I never thought I'd get divorced. I was raised to believe marriage was forever and divorce was a sign of failure. So, I stayed in my first marriage way too long, and when I filed for divorce I thought it made me a bad person. I wish I could go back and tell myself some things about marriage, motherhood, and divorce, if only to save myself so much unnecessary pain. Unfortunately, I don't have a time machine, so I'm going to share some of the things us divorced moms want married moms to know.
I know you might be thinking that taking marriage advice from a divorced person is counter-intuitive. Here's the thing, though: I learned so much about how to be a better partner, and how to make my second marriage work, from my divorce. I learned how to fight fair, and how to communicate with my partner when things get complicated. I figured out the importance of staying on the same page about things like finances, sex, and parenting philosophies. I also learned that I needed to maintain my independence in my marriage and not expect my husband to change. Above all, I learned that sometimes there's nothing you can do to salvage things, and walking away doesn't signify failure, but growth.
So, trust me when I say that I am so much better at marriage the second time around and, as a result, have a few pieces of friendly advice for the married moms among me:
Divorce Can Be A Good Thing
For me, divorce was absolutely the best decision I could have made. My now ex-husband was abusive, so staying together wasn't good for anyone, including our kids. I know that's not the case for every married couple, but if your marriage gets to a similar, abusive point, I want you to know that being a single parent was a heck of a lot easier than parenting with someone toxic.
I was so much happier, more confident, and a way better mom after my divorce. It was one of the best could things that could have happened for me and my kids, and it taught me so much about myself and about marriage, which has really come in handy the second time around.
Communication Is Key
Even if it feels like you and your spouse agree about everything or finish each other's sentences, I promise that you can't actually read each other's minds. So, yes, you have to communicate. I honestly could have avoided so many fights with my ex (and my current husband, for that matter) by clearly communicating my wants, needs, and expectations. It sounds simple, but it's so important.
Figure Out Your Finances
My ex-husband and I rarely talked about money. That was, of course, until something horrible happened. I brought home the majority of our family's income and managed our finances, which caused huge fights when he decided to spend way more than our budget could handle, usually on get rich quick schemes, junk food, and toys.
I highly recommend taking time to put together a budget, plan to live within your means, and to talk with your partner about spending money on things not in the agreed upon plan. I know that money is supposedly some "taboo" topic you're not supposed to talk about, but you have to be able to discuss finances with your future husband or wife.
Intimacy is not just about sex, and it's so important to a healthy marriage (or any relationship, really). Love is a verb, not a noun. For your relationship to thrive, you need to learn how to love your partner, and how you want and need to be loved by them, to feel fulfilled. Sex is important, for sure, but there are other ways to show your love and they are equally important, especially once kids enter the picture and sex takes a honeymoon.
For me, once the intimacy was gone my marriage was on its way out, too. I wish I had seen it sooner.
My therapist once told me that all couples fight, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or lying to themselves. Figuring out how to disagree respectfully and fight fair is something I never learned to do with my ex-husband, and something that I have to work really hard on in my current marriage. You won't agree about everything and that's OK, as long as you stay respectful.
Learn How To Have Difficult Conversations
There are things you never talk about until you are forced to. You know, scary things like preterm labor or your child getting sick or hurt, and emotional things like existential crises or struggles at work. There are even everyday, things like where to go for the holidays or what to do about your child's forgotten homework, that can be difficult conversations that put a strain on your marriage. But if you don't learn how to talk about hard things, you might just find that you have no idea how to bring them up when you need to.
You Don't Have To Settle
I basically spent my entire marriage thinking that things would get better if I was able to change my partner. I settled for less than I deserved and kept waiting for my ex-husband to become a responsible, kind person, and to share my progressive, feminist values. As horrible as he was to me, it was also pretty unfair of me to expect him to change.
Don't Lose Yourself
You don't have to give up yourself when you get married. When I was married to my ex-husband, I found myself doing the things he wanted to do and, to a certain extent, letting my dreams and goals take a back seat to his. You owe it to yourself to not pretend to be someone you're not. Instead take time to foster your own interests and don't be afraid to be yourself, otherwise you risk losing yourself to your marriage.
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