“She was the stable one when I was always driven to be successful. Whenever people came to visit, they’d say: ‘Your wife loves you so much.’ But it never seemed that way. She wasn’t very affectionate. I did admire her though. I thought she was strong. And a great mum to our kids. She was president of the school committee, and all these rough, leathery men would hang on her every word. But she never brought the same passion to being a wife. Our one daily bonding experience was a cuddle, sex then sleep. There was a significant part of our life she took charge of. Nothing about the kids happened without her say so. What we missed as a couple we made up for as a family. Our friends really liked her. When it came to our divorce, most of our friends we’d shared for 15 years, went her way. Even some of my own family. I always thought I was more important than her. I earned the income, bought the houses. Paid for the costs. When I looked back on it I realised that I didn’t compliment her much. I was thankful but not complimentary. More I was probably critical. I bought that attitude home from work. Being critical makes allot of money. It’s called opportunism and entrepreneurism in work. But at home it’s ugly. I just didn’t realise that what I mastered in business, the opposite was needed for home. Where goals and opportunism were business genius, they were toxin at home. After the divorce I started to see what a great person she was. And I wondered why I couldn’t see it while we were together. It took a lot of soul searching but I came up with the answers. The first was that my business was running me, not me running my business so I felt small. Small people can’t give compliments, it’s ridiculous to be small and give a compliment because you just feel stupid. I was wallowing in smallness and so, no compliments came from me. The second main reason was fear. I thought that if I complimented her, she’d feel great, happy and aware of how amazing she was and I would not be good enough for her anymore. I hate repeating this here. I makes me squirm to admit it. We only put people down because we fear something. My Dad did it to me too. What I didn’t realise is that if you put somebody down long enough, that eventually they get up and leave. Putting people down drives them into their dark, and in their dark they find what they were looking for and leave. She left. Again, I’m really embarrassed to admit that this is who I was to another beautiful human. The final reason I couldn’t give a compliment is the worst. In Nepal, where I ran a trekking business as a sideline for 30 years, some of my friends thought that it was hilarious. It became a thing. I’m scared of ghosts. I believe in the supernatural and in the Himalayas, so do they. If you believe in good ghosts you must also believe in bad ones. I grew up loving super hero’s like superman and batman. These guys had superpowers. When I walked at night I could feel the presence of people. Most of us who grow up in the bush feel it. Anyways, I transcribed this ghost connection into superhero’s and one of them was a super wife. The last reason I found it hard to compliment the beautiful mother of my children was that I was always comparing her to a ghost. A superwoman wife. I know this is aweful but it wasn’t until long after the divorce that I woke up to it. I was sitting with ten strangers around steaming red hot rocks in a tiny sweat lodge in Canada. We were talking to the “spirits” the “grandfathers” – (rocks). A single prayer from the leader cut through me. His wife had died and he said that he wished she was alive again so he could make amends because he only half loved her before she died. He said he had a fantasy of who she was. He said he’d loved all the good things and hated all the bad. He said he only half loved her because he always wanted to change her. He wished she was alive and he would laugh and love all the bad things as much as the good. And I realised I spent my whole marriage comparing my wife to a fantasy, a superwoman, and therefore for me she always failed that. My expectations of who she could be blocked me from loving who she was. My expectations blocked my love. And therefore I couldn’t compliment her because there was always something not perfect. We broke up because we didn’t love each other anymore but really, I never fully embraced her. I just loved those parts of her that fitted my fantasy. I’m sure it’s a “syndrome” of some sort. What I know now is that there’s two sides to everything and everyone. Superman is vulnerable to kryptonite. All humans have every trait. Nothing is missing in anyone. Everyone has every quality. It means I can love. And with love comes the ability to compliment. If I can compliment I can love. If I can compliment others, I can compliment myself. That this is a big life view is obvious. It’s lonely knowing something like this. Knowing that you can love anyone. Knowing that nothing is missing in anyone. That expectations block love. It leaves me being the one who initiates. And it makes me aware of how important it is not to allow others to criticise us. My ex and I had a couple good years together before our divorce. We were starting to understand how good relationships work at the end. So the divorce hit me especially hard. My friends tried to tell me that I was better off without her. But that made no fucking sense. Because we were just starting to say no to criticism from each other and protect ourselves. When you stop criticising each other there’s nothing left but love. Automatically the fear of losing each other through compliments goes away. We started to feel like equals. Expectations gave way to love. We would choose to get divorced if we’d learnt all this without all the hurt. It’s weird but I had to loose my marriage in order to learn how to love my wife. I promised myself that one day I’m telling all this in a book. And the whole time I’m staring at this magnetic letter board with the word ‘LOVE’ written on it. And just as I’m talking about learning things the hard way, the ‘V’ falls off the board. LO-E stares at me. My ghosts have appeared to have a chat. I’m making a joke but I’ve noticed my reaction. Because I’m laughing, and thinking: ‘What does that mean?’”

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