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How Men Learn From the Good and the Bad

I wouldn’t say my husband had a very happy childhood. Yes, he had all the trappings of a good life- nice home, good school; but he never felt accepted or loved.  His parents placed a high value on intellect, and wanted their children to be successful in business.  And, unfortunately, he just …wasn’t…that kind of person.

He was a biker and a musician. He wanted to be a General Contractor and build things with his hands.  But, they couldn’t accept any of that. They had a very specific life they wanted for their children- and since he didn’t fit with that, he really didn’t fit with them.

It’s probably why he was initially attracted to me- and my big Italian family that love everything about him.  As a matter of fact, at first it was hard for me to relate to his family relationships. Once when he visited home I asked if he had a nice time.  He responded. “Honey, they were discussing the impact of the Yen on the American economy. What do you think?” All I could think of was how glad I was to have missed it.

Still, by the time I met him in his 20’s he owned his home, his car, and multiple motorcycles. He’d traveled across the US. He was pretty successful for one so young.  And, he was the kind of man who married a woman with four children- because he loved her, and eventually loved them.  He may not have been what his parents wanted, but he was perfect for me.

And, I think in this family where he wasn’t appreciated, he learned more about what not to do. Here is what he says:

Lesson #1- Don’t wait for your rewards. From his Dad he learned not to leave life until later. Each year they took family vacations on the Jersey Shore.  Still, everything else his parent’s wanted to do was left “until we retire”. There was never a trip to Paris they promised themselves, or most of the adventures they wanted to have. Those things were saved until retirement- sometime in the future.  That was a good plan until his father died from Cancer at age 49. My Mother-in-law had to take those trips alone, missing him the whole time.  But I am grateful that their son learned that there is nothing to wait for- and I have been to Paris- twice.

Lesson #2- It takes More Than Just Wishing. From his Uncle he learned that you need to work hard to get what you want.  His Uncle lived for today- and only for today.  He blew their savings and lost their home to a stream of bad business ventures. He didn’t think of the future. Nor did he teach his children what to do- but he was fun, the kind of guy who took his sons to a strip club when they were 18.   But his life was one failure after another- always reaching for the brass ring and never having what it took to grab it.  He died with nothing, and that taught my husband to work hard if he wanted his dreams to come true.

Lesson #3- Don’t Stay Too Long at the Party.  From his cousin, another important man in his life, he learned not to hold on too long. An incredibly successful entrepreneur; his cousin owns many successful business ventures. But, he loved building his business so much that he just kept building.  Now he is over 70 and wants to stop working and enjoy retirement.  But, the economic downturn isn’t allowing him to. He’s a bit trapped.  So my husband has learned not to only think of the building of his business and his life, but to understand that you may not want all that challenge forever. And you have to be prepared to make changes.

As much as my husband loved each one of these men- he learned from their mistakes much more than he learned from their successes.  And, I am ever-grateful.  You see, my husband’s family didn’t think he was intellectual, but I know the truth.  He had to be pretty smart to figure this out.


  1. Ellen Dolgen

    Really great post! Your husband sounds like a pretty smart man after all.

    • Virginia


  2. Ginger Kay

    Intellect and wisdom are two very different things. I’m glad that your family appreciates your husband’s wisdom and his love for family and life.

    • Virginia

      You are so right Ginger! He has such common sense that I’ve always appreciated him.

  3. Dawn Biocca

    My husband was very scarred about my family. He was raised to hide feelings, don’t hug, etc. My family is a wild Italian family and we do all of that, so for him it was very uncomfortable to learn to do that. It really took the divorce of his parents for his mom to see that those things were needed in her life as well as her kids. Now we all hug and it is so wonderful to see him with his sister & nieces – hugging them. The men are still kinda stiff about it but the hand shake from him is easy and I can see the love passed from one to another. It is wonderful to see the growth in the men and women in both families and the love that is there.

    • Virginia

      It is amazing to see how we learn from each other. For my husband, he was grateful to find people who accepted him for just who he was. Nice to see that your husband has learned to express himself because of your family. Nice to see so much love. Virginia