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A divorced woman responds to divorced man's "epic marriage" advice

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

What would you do differently in your relationship if you could do it all over?

What would I do if I could do things differently? It's a question all of us ask at times in our lives but perhaps no more so than when looking back at a failed relationship. One recently divorced man decided to think through that painful process and came up with "20 Epic Marriage Advice He Wished He Could Have Had (sic)" and the result is a beautiful portrait of what an ideal relationship would be like.

While I enjoyed reading his list, I wondered how a divorced woman would respond so I turned to my friend Maggie who just got divorced to help me find the wisdom (and some humor) in his list.

Always see the best in her

"If you focus on what bugs you, all you will see is reasons to be bugged. If you focus on what you love, you can't help but be consumed by love."

Maggie: It would be nice but I don't think this is real. How can you see someone as a whole person if you can't acknowledge their flaws? Don't you kind of have to see the bad stuff too? Or maybe this just proves I haven't been in enough healthy relationships.

Forgive immediately

"Forgive immediately and focus on the future rather than carrying weight from the past. Don't let your history hold you hostage."

Maggie: I don't know about "immediately." Sweeping it under the rug isn't forgiveness, it's dishonest. Sometimes people hurt you and you need to be able to tell them that and say "I need time" to get over this. A better tip would be to have a forgiving heart. Look for ways to not be offended but if you do get hurt, own it.

Protect your own heart

"Love yourself fully, love the world openly, but there is a special place in your heart where no one must enter except for your wife. Keep that space always ready to receive her and invite her in, and refuse to let anyone or anything else enter there."

Maggie: Word salad! What is he even talking about? If he means "don't have emotional affairs" then yes, absolutely, don't do that.

Never blame her if you get angry

"You were attracted to this woman because she was the person best suited to trigger all of your childhood wounds in the most painful way so that you could heal them: When you heal yourself, you will no longer be triggered by her, and you will wonder why you ever were."

Maggie: He's right, I know that because I heard it on Oprah! I guess the trick is finding someone who does that but you still feel safe enough with to go through that.

Be fully transparent

"If you want to have trust you must be willing to share EVERYTHING: Especially those things you don't want to share. Drop the mask."

Maggie: Vulnerability is a big thing in healthy relationships but I think men have a hard time doing it without feeling emasculated. But they shouldn't because vulnerability is a big turn on for chicks.

Don't worry about money

"Money is a game, find ways to work together as a team to win it. It never helps when teammates fight."

Maggie: Let's be honest, worrying about money is just part of life but if money is what's driving you apart then yeah, you need to let that one go. He's definitely right about needing to be a team, no matter what problem you're tackling.

Be willing to take her sexually

"To carry her away in the power of your masculine presence, to consume her and devour her with your strength, and to penetrate her to the deepest levels of her soul. Let her melt into her feminine softness as she knows she can trust you fully."

Maggie: Well that was uncomfortable. "To penetrate her to the deepest levels..." There's a cervix in there that might get hurt! But seriously, yes, I think being sexually assertive is important. I like a man who isn't afraid to ask for what he wants or to show me what he wants. And it never hurts to ask for consent.

Be present

"Give her not only your time, but your focus, your attention and your soul. Do whatever it takes to clear your head so that when you are with her you are fully WITH HER. Treat her as you would your most valuable client. She is."

Maggie: Definitely a good one. A little bit of politeness can go a long way in relationships.

Never stop growing together

"Atrophy is the natural process when you stop working a muscle, just as it is if you stop working on your relationship. Find common goals, dreams and visions to work towards."

Maggie: This is so cute. I want this to be true for a future relationship.

By the end of the list Maggie was weeping softly. "Divorce sucks," she said. "There's a big part of me that wishes 'Oh we could have done that one thing' and it would have saved our marriage but the reality is it's complicated." But, she added that the list also left her with hope, that her next relationship would be better. And after all, isn't hope the one thing all of us — married or not — are looking for?

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