Last night, like most nights, my daughter broke down crying. It was time for my wife to put my son to bed, which meant “mama” — the person she loved most in the world — was once again going to leave her.
My daughter is a nearly 2 and a half, and this sort of drama is par for the course. It doesn’t matter that “mama” comes down 30 minutes or so later. When the separation happens, it hurts her. And there is nobody else who can quite fill the void.
But what troubled me was why my daughter seemed to have a particular aversion towards me of late. “No dada!” she cried. If she couldn’t have “mama,” she at least wanted “mum-mum” (my mother). “Why not Dada? Dada loves you too,” I protested. “I’ve barely spent time with you today.” She didn’t care. “No dada, no dada!” she wailed.
I admit it hurt. My impulse was to throw up my hands and leave her to my mother. She is after all at “that age” where moods come like gusts of breeze on a windy day. I can’t do anything about her feelings, and I shouldn’t take them personally.
But then again, if it “wasn’t personal” to me, then why was I leaving? Did I really believe that my daughter didn’t love me? I’m a very involved father, and she only seems this way in the evenings. It didn’t make any sense.
I returned to the room where she was crying. In spite of her complaints about me being there, I stayed. I cuddled her, and continued to remind her that I loved her too. And then it occurred to me: was she upset that I was there, or was she upset I had been away working the whole day and had been gone? Was she pushing me away because she didn’t want me, or because she missed me so much — she was just angry with me for leaving?
Finally she started to quiet down. I asked her. “Are you upset dada wasn’t with you all day?”
“Mhm.” She murmured, as she nestled in my armpit.
“Dada is sorry, Dada has to work during the day. It’s not because I don’t love you or want to spend time with you. Do you want to go for a walk with Dada now?”
“Mhm,” she said, as she cozied up even closer to me. As the sun set and the birds sang their quiet goodnights, I carried her out the door on a familiar trip around the block.
I shouldn’t be surprised at my daughter’s demeanor, nor my initial reaction towards her. She is just like her mother: pure fire. When she feels bad about herself, she gets angry, and her negative feelings get projected onto me.
And because my wound is inadequacy, I internalize that anger as a rejection of my own value. Like a hurt little boy, I get defensive. “How dare she accuse me of this! I’m great!”
Maybe so. But if I really felt that way inside, I wouldn’t feel the need to react to her attacks. I certainly wouldn’t storm off and freeze her out; to make her feel unworthy of my love and presence, and force her to chase my attention (I won’t come back unless you validate me). I wouldn’t retaliate; I would rise above.
It’s taken me years to break this pattern. It’s taken me years to learn to stay. To stay no matter the pain or fear of rejection I was feeling. To feel her pain and ire, and lean into it rather than lean out. To hear her agony and connect with her through it, rather than make her feel like even more of a failure — unlovable — for having it.
As evidenced in the story with my daughter, the triggers are still there. Sometimes this pattern still rears its ugly head. But it hides in the open now; naked and noticed, and lacks the potency it once had. By staying I saw it, and by staying I weakened it. And in doing so I healed not only my wife, but myself.
The manosphere talks often about the unique delusion of “female solipsism.” But in these past 8 years working with nearly 300 clients — and of course, observing myself and the broader community — I’ve come to find the male ego is quite impressive at self-deception in its own right.
What most men call “seeking liberation” or “not wanting to be tied down” is really nothing more than avoiding pain. The wounded masculine is a vagrant, meandering through the wilderness, jumping from place to place and woman to woman. He runs all over, searching for himself everywhere except in the mirror.
Commitment is that mirror. Commitment forms the crucible that forces you to face yourself. Men who tell you to avoid commitment are telling you to avoid your demons.
And the paradox is that until you face your demons, you will never be free.
This is not an exhortation to commit to any woman. This is not even a call to commit forever. The point is simply that most men avoid and break commitment not out wisdom and alignment, but out of weakness and cowardice.
They are afraid of death — the death of ego that only a woman can provide.
I am not here to save you from this death. On the contrary, I am death’s servant. I guide you to her, so she can skin you to the bone.
And so that you can be born renewed.
Do not come to me with frustrations you are afraid of facing. The only solution to your pain is more pain. Your bones are broken; they need to be set straight.
It may be the scariest, most excruciating decision of your life.
But instead of being crippled, you will finally walk.
Apply here: www.patstedman.com/application
UPDATE: We have raised 70k of my 180k in January 6th legal fees to date. Given that we are 2 weeks in, I am truly blown away by the support.
Please consider donating to my legal defense fund if you haven’t already. I will remember every person who was there for me during this own crucible I am facing.
Zelle: [email protected]
If you would like to contribute in a different way, please DM me. I accept bank wires and “shit coins” as well.