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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

Free Advice

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At some point in the past year or so, Brock and I (sometimes independently, but often together) have become the go-tos for relationship advice for our friends. It’s a bit funny, really – Brock with his later-in-life first marriage and alpha male exterior and me with minimal dating experience and a spectacularly failed first marriage – giving advice. But our Mutt and Jeff approach seems to work. I have a tendency to listen and gently probe into underlying themes while Brock has a good instinct and an ability to drive straight into the issue at hand. I think we’re good at it for the same reason I’m good at teaching math – we had to work to get to where we are. And there’s a lot of thought and intent that accompanies that struggle.

Here’s an assemblage of some of the dispensed advice over the past year or so. Maybe a piece will speak to you.

On Being a Knight

There’s a high that comes from being a recuser, from being needed. It feeds the ego and lends a sense of security born of dependence. For the rescued, it is a way to avoid responsibility and yet have ones needs met. A relationship founded on this dynamic will always have a power and responsibility imbalance. By all means, help. But don’t enable. Because when you help someone more than they help themselves, you end up hurting both of you. 

On Having the Right Friends

The people you surround yourself with matters. Not only do they reflect upon you, they shape you. Before you sign up for online dating or scour your networks for a potential partner, examine your social circle. Do they embody the sort of life you want for yourself? Are they helping you become the best you possible or are they holding you back? As Brock says, “I’m the bobber on the water and I refuse to attach to anyone who wants to pull me under.”

On the Oxygen Mask Theory

“I know she’s in a rough place and I don’t want to leave her knowing that it will get worse.” My response? “You are not responsible for someone else’s well-being. That’s her job. Your job is to treat the relationship with respect and to take care of you.” I then told him how I used to tell my ex that he made me happy. And why that was a huge mistake.

On Making Changes

Brock was the guy that nobody every thought would marry. And then he made some significant changes in his life that led him to where he is now. I’m often asked, “How did you get him to change?” I didn’t. He made that choice and started on that path before I was ever in the picture. You can’t change another person no matter how long you wait. If you don’t like them as they are, move on. They’ll change when they’re ready, not when you are.

On Trust and Honesty 

“Relationships are built on trust. How can you ever establish a relationship when it is built on lies?” questioned Brock. Lying has a tendency to become a way of approaching the world and attempting to solve (or avoid) conflict. If someone is dishonest to others, don’t assume they are truthful to you.

On Fear

Cutting straight to the heart of it all, “Relationships that are held together by fear will never last.” And Brock is right. Whether it’s fear of being alone or fear being abandoned or the fear of not being needed, it leads to grasping, not loving. It’s sort of strange that only when you are in a position where don’t “need” the other person that you can allow yourself to truly be with them.



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7 thoughts on “Free Advice

  1. Couldn’t agree with this more…I wrote something similar about the “Knight” and “Fear” theory and wasn’t worded as tactfully (it was called “we are all a bunch of users”) as yours.

  2. You make some very good points, and highlight nearly everything I did not necessarily wrong, but certainly not right in my first marriage. The only thing I did completely right was to cultivate a circle of friends who either had the type of relationship I want or lead lives that I admire and aspire to.

  3. Oh how I needed this a long time ago-but! I wouldn’t be where I am and who I’ve become without these lessons and faltering. I have only recently come to realize and ACCEPT that I don’t need a partner. Yes, I want someone to share my life with, but I don’t NEED them. Huge steps for me-also acknowledging my fear of being alone and abandoned. I am the classic rescuer, and I am really fighting myself to not be her anymore. Big changes, relatively short time, all for the better!

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