What’s it like to start living single—and live remarkably—after a divorce? In this episode, Peter McGraw introduces Kevin Nalty, a divorced man, to Mark Ferne, who helps divorced men and women “get back in the game.” Mark uses his Box of Rocks intake process as a starting point to help Kevin think about his transition. The conversation is uplifting and fun, especially when they talk about physical makeovers.
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Listen to Episode #42 here:
Kevin 2.0 – A Divorced Man Learns To Live Remarkably
This episode brings together a nearly divorced man, Kevin Nalty and a friend, Mark Ferne who has a business that helps divorced men and women, but mostly men get back in the game. Mark uses his box of rocks intake process as a starting point to help Kevin. The conversation is a lot of fun, especially when we talk about physical makeovers, as well as a bit uplifting as we see Kevin’s enthusiasm about pursuing the advice he’s received. For example, Kevin texted to tell me he had gotten back on the treadmill. A quick announcement, I’ve launched a Solo message board on the Solo page of PeterMcGraw.org. Go there and sign up if you want to talk about this episode or anything else Solo related. I’m happy to say that Solo has a sponsor, Wrapture Masks. It’s a fully machine washable antimicrobial mask. Use the promo code, Wrapture Solo, at WraptureMasks.com to get your Solo discount. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Our first guest is Kevin Nalty. Kevin is a marketer, author and YouTube creator who has four children and lives in Pennsylvania. He’s one of the early YouTube webleberties with more than 1,000 videos, seen more than 250 million times. Known as Nalts on YouTube, his videos include pranks, blogs and short comedies. He’s the author of the book, Beyond Viral, and he has written plays and enacted in many. By day, he works for an agency as a VP of Strategy where he helps pharmaceutical brands connect with doctors and patients. Welcome, Kevin.
Thank you, Peter. It is great to be here.
We’re joined by Mark Ferne. Mark is not only one of my closest friends, but he is also a relationship whisperer. Holding a Master’s degree in Counseling and Administration from the University of Maryland, he’s been helping people move past divorce and relationship breakups for almost a decade. At age 35, Mark was one of the first of his friends and mind and the first-ever in his family to get divorced. He quickly realized how little support there was for newly single guys and now works with men and women across the country to get back in the game. With this new partner, he was a guest on episode 29 of I’m Not Joking. That was titled Mark and Steph’s Calendar of Fun. Welcome, Mark.
Thank you. Is it still the most listened to I’m Not Joking episode?
No, Anthony Jeselnik has surpassed you. Kevin, we’re here to help. First of all, can you tell the crowd how we got to know each other and why? Also talk a little bit about where you are, how you got here and how we can help you get back in the game?
I met you because I stalked you. Having read a Fast Company article and being intrigued by the notion of academia and humor meeting. I thought I’ve got to get myself to one of your conferences. The way I figured I could do that is if I offered to give my own presentation, diagnosing the top 100 YouTube videos. It’s fun to be back in touch in a different type of discussion.
That was many years ago.
Back when I was famous.
Kevin, I’ve always called him Nalts because I got to know him through his YouTube celebrity status. He drove from Pennsylvania to Boston on a whim. Part of it was we met at a humor conference, which is one of the dullest affairs you can ever go to.
Not for me. I was intrigued.
You responded to a call on Twitter, where I was looking for a newly or nearly divorced man looking to get back in the game, based upon a conversation that Mark and I were having about his business. I was looking for a reason to get Mark on the show because I know he’s going to promote the hell out of this thing. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about your non-celebrity status, your personal status and how you got here?
I was married in ‘96 and I have four wonderful kids. One is in high school and three are in college. I was separated at the end of 2018. We’re still going through the whole divorce process. I wouldn’t wish that upon an enemy, but I suppose it’s been better than I expected.
What’s going well and what’s not going well? If you could summarize those things.
I get lost in my own head, but I don’t kick the wide shot. What’s going well, fortunately, is that the kids are adjusting well as somebody can go in through a traumatic event like this. I’m blessed for that. For the most part, my relationship with my ex is fairly simple, especially when it comes to the kids. We talk frequently to make sure we’re doing whatever we can in their best interest. While I’m not thrilled about all the nuances and legalities of divorce, that’s not the funniest thing I’ve experienced. I probably expected it to be even worse and according to my therapist, I appear to have come a long way in years since the separation.
You and I are nearly the same age. We grew up and our first experience with divorce, if our parents didn’t get a divorce was watching Kramer vs. Kramer. It was like, “It’s horrible.” My second experience was my parents and my third experience was Mark’s divorce. Two out of three were terrible. Mark, how about you? Tell us a little bit more about yourself, your philosophy and then I would like you to take Kevin through a short version of your intake.
You did a good introduction. I wasn’t caught completely off guard, but once the reality set in that I was going to go through that divorce, I struggled with what the right way to handle everything would be like, when do you date again? How do you let people know both your family, your friends? How do you get support? Who do you confide in? I was lost. I did some googling. I certainly got into therapy. I was glad to hear that you said that, but as I chatted more with Pete and with other friends, unless you go through it, sometimes it’s hard to empathize in the ways that you need that empathy when you’re struggling with a divorce. You’re a good friend.
I wasn’t that happy.
What led me to this line of work is that after I went through that, and just like life happens, I would have more friends. They would end up going through a divorce, separation, or a difficult relationship. It’s not just marriage, divorce, but even a long-term breakup can be traumatic. You need some support through that. I found myself reaching out to them, grabbing a beer, walking them through, having a listening ear, and throwing ideas, making sure they had the right supports. Those types of things. That’s how I got into this work. My graduate work was mainly in higher education administration, but I had a concentration in counseling back in my graduate degree.
I was working at a counseling center there at the University of Maryland. For the last years, my day job also has to do with student affairs work. Working with 18 to 30-year-olds on all sorts of issues. A lot of time was spent chatting and not surprisingly, a lot of their issues had to do with relationships. That’s my background. We’re doing this a little off-kilter to make it for a good episode but normally, I would have sent someone like a worksheet. They would be thinking about these things before we would ever meet either virtually or in-person to have some answers to reflect on what they’ve gone through. There are five big rocks that I usually do.
There’s a critical thing that we want to address, which is what you’re describing your business is a much-needed offering in the marketplace. What I would like the two of you to address is, what are the resources for people getting divorced, especially men who are getting divorced? I’ll tell you my limited searching, as I was thinking about Solo and doing this competitive analysis. I did look at divorce and I found there were lots and lots of stuff for women such as support groups, books and so on. I noticed how little there were for men. I’m curious in both of your experiences, we know nothing better than Mark, but what else is out there besides Mark?
I can speak to that at least from my perspective. I gravitate it quickly to other people who had experienced divorce and a few of them told me like, “Pay this forward. There’s a divorce club.” I was gracious that they offered counsel. I went for a short period in one of those religious divorce clubs and that was a nightmare. There were a few people in there. They were taking it for the fourth year. One day, I showed up and half of the people were not attending. In fact, even the teacher was not there. There was a substitute. The class, unbeknownst to me, that topic was all about how religion, the Christian Church shuns divorcees.
I sat through that for a little while. That was the last one I attended. That’s the last thing I heard. My parents were deeply faithful with a wonderful marriage. I’ve got a brother who’s a priest. My dad was a deacon. I didn’t need to be reminded that this was inconsistent with my own value system and spiritual holding. I then listened to podcasts. I probably got a dozen books, some of which I kept, some of which I’ve thrown away. A lot of them are around tough guys, making sure they don’t get screwed in a divorce economically.
Men’s rights type of stuff.
It was a little hack and that sort of thing, and a lot of fear-mongering. The podcasts that resonated with me were indeed women. After a while of listening to those things, I was like eating candy corn. They’re tasty for a little while and then you don’t want to ever see another candy corn for a while. I got to the point where I wasn’t feeling like that was good. I realized, “I’m not alone. There are other people. Here are the topics I need to be thinking about,” but after a while, I got tired of thinking and talking about divorce.
That’s helpful. My experience was somewhat similar. This was many years ago so podcasts weren’t a thing. You can find things but I’m not sure how good they are. It’s like your experience with the faith-based men’s group, there are all those types of organizations, for better or for worse. I was chatting with my significant other about this. Sometimes I think, “What do I bring that’s unique? What sets me apart from others?” She’s a marine biologist. She’s a superstar. She’s at the top of the list regardless. There’s a perspective check about what I bring probably may not be completely in line with what you have seen on websites or other things. I do it in the sense of this empathic ethic of care that says, “I’ve been through this. I think I have some insights and can shed some light on your situation on how do we get you back in the game, how do we build your confidence because that’s a huge issue, and how do we tighten things up for you.”
I described myself and the work I do in this field not so much like, “I’m not going to be a great person for a 22-year-old who wants to have sex more frequently with strangers. I’m also not going to be helpful for someone who has never had 2 or 3 dates in a row with the same person.” I’m here for someone who’s been out of the game, who is in their mid-20s, mid-30s, mid-40s, 50s, who hasn’t dated in years like yourself and say, “What can we do about these five starting blocks? What are some insights that I can provide to get you out there with confidence and figure out what your next move is? Is that another life partner? Is that someone you dated for a few years? Is that a place that you can walk into a room with confidence, feel good about yourself, and what you’re bringing to a conversation?”
Let’s get to those five things and I’m going to add something to Mark because he’s not completely modest, but he’s being modest. The thing that Mark does well, is he has the full range of masculinity. Mark has that confidence, assertiveness, that we often identify as a classical male figure, but then he also has the balance of easygoingness, sensitivity, empathy, and that he can push and pull those levers as needed, depending on who his clients are. I see this because of the way he does this with his friends from playing golf, doing prop bets and doing March Madness trips, he’s the number one call when things go wrong in that sense.
Here are the quick five things that I would say to think about and I’m going to resay them and then we’re going to come back to them individually. You can give us a brief synopsis of how you’re feeling, Kevin, if that’s okay.
You call them rocks, which is good marketing speak, so Mark’s Rocks.
The first one is how you’re doing physically on the inside like exercise, routine, health, eating habits, drinking, drugs, self-medication. What people can’t often see and what’s going in? The next one is physically outside like appearance, face, clothing, hair, attitude, how you enter a room? The third one that I focus on would be social like, how are things with your support system, family, and friends, hobbies, taking trips, vacation events, how do you gain that social wherewithal? Do you have that in your support circle? The fourth is emotional. You’ve already mentioned seeing a therapist, which you’ve already checked a big box that many people, especially as I work with men, are a bit reluctant for whatever reason to do that. How are you feeling? Who are your close, trusted advisors?
As Pete said, I’m a person that people call in our friend group. Do you have that person you can lean on and you talk to? The last one is just the logistics big rock as far as where are you with finalizing the paperwork? Where are you with figuring out how you co-parent in a divorce setting? Where are you professionally with your career and your job? Those are the five things that I normally would pass out or email to a client in a workshop so they can be thinking and reflecting on these aspects before they even set foot on a Zoom call or in my office. Pete, I don’t know if we’re going to dig into Kevin and unravel all of his layers of the onion or what you envisioned for this episode.
If we’re out of time, we can skip the first rock about physical because I’ll just say disaster and we can move on.
Here’s what I think we should do. We should try to touch on all of these, but when you hear that list, Kevin, is there a particular rock where you feel like we should focus a little bit more on?
I think the social aspect, but I also recognize the physical and internal state.
Kevin, the readers aren’t going to be able to see you, but we can see each other. You look okay. You don’t look like you’re a disaster so I wonder when you said, “Physically, I’m a disaster,” were you talking about the inside or the outside?
[bctt tweet=”Failed marriages are the ones where people are still married to each other and are miserable.” username=””]
They overlap a lot but I see the distinction you’ve got between, “How am I taking care of my body versus the attitude I project?” I think of them as interlinked to the point where if you’re not good inside, you’re not going to project well. The interesting thing is I would have expected that I would be healthier than ever. That seems to be the archetype you have where you get with these divorced people. It’s been hard. I was in great shape years ago, but now I am dragging. Maybe part of that is COVID, but I can’t excuse it entirely that way. That’s probably one of the areas I’m most concerned about. In the other areas, at least I’ve got a plan or I’ve made some progress.
Pete talks about this on his show that once you hit a 45, 50, 40, what was your threshold of some break tipping point, Pete? Was it 22 when your muscle mass starting to die?
At the age of 40, men start losing 1% of their muscle mass every year. It’s slow but you think about after ten years, you’ve lost 10% of your muscle mass. If your weight has changed or stayed the same, it means you’ve gained 10 pounds of fat after 20 or 30 years. The big thing is as you get older, not having muscle mass is a real problem for the elderly because it protects you. You’re less likely to fall when you’re stronger. When you fall, you’re more protected. Let’s be honest, if you’re getting back in the game and if you’re interested in dating again, you’re going to have to get naked with new people. It’s important to be excited about how you feel and look with new partners. I don’t want to assume that you, Kevin, or anyone that this is about trying to partner someone up again. You can do whatever you want with that thing, but the idea is that these rocks are important regardless of whether you ever want to get married again. Whether you want to date seriously again because these are fundamental things for living a remarkable life.
You mentioned that you separated in December or November of 2018. I know separation comes with lots of definitions and there’s sometimes back and forth, getting back together and breaking up and all of that. It’s not always a clear line or a delineation between the separation and the divorce and paperwork takes a long time. If we were spending more time together, we would probably dive into that a bit deeper because where people are with coming, if you want to reference the five stages of grief, we can do those types of things. I think it’s important for the readers to think about you said that people sometimes like to get back in shape and suddenly turn into rock stars athletically when they go through this breakup. That’s true, but that does not always happen.
It’s a bifurcation. You get some people who double down and get back into shape and all of a sudden, then you have a bunch of people who drink a lot and eat crappy food in part because they have all these new habits. They move into a new apartment. For some men, they don’t cook and now they’re ordering in. For some men, you have that bottle of whiskey, it’s right there and it’s tempting at the end of the night.
You don’t have the accountability to a spouse where you can start slipping into habits and somebody is not going to slap your head.
You also mentioned the social piece and support. You mentioned kids. As I’ve chatted with clients in the past, now that they have gone beyond and have gotten back into the game and some remarried, they will turn back and say, “I was leaning on my kids emotionally more than I should have.” I think there needs to be a clear delineation in between. This is why I put social and emotional neck close to each other, but clearly separated because your kids and even your friends, there’s a reason why you pay a therapist. When you pay a therapist, you can go in, dump, and say whatever you want to say and they’re going to listen. You walk out that room and they shut the door and that relationship doesn’t go beyond that hour for the most part. When you dump on your friend or even worse on your child, it can have some damage.
You’re putting a burden on them when they’ve already got their own. Early on, I remember thinking, I don’t want to hold back. I want them to see that this is hard, but at the same time, you can’t make them your therapist. I’ve seen that happen to other people. It’s sad.
We need to get a little bit deeper. We’re being a little bit superficial here. You talked about the physical stuff, the inside and the outside stuff. What’s going on? Where are the problem points?
I’ve always busy with the kids, the career, and everything else. I’ve got a job where I’m remote, even before COVID. I’m not commuting regularly. I don’t have that pattern of behavior. The first year was dark. A lot of nights I just sit on the couch drinking and barely moving. I’m in a new townhouse where the kids are here as often as they’re not so that helps a lot. I think I’m doing better on the social-emotional, but something’s been holding me back in terms of getting good sleep, hygiene, not drinking and eating better. I’m trying to unpack that.
Some bad habits to break.
Yes, because you’re by yourself. Sometimes you were like, “Is it drinking alone if I’m on a Zoom?”
They would define that differently. I don’t think you are drinking alone if you drink on a Zoom. Those are difficult things to address. A lot of what I advise people to do is to stick to your schedule. Pete is a perfect example of this and he’s chatted about this certainly on his show. He’s very regimented. If he deviates from that, he’s deviating a bit while he’s on his sabbatical, which has been a challenge for him. He’s got strict rules about what he does when he wakes up, when he starts writing, when he exercises. He likes the routine. He’s one of the more routine driven people. If you work with a routine driven person, then it makes sense to map that out.
What’s realistic with your job, with your kids, as far as when you’re with them? How do you work, travel and your social life? How do you move the needles in those ways if you need that routine? If you’re more of laissez-faire in how you do things, then you need to do a bit more reflection on what’s worked on you in your past. Clearly, if you’ve done everything that you described with YouTube being a weblebrity or whatever he called you, you had success in life. What I try to encourage clients to do is tap into where that success came from, how you figured out a strategy to succeed. You then convert that into what you’re struggling with to map out that pathway. You’re not going to go from 0 to a 6-pack in six months. It’s going to take some time.
That’s an insightful thing. There’s this distinction that I see. There are some men who get divorced because their wives realized they’re still children. They have two kids and she doesn’t want a third. I don’t believe that’s the case for you. I feel bad for these guys because they’re so far behind, their growth has been stunted because they let someone else take care of everything their whole life. There are also guys who knock them off balance, but they have their act together. My feeling is you’re closer to the latter than the former. If you apply your professional principles, you have your professional act together to your personal life, that can allow you to do it.
I do want to make a case. I realized I’m a little bit of a person who has a hammer and everything looks like a nail. We always talk about routines for babies and children and how they respond so well to those. Suddenly we act like, just because someone has grown up, they don’t need those anymore. I do think that when it comes to health and wellbeing stuff, habits are important because they eliminate the need for willpower. Some of these things are like, if you find that that one drink at the end of the night is turning into 2 or 3, then maybe you don’t have alcohol in the house. The drink becomes a rare and special occasion when you’re with a friend at a bar and not a routine mundane thing at the end of the day.
You can set restrictions and guidelines like weekends only, and you would go a few weeks to repair your liver. You can set things up like that. That can be said for an exercise routine, for your addiction to French fries or eating unhealthy. Those are some of the things.
I tend to do the all or nothing thing. When I was in shape years ago, better shape than I did in my whole life, I was addicted to that routine. Now, it’s like, “I’m such a mess.” The whole baby step thing is probably something I need to think about.
[bctt tweet=”Failed marriages are the ones where people are still married to each other and are miserable.” username=””]
It’s going to be slow, especially as you get older. When you’re twenty and you put on a little bit of weight in your freshman year of college and you come home for the summer, you can whip yourself back into shape in three months. When you’re out of shape at 51, honestly, it’s going to take at least a year to start to see those kinds of results. The beautiful thing about the human body is it’s predictable. You put good things in and you move it and it starts to look better.
It’s I was golfing one time. I was probably around 30 and he was probably around 70. We were chatting about life and I was picking up some golfing tips and wisdom. He said, “Be careful. You don’t think it’s a big deal when you put on one or two pounds over the course of a year but you’re 30, I’m 70. That’s a 40-year difference. That’s 80 pounds of weight that you’re going to have added if you don’t watch yourself.” I didn’t have French fries that night.
Can we turn to the outside thing? I asked you for a full-length photo of yourself. I wanted to invite Mark to give you some encouraging feedback about your outward packaging.
Before we say this, let me tell you, I know exactly why Pete is doing this and why he suggested it. What he’s going to do is parlay this little conversation with a before and after photo of Mark Ferne from before and after the divorce. This is why we’ve been friends for so long. I knew you would be doing this.
Mark, why don’t you talk about your before and after photo before we talk about Kevin’s before photo?
This speaks to the social friend group and having someone you talked about tough love and tough-guy type stuff. It speaks to you need someone in your corner who is going to give you feedback and is going to care and love you so much that they are going to tell you the things that no one else will tell you. Unfortunately, not a lot of people have those people in their lives. Some of those people lost in the divorce. It’s a gift that not everyone has. That’s why I encourage people to reach out to people like me, to a therapist, to people. Big brothers do a good job of this sometimes, but not everyone has a big brother or little brothers. I remember it clearly, Pete said, “It’s time. You need to cut your hair and you need to stop wearing married man jeans.” We went shopping together and I spent more on that one pair of jeans than I probably spent on all the pairs of jeans combined in the last years.
Peter, are they sponsored? Do you want to name the brand?
I wish I could. We are open to sponsorships. We’ve had one sponsor and it’s a masks company called Wrapture Masks. The promo code is Wrapture Solo, but I am open to having clothing sponsors as long as the clothes are not dad jean related.
I’m trying to summarize some of my best tips in one episode to help you and help the readers. This speaks to this one key takeaway from my work with past clients. One of the five bullets on that list is to create, shape, make yourself into being someone worthy of someone else who’s amazing. No one amazing is going to spend time with you. I will be the first and my friends will quickly be the second to say I married so far up. My partner is such a rock star in so many ways. There is no way she would ever end up with someone like me if I didn’t get my shit together and created, made, and shaped myself into someone that I could at least fake my way through a two-year dating relationship before she said, “Yes, let’s do this long-term.”
I want a little time out because as a solo guy, I have a slightly different perspective. I don’t think you consider the outward physical makeover to date better or to date up. I think you do it for yourself. In the sense of, when Mark cut his hair, he had the Zack Morris hair. What happened was Zack Morris’ hair was great when he was in college, but it wasn’t good when he was 32. What year did you cut your hair?
I was probably 34.
There is a tendency for guys to get stuck in the decade that they were dressed for their twenties as an adult. First of all, Mark has great hair. When Mark cut his hair, he had a fancy hairdresser and he went in. What exactly did you say to her?
I said, “You can do whatever you want. I just need a big change and have at it.” She was like, “This is my dream.” This was back in 2008, 2009, 2010. I had this long floppy mess that I couldn’t control. She chopped it off. I remember I had a haircut appointment at about 1:00 in the afternoon. I went back into the office. I was in a meeting and I walked in late. I sat down and people that I had worked with for years were sitting across the table at me. They stared at me as if I was unrecognizable. They were looking at me in ways that probably coworkers shouldn’t look at you. It was all because of this significant change to my presentation. That was the first step in this transformation and it gave me more confidence. I knew I wasn’t going to be teased by Pete anymore, which was a huge thing.
I’m not bringing this up because I think Kevin necessarily need a haircut. I actually have a show called Dude, Get A Haircut.
This is a hair transplant. Did you know that?
I didn’t know that. That is nice.
I just had three hair transplants.
It’s not just about the hair.
In Mark’s case, it was the hair. In someone else’s case, it’s something else like their facial hair, they still wear Drakkar Noir or whatever it is, but you need the friend sometimes to go, “Kevin, it’s time.”
I found that in women more. That’s one of the things in addition to therapy. I’ve had a stronger relationship with my family members, but it’s hard to go to a priest for counseling for somebody. Most people, as soon as they hear you get divorced, they’re thinking about their own relationships. I have had few women that have been good sounding boards and they’re the ones that’ll tell you how to dress, how to get back into the dating and how to use Bumble. They are my guard rails.
Those are part of that social circle that supports you. That’s important.
Let’s get to this picture of Kevin. You don’t need to pull it up. You can go by your memory because your memory probably is better than you looking at it.
Do you want to critique him and go to town?
I don’t want you to criticize him. I want you to say if you think there’s something that needs to work, is this fine so we move on? Am I belaboring this? What’s going on?
I’ll be blunt. I hope you can screenshot us because I’m curious to see what you look like because why did you give him that photo? This is almost unrecognizable.
He asked me for a full body. I thought it was for a whole another show. What that’s from is more work-related. I needed some headshots for work. I’m a little bit nerd out there.
I know you disclose your age already, without hearing what your age is, I would say you were probably late 40s, early 50s on looking at you on the video. When I saw the photo that Pete sent, it looks like you’re 62 years old.
That could have something to do with it. It was a year ago and I was probably in one of the lowest points.
It’s almost unrecognizable. It’s like I’m looking at two different people as I look at you. I can’t see if those jeans fit you correctly. I didn’t know that jeans were supposed to fit people correctly until I started working with people. I think you’re holding your cell phone and that’s as cliche as it comes. There’s a number of things that I would change. You’re sitting in a rock in the woods. That’s the one that we’re talking about, Pete.
I’ll add one. You’re wearing the classic middle-aged man sweater with the high collar and the quarter zip, which I would say that’s fine if you’re going on a walk in the woods.
In his defense, he’s in the woods.
This is going horribly awry. This is not how I thought this would go. Kevin, where do you think your weak spots are on the outward appearance type stuff?
I think I was healthier. When I was working out regularly, I would hold my shoulders up high. I was more energetic, slept better, etc. I think taking care of the physical stuff. In terms of outwardly, it’s clothing, the way you project, hair, part of it is the Corona. All I have to do is put on a decent shirt, light myself up, but on the dating scene, I’ve gone on dates. You immediately want to go back to 1996 and then you realize the world has changed.
That’s the other thing is a lot of times, especially in our age group is we grew up with baggy clothes and we’ve dressed for comfort first. I think the recognition is that a lot of times, if you get something that fits well, that’s tailored and built for your body, it not only looks good, but it still remains comfortable. You also have that confidence. If you’re a skinny guy in baggy clothes, you look like a skinny guy in baggy clothes. If you’re a bigger guy in baggy clothes, you look like a bigger guy in baggy clothes. There is no disguising who you are. The world still can see this and it looks shlubby.
On that note, Pete, I want to make sure our readers understand that there’s a certain privilege in this conversation. We all have jobs. We all have resources. I want to recognize that not everyone can afford to be talking about what type of clothes you’re wearing. That being said, I had a friend in this transition who gave me tough love. I don’t think he had said it in a disrespectful way, but he worked with me for a long time. He probably saw that I was wearing similar outfits to work all the time so he said, “I have a professional shopper. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this, but she works for me at Macy’s or Nordstrom, or I don’t know what store it was. You meet with her for ten minutes. She doesn’t charge you anything. You talk about what your size is, what you like to wear, and then you come back a week or two later and she’s got 32 different things laid out for you. She gets a commission and everything that you purchased that day and you pay a little bit more than you probably would normally.”
For me, that was a big shift because I’m historically frugal, but it transformed how I looked and how I carried myself. I still remember that she said, “I can tell by looking at you that you spend time in the gym, you exercise, you want to be in good shape.” I said, “Yes.” She went, “Why aren’t you wearing clothes that show that often?” I needed someone to say that. I suddenly went from wearing extra-large of everything to large or even mediums. I was like, “I can’t fit in a medium.” She said, “Let’s put it on. Let’s see.” She was like, “Look how great you look.” I was like, “I do look good with the medium.”
I have a forthcoming show. It’ll come out after this one about the wardrobe. We should move on. I would say this, there is a tendency for guys, especially to say, “It shouldn’t matter what I wear because it’s not who I am. Who I am is my personality.” It matters because people don’t even recognize that they’re using it as a cue to judge you. Sometimes they are using it as a cue to judge like, “If this guy can’t even take care of this, what else can he take care of?” I recognize your point, Mark. I grew up very poor and sometimes I have to be creative and work a little harder to find deals and to scrounge up some money for a little bit of tailoring and so on. I recognize that but I do think it’s money well-spent on your own, how you feel and how you behave in the world.
I’m proud of something. I’m a marshall shopper, usually in Amazon or whatever. I decided to treat myself to three pairs of Brooks Brothers boxers and I was able to throw away the previous pairs that were probably two decades old. That’s a step in the right direction.
Buy three more. You can never have too many pairs of underwear. Think about how comfortable you are.
Here is a perfect example of people who have gone through a divorce or long-term relationship that ended and moved on. Know that other people don’t. When you date someone new and you’re not wearing new clothing, the thought crosses their mind is, “Who else has seen these boxer shorts? Who else has he gone to?” This is a thought that’s been shared with me. It makes perfect sense. I don’t want some labored repackage. I want a fresh new version of this individual. I know you said in an email to Pete when he originally introduced us, you said, “If this is going to be your subject, call it Finding Kevin 2.0.” I think that’s a great way to look at it. I would never put that on someone. My role isn’t to completely transform someone, it’s to work with them, male or female, to figure out just like your pitch on the show, how do you live a remarkable life? How can we upgrade you in ways that you would want to do? I love the 2.0 analogy. If people are comfortable with it, I would never say it per se about someone else that I’m going to completely transform.
It is just an upgrade, but it is not a transformation. It’s just a new software release.
You mentioned going on a few dates. You are several steps ahead of where some of the people that I work with. I think that’s very clear if you going on dates, you’ve been separated for over a year.
It’s hard. I didn’t want anything to do with it for a year.
I get that question a lot, “When do I go dating again? When am I allowed to go dating again? Who do I date? At what point in dating do I disclose that I’m divorced? How do I put it in my Bumble bio?” It varies from person to person. It varies from how you’re comfortable. I have some clients who, as soon as the decision is made to separate that they are back on that train dating anyone and everyone. I have other people, I was one, who didn’t kiss anyone until the divorce papers were signed, sealed, and submitted to the court. I got the declaration that I was officially divorced. I think it was the next day when I smooch someone.
I don’t understand why some people put everything around the paperwork. Did you just not allow yourself?
I think that was my coping mechanism. Pete knows this. I am a big flirt. I love to engage people in conversations. I talk to everyone. That’s one of the messages I would want to say to you, but without disclosing all the dirty details of my situation, I’m sure I had people who probably thought that I made some mistakes in my marriage from a fidelity standpoint. I wanted to be able to say with pride, I never kissed one person in my nine years of marriage right until the day when everything was finalized. I was completely monogamous. For me, it felt good. It wasn’t like an F you to people who didn’t think I could be faithful because people had given me that feedback in the past when I was young and probably not the best faithful person, but that’s why I waited.
That doesn’t mean everyone should wait. That doesn’t mean that people who date right away are problematic or the people who wait for years before they date again. I’ve got one friend who hasn’t dated since the divorce and will probably go to his grave without dating. He’s completely fine with that. It’s an individual conversation that you have with a therapist, a coach, a confidant, or whatever. The thing that I was going to get back to you on to say, “Now that you’ve been on dates and everything,” what I tell people all the time is you talk to anyone and everyone all the time, whether it’s the barista at Starbucks or someone you sit next to on a plane. It doesn’t matter if they’re a 75-year-old man or a 28-year-old woman or everything in between. You engage them and have these conversations with strangers because then when that amazing person walks past you or gets on the subway car with you, then suddenly you’re not stumbling or fumbling over what you’re to say. You’ve been practicing for this moment for years.
I want to address one thing that Kevin seemed to come up or maybe Mark you had said it. My thing and Mark’s thing is you take care of yourself first and you become the best version of yourself. That next step, if you want to include someone in your life becomes that much easier, but the idea is to be honest about where you’re at and what it is that you’re looking for. One of the tough things I think especially on the apps, a lot of women will say, “I’m looking for a relationship.” That’s in part because they’re given all these options. None of them are good.
A relationship is probably the best one and the ideal one for them. It’s like, “I want a relationship, but I would be open to friends with benefits with the right guy, a new platonic friend, or a business partner.” It’s important to say, “I’m very recently divorced. This is all completely new to me. I’m enjoying my time here, but I’m not ready to rush into something again.” If the person keeps seeing you, then they have full information, in that sense. I think that’s the best that you can do with an imperfect system.
I don’t think Pete or Kevin does either, but I don’t want this episode to be about dating or getting dating tips or anything like that. To your point, texting was something new when I was single. That was something that never was in existence before I was married. When I started dating and I realized, “No one picks up the phone to talk.” You’ll send texts like, “Where are we going to meet?” This speaks to, how many days do you wait and all that? What do you say? I remember I sent a text to someone once who I had just met and we exchanged numbers and I waited. I don’t know what the appropriate day was it that point. I said, “I’ve been out of this for a while. I’m quite not sure when to send a text or how many days to wait to send a text, but you let me know when that’s the right amount of time and I will send you that text.” She immediately responded and like, “It is right about now, when can we meet?” I think being vulnerable, sincere and truthful about your situation is important.
This is important. People, men and women, especially women to be stereotypical or used to being lied to. People misrepresenting their intentions, their abilities, their situation in life. When you are kind and honest, self-deprecating and honest, they will respond positively because they’ll go, “I can trust Kevin,” and it goes a long way.
You have to put yourself out there. For divorced people and people who’ve got out of a long-term relationship, that’s not easy. You’ve been wounded regardless of whose fault it was. Everyone is to blame in these situations 90% of the time. We all have missteps that we made along the way. That hurt is tangible and impactful and how you bounce back from it is not easy. To be vulnerable again, as you meet someone new, who you’ve known for two hours is a risk that people sometimes have to take. I hear that a lot from people that I work with.
I’ll give you one pro tip, which is the best way to approach text from a dating standpoint, in my opinion, is you use it to flirt and make plans. It’s not a place to be like, “How was your day?” and have chit-chat that you would normally have when you come home from work.
That’s Pete’s advice for people over 50.
I think for anyone, but let’s hit one more of these rocks.
I would go in a different direction. We can talk about it if he wants to get in deep about some of the rocks. He’s a little out of the ordinary with how long it’s been. I sometimes see people fairly soon after a separation or divorce. The feelings of failure are immense across the board. There’s like, “I have failed and shamed.” Pete and I have talked about this in the past about a failed marriage is like a common two words that go together all the time. It’s a terrible phrase. I spend a lot of time with clients reshaping that narrative about a failed marriage and how it was a failure. Quite frankly, I think failed marriages are the ones where people are still married to each other and are miserable and there are a lot of those people completely.
I look at it and I talk to people about it, “I think what you’ve done with your marriage, your relationship with your partner had ended, that takes a lot of guts and you have to be brave. I would want you to look back on it as a success that you stayed with a person for a long time. You had wonderful kids that came out of it. You have good memories, but you both came to the realization that this chapter is closing. The success is going to be your happiness moving forward and not dwelling on all the misstep and the mistakes you’ve made.” It takes a long time for people to realize the feelings of failure and how I screwed up, especially as you mentioned, faith. My dad is a retired Lutheran minister. Pete mentioned that I was the first in my family. You have faith that plays a whole other thing of that, but there’s this sense of failure.
The other big piece is the difference between being alone and being lonely. I hear from people all the time, “I don’t want to burden people with my struggles. They have their own issues in their lives. I don’t want me to cry on their shoulder. They don’t want to listen to me.” What I do is I flip it around and I say, “Tell me the name of your best friend.” They give me a name or whatever. I said, “If Sally went to you and said, ‘I’m struggling with X, Y, Z relationship, job, whatever. I need someone to talk to,’ how would you respond?” They are like, “I would respond right away. That’s what I do all the time. I’m that type of friend.” I said, “Why would you think that your friends aren’t those types of people who would let you cry on their shoulders and lean on?”
Sometimes you get caught in this cycle, this sneaky hate spiral, where you keep getting deeper and deeper into your insecurities and your failure. It’s hard to get out of it. You need to have someone like stop the cycle and say, “I’m here. Let’s go out.” I can’t tell you the number of times where people have come up to me weeks, months, or years later, and said, “You invited me to go out and grab a beer at the local pub or watch that sports game or go for a hike on that day. It completely got me out of the house, made me think about life in a different way. You listened to my concerns.” It was an average day for me. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but when someone’s in that sneaky hate spiral and they can have a stop to it, it can be transformative.
I want to echo a few of the general principles that I’ve talked about for Solo that might be useful, for you, Kevin, to know and for readers to get a refresher on. One of the first things that I say is that, this is Bella DePaulo’s phrase, “Married people have the one, single people have the ones.” I like the idea of making a team. We talked about the value of a therapist, for example, as a member of your team. Having a good barber or hairstylist is a member of your team. Also, these teammates, extended friends and family, and so on. I think that it’s easy to hire a financial planner, but it takes work to cultivate friendships and family.
Those are relationships that are worth cultivating. The second one and I think you alluded to it a little bit is, I like this principle of try to create more than you consume. The natural tendency when we’re sad is to take in, to binge-watch, to have a cocktail, and all these things. People like Mark may watch some sports, but Mark is creating all the time. He’s got a full-time job. He also has this coaching. He’s putting together trips and Kentucky Derby parties. He’s a creator. What creation often does is it has this engaging factor. It revs you up, but some creations bring people together.
The last one is this idea of living on your edge and a lot in this idea is where you are. You’re not bored, but you’re not completely stressed out. I think a choice to get a divorce is an act of living on your edge. Finding Kevin 2.0 is an act of living on your edge and an act of creation. I think it’s important to frame these things in positive ways the way Mark tends to think about this. A failed marriage is an unhappy marriage that never ends versus an unhappy marriage that ends. Kevin, I want to turn this around for the last few minutes. I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to see if you have anything for Mark. You offhandedly said, “I’m an antihero.” Do you remember saying that?
Did I say that? I don’t know. You answer it.
I don’t think of you as an antihero. I think of you as a hero. I certainly don’t think of you as a villain. These three are the classic. I see you as a good father. I see you as a competent professional. I see you as having virtuous goals. Antiheroes lack the virtue that heroes have. We might like an antihero. They may be cool and exciting, but we don’t want an antihero as your friend. You don’t want your sister to go out with an antihero. I thought you were joking when you made that quick. It’s important to think about life in that way that there is the hero’s journey is you have a call to action and there’s a natural tendency to resist it, but the hero eventually seizes on that call to action.
Let us stay with that word, resist because that’s one of the questions I was going to ask Mark. The common themes that you see for people are that if they were in a bad relationship, they don’t want to risk themselves again. What are the things that you see getting in people’s way either to find a new relationship or to find comfort in being solo?
I think it’s individual. I can do some of these takeaways from past clients and say, “Here are some summaries,” but each one has a different villain or demon, if you want to keep with that analogy, that they’re working on. I would encourage you to reflect on what your stumbling blocks have been, as opposed to me saying where the themes are with what have been other people stumbling blocks and work through some of those. I did a number of sessions and therapy and all my therapy times were basically when I was in relationships that I didn’t feel good about or didn’t know how to get out of, to put it bluntly.
I cared deeply about people. Sometimes I would have a hard time walking away from relationships that might not be forever or even healthy. Some of that, the people I would be with would say that I had a commitment issue as a common thing. I felt that there were some hesitations or stumbling blocks for me to commit long-term to these people who wanted to be committed to long-term. That was my demons or something I had to work through. It wasn’t until someone who is a perfect match for you and not everyone has perfect matches.
It’s hard for me to talk about my own relationship with other people because quite frankly, it’s amazing. No one wants to hear that. Even Pete doesn’t want to hear how great because we talk about marriage and this type of thing with this solo work all the time. I wasn’t sure I would ever get married again. I was happily living a remarkable life. I was more of a serial monogamous, I would say, but I would be fine in between relationships. I didn’t need to get married again and then you meet the person, who’s your person and you’re like, “How would I not want to be with this person forever?”
I don’t disagree with that perspective. I don’t like it when people force it because they think that being with someone is better than not being with someone.
That’s a common thing. To me, whether or not you were looking to be in another relationship, there is no risk and plenty of rewards to be comfortable being by yourself. There’s nothing sadder than somebody that jumps off of a relationship desperately like a heroin user seeking something else to fill the void.
Kevin, do you have another question? We’re going to bring this to a close with a special offer for our readers.
We need to be thinking about between 2 and 3. I’m taking life in segments. That was the good advice I got from a friend of mine because I’ve usually thought of marriage as the final stop, that’s life. Now, I’m trying to be open to the fact that there’s a season. Based on what you’re hearing, what should I be thinking about for the next year?
It depends on who you meet and what comes into your life. I like to tell people to be open to the unexpected. You never know who you’re going to meet. Everybody’s love story is unique and interesting. It seems like when I talk about how you meet someone, there’s no rhyme or reason. I know lots of people are meeting online with the apps and everything, but the connections that people form. It’s hard for me to be able to draw that path and say, “Here’s where Kevin needs to be in at the start of year two, at the end of year two or moving into year three.” One of my clients was very much adamant that he was going to go the solo route.
He’s going to hate that I’m outing him, but he hasn’t missed one episode of Solo and he was swearing by it. Sure enough, as luck would have it or not have it, he met someone. He just told me on a call that he’s known this individual less than 90 days and signed a year lease with her to live together. I’m sure he will still read, but I would have never guessed that that would have happened given the conversations that we had leading up and I helped him get back in the game. I was one of the ones working with him. He was the one who I mentioned earlier, who said he still thinks about that advice I gave him to talk to anyone and everyone all the time. He says he talks and thinks about it all the time.
I like that advice and I like to tap into where your success came from.
I think that’s the piece that I would say, be open to what life brings you and continue doing some of the things we talked about, continue to work on yourself in different ways. As Pete said, not just for the future partner you may have if that’s what you’re open to, but for yourself. As you walk into a room, if you’re doing some of the things, we discussed, people are going to notice and you’re going to feel better about it. Your kids are going to feel better about it. It’s going to make your life that much better to live with yourself.
I’m going to add something. It’s going to reveal my own bias, Kevin. I think Mark has recognized that all things you considered doing quite well.
We can get into the deeper stuff.
I think you are right. I’m doing better than I sort of get myself.
Also in a lot of people in a similar situation to you. Part of it is because you have a good foundation. You’re smart, successful, funny, and a kind person. These are our foundational elements to your character. This is my own personal bias. I often ask people, especially my students and my readers, “Is your health number one?” I see health as the foundation for living a remarkable life. I would only add to Mark’s well-said advice, which is, the number one thing that you can do is to make your health a priority. That is to improve your eating, cut back on the drinking, move your body more, and as you’ve already acknowledged, get better quality sleep than you’re probably getting. That is worth sacrificing other things in order to get it.
That’s a pre-requisite in some ways and other things too.
It’s hard to be happy, to create things and to be a good father if you feel terrible. It’s a lot more fun to dress a fit body than it is to dress a non-fit body, especially undressed. There’s nothing wrong with working out to look good naked. For those of you who are in a similar situation as Kevin, Mark has offered a free consulting session to the first person who reaches out to me requesting it.
I do have an advantage because I can do it now.
Send me an email or social media message me. The first person that gets to me gets a free session with Mark. He’ll take you through this and he’ll send you the intake form in advance and all those kinds of things. With that, I want to say, Mark, we found a way to get you on the show, so congratulations. Thank you so much for the time. Kevin, thank you for being a sport and for approaching this with authenticity and vulnerability. That’s an act of bravery.
Mark, it’s great meeting you. Peter, I love what you’re doing here. You’ve got a lot of happy readers. I could tell from the comments. You’re doing the world a good thing.
One last thing, I’ve launched a message board on the Solo page at PeterMcgraw.org, where I have topics about single living and about living a remarkable life, as well as the reds for each of the episodes. With that, I want to say thanks to both of you. Cheers.
- Kevin Nalty – YouTube
- Mark Ferne – Twitter
- Beyond Viral
- Mark and Steph’s Calendar of Fun – Previous episode
- Anthony Jeselnik – Previous episode
- Dude, Get A Haircut
About Kevin Nalty
Kevin Nalty is a marketer, author and YouTube creator who has four children and lives in Pennsylvania. He was one of the early YouTube weblebrities with more than 1,000 videos seen more than 250 million times. Known as Nalts on YouTube, his videos include pranks, vlogs and short comedies. He is the author of the book “Beyond Viral” and has written plays and acted in many. By day he works for an agency as a VP of strategy, where he helps pharmaceutical brands connect with doctors and patients.
About Mark Ferne
Mark Ferne is a relationship whisperer. Holding a master’s degree in counseling and administration from the University of Maryland, Mark has been helping people move past divorce and relationship break-ups for almost a decade. At age 35, Mark was the first of Peter’s friends (and the first ever in Mark’s family) to get divorced. He quickly realized how little support there was for newly single guys and now works with men and women to “get back in the game.” Mark was a guest on episode 29 of I’M NOT JOKING. Mark and Steph’s Calendar of Fun.
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