— Word to the wise before you walk down the aisle.
— There are no schools set aside for marriage training
— If experience is the greatest teacher, then divorce may be the best education in what it takes to make a marriage work.
Below, divorced men and women share the biggest teachable moments from marriages that went south.
#1. We weren’t best friends: “Most successful marriages are based on friendship. My current five-year relationship embraces that notion. I remember my ex-wife asking me a simple question. ‘Do you treat me the same way you treat your best friend’? The answer was clear, ‘no, I don’t.’ I’m not sure why men in particular seem to have difficulty with the concept of being best friends with their wives. My theory based on 30 years of running men’s workshops and groups? Few men have a male best friend who they feel comfortable sharing their deepest emotional truths with. Consequently, they can’t embrace the notion of best friendship with their wives because they simply don’t know what a best friendship entails. ― Ken Solin, author of The Boomer Guide to Finding True Love Online
#2. Opposites don’t always attract: “Compatibility was missing from my first marriage. It is said that opposites attract. It should also be said that opposites shouldn’t marry one another. I am very grateful for my second chance to choose someone that enjoys the same activities I do.” ― Kevin Cotter, author of 101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress
#3. The relationship was built more on lust than a true partnership: “My first marriage revolved more around lust than an actual functioning partnership. The relationship often centered around the experiences of the moment rather than planning for the future together or setting goals. We didn’t know each other as well as we should have before getting serious with one another and eventually marrying. There was always a drama or a crisis that kept us engaged with one another but not truly connected in the way that we should have been as a married couple.” ― Michelle Zunter, blogger at The Pondering Nook
#4. We were co-parents, not lovers: “What was missing? Something in common, beyond our children. Opposites attract, no doubt, but after the initial physical attraction winds down, there has to be something to sustain you as a couple. I was cerebral, philosophical, and political; he was a man of few words, interested in athletics, and didn’t much care for intellectual pursuits. We were co-parents who couldn’t have a conversation. It wasn’t enough.” ― Lisa Lavia Ryan, blogger at Lisa Lisa No Cult Jam
#5. I lost sight of myself in the marriage: “The thing that was missing from my marriage was me; my autonomy and healthy sense of self. I loved being my husband’s wife, but I saw that as my identity, not a role. And because I derived my feelings of worth and value from his approval or disapproval of me, when he decided I wasn’t good enough, I believed it.” ― Patty Blue Hayes
#6. We fell out of “like”: “You hear all the time about couples that fall out of love. But falling out of love is the end game to falling out of like. You have to like your partner, and it’s sometimes hard when the kids need attention, work is stressful, and no one planned dinner. Laugh every day about something. Take time to be a couple everyday, not just on ‘date night.’ If your spouse really likes you, it’s much harder for them to fall out of love. If your spouse falls out of like, falling out of love comes quickly.” ― Bill Flanigin
#7. We didn’t make date night a priority: “We failed to consistently make quality time for one another ― just the two of us. When a relationship is first starting out, you turn off the TV and have long conversations, you go out on dates and rearrange your schedule to spend time together. I believe time is your most precious commodity, and every second should be cherished. Never stop dating your spouse.” ― Trish Eklund, blogger at Family Fusion
#8. I didn’t participate enough in the marriage: “In my marriage, I said, ‘yeah, whatever you want’ and failed to take responsibility when something went wrong. Always asking her what to do didn’t make me the great husband I thought it would. On the contrary, having to tell a man what to do makes a woman feel like he’s a child and she’s his mother.” ― Elliott Katz, the author of Being the Strong Man A Woman Wants: Timeless Wisdom on Being a Man
#9. There was no respect: “The daily grind can get exhausting ― kids, jobs, mortgage, and other life stresses. But if you have a core respect for the other person, you can weather those storms and look at them as a trusted companion even when you are angry and the early days of idealized love wear off. At the end of the day, if you don’t feel like your partner respects you and values you as a person, it really leaves no hope to repair the relationship.” ― Katie Mitchell, blogger at Mama The Reader
#10. We didn’t show love in the same way: “We spoke different love languages ― his was acts of service, mine was physical touch; his top language was literally my last and vice versa. We had different ideas of fun; he longed for nights out without me, I longed for time as a family. We viewed infidelity differently ― no need to elaborate there. We came from incredibly different families ― this greatly influenced our ideas of what our day-to-day life as a family should look like. As we approached the end of our marriage, it became clear that what we had was not a relationship to be saved, that we were two very different people whose differences were too great to overcome.” ― Aubrey Keefer
#11. There was no real intimacy: “Seven years post-divorce, I am still learning how to open my mind, my heart and my body at the same time, to the same person. Occasionally, two will overlap and huddle under the shade of presence, but not all three. In order for a marriage to survive, it requires both people to be in it, nurturing those three things.” ― Rebecca Lammersen
#12. We didn’t choose to work on the marriage, day in and day out: “If had it to do over (maybe someday!), I would really be asking and examining one question: ‘Is this person dedicated to choosing us every day?’ Because once you get married, it can’t be all about you anymore. So I would want to be as sure as possible that he would continue to choose our relationship and family for years to come. Even on the days I annoyed him. Even when he was tempted to take a different path. Even during those seasons when we didn’t feel so in love with each other anymore. Because life is going to get hard ― that’s inevitable ― but if I’m going to go to war, I don’t want it to be with my husband.” ― Lindsey Light
#13. We were in a co-dependent relationship: “My husband fell apart without me there to hold him together and I was a co-dependent disaster with more issues than I realized I had at the time. Despite all my husband’s failings, I didn’t know how to live without him. We were missing our own foundations, and once you stacked us on top of each other, the entire floor gave way. If you want a solid foundation for your marriage, make sure you can stand on your own two feet first.” ― Eden Strong, blogger at It’s Not My Shame To Bear
#14. I wasn’t present: “The one thing missing from my marriage? In hindsight, it was me. I always knew I wasn’t as engaged in the relationship as I should have been, but I never saw it as a problem. Instead, I just assumed that’s how these things worked. Turns out, it’s something I’m finally coming to terms with: a lifetime of untreated depression and social anxiety has left me isolated and alone. I never wanted to dig deep into who I was, which meant I couldn’t dig deep into what the relationship was.” ― Craig Tomashoff, author of The Can’t-idates: Running For President When Nobody Knows Your Name
#15. It was like we were on opposite teams: “I never felt like my ex and I were on the same team. We could have been so much stronger together had we committed to helping each other instead of being in competition ― like who got more sleep, who got more free time, who took the kids places, who worked more. We weren’t on the same team because we didn’t act like best friends, which is key in a successful marriage. We should have respected and appreciated each other more.” ― Jackie Pilossoph, blogger at Divorced Girl Smiling
#16. I was a full-time manager in the marriage: “My ex and I were terrible partners. We were good friends, made a killer team at trivia tournaments and (individually) parented well. But we couldn’t find a balanced way to work together as we built our life. The dynamic we defaulted to was me managing and him following. That was exhausting for me and demeaning for him. The truth is, a boss/subordinate relationship does nothing for romance. Ultimately our marriage broke under the weight of unmet expectations and resentment.” ― Kate Chapman, blogger at Life In Progress
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