Playing Marriage Counselor to Your Ex

Not so long ago, I got an email from an old boyfriend. His marriage was on the rocks and he was feeling angry and betrayed and he wanted to know what to do.

My first reaction was one of shock. Although our own relationship had gone through its ups and downs, we’d managed to patch things up and remain friends (over email). But I hadn’t heard from him in years. So his cry for help came completely out of the blue. (I feel compelled to cue Paul Simon singing “I met my old lover on the street last night…”)

My second reaction was one of discomfort. Of the many professions I’d trained for over the years, therapist was not one of them. Sure, I analyze myself endlessly and give advice to close friends on all manner of things. But an ex-lover? I wasn’t sure I was up to the task.

My hesitation was made worse by the fact that about ten years ago, another ex had telephoned me for marital advice. His wife had abruptly stopped speaking to him. And not as in they weren’t communicating well; she literally wasn’t speaking to him at all. That marriage ended in divorce (though he subsequently re-married quite happily). But the whole experience gave me cold feet. After all, if I screwed this up, I’d be 0 for 2. That’s worse than the US national divorce average!

But, eventually, I felt flattered. Because when I gave it some thought, I realized that I really did have some limited advice for my ex and his wife (which mostly amounted to some version of “you guys should really sit down and talk to one another”). And it seemed, magically, to be of use. A few days later, I got an incredibly long and grateful email from him about how my advice had revitalized their relationship. His wife (whom I’d always assumed just hated me, and perhaps did) even hoped to meet me some day.

I’m not sure what it is about me that causes my exes to bring their marital problems to my doorstep. But it does make me feel like I’ve come along way. As someone prone to jealousy, even ex-poste (I once hurled a plate at a wall…long story), I’m not necessarily prone to maturity where relationships are concerned. But you know you’ve grown up when you can look at someone else’s relationship – someone with whom you once had your own issues – and analyze it in an impartial, even helpful way.

And, hey, if all else fails, I definitely have a career ahead as a couples counselor. In today’s economy, we all need a back up…


Speaking of maturity, a friend introduced me to the wonderful Formerly Hot website/blog, a self-described “tween site” for grown ups. Be sure to check out the “formerly hall of fame” which includes a listing for margarine. Love it!

Image: Bride and Groom by Sharron Goodyear via Free Digital

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