Warning Signs and Marriage Lessons from “A Terrible Husband”
About a month ago, a very kind woman on Facebook was offering up Boston Red Sox tickets for that night’s game. She said that her friend couldn’t go and wanted to pass them along to someone who would enjoy the game. I quickly wrote her to say that my brother would love to use the tickets and soon, her friend forwarded them to me. His email address had the domain @aterriblehusband.com. I raised an eyebrow, “What’s that about?” I thought to myself. Curious to learn more, I googled “aterriblehusband.com” and there I found Nick Pavlidis, the self-proclaimed “Terrible Husband.”
I was blown away by Nick’s honesty and his mission to help others improve and become personally accountable for their marriages. I knew right away that he would be able to offer the Love Notery community some helpful advice through his story and own experiences. What’s more, Nick’s new book “Confessions of a Terrible Husband: Lessons Learned from a Lumpy Couch” is going on sale this month!
I wrote him back to thank him for the Red Sox tickets and asked if he would speak with me about being a "terrible husband from a lumpy couch" and he agreed. Below is an excerpt of our conversation.
Kristen: What are your top “terrible husband” regrets?
Nick: Having my priorities completely flipped the wrong way. I had great intentions. I spent the first 15 years of my adult life chasing money so my family would be financially secure, which would then lead to a happy house, so I thought. But it’s really the other way around. There’s only so much money you need, only so much time you have and each phase of your family life only lasts so long. We have kids and those moments as they’re growing up come and go so fast. I spent too much time in the office and didn’t set proper boundaries to be able to separate work from home time. Now that I have been more focused and committed to setting these boundaries and changing my work life, I can do just as much at the office without spending as much time there. Prioritizing my family life over work is something I’ve learned can be done without much commitment.
Second, I was really lazy. If I came home and sat down, that was it, I was done. I would come home from work and be selfish and have “me” time instead of family time. That caused me to be really disconnected from my family. I was committed to my work with good intentions, but when I came home, I didn’t pay much attention to my family. For me, it was a lot of those bad habits that added up. There was always an excuse about why I couldn’t do something and when I became more intentional with my family, I noticed I was able to create more time for them and keep my work stable as well.
Kristen: How did you become aware that there was a problem with your marriage?
Nick: I was in Nashville, Tennessee for a coaching conference in May 2013. I wanted to learn more coaching techniques to supplement my legal practice so I could connect differently with my clients as well as improve my mentoring skills with the younger lawyers in my practice. I was sitting in the conference, learning a lot about coaching as expected, but what I didn’t expect was to see how Dan and Joanne Miller, the conference keynotes, interacted after 45 years of marriage. They were so loving, patient and kind. It was the exact opposite of my marriage. There was a lot of contempt in my marriage. Following the conference, I couldn’t get them off my mind, which left me wondering, “Why do they seem so much happier than I am?” And that’s when I started exploring what I saw them doing versus what my life was like and why.
Kristen: Why write this book?
Nick: There was a lot I felt I needed to get off my chest. Initially, I started writing to look inward and ask myself questions like,“ How could I improve as a husband?” After a while, my journal felt like it could be organized into a book and I thought I could help others go through the process of improving as a husband while I was also learning from my mistakes.
Kristen: What lessons can you share with couples who will encounter ups and downs in their marriages?
Nick: Assume the best of your spouse. I had a tendency of trying to get in my wife’s head when we were in a disagreement and it was never positive. I had to flip my thinking and realize that in fact, she is the person who has committed to be with me for the rest of our lives. In my experience, making that mental switch that my wife has my best intentions at heart has helped us resolve many issues either completely or helped us pave a calmer way forward.
Second, pause and reflect openly about yourself. Either write or think about things that you appreciate about your spouse and your marriage and why you want to do the things that you want to do. Then, examine how to get to your goals.
Third, I once heard someone say, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” This couldn’t be more true. The people who you hang out with are a great influence on your life. If you want a positive marriage, be intentional about those you spend time with.
Kristen: What are some common reasons for failed relationships?
Nick: While I was writing the book, I spent a lot of time at 5 a.m. at McDonalds interviewing older couples. I’d ask them if they were married. If they said yes, then I’d ask the length of time they had been married and about their secrets for a long-lasting marriage. The general theme across all these couples was “be loving.”
Some of the strongest and longest marriages of couples I’ve interviewed have all sought counseling off and on if they need a reboot or have issues they need to deal with. People in successful marriages know to work on their relationship and get help when it’s needed. Just like executives have business coaches, relationships need help as well. I’ve personally always gotten help from others who know what I want to know so why would the most important part of your life — your relationship — be different?
My Two Cents
It’s not often that you encounter people who are comfortable being so open about something so private. Unfortunately, there is a stigma related to “seeking out help,” but Nick’s point is well-taken. You go to a doctor to keep your health in check and the same respect should be given to our relationships. Nick said something so brilliantly during our conversation. He said, “There’s a real ego attached to having a strong marriage and [many people] think if they go to counseling they’re going from a state of failure.” If we change our perspective on what it means to work on our relationships, then perhaps there wouldn’t be the stigma that exists today.
Recently, I got into a Twitter conversation with Dr. Logan Levkoff of Married at First Sight and others about the fundamental question, “What is marriage?” Here’s a snippet of that debate:
This is marriage...good times, bad but all are apart of a healthy relationship...fairy-tales are written by authors. #MarriedAtFirstSight
@LoveNotery @MikelAWalkerSr I think we need to redefine fairytale. They may wind up being one, but they're not without bumps along the road.
@LoveNotery @LoganLevkoff I don't like to use that word loosely. When people hear the word fairy-tale in my opinion they think perfection.
@MikelAWalkerSr, good point! fairytale does indicate perfection and that is not realistic. @LoganLevkoff #redefinefairytale
I’m calling the Love Notery community to engage in this conversation. Use the hashtag #redefinefairytale on Twitter and let's start a public conversation to define what relationships really are all about -- ups and downs, compromise, prioritizing to name a few. Time to get real!
I’ll see you there!