timeless Guidelines for a Happier RelationshipRelationships are under a lot of pressure these days and I want to help.
I had a loving marriage, three beautiful children, a large comfortable home, a good income, and work that I loved. I said these things not just because I believed them (although I certainly did), but also to take the edge off of her suffering so that she could do her job more effectively and stop complaining to me. In a final effort to save our marriage, Linda had arranged for us to attend a couples’ retreat. One by one they spoke, many through tears, of how fortunate I was to be in a position to salvage my marriage and family before it was too late. It felt like I was experiencing years of denied losses at the same time; years of denied loss, condensed into one very long moment that felt like it would never end.
Our wounds contain the seeds of our healing and are ultimately our greatest source of strength. The process turned out to be quite a bit more demanding than I had anticipated it would be.

She helped me to see that I didn’t have to become a martyr and sacrifice my own happiness in order to make our marriage work.
I have come to understand that the quality of my life experience is no less important than the quality of anyone else’s and that if I don’t take care of business in my won life, one way or another, I will inevitably burden others with the obligation to carry that responsibility.
The desire for love, attention, security, pleasure, companionship, as well as distraction from unpleasant feelings or thoughts are some of the things that compel us into partnership. I was on the fast track to success, leading personal growth seminars all over the country and enjoying the good life. I also helped out a bit when I was home, with some of the domestic responsibilities and did some child care in the hopes that these contributions would make a difference.
They spoke of the visits with their children, of how different it was than when they were living together, of how they wish they had known then, what they had to learn the hard way, and if they did, they probably wouldn’t have gotten divorced. I cried for the countless others who like so many of the men in this room share this experience.
The loss of my income, ego gratification and my sense of personal identity were the inevitable costs of finding and reclaiming my integrity. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. In the shadow of my independent, commitment-aversive self, was the side of me that craved connection, affection, and (let’s be honest) regular sex. I am however, pleased to say that overall, things are turning out to have met or exceeded  the hope and expectations that I started with.  I’ve succeeded in proving myself wrong in many of the beliefs that I had inherited from my family going and their families before them.
It is my job, not Linda’s or anyone else’s, to see to it that my needs are met and that I experience fulfillment in my life.
When we no longer hold our partner responsible for the fulfillment of our needs, everything changes. The thrill of the attention of being in the spotlight and the excitement and stimulation of the training room made the days and sometimes weeks at a time that I was away from home seem worthwhile. I wanted to be anywhere else in the world than in the middle of a circle of people who would soon be witnessing the pain, anger, and shame that we had been dancing around for God knows how long. Somehow I knew that the truth from which I had been distracting myself and denying would be overwhelming if I really let it in.
They spoke of how empty the pursuit of success and wealth is compared to the experience of living with a loving partner in a loving family.
It was too late to watch our daughter take her first steps, too late to comfort our son when he fell off his skateboard and knocked his tooth out; too late to hold my younger son when nightmares woke him in the middle of the night. I saw how disconnected I’d been from the people I said I loved more than life itself. Letting go of my false self enabled me to find the peace I craved, free from the compulsive need to prove my value as a man through my work.
They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well.
Breaking a chain of beliefs that has been held and reinforced for generations has proven to be a formidable challenge, and although I can’t say that “I did it”, I can say that I am doing it and that I’m delighted to find myself guilty of being wrong about my belief that someone else’s happiness is more important than my own and that it’s selfish or uncaring to be happy when a loved one isn’t feeling so great.
This has probably been the most valuable lesson I’ve ever learned, and one that I keep re-learning at deeper levels.

This is easier said than done, but it is perhaps the single most important thing we can do to insure that our relationship will be mutually satisfying. I told myself that I was one of the fortunate few who had the opportunity to do this cutting edge work and that of course, certain sacrifices did have to be made. Most of the twenty couples at the retreat were in varying degrees of pain and there was what felt like a great deal of uneasiness and awkwardness as we all milled around the first night waiting for things to get started. In a last ditch effort to keep her words out of my awareness I made a feeble attempt to rationalize my position, defending myself and justifying my actions, even though I heard the hollowness in my own voice as the words came out.
I had known these things on an intellectual level, I had been teaching these values for years, yet somehow hearing these men share their stories was like hearing it for the first time.
All this time I had been struggling to make Linda OK with a situation that wasn’t working for her.
I saw that their complaints, their rebelliousness, their non-compliance, their arguing with us and each other were all cries of pain, cries for help, cries from their unmet needs that had gone unattended. Given my beliefs, it’s not surprising that my feelings were somewhat mixed when we I tied the knot. I began to see her as a whining child who was refusing to grow up and accept responsibility without complaining. The facilitator heard my defensiveness and gently, slowly, restated Linda’s words looking straight into my eyes with what felt to me like deep strength and incredible compassion.
I had justified everything to myself with the rationalization that I was doing my part by building my career and providing income for the family. I was able to put things into a perspective that enabled me to recognize the cultural, social, and institutional factors that contribute to the dysfunction that showed up at home and in the workplace.
She would all-too frequently tell me what it was like for her and the kids with me on the road so much of the time.
Stripped of the protection of my facilitator role, I felt vulnerable and exposed, unprotected. Looking into my eyes, as though we were the only people in the room, she spoke of her loneliness, of her fear that we might not make it, her concern that the kids weren’t getting the time that they needed with me, and the exhaustion that she was beginning to feel crushed by. And of course there was just enough truth in that justification for me to buy it and to sell it to others.
That awareness diminished my feelings of shame and enabled me to take responsibility for doing the work I needed to do without taking it all too personally.
In the opening session I felt apprehensive, almost panicky, anticipating what I knew I couldn’t control. The walls I had so carefully constructed were beginning to crumble and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
The problem was there was another huge truth to the equation that I was not including, and that was the cost of the so-called benefits.

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