Post Mortem & Listening to 1,500 People Smarter Than Me

This post is to share an article by Mark Manson, of the NYT bestseller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck. Cheeky title, but full of truly redirecting, self-defining, serious help for this era’s over-informed, yet principally out of touch folk like myself. 

I’m doing the wrenching internal post mortem report on my three year relationship that recently irreparably broke. I’m the last person to be giving relationship advice, given that I’m 34 and more alone than I’ve ever felt in my life, though most of the last Year of Pain felt the same way. I’ve read an embarrassing number of dating and relationship books in my adult life, which never make it to my public Good Reads list and are usually quietly given away. I just don’t seem to get it. I have felt a failure for so long and been jealous and mystified by the couples around me who make it work, and are even happy. The gall. 

I’ve had two serious relationships that book end my love life thus far. When I was in my early 20’s, I believed what was Most Important for a couple was communication. Period. I came from a small, pretty terrible, rural high school and never had anyone to really talk to with my super-feeling heart. Hence my love for poetry. Poets say and point to everything we feel and cannot say or give words to something we didn’t feel until it was said. So, I ended up in a comfortable, loving relationship with a woman. Who else communicates better, especially in early adulthood? But much was missing and it ended, rightly. 

After, in the midst of dating and making literal “must have” and “must not have” lists for the person I would fall into perfect lifelong love with, I held firmly to a new belief that the Most Important things for a couple were stability, reliability, and romance. Really. I cringe at how many times I probably gave this advice in the last several years. Just tonight, stumbling upon this Gottman Institute link, Mark Manson has hit me over my tear-sopped, red-nosed head with his synopsis of what 1,500 intelligent people, who actually know what makes a relationship thrive, say. 

I see that I have been so wrong. That is such a horrible thing to admit when all I want to do right now is put blame on my ex and damn fate and all my sincere efforts to live happily ever after. He is indeed stable, reliable, and romantic. And by romantic, I mean that the sex was great, not the little thoughtful gestures that do actually add up to big things. Now I know that great relationships make great sex, not the other way around. And far greater than stability and reliability: deep respect, admiration and trust in each other. Damn. We were doomed. We had utter contempt and distrust for each other this last year. We fought horribly, attacking each other’s character and bringing up every past offense. I’m ashamed and overwhelming sad. 

It’s a long read, but it’s far better than the thousands of pages of dating and relationship books I’ve read combined. I don’t think there’s anyone, single to coupled, who wouldn’t be improved with its (harsh, to me) truths. 

I’m back to the drawing board, but not dating anytime soon. I know I have a total paradigm shift to commitment and a potential partner. Also, I probably owe my ex an apology for being at least somewhat at fault instead of my wounded, nonstop lashings. We were both wrong. 

Please take a timeout and read 1,500 PEOPLE GIVE ALL THE RELATIONSHIP ADVICE YOU’LL EVER NEED and let me know what you think. I want to talk through this. May we all love, marry, and stay married better. May our relationships not suffice, but challenge and fulfill our truest selves. 


3 thoughts on “Post Mortem & Listening to 1,500 People Smarter Than Me

  1. I thought it was an excellent read.

    I married the “love of my life” 8 years ago. We could only see each other at first, stars in our eyes, we’ll never fight, we’ll spend every spare minute together, sex three times a day, but then life in general and life co-parenting step-children began to take a bit of a heavy toll. We have been/are working through a lot of crap, and seem to be on one of those “up” waves talked about in the book, partly through some careful work on both of our parts to communicate better, and a vow on my part to listen more and more carefully. I’ve found three things to be particularly helpful:

    The article “Why You’ll Marry the Wrong Person”:

    Especially helpful in this article, and probably something most of us do not do: (I’ll paraphrase) That we must be 100% okay with being alone to be able to go into a relationship in a healthy way. The biggest problem is when we look for a person to either fix us, complete us, or with which to work out all the unresolved crap from some previous relationship.

    The book “Buddhism for Couples” by Sarah Napthali.

    And my realization that I can care, a lot even, about my partner’s happiness, but I am not responsible for it.

      1. To you, too, Sarah. I’ve missed you!

        Sorry to hear about the pain of the past year. Hope you’re taking time to take care of yourself. Was at a concert yesterday given by a folk singer in the Arlo Guthrie tradition; she sang a song she often sings at weddings and told a story about a friend telling her she (the friend) hoped that someday she (the singer) could sing it to herself.

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