8 Things I Wish I Wouldn't Have Done in My Marriage
Divorce rarely happens in an instant, and in retrospect, people who have been divorced can pinpoint the warning signs they wish they hadn't overlooked during their marriage. But that doesn't mean it'seasy."In a marriage, it's easy to brush issues under the carpet or assume that things will just work out, but that's rarely the case," says Lisa Bahar, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Newport Beach, CA. The good news? Noticing any of these red flagsisn'ta sign your marriage is doomed—it just means that it's a topic worthy of discussing so it doesn't become a major issue. Here, eight things divorced partners wish they'd done differently.
1. We should have gotten help earlier
"My ex pushed for counseling, but I was pretty resistant at first … and by the time we actually went, two years after problems began, I feel like everything felt insurmountable and so, so hard to talk through. I think starting counseling earlier could have helped us work out communication kinks before we got to a total breakdown stage," says Amy, 35. Bahar says she sees that frequently in her practice. "I would much rather people come to me whenmostthings are going great, but they need some help communicating about one or two issues," she explains. Most counselors are happy to work with a couple for just a few sessions, and sometimes, it can be especially helpful in smoothing over times of transition, like having a new baby or one of you going back to work after staying at home.
2.I should have stopped complaining to my friends
"Whenever I was annoyed at my husband, I immediately was on the phone complaining to my sister or one of my friends," says Donna, 40, divorced for ten years and now happily remarried for two. "I don't think that it completely contributed to the divorce, but now in my marriage I'm much more conscious of actuallytellingmy husband I'm mad at him before I tell all our friends."
3. We should have figured out whywe were getting married
"We got together when we were in college, but we always had different friends and interests," says Kevin, 33, divorced for five years. "We got married because it felt like we were 'supposed' to, but it soon became clear that we just didn't have anything in common except for history." That's not to say that couples with nothing in common don't work out—after all, the phraseopposites attractis cliché for a reason—but experts agree that "might as well" isn't the best reason for gettingandstaying married.
4. I should have listened to my family… a little bit
"My mom was prettymehabout my ex, which I, of course, ignored," says Jane, 33. "I don't think parents are always right, but I think I would have focused more on the reasons why she was so concerned with him—namely, that she always saw me trying to make him happy and didn't see him reciprocating." It's no secret that some people just don't warm up to others, but if you hear the same criticism from a few sources, it may be time to do some inward reflection and figure out how that behavior makesyoufeel.
5. We should havetalkedabout the tough stuff
"My husband was a guy who definitely shut down when the going got tough … so we ended up ignoring a lot of rocky moments and pretending everything was fine," remembers Vicky, 40. It's notoriously hard to get guys to open up, and theworstway to do it is to ask him what's wrong. Instead, talk about how you're feeling, making it clear that it's not abouthim,just an observation. "Men are very sensitive to the emotional cues their wives send," says Rebecca Jurgensen, Ph.D., a San Diego-based therapist. Bringing up your emotions—explaining that the kids' soccer schedule has you overwhelmed, that the upcoming move has caused more anxiety than you anticipated—may give him the space he needs to talk abouthisfeelings, so you both can come up with a plan of action.
6.We should have gotten more help with the kids
"We had three kids in five years," says Jane, 37, divorced for five years. "It was such a blur, and at the time, I was so committed to being a good mom that being a good wife fell by the wayside. Now, my kids are older, and I'm remarried to a man who also has kids. We definitely try to be the best parents we can be, but we have also prioritized taking one long weekend as a couple every year and will try to take time for just the two of us whenever we can." Experts agree that time for the two of you is key—and that it doesn't need to be an elaborate dinner and a movie evening. "Having an hour to watch a favorite TV series, have a glass of wine, or even play a board game can keep the connection without it feeling like one more thing on your to-do list," says Marcia Naomi Berger, a marriage therapist and author ofMarriage Meetings for Lasting Love. Bonus: Having regular check-ins with each other can give you the time to talk about issuesbeforethey become overwhelming.
7.We should have had morefun
"Whenever I remember my first marriage all I think of isstress.We were stressed about bills, stressed about work schedules, stressed about thekids … I wish we could have just relaxed," says Mike, 38, divorced for five years. Obviously, stress is a part of life, but having a partner should make life's bumps and curveseasierto handle. Working as a team to talk through and tackle your biggest challenges can make it feel like you're in things together, says Berger, who advocate sweekly "marriage meetings" to focus on your most pressing issues and come up with actionable solutions to fix them.
8.We should have made more friends
"My ex and I had been together for about three years before we got married," says Rachel, 32. "Shortly after our wedding, we moved to a new state where we had no friends or family nearby. We were both so busy with our jobs that we didn't really prioritize making friends, which made us both feel really isolated.
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