Relationship Advice: The Fig Newton Syndrome

During a break-up, it is natural to sift through your memories to see if there were early warning signs that the marriage was in trouble. This is an understandable process, as our minds try through hindsight to make logical sense of things. It is a way to deal with the pain of having something so central to your life no longer exist in quite the same way. Of course the relationship still exists, just as a brown dwarf star skulking around the galaxy can still technically be considered a continuation of the once-glorious star that got too hot and exploded all over everything, leaving only a hollowed-out flickering remnant of its former self. Unfortunately we now have to count on the brown dwarf star for financial help with our daughter’s college, though now that he has been exposed as a fading ember of the man he once was, the chances of him being true to his word are fading just as rapidly.

Searching posthumously for the early signs of collapse is tricky, because in any relationship there are difficult spots right from the start, disagreements, misunderstandings, and simple events that in retrospect can seem fraught with meaning. What is more, the defining moments that stand out in one person’s mind as a perfect crystallization of all that was to come are going to be very different from the moments that occur to the other person. But since you are now separate people and don’t have to put up with the other person’s clearly erroneous and narcissistic view of your former marriage, this should not trouble you.

There is a difference, however, between moments which exemplify a particular character trait and moments which warn of impending collapse. Just because a single moment teaches us something profound about our partner doesn’t mean that revelation will lead to the break-up of the marriage. As it happens, I have an example of each of these from the early days of my relationship to share with you now. Read the rest of this entry »

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