As someone who has been happily married for 10 years, I am often asked about advice on relationships and what it is that makes a relationship last. I am always flattered when I get asked this question, because I feel that my wife and I are providing a good role model for younger couples.
Advice on relationships can be tricky, however, because I never want to give someone advice that they can come back and use against me if things don’t work out for them. This very thing has happened to me on two separate occasions.
In on instance, a younger friend came to me for some relationship advice. He said that he and his girlfriend were having trouble, and that he was thinking about breaking up with her. He said that they were arguing all of the time and generally miserable, and that he felt that he would be better off single than in a dead-end relationship.
I asked him if he had put everything he possibly could into the relationship and had really listened to his girlfriend. He said that he had and that it was just not working out, because they were too different and would never come around to the other’s way of thinking.
I then asked him if he thought there was any chance that it could be reconciled or if there was any future in their relationship, and he assured me that in both cases, there no chance for either. I then asked the most important question when it comes to advice on relationships, which is whether he loved her or not.
He said on some level he did, but he did not really feel that any more toward her. I suggested that it might be time to move on, and he seemed very grateful — at least for a few weeks.
He came back to me after they had been broken up for a few weeks and told me that he realized that he really did love her and never should have let her go. I suggested that he go after her, and he said the break-up was so ugly that he would not feel comfortable doing so. I then suggested that he was simply feeling a little bit of separation anxiety and that it would pass.
He never said anything directly to me about it, but I could tell that he blamed me in part for advising him to move on from the relationship. I vowed at that moment never to give any more advice on relationships.
Then my best friend came to me and told me about problems he was having with his wife. He told me that he just did not love her anymore and could not stand to be with her. I reminded him that marriage was a holy institution and strongly urged him to reconsider his position. He said he would think about it, and three months later got a divorce.
I realized that advice on relationships can be very tricky. I have given advice before that worked out really well, but I doubt that I will ever do that again, because I don’t want to be blamed if things don’t turn out the way someone hoped.