As for many other men, my journey began as a frustration over lack of success with women.
I was in a curious situation: I had an enormous ego. I knew I was smart, and skilled, and had all kinds of things going for me. At the same time, I was completely oblivious to what I was doing wrong.
Some aspects were vaguely coming to the fore: I knew I was too shy. I knew I spent too little time actually going out to places where women were. I had started realizing how counter-productive some of my activities, such as chatting and looking for women online were.
The lure of online dating
This in itself was a hard realization for me, because the thing is, online / chat has a strong lure:
The problem is not that it does not give results, but that if you don't know exactly what you are doing, it takes an immense amount of effort. Men are dime a dozen on online dating sites or in chatrooms dedicated to meeting. So if you're really bad at this game, you might obsessively cut and paste a couple of hundred messages, and sooner or later you find someone who will be willing to date you (or sleep with you).
These are horrible odds, but easy to grap onto with desperation if you don't know how to meet women effectively "in real life"
The real world
15 years ago or so ago I made my first effort into going out more to meet women. I tried bars and clubs, with little luck: My next obstactle was painful shyness. With people I know, I can talk for hours. I can bare myself totally to strangers once the ice is broken. But even speaking up and saying "hi" to a stranger was horrifying to me.
I turned to alcohol. I didn't turn into an alcoholic - I've never liked drinking. But I did drink more than I otherwise would, with the classic hope of gaining some courage. I almost did.
Then I got lucky. I found a wonderful girl online (...). The end, right?
No. Just a delay for some years.
I, and this took me many years to admit, to an extent stuck with her the way I did because of my insecurities about women. I did genuinely fall in love with her. But I acted like a doormat in many ways, and compromised myself in ways I would never have done if I was not terrified of losing her.
Along the way I realized that she was also grasping onto me out of insecurities: She is a stunning woman, but so insecure about her appearance. My insecurities and weaknesses were crutches for her. Ways of explaining why I would stay with her. She used to fall asleep with her hands around my belly...
When I started losing it, incidentally, things started to change. Not because I lost weight directly, but because I gained confidence. And gaining confidence meant she got worried about whether I'd stay. At the same time my increased confidence caused me to do a number of stupid things, and some things I should have a long time ago.
For starters, I insisted I wanted to start going out to clubs again. Alone. My excuse - to her and to me - was that I did it to work on my shyness (why in the world at clubs? because I was still dealing with my insecurities: what I wanted was validation that I could pick up sexy women).
Eventually I cheated.
I felt a cold hard ball of fear when I got caught. I pleaded, begged, compromised myself further.
Then I started realizing just how pathetic I was acting, and started unraveling the threads.
Lights went on. I saw how I had used my relationship as an excuse for putting self improvement entirely aside: I had a beautiful woman. I didn't need to learn to make friends, or to learn to talk to people or to assert myself more socially. I had someone, so I needed to pay attention to her needs, never mind my career hopes, my dreams, the activities I used to enjoy but that she didn't.
The irony? She'd long understood these things better than me, and when I told her of my "findings" she lost even more respect for me: How could I not have seen?
We'd reached the breaking point: My confidence was improving and I finally saw what I needed to fix (and part of it was to not compromise myself with her), and her faith in me had been demolished because of the path that led me there, and at the same time she recognized that my improving self confidence made me act "like a jerk" to her - I did no longer always let her have things her way, as she had gotten used to.
I have no ill will towards her, and I accept that she has many valid reason to harbour ill will towards me. But in the end, I was happier than in many years: I had refound my core. Even though I had a lot of work ahead, it was work moving me in the right direction. It was work getting me back in alignment with my core values. It was facing my fears and insecurities head on instead of hiding.
Finding my masculine spirit
I am not religious. In fact, I'm a hardcore atheist. But I have gradually come to respect that there are a lot of spiritual ideas that are not tied to religion or any new age nonsense, and that are still incredibly important to understand to understand ourselves and grow.
A key part to me was the realisation that a lot of traditional values that I would for a long time reject have a lot of value: Even while we were together, my ex would get exasperated over how I was taking equality to extremes. I was unwilling to be "a gentleman" - giving her preferential treatment for being a woman was a foreign concept to me. That is not to say you should put her on a pedestal, but small gestures such as opening the door for her.
She would also get exasperated over my waffling. I would ask her what she wanted all the time, and rarely made decisions alone on behalf of the two of us. And while most women will want a joint decision on many things, decision-making is hard and tiresome, and many women crave the strength of an assertive man to take charge now and again. The key - the difference between a controlling or abusive partner and a great man, is whether or not you know when to take charge because you both will enjoy the interaction vs. when you will be trampling all over her (or tries to).
Learning to understand that a lot of aspects of traditional masculinity are actually massive turnons for a large proportion of women was a major thing for me. I had turned into a total pussy, and so has a lot of men becaus many of us, and man women, have misunderstood feminism and equality, and take it too far to the other extreme.
It's not even for a good cause: We don't do it for equality. We do it because it's a cop-out. Suddenly you don't have to make hard choices: Ask her what she wants instead. We don't have to take risks: Ask her what she wants. We stopped being men, and became emasculated boys.
How to learn to reawaken that masculinity without turning into a massive misogynist / sexist asshole is what I hope to achieve with this site.