I met and married my ex-husband in my early 20s when I had no idea how hard relationships were. I also didn’t know how hard I was — on myself and on other people. We all have underlying wounds from childhood and our past relationships. Some of us are aware of this, and some of us are not. I certainly was not.
I wanted many things for us as a couple. I also wanted many things from him. He made a lot of mistakes. So did I. That’s marriage though. Instead of growing and accepting each other together, however, we took each other for granted and said things that left lasting scars.
Since my divorce, I’ve dated a few men exclusively, but as soon as the newness has worn off or they wanted too much from me or they started doing things I didn’t notice in the beginning of our relationship, I’d run.
At first, I told myself I wasn’t ready for anything meaningful — which was partly true. But I was hiding behind that excuse. The real truth was I had some unfinished business I needed to tend to. I’m ready to acknowledge that now.
Statistics report that 67% of second marriages end in divorce. While I don’t ever feel I need to exchange vows or have a ring on my finger again to solidify a meaningful relationship, I do want to be successful in finding true love… because who doesn’t?
After listening to a woman talk about how she and her second husband got it right the second time around, I decided I wanted what she had. I don’t want to fall into the 67% and accept that this is the way it has to go down.
In order to do that, I realized I need to change those things that I can control. So I made a list of the things I did with my first husband that had catastrophic effects on our marriage. I wanted to avoid the same mistakes when I met someone and fell in love. One week after making my list, I met the man that I am now in love with, and I’ve had to practice every single one of these things a few times over:
1. I will not expect them to read my mind.
This was a bad habit of mine, and I couldn’t even see it. I expected people — especially my parter — to know what I was thinking and how I was feeling and act accordingly. They should know if I’ve had a bad day to bring me a diet coke and offer to get take-out for dinner. They should know if I’m quiet, they need to delve in and do something to cheer me up. They should know if I say in passing that I want to go to NYC, they should book a trip.
But people aren’t mind-readers, and setting my former partners up to fail at meeting my unstated expectations was something I’d been doing for so long, I didn’t even know it. I will now use my word and clearly ask for things I want.
2. I will not depend on them for my happiness.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on another person. I certainly don’t want someone else depending on me for their happiness. After being so lonely some nights that I tightened the bedsheets around my body just to feel something, I had to dig deep and realize I’m the only one in charge of my happiness. I will never put that key in someone else’s hand again. Instead, I’ll worry about making myself happy and bringing that into a relationship.
3. I will not depend on them financially.
I will make my own money and stand on my own two feet. I will not ask for permission to buy things, we will discuss it together. I will never put myself into a position where, if my relationship falls apart, my financial situation will fall along with it.
We will be a team. We will both hustle. We will both contribute. We will support each other.
4. I will not withhold affection.
I was so guilty of this in my marriage. If I was mad, even if I wanted nothing more than to be hugged or held by my ex-husband, I’d push him away to prove a point. I am not talking about forcing myself to have sex or show affection if I’m not in the mood. I’m talking about withholding things like a hug or a touch in order to punish the other person. This caused a lot of damage — to both of us.
5. I will not assume the worst.
Part of being with someone is assuming they can read your mind at every turn, but they can’t (see #1). Whenever my ex forgot something, said something I didn’t agree with, or did something in a way I wouldn’t have, I assumed it was a dig at me. But it wasn’t. It was about him and how he dealt with situations.
Instead of jumping down my partner’s throat, I will not react. I will ask questions. I will not go to You-Are-Just-Trying-To-Spite-Me Town.
6. I will be more mindful of my language.
It wasn’t until I got divorced that my ex told me how much it hurt him when I’d tell him to leave if he didn’t like something, or, when we were fighting, I’d suggest separating (I’d do this when I was really upset because I was trying to get a reaction out of him). The truth is, I used certain language very loosely and figured since I was being hyperbolic rather than literal, he would know that. He didn’t, and it caused him a lot of stress. So, because he feared I’d suggest parting ways, instead of bringing things up, he stuffed it.
I’m certainly not saying I’ve learned everything one can learn and I will be perfect and never dabble in these behaviors again. I am saying these are bad patterns I’ve been playing out with my significant others ever since I started dating as a teen, and they have been holding me back.
Now, I’m old enough to have learned that I need to break these patterns in order to have the relationship I want and deserve.
It’s time. I’m aware of my own bullshit, and I’m ready to break my vicious cycle.