Bethenny Frankel is known for being many things: Skinnygirl mogul, TV personality on “The Real Housewives of New York City,” best-selling author and a mom. But she admits her new book emerged from one thing she hasn’t quite accomplished yet.
“I’ve learned more from my mistakes than I’ve learned from my successes. It’s a ‘do as I say, not as I’ve done’ book,” she says about “I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To: 10 Rules for Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever After” (Touchstone).
Frankel, 44, who filed for divorce from second husband Jason Hoppy in 2013, hopes to steer readers away from her own mistakes as she remains “hopeful and wishful” for success in her love life. Much of her advice is targeted at those who are in the midst of, or coming out of, unhappy relationships, including herself.
We talked to Frankel for some lessons-learned advice, along with her therapist, psychologist Dr. Xavier Amador, who contributed to the book. Amador is founder of Long Island, N.Y.-based LEAP Institute, which focuses on conflict resolution and trust-building workshops.
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Own your vulnerability: Frankel spends a lot of time in the book touting the values of vulnerability.
She’s not advising for people, particularly women, to become doormats. Still, she says, it’s important to own vulnerability as proudly as you own your toughness. “When you’re vulnerable and honest and open about something, regardless of how the other person feels,” she says, “that could be powerful.”
One example: that point in a relationship when one party wants more than the other. Instead of denying it or drowning in it, just be upfront about it – and take the next step.
“Be honest and say, ‘Look, I’m being a little needy. I’m going to pull it together,’” Frankel says. And then take back your power, and back off for a while.
Brave the timeout: When a relationship is unbalanced, stepping away can offer many benefits, Amador says. “You have to surrender to win a lot of times,” he explains. “What does it mean to surrender? It really means to stop trying to control things. You’re not going to change (another) person.”
Walking away also helps you gain perspective and can reduce anxiety. “Whenever we’re less anxious, we’re less likely to behave in ways that hurt our relationships,” Amador says.
Be honest with yourself: The better you know yourself, the more successful you’ll be when you start a relationship. That means being honest with yourself as well as the person you’re dating. “You don’t want to get to the point (in a relationship) where you don’t know who they are,” Frankel says, “and you’re pretending you’re somebody you’re not.”
Self-awareness is also important, Amador adds, because we can control only our own behavior.
Re-evaluate the past: For anyone who isn’t sure whether their life and/or current relationship is balanced, Amador suggests revisiting your datebook over the past few months or even year.
“Your calendar is a reflection, hopefully, of your values and what you want in your life day to day, week after week, month after month,” he says.
Does your partner complement or dominate your life? “A relationship, by definition, is an interaction between two people,” Amador says. “It’s a dance. And you can’t dance unless you’re moving on average 50 percent of the time in the same direction.”
If Frankel has learned anything, she says, it’s to enjoy her own life, with or without a relationship. Ensure you don’t neglect your own career, hobbies, avocations, family and friends, she says, “instead of waiting for the other person to (determine) what you’re doing.”