Thursday, August 02, 2012

Before heading to the chapel, here is some advice from the trenches.

I read an article the other day about newlyweds.  It advised newlyweds to seek advice from divorced people about how to make a marriage work.

This made so much sense to me!  There really is no one else out there who could tell you better on what, why and how a marriage failed.  Likely, if they made it as far as quitting, they spent a lot of time agonizing over all of the details of what went wrong, what they could have done better, etc etc.

Of course, as with anything, there are the exceptions to these rules, but those people are pretty obvious.  The rush to the alter types usually end with several failed marriages under their belts and no wisdom to convey other than "Do not do as I do's
(I Do's, get it? Haha! Sorry, could not help myself)

I feel like I learned a lot from my marriage and even more from my divorce.  I don't mind sharing some of what I learned with the small masses that read my blog, as I think it is all useful in it's own way.

Having had a 7 year marriage and almost 16 years of an on and off relationship with one person under my belt, I feel like I have some authority on the "what not to do".

1- Be accountable.  Know how to admit when you are wrong.  I spent so many years with, "It wasn't me. I didn't do it" or just an excuse for everything and "Not my fault!".  I have to say, that is the one thing I miss the very least about being married and am so relieved I no longer have to deal with.
If someone tries to "It's not my fault" me nowadays, I react like a person with PTSD and go to a bad place in my brain.  I just want to shake them and scream, "I KNOW IT WAS YOU! JUST ADMIT IT ALREADY SO WE CAN MOVE ON!"
When you mess up, lose the remote, take a left instead of a right on the road, forget to take out the trash, forget to pay a bill, just say "I'm sorry" or "Oops!"  Don't rattle off a laundry list of all of the reasons why it is not your fault, and why the other person is actually the one to blame.  This goes all the way from forgot to take out the trash to serious marriage issues.
All issues take two people, but every now and then, we all mess up.  Be the better person and just fess up when it is your fault. 

2- Be loving.  I know that the person you are with does not look like they did when they are 25 (Unless they actually are 25, then this advice is for the future married you).  I know that you may even get to the point where you are sick of looking at them.  But make a point of telling the person or showing them each and every day that you appreciate them and you love them.
Even when you are fighting over something stupid.  It really only takes a millisecond.  But I will tell you, after several years of marriage, there will be times where you could easily go three weeks without exchanging so much as a handshake and not even realize it.  What you are missing when that happens is the growing rift between you, and how you are slowly getting over one another right under both of your noses.
If you let it go too long, one day you might wake up and realize that you have literally, "lost that loving feeling."
And for God's sake, whatever you do, NEVER use the Jack Nicholson quote: "Show me a beautiful woman and I will show you a man who is sick of f*cking her." That is not an point to win an argument, unless the argument you are trying to win is how to beat land speed records to divorce court.

3- Cohabitation. Live together for at least 2 years before you get married. Physically live together for at least a year before you even think about getting engaged.  I don't care what anyone says, you can't really know someone, or if you can put up with that someone for the rest of your life, until you live with them for a couple of years. 
When I got married, even though we had been off and on for many years and I really thought he was the great love of my life, I realize, looking back, that we never really spent a ton of time together before we got married. We saw each other all of the time, and we spent a lot of time together, but we didn't live in the same house for very long before we got hitched. 
We moved in together in August, were engaged by January and married by July.
Our relationship started out as one of those most perfect long distance relationships.  Where you only get to spend small chunk of time together and all of the rest of the time you spend missing each other.  And then with the amount he traveled for work, we continued to spend amazing amounts of time apart when we were actually living together. 
At about year three, I had the epiphany that we were a great couple when he was away because he had the long distance thing down.  The sweet phone calls, the longing for, the love and misses, everything that makes up the statement "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."  He was a master at the long distance thing.
But what I learned was that even though we were pros and being apart, we royally sucked at being together. 
I know, it sounds backwards, but it is true.
I thought I could not know a person better after all of those years, but when we lived in the same house, I learned things I never knew, and never would have been OK with, and I am certain he would say the same about me.  And it isn't even anything dramatic, it is just compatibility things that we would have figured out had we taken the time to live together!
Examples for anyone might be: how you like your house to look, how many pets you actually want in your house, do you want a TV in your bedroom, do you ever want to live in another state or city, how do you feel about the hours your partner keeps, personal hygiene, food habits, health and weight management, how loud they snore, how they spend their free time, how often either of you expect to have sex, weird kinks, how many hours a day you want the TV on, etc etc... there could be a million things you can never know about a person until you actually live with them.  You may even find out they have a psychiatric disorder like BPD, BiPolar, Depression, etc, that you never would have know before you lived with them.  Don't find these things out after you get married!! 

4- Expectations. I'm talking the big stuff here. Children. Taxes. Money.  Religion... Whatever it is that means the most to you.  Make a list of your future dreams that you know you can't live without and make sure your future partner is happy and willing to go in that same direction with you, or you will have a life filled with regret to look forward to. 
One of the biggest reasons I finally filed for divorce was that he promised children before we got married, which was super important to me, and what felt like minutes after we were wed, he told me what he actually said was that, "He would consider it, and he considered it and decided he didn't want any."
I made it very clear that if I were to get married, I wanted another child as it has always been my dream to actually have one baby the old fashioned way, with two parents who both wanted a child and planned it together and went through all of that fun pregnancy stuff together.  When I turned 35, been married for over 5 years and saw no progress or children on the horizon and so much wasted time behind me, I thought my dream of having one more child had been killed, and I saw the assassin as the person I was married to.
By killing that dream, he killed my feelings for him and I am certain it was not because he was trying to hurt me or doing it on purpose, it was because not having children was as important to him as having them was to me.
As much as he was a disappointment to me, I am certain I was to him in this area.
Luckily, my story had a happy ending.  I've won the lottery and met a man who shared the same dream before I got too old, and am now living that, but I do think about all of the people who stay married and are as miserable as I was because the person they chose to marry are the main roadblock to one of their biggest dreams.
For me, him standing in the way of my dream to be a mother one more time would have been the equivalent of me standing in the way of him making music.  Unacceptable.
Make sure you know all of the answers to all of the biggest questions before you say, "I Do", because if you don't, and you get surprised with the "wrong" answer after the fact, it will ruin your whole life.

5- Get a great therapist!  Love yourself, know yourself, know what you want and expect, and be honest with yourself about your own flaws before handing them to someone else to fix for you.  Because no one but you is going to be able to make you a whole person.  Don't go into a marriage expecting the marriage to save the relationship, or fix the parts of you that are broken.  Adding the stress of marriage on top of all of the voices that are already telling you you are not good enough to be loved, will just make that manifest in your marriage.
 Individuation.  It is a word you will hear a lot when things start to go south.  Look it up, learn it, own it, way before it becomes homework from your marriage counselor. 

That is all I've got, future newlyweds, or the small corner of the internet that actually reads my blog.
I hope no one sees this as some kind of character assassination or something, I don't mean it that way at all, this is just my attempt to be as honest as possible about what I see as useful information for other people who are about to take the plunge.  Learn from my mistakes as that is all history is good for.
If anyone learns from my mistakes and the years I had to suffer through unhappiness before I could come out the other side, than maybe it was a little more than wasted time. 

I still love and respect my ex-husband in a lot of ways, and I hope for nothing but his future happiness.  I just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was so entirely the wrong person for me.  And taking away from those years what I have, I swear they have made my new partnership stronger and more loving than anything I ever imagined possible! 

Everything I ever wanted and dreamed of is coming true.  I have an amazing family, I'm having the baby I always wanted, the way I always wanted, and I am with a partner who is more like me and understands me better than anyone I've ever met.  I wake up happy every day instead of angry and in pain and uncertainty.  I never question the love I have, because I chose wisely this time around and I chose correctly. 

I don't know if I will ever marry again.  Right now, it doesn't seem important to either of us at this time as we have everything we want and we've both lived through broken marriages before, and agree that the best part or those marriages were the weddings. 

And anyhow, we have only lived together for 1.5 years, I'm not about to start breaking my own rules now!  ;-)

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