Marriage: If I'd Done It Differently I Wouldn't Be Divorced
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By Julie Finchum, Guest Author - March 14, 2017

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There is a weird spectrum I live in and gauge marriages by. One end is labeled “I know I’m glad to be divorced despite the hell it’s been” and the opposite end reads “If I would have done a few things differently, maybe things would have been different.”

One of my best friends at work told me her husband took a new job in a neighboring state. She will be moving for his dreams; uprooting their kid’s school routine and soccer teams and their family traditions.

Her exact words were “I have a bad attitude about this. Part of me thinks I might be mad at him forever like this will be a turning point.” The person I was a few years ago would have said “WTF?! Don’t do that just because he says so! What about you!?”

The person I’ve become didn’t say “WTF?” I said, “I’m sorry. I know this is hard for you.” Then, I began to selfishly cry. I was losing my daily confidant and she was upset. I was hurt for her. Then I began to wicked cry because her words struck such a chord with me.

They triggered the same feelings I had for a long time during my marriage. The negative self-talk of similar words rattled in my ears. I felt a little envious she was still in a situation to actually work through stuff and a little sad at the sense of failure that I'm not. It made me reflect on what I could have done differently in my own marriage. So here’s what I told her:

Make a script. Include the good, the bad, and the very ugly.

I’m much better with written words than face to face. My emotions skyrocket, I want to get the last word in, and I want to be right! Paper and pen or fingers on keyboard help me think instead of completely over reacting. I can’t use the delete key when I’m going off randomly. 

The difference for me and my happily married friend is that her husband will sit down and listen to her read her thoughts. He’ll care and she’ll not shut down. She loves him too much to turn off the switch at one point of disagreement like I would have done. True best-friend-solid-foundation-of-a-marriage couples really respect how to express feelings. I’m learning that. They appreciate healthy debate and value honesty. They write the script and veer from it when needed.

Scream out loud. Go from a 1 to a 10.

About one month before telling the kids, my ex and I got into a deep discussion about basic fundamentals of our relationship. I told him it’s not one thing, it’s many things, like dedicated time for each other, finding faith together, and growing into and not out of being a couple.

The discussion started ok, but I remember my volume going from a 2 to a 10 quickly. “I hate you because you cheated on me every time I was pregnant. I hate you because when we lost a baby you sat and texted your female co-worker. I hate you because you always made me feel like I was never good enough.”

He looked at me and said, “Why didn’t you just tell me that a long time ago?” I thought, "You ass! Why didn’t you ask?!” But looking back, I realize I’m the one that bottled it all up. Saying I was fine was easier because it made him happy to not argue. It made the kids happy I wasn’t making things miserable. My failure to scream slowly turned those slights into a turning point and I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

Be sad and be happy together. And stay that way as long as it takes.

There are so many levels of loss I can’t even imagine working through. My parents are still alive and my kids are healthy. These are losses I’m frankly not sure I’m prepared to handle and admire those that do. On a smaller scale, there are day-to-day successes and losses I didn’t realize were important to share as a couple. I had a desire to share and work through grief and gladness with him, but I didn't.

In my friend’s case, she’s happy for his new job and the fresh start. But she’s grieving the move away from her parents, her sister, and her job. My counselor told me I never took the time to grieve life events like my miscarriage and my struggles with being a single-income earner when I was married. The sales manager at my former employer used to say “are you ever happy? Like do you ever just stop and say that’s good enough and enjoy it?”

No. I don’t. Ever. I am programmed to keep pushing, keep getting better, and keep running as fast as I can so other people are happy. No time for grieving or feeling sorry for myself. No time to celebrate happiness because I could always be happier. I think, women in general, are wired that way. I told my friend to be honest about her sadness and her enthusiasm. Her husband has to know all of it to avoid a turn that truly can’t be reversed.

There is a weird spectrum I live in and gauge things by. One end is labeled “I know I’m glad to be divorced despite the hell it’s been” and the opposite end reads “If I would have done a few things differently, maybe things would have been different.”

I’ll do it differently next time. And I want to help people like my friend do it right the first time.

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