Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes

This is part three in a “whenever I get around to it” series, in which I answer your questions to the best of my ability, using my characteristic foul-mouthed, minimal-nonsense approach, based almost entirely on my own ridiculous and often totally batshit life.

You can ask me anything. I know some shit about relationships and communication, I know a bit about the beating of brain monkeys and the support of others who are doing so. I know some shit about parenting, I guess. I may or may not have useful advice – I make no promises. But for whatever it is worth, and whatever questionable wisdom I may have gathered, I am happy to share. 🙂

If you ask me something and I don’t know the answer I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

I hasten to add that I am not a medical professional, I’m just one human who has been through a lot of crap and learned some stuff along the way, and maybe has something useful to share on the matter. Some of what I have said about my own journey has seemed to resonate with people, so maybe I can help some folks. That would be awesome.

If you have a question, you can ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

I’ve got a desperate crush on my workmate. I’ve recently become single, and I know her marriage is not working out. Should I tell her how I feel?

If she’s still married? Probably not yet. Here’s the thing. No matter how broken and over a marriage is, ending it is still a heart-wrenching, vulnerable, difficult time. And you don’t really want to be the reason she leaves. If she chooses to leave, it’s way better if she does it for herself, and because the relationship is over than because she’s in a flush of NRE (new relationship energy) over someone new. That too easily can backfire into being “your fault”.

I feel obligated to admit that I found the strength to leave my marriage at least in part because I’d found someone else. But it was definitely over, and I had no doubts about that, and now that that (other) relationship is also over, I don’t regret it or hold it against that person. But there is a possibility that new relationship may have survived better if it hadn’t had to weather my emotional turmoil, grief and sadness over the end of a future I’d believed in for a long time. Even when you know it’s right to leave, there is still a grieving process.

My suggestion is that you offer her coffee and support and friendship, and, this is important, MEAN IT. In other words, not just as a temporary attempt to win her over so she falls madly in love with you, but because you care about her and like her company. Don’t “nice guy” this shit. But it would probably be better for both of you and any budding romance between you if she gets her shit sorted out first. That gives you your best shot at a happy ending. And if it never goes to the romance place, you may have made a really wonderful friendship out of it, which is, despite all the stupid friendzone bullshit, a pretty amazing thing.
As you came to adulthood, your home nation of South Africa was finally ending apartheid and moving into the modern world, ethically. Why did you choose that moment to emigrate? Was it at all related to the changes or a temporal coincidence.

I didn’t actually. 🙂 I chose that moment to do a bit of traveling because I had finished my degree and didn’t quite know what to do next. I traveled to the States, and loved the experience so much that I wanted to see more of the world. So I got a job in the Emirates for a year. Well, it was meant to be a year. Then I met the man I would later marry, and stayed for four, and then my life was entangled with someone else’s so we had to make decisions as a unit. It was really only when I had a child in New Zealand that I finally laid aside my intent completely to one day “go home”. This is his home now, so here I will stay, at least for now.

When I left SA I had every intention of going back. But life happened and my road twisted and turned and I ended up here. So, yes, temporal coincidence, I suppose, plus a bit of Tolkien’s thing: “It’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

 

Hello Jax! My question is this: what are your thoughts about how to enter a brand new/potential relationship with a sense of optimism and openness and willingness to be vulnerable, when all of your past experiences (long term, short term, sex friends you caught feelings for, all of ’em) have primed your neural pathways to be like “DANGER DANGER this way lies heartsmashing and tears”? I really so want to be there for this but I am fucking scared, yo.

Oh, this is a hard one. Because really what you have to do is ignore your lizard brain, and your lizard brain is very emphatic.

I mean, the short answer is, maybe there is danger. I mean, there is, because love is dangerous. There is always the potential for epic heartbreak. But there is also the potential for epic soulmate love. Or for something a bit more lukewarm, but quite lovely anyway. Or for any other gradient between the two.

I think perhaps the only way to do that is to learn to recognise the difference between a reaction to the person in front of you and historical reactions. Which takes time and practice. Because you don’t want to discount your gut altogether, guts are often pretty smart. But lizardbrain fear sometimes feels just like your gut speaking. And it can take time to untangle all of that.

Here’s an excellent litmus test. Tell your person. You don’t have to unload your entire life history on them if it’s still new, but saying something like, “Hey, I’m super into you, and I really want to make this go, but I have a bunch of historical bullshit that is making me feel really afraid. Please bear with me while I work through it.”

It’s a litmus test because someone into you who can go, “Oh, that’s cool, I get that. Baggage is very human. Is there anything I can do to help assuage your fears?” is the BOMB. That’s the shit you want. Someone you can talk through the lizardbrain fear with. Someone who will sit with that fear and hug it until it sods off back where it belongs. That’s the shit.

But if they go, “uh, nah, fuck that, too much work”, then they’ve revealed themselves as not epic soulmate material, and saved you botha  lot of time. Because really, isn’t epic soulmate what you deserve?

Try and enjoy the happy early fluttery joy feelings regardless. They really are so much fun, even if it doesn’t work out in the long term. Good luck ❤

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