Was my first marriage a mistake? No. Did I make mistakes? Absolutely. In fact, as we were going through the divorce process and having some very honest conversations, I asked my ex-husband to tell me what marriage mistakes I made. I said, “Tell me because I need to do this better next time.”
It takes two to make a marriage work and two to make a marriage fail. We both contributed to the divorce in our own ways. If you’re divorced and think it’s all your ex’s fault, then, my friend, you’re going to have a hard time on the next go ‘round, too. No one is perfect in marriage, but for those blessed to find love again, you have an opportunity to do it differently and do it better. For those who are married and what I’m about to share sounds familiar, it’s not too late. Here are three mistakes I made that contributed to my divorce. Maybe you’ve made these mistakes, too.
1. I was afraid of conflict.
We never fought. That’s not a good thing. I remember hating hearing my parents fight when I was a kid and wondering if every fight was going to be the one that broke them. Now, as an adult, I see that my parents always had a happy and healthy marriage. Sure, they fought. And not every conflict was resolved perfectly, but I learned from that, too. My parents occasionally fought because they are two different people, with different personalities and desires.
We didn’t fight in my marriage because I didn’t speak up. I didn’t say what I wanted. I just went with the flow to keep the peace. I’m not saying you should pick fights or be intentionally confrontational, but don’t be afraid of conflict. I took my efforts to maintain peace so far that I lost myself.
2. I thought counseling was only for a crisis.
There is a stigma surrounding counseling that just needs to go away. We think if we’re in counseling, then we are confirming there is trouble or room for improvement. But every relationship has room for improvement. Every couple can learn to communicate and show love better. Denying that doesn’t change anything. I remember avoiding checking my bank account balance in college. The low balance was there (maybe even some red!), but if I could ignore it, maybe it would go away or take care of itself. Maybe I should’ve switched banks, because the money never magically appeared.
One of the marriage mistakes I made was thinking that we didn’t need to work on “us” and that investing in professional help would look bad. My friend, the optics do not matter when your family is on the line. We have to pull our heads out of the sand, see that help is needed, and ask for it. It’s incredible to think about what would happen to the divorce statistics in our country if every couple went to periodic counseling.
3. We were not on the same page spiritually.
This is tricky. If you’ve ever witnessed an interreligious marriage or one where the husband and wife don’t agree on what role faith plays, then you know it can be an uphill battle. Marriage is tough when you are sitting in the pew every Sunday together in prayer. To be out of sync on something as pivotal as faith complicates a marriage exponentially. I’m not saying it can’t work. It can, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. I thought we would be the exception because we respected each other and (see point #1) we didn’t fight. We were not the exception. I was too proud to see that.
More than creating conflict, not connecting spiritually affects intimacy. In my first session with my counselor, he explained how spiritual intimacy is the deepest level of intimacy—even deeper than sexual. When you are not on the same page in your faith, you basically put up a barrier to fully knowing your spouse. I knew our differences were going to be an issue, but I thought what we did have was strong enough to carry us through.
What marriage mistakes have you made? Let’s share them and help each other grow.