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Confessions of a recovering 'stupid male'

How one man switched gears and hopes to help others do the same

Jen Weigel

Lessons for life

October 13, 2011

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Is it possible to transform from a self-centered, immature, angry man into a more open, loving, communicative husband? For Mike Love, the author of "Confessions of a Recovering Stupid Male: Creating Loving Relationships That Will Last a Lifetime" (Balboa Press), the answer is: "Yes. But sometimes it takes a while."

We talked with Love about his shift in perspective and his desire to help other couples who might be in crisis.

Q: Do you remember the moment when you decided you wanted to be more loving and stop with your selfish behavior?

A: Yes. My wife, Shelley, and I had gotten into a huge fight—we'd been married 18 years—and at first I was thinking, "I'm right and she's wrong." So I went to see the movie "Bruce Almighty" with my sons just to get out of the house and the movie really spoke to me. That whole idea that you don't know what you have until it's gone type of thing. And I realized I needed to make some changes and if I didn't I'd be alone for the rest of my life. But it took a long time for Shelley to trust and believe in me again. I had to make a lot of changes.

Q: This moment came after 18 years of marriage? What took you so long?

A: I was the type of guy who, once he made up his mind—that was it. I was very stubborn and got very angry real fast. I never ever physically hit my wife but there was verbal and emotional abuse. And I was part of the generation where if you asked for help, you were thought of as weak. But what I realize now is to be weak is actually to be strong. It takes a lot of courage to face those weaknesses and admit you are failing. Especially for men.

Q: What mistake do you think women continue to repeat in relationships?

A: They don't believe in themselves. The No. 1 reason why women stay in relationships (other than for financial reasons) is that they have low self-esteem. They believe they aren't powerful or that they aren't whole if they aren't with a man. A year ago the Dalai Lama said the fate of the planet rests on the Western woman. I found that on the Internet and it should've been on the front pages of the papers. Women don't realize how powerful they are or how much they matter, whether they're with or without a man.

Q: You have two sons, and you admit to having many fights in front of your children before your epiphany. Are you worried they might repeat some of this behavior in their relationships?

A: I have talked to my boys and my concern is that they will pass it on. The anger issues are something that I have and still have and I'm working on those. But from what I see now, my sons don't have the same kind of anger reactions that I do. When I was growing up, I didn't want to be like my father. He wasn't physically abusive but was verbally abusive, and so I failed in that respect. My father came from the generation where you sweep it under the carpet. You just can't do that anymore.

Q: Who changes more in a relationship—men or women?

A: In my experience women do. Fear prevents change in men. It's that fear of what people will think. But luckily I'm seeing more and more men who want to change and who are becoming more open.

Q: What advice would you give any woman out there who is dealing with someone who is afraid to change their ways?

A: I'd say, try to remember why you chose that person in the first place. Hopefully deep down you [chose them] because you found their attributes and their personality to be a foundation of what you want to build on. Shelley knew about some of the ugliness in me. We'd lived together for a year before we got married [more than 26 years ago] and she saw the good parts in me, and that's what has kept her hanging on. Had I not changed we would not be together today.

It starts with each of us. Do we need someone to complete us or do we believe in ourselves? It's not that you are nobody unless you have somebody. When you wake up in the morning, send your partner love and try to be humble. And once you get into a strong sense of self, then you can work together with your partner as allies.

jweigel@tribune.com

Twitter: @jenweigel