Actress Paula Patton and singer Robin Thicke arrive at the 82nd annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre (now called the Dolby Theatre) on March 7, 2010, in Hollywood, Calif.  
John Shearer/Getty Image

Pay attention to what Robin Thicke has been saying, not singing. Forget about the lyrics, the new album and his recent antics. Instead, listen to what he’s been saying about his marriage, and what you’ll hear is a man putting on a master class in what not to do if you want to hold on to the person you love.

Here are four things he’s said in recent interviews that are revealing, instructive and timely for anyone in a relationship:

1. “I knew exactly what I had.”

This was Thicke’s response when asked whether he only realized how special Patton was after the two separated. I commend him for his answer. You often hear people say, “I didn’t know what I had until it was gone.” Truth is, we know what we have. But we usually don’t appreciate and cherish what we have, and take for granted that it will always be there.  We’ve all been guilty of this a time or two in our lives, and it can cost us mightily. It cost Thicke his family.

The lesson: If you want to hold on to the person you love, let him or her know it through your words and actions before he or she walks out the door for good.

2. “How can we work this out when we’re never even together, and there’s no one even there to hold on to. That’s what happens when … your careers take you all over the world and you’re apart all the time.”

Your career might not take you all over the world, but many couples can relate to what Thicke is saying here. Work and career demands put a strain on many relationships.     

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Thicke says he and Patton weren’t “together enough.”  Her blossoming movie career and his music career—highlighted by a breakout year in 2013—pulled them in two different directions. That can happen to anyone, no matter her or his profession.   

Thicke’s statement gave me pause when I heard it, and I immediately looked at a calendar and realized that my wife (a lawyer) and I haven’t had a day off together in more than a month because of the demands on both of our careers. Yet I’ve managed to make time to sneak away to watch the World Cup on several occasions in the past month. I could have used that time to take her to lunch or just stop by her office to say hello.

Yes, work realities present relationship challenges, but we also make decisions every day to neglect our partners.   

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The lesson: You have to make a conscious effort to find time for each other. Don’t concede to being “apart all the time.” If you do, the outcome is inevitable.  

3. “I changed. I got a little too selfish, a little too greedy and a little too full of myself.”

This revelation always comes after the fact. I can’t imagine what 2013 was like for Robin Thicke. Even though he’s enjoyed R&B success for years, “Blurred Lines” propelled him to a new stratosphere of international fame. I would have been feeling myself, too!

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But Thicke should have had someone in his inner circle who could keep him in check. As my pastor puts it: “Always have someone around you with the authority to rebuke you.”   

The lesson: We need to be corrected at times, and we can’t always recognize when and do it on our own. It’s critical to have a core group of friends and family who won’t allow you to get away from your true self.              

4. “We were together as children. We raised each other, and now that we’re adults, we’re not the same people in the same places.”

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You could argue that their split was bound to happen. Thicke met Patton when he was just 16 years old. Though they waited until their mid- to late 20s to get married, those two kids who first fell in love as teens grew into adults who possibly weren’t compatible.

You’re not the same person at age 32 that you were at 16, 21 or even 25. For better or worse, Thicke says he grew into the man he is today, which means growing out of the person he was when they first met and when they married.

Still, meeting at a young age doesn’t mean that growing apart is inevitable. It does, however, mean that your relationship might require more awareness, care and attention from you both.

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The lesson: Growth happens. Your mate will change. And the younger you are when you get together, the more dramatic those changes might be. Be prepared to embrace and nurture that growth when it happens.  

There’s speculation that the photo of Thicke with his hand on another woman’s butt or the photos of him getting a little too friendly with a woman at a Paris nightclub or the nearly pornographic MTV Video Music Awards performance with Miley Cyrus was a reason for the split. But Thicke’s public statements suggest that none of those things set the separation in motion. The split was a long time coming because of missteps a lot of us make in our relationships every day.     

We may never know exactly what happened between Thicke and his wife. And who knows if he’ll ever “get her go, get her go, get her go, get her back.” But for now, Thicke is providing a public refresher course on how to keep from losing a loved one in the first place.

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T.J. Holmes is a journalist and TV personality. Formerly of CNN, he can currently be found at MSNBC, and his commentary can be found online. Follow him on Twitter.