I’m separated from my wife. We have a 2- and 5-year-old. I lost my job several months ago. Before that, I stopped short of completing my dissertation because of the job market. I had intended to teach at the college level but the prospects were looking bleak. My wife had never supported my Ph.D. work. Since losing my job, there has been increased tension between us. I have been considering moving back near my parents, several states away, and getting a job in the local industry, just to get away from all of this. Not sure where to go from here. Thanks for your input.
Is this what you do when the going gets tough? You split? Now, in the past, running away might not have had a tremendous impact on anyone but you…maybe a girlfriend or two. But your past is ancient history. You have a wife and two small children. Maybe it’s time for you to replace your old strategy of cut and run with a new one. Let’s call it, honoring one’s N.U.T.s
N.U.T.s are non-negotiable, unalterable terms. These are what a man is committed to, what defines him as a man. If these are compromised, a man tends to become angry, resentful, depressed, sad, or numb. He might want to quit. Ringing any bells?
That’s why it’s vital to maintain a firm grasp of our N.U.T.s. We can’t expect anyone else to hold on to them for us. No one else can or should be responsible for you being the man you want to be. That’s your job. And sometimes it’s a tough job. But it’s still yours. We need to help you to recommit to your job, holding on to your N.U.T.s.
But first we need to identify them. Allow me to offer a few N.U.T.s for your consideration: 1. My children come first. 2. I hold a doctorate. 3. I teach college students. 4. I am the husband I want to be. 5. Quitting is not an option. 6. I have men in my life.
If your children come first, that means, first and foremost, you are a present and positive force in their lives. You keep them safe and healthy. You offer them a daily example of how a strong, loving man behaves in this world. You can’t do this if you’re gone.
It sounds as if you quit on your dream when you walked away from completing your dissertation. It also sounds as if you blame your wife for her lack of support. It’s your dream. You’ll feel so much more powerful if you recommit to it and see it through. It’ll remind you that it’s never too late to honor your N.U.T.s, to follow through on a dream, or to be fully responsible for becoming the man you want to be.
If teaching college students is what you truly want to do, what have you done lately to explore the possibilities? I know that unemployment is over 9% and our economy is in the toilet. But there will always be students, the need for teachers, and men out there who are successfully reinventing themselves.
Perhaps your marriage has never been quite what you’ve wanted it to be. But I suspect that you have not been quite the man you’ve wanted to be, either. I wonder what would happen if you recommitted to your marriage, just as you’re now being encouraged to recommit to your kids and your dreams.
One of the BetterMen tenets is that quitting is not an option. If you could own this as one of your N.U.T.s, you’d be committed to being in the solution, not in the problem, as you face your challenges. If this were one of your guiding principles, you wouldn’t be entertaining a road trip to your parents’ home.
Another fundamental BetterMen truth is that we need to have men in our lives. We need to build trusting relationships so we have the support when we want to quit, to run, to escape. We weren’t meant to do it all alone. Let other men teach you and guide you, and offer them the wisdom of your experiences. No matter how lost we may feel from time to time, we all have wisdom to offer that can benefit another man. Go find some good men!
Are you ready to turn away from your cut and run tendencies, and turn towards your new non-negotiable, unalterable terms? If you’re willing to commit to being the best man, husband and father you can be, you will be amazed at what you can achieve.
Got a relationship question for Wayne? Email him @: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wayne M. Levine, M.A., mentors men to be better men, husbands and fathers. See how you can become a better man at www.BetterMen.org.