Saturday, March 16, 2013

Was My Marriage a Mistake?

On Monday, I was talking to a woman I volunteer with who is getting divorced in a few days. Let’s call her Kate. I always say that emotions are not a contest, but man, she sure got dealt a shitty hand. After 34 years of marriage and raising three children together, Kate’s husband served her divorce papers, completely out of the blue. He then moved out of their house and in with his girlfriend, who is the same age as his daughter! Ewww. Anyway, I forget how it came up, but over the course of our conversation, she lightly referenced my marriage as a mistake. I quickly corrected her and said I don’t feel that way, even if I did go through a lot of rejection and hurt.

But all week, I kept thinking about this idea of a marriage that ended in divorce could be a mistake. This wasn’t the first time I heard this either. The asshole therapist who Max and I saw together called our marriage a mistake over the summer and I never went back to him. Does a marriage that “failed” automatically get labeled a mistake? Does Kate, after 34 years, three children, and two grandchildren, think of her union as a mistake?

During happy hour on Friday, I brought up the subject with my friend Jen. She is younger than me and single, but she gives me some interesting insight into moving on post-divorce because her parents are divorced and both have been happily remarried for a long time. I told Jen about Kate’s comment, and how it keeps lingering in my mind.

On one hand, you could easily say we were foolish to even move in together, much less get engaged and then marry, with the intimacy problems we had. I’m usually an extremely practical and logical person. As I sipped my glass of Chianti, I admitted to Jen that I don’t know why I kept thinking/wishing that the next relationship milestone would finally be the catalyst to fix our intimacy problems. I suppose that was where the logic stopped and the naive optimism took over.

But on the other hand, I married a good man. He loved (and I think still loves) me with all of his heart. He was good to my family and friends. He was fiercely loyal and would have done anything for me.

Then Jen asked me a good question: “Knowing what you know now, would you have married Max?”

This really gave me pause. I thought about the past seven years of rejection. Confusion. Loneliness and longing. I know that no relationship is perfect, but I also know now that the weight of all those tears is not part of a normal, functional relationship. I also thought about how I’m 33 and now single, so I might never get to have a baby.

I looked at Jen, and then I looked down at the floor. I replied, “With the benefit of hindsight, no, I would not have married him. And that makes me feel like complete shit.”

Jen answered, “But you didn’t know at the time how things would devolve. You made the decision based on the love that you felt. So how could it be a mistake to marry someone you loved?”

And that’s what I’m going with. I will never call my marriage a mistake because the decision was made with love in our hearts. Max and I had plenty of good experiences together that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And even the bad stuff helps me know myself better and what I will never, ever tolerate again.

How do you think about your past relationships? Do you consider any a mistake?

31 comments:

  1. Awesome post, dear. I often think of relationships past. I'm not haunted by any of them. I know that each one helped me grow into becoming a different and (hopefully) more evolved man.

    So, no, I don't consider any past relationships to be a mistake, though I've made plenty of bad decisions. =)

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  2. Thank you, Alex. Here's to taking more relationship risks as long as we grow from every one of them!

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  3. That is a good way to think of it. There are some relationships that despite the heartache, I would not consider a mistake. Others, knowing what I know, I definitely do consider a mistake. Hindsight is 20/20! I'm glad you don't feel that way about your marriage.

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    1. Check in with me in a few months once I've dabbled in dating. There might be some I'd call a mistake. ;)

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  4. I guess I'd have to say I wish I had made better choices when I was younger, but I'm not sure the marriage was a mistake. It's just an experience that I need to learn something from.

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    1. Yes, exactly. I think my biggest lesson was that I didn't listen to my gut.

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  5. I share the same view as Jen. Looking back on things would definitely make you have some doubts on whether or not anything you did was a mistake, marriage included. But that's with the benefit of hindsight. Our entire life is a big learning process. As long as you pick up lessons on the way, then nothing is a mistake.

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    1. I think the only "mistake" I could make would be making the same mistake again because that would suggest I didn't learn the first time!

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  6. Learning experience...not a mistake!

    I don't waste energy thinking about what I could have/should have done differently. Rather, I use my past to help me do better going forward.

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    1. One of my mottos is that I don't believe in regret.

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  7. Hi Divorced Kat,

    Love your blog! I could never consider my marriage albeit a short one a mistake. We were blessed with two incredible children and have both learned a lot over the years. I don't believe in regrets because every decisions is a lesson in real time, the key is how we use it and move forward in our life.

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    1. Thank you! I like that idea of decisions being made in real time. In hindsight, we're all geniuses.

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  8. Well the definition of mistake is " An error or fault resulting from defective judgment, deficient knowledge, or carelessness", so if I use that definition, then yes, my marriage was a mistake. A week before our wedding I was writing in my journal how I didn't think he loved me and on our wedding day I was pleasantly surprised when we didn't have a major fight. That should have been a clue. I was creeping up on 30 years old and the ex is a good man. I thought he was the best I could get..even if he didn't love the true me. What he wanted in a woman wasn't crazy or unobtainable so I thought I could just change for him. It would stick for a while and then the real me would creep back in and the huge "great move out" fights would ensue. Finally in October 2008 I could no longer keep up the charade and was the real me 24/7. And the real me and him were just not compatible. Our divorce was final 12/15/09. It took some time, but we are now very good friends. We care for each other and want good things for each other, but we just don't want to be together. So yes, my marriage was a mistake, but not a mistake that I regret.

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    1. I think part of what made it so hard for me to walk away from Max was that we rarely fought. We've always gotten along so nicely. (This probably speaks to the absence of passion in our relationship.)
      I like that you can say it was a mistake, but not one that you regret -- you're taking responsibility but not belittling the choice. I too hope to be friends with Max... if we ever sell our condo and stop living together!!!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :)

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  9. Michelle DeLorge@ Scattered WrOctober 7, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    They were never a mistake. I think the lessons you learn and how they affect you, to the core of you. Turns you into the person that you are. I tell my second husband all the time that if I hadn't gotten married and went through all that I did, I wouldn't be the woman that he loves. That's how I look at it.

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  10. Ugh. I find myself at the place you were probably at right before you decided your marriage with Max was over. Only we have two small children in the mix. We've been married 8 years, together as a couple for 11, and we've been uttering - or screaming - the D word a lot lately. I, too, have wondered if my decision to marry so young (22) was a mistake. But when kids are in the equation, it's impossible to truly believe the union was a mistake because I got some amazing children out of it. I like the perspective of knowing that the relationship taught you something - the most important thing being what you won't put up with from a man. That's extremely important. Good for you for taking a positive take on your marriage. And don't give up on having kids. You're still young enough to make all that happen. As for me, we're about to meet with our 3rd marriage counselor to try to salvage this relationship that once just happened so easily and effortlessly. Thanks for such an honest post. It was a good one to pull out of the archive today.

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  11. Ugh. I find myself at the place you were probably at right before you decided your marriage with Max was over. Only we have two small children in the mix. We've been married 8 years, together as a couple for 11, and we've been uttering - or screaming - the D word a lot lately. I, too, have wondered if my decision to marry so young (22) was a mistake. But when kids are in the equation, it's impossible to truly believe the union was a mistake because I got some amazing children out of it. I like the perspective of knowing that the relationship taught you something - the most important thing being what you won't put up with from a man. That's extremely important. Good for you for taking a positive take on your marriage. And don't give up on having kids. You're still young enough to make all that happen. As for me, we're about to meet with our 3rd marriage counselor to try to salvage this relationship that once just happened so easily and effortlessly. Thanks for such an honest post. It was a good one to pull out of the archive today.

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  12. I think someday when I find love again, I will very much feel that way too.

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  13. I'm so glad you happened to see this post today, but I'm so sad to hear about your struggles. I hope that you and your spouse are able to find peace, whether that is together or separate. Good luck.

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  14. I am with, I think there are lessons that are essential for you to take into the next phase of your life. Been there and I have always believed there was a reason and time for that person, not a mistake.

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  15. It can be hard, or even impossible, to know in the moment. I still don't know why I had to go through the heartache, but in time I'll be able to make sense of it. I already know I've grown a ton from this experience.

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  16. Hi Kat. I just ran into your blog. I am living with my ex. And we are talking about a 25 yr relationship. Your blog has been very helpful to process. I also look at what I am doing as letting go gently.

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  17. My marriage ended after 25 years. I've spend 2 years doing the post-mortem, doubting my judgement about almost everything. We could have done a lot better, but we did the best we knew how with the tools that we had.

    I think we will both do better in the future, but I feel sadness and regret that I failed myself, my kids, my husband.

    Mistakes were made, but I won't believe that the marriage itself was a mistake.

    thanks for your blog!

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  18. I'm so glad my blog is helping you in some way. I wish you well on your journey.

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  19. So true -- just because mistakes were made doesn't mean the relationship was a mistake. (Doesn't change some of the tough feelings we must experience though.)
    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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  20. I really do not consider any past relationships a mistake, just a stepping stone to my wife..

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  21. That is definitely how I prefer to think about my relationships too. I just don't know where they are leading me yet...

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  22. Exactly - not a mistake if you learned and grew! Just like I suggest in my blog: http://bit.ly/Mv4xsi

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  23. So true. Thanks for sharing your blog post too!

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  24. Thanks Edie! This wasn't an easy one to write, but I'm so glad I did it.

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