Glory Days: How We Keep Ourselves Stuck in Our Former Lives (& What To Do About It)

I’m reminded of Al Bundy, patriarch of the Bundy family, from the TV show “ Married With Children.” In the show, Al’s proudest moment in life was scoring four touchdowns in one game. He didn’t achieve what he sought out to, and, long story short, ends up working as a shoe salesman. Al often spends time attempting to recapture his glory days, but usually trips himself up with bad decisions and worse judgment. Al blames and resents his family, and attributes his problems to them, which provides the crux of the show’s humor.

Al’s life ended up very differently than he planned. In high school, he shined. it was a successful football player but hopes of getting a college scholarship, but after he impregnated his girlfriend and broke his leg, everything changed. Al lives in his private world filled with the best times of his life, and it’s a place that’s too many men resort to living in when their realities prove disappointing and unfulfilling.

As men (or people in general), we have a tendency to avoid ourselves, our situations or our lives as they are in the present moment. Often times, we’re too busy living in and out our private universes of the past or of the future. We hold on to the good memories, often to escape the reality of our current situation.

We may have been star athletes, president of the debate squad, or more successful with women in the past. We may have felt happier at a time in the past where we were more secure, fitter, healthier, happier, and generally more equipped to deal with the world.

Through the process of stagnation, those experience wane over time. Maybe our lives didn’t end up the way we planned. Maybe our spouses didn’t bring us the happiness that we so hoped. Maybe our children disappoint us, or maybe we disappoint ourselves. Maybe we didn’t make a million dollars, or become a pilot or a deep sea diver like we planned when we were 8 years old.

Life is short, and it’s never too late to turn it around. So what can you do?

  • Admit that you’re stuck/angry/unhappy, to yourself, your spouse, your pet iguana, whomever
  • Take some time for contemplation, and start to understand if you are living in an alternative universe, where your past self (or a happy future self) take up most of your headspace.
  • Get help. Seek out professional help to allow you to deal with the blocks that prevent your happiness in the here and now.
  • If you’re victimizing (read: blaming others for your miseries or failures), stop doing that right now. Think of Al Bundy when you do, and realize that you help keep yourself in a cycle of avoidance and unconsciousness when you do. It may be easier to place the blame on others (your wife, your boss, your pet iguana), and it’s a hell of a lot harder to look in the mirror and take ownership for your pain, disappointment and anger at yourself.
  • Understand that as long as you have a skinsuit, and fresh air to breath, you can make a change for yourself. It may be scary, and it may not be what others want of you, but it’s your life, and you choose happiness or unhappiness.
  • Life is neutral. You are the decider. You can choose to work on issues and change them, or you choose to sit back and stagnate. They’re all choices. One choice is to not choose.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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