… So there’s this article from last year that’s recently been making the rounds online; 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage by Dan Pearce.
The other night I was sitting with my family, most of whom are very successfully married. We were going in a circle giving our best marriage advice to my little sister on the eve of her wedding. It’s somewhat of a family tradition.
I realized I don’t have any good marriage advice to give. After all, I’ve never had a successful marriage out of the two marriages I did have.
And so, that night, I sat down and wrote out my “advice list” for my little sister. You know… things I wish I would have known or done differently so that I didn’t end up divorced (twice). After writing it, I thought maybe I’d share it with all of you, too.
I call it my “Ways I Blew My Marriage” list.
It’s become a wildly popular post, especially with the ladies. And why is that exactly? What about this article resonates so strongly with women?
Because it reinforces the popular notion that when a marriage dissolves it’s typically the man’s fault. Never mind that women file for divorce at higher rates than men. It’s their fault. Always.
However, in every marriage there are two parties; each equally responsible for it’s success or failure.
When I shared his piece on my own facebook page several men responded that they’d like to see a woman’s version, taking responsibility for her own actions in a failed marriage and advising other women on avoiding some of those same mistakes.
Like history, if we don’t learn from our past mistakes we’re doomed to repeat them. Here are some of those mistakes I’ve learned from my own failed marriage.
Number 1 – Stop Comparing Your Husband To Your Romantic Fantasies
You’re marriage will never be a romantic movie starring Ryan Gosling. It will be better. But only if you stop comparing your husband to every romantic male lead Hollywood produces. Movies are make believe and that charming protagonist is an actor who is getting paid millions to emotionally manipulate you for two hours.
Realize and appreciate the very real man you married and put away the ridiculous high school notions that he is put on this earth solely for your emotional pleasure. To get a better understanding of how these types of movies are harmful, when used as comparisons to real relationships, read Emotional Pornography by Dr. Greg Bottaro. It’s a quick read. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Number 2 – Never Talk About Your Marital Problems With Anyone Except Your Spouse
I am so guilty of this. Women need to talk about everything. All the time. To anyone who will listen. We talk to our girlfriends. Our sisters. Are co-workers. Our mothers. Our hair dresser. Our mother’s hair dresser. Women will tell all their problems to everyone but the very person who can actually solve them. Stop that. Especially if you are having serious marital problems.
It’s one thing to complain over cocktails that your husband forgets to put the seat down sometimes. It’s an entirely different matter to tell your friends and family that you two haven’t made love in two years.
This type of gossip directly drives a wedge between you and your husband. It deteriorates bonds of trust and creates unnecessary tension with outside family members and friends, making an environment of us versus them – the wife and her family/friends versus her husband and his reputation.
The only person you should be confiding in about your marriage is your husband. And if need be, a neutral third party like a counselor or priest.
Number 3 – Don’t Keep Score
Women never forget. We can hold grudges and recall every slight from years ago. This is a bad thing. A very bad thing in terms of your marriage. Ladies, don’t keep a running mental tally of every offense, real or imagined, he’s ever committed against you. Marriage isn’t a competition and your husband is not your competitor. He’s your partner.
Don’t keep score of who does the most housework either; mentally noting who is more involved with the kids, cleans more, or prepares more meals. This is a common pitfall in many marriages. A wife will keep score of all her daily responsibilities and decide that her husband doesn’t contribute nearly as much effort as she does. This destructive attitude builds resentment. If you are feeling unappreciated don’t behave passive-aggressively by keeping a tally of who does what and when. Instead, be mature and talk about it with your spouse.
Number 4 – Don’t Emotionally Manipulate
You know that habit you have of keeping score? Yeah, that’s also what we call being emotionally manipulative. Maybe you caught yourself giving your husband the silent treatment or behaving like nothing is wrong while you seethe underneath. Emotionally manipulative. Have you ever pretended your feelings were more hurt than they really were? Emotional manipulation. Pouted when you didn’t get your way? You guessed it. manipulative. Anytime you use your emotions to control another’s behavior you are practicing emotional manipulation. This behavior is marriage poison.
Number 5 – If He Says Nothing Is Wrong, For Goodness Sake, Believe Him!
Wife: Honey, you’re quiet tonight. Is anything wrong?
Husband: No. I’m fine.
Wife: Are you sure? You seem upset.
Husband: No. Really I’m fine.
Wife: Are you mad at me?
Husband: No! I’m just tired and don’t feel like talking.
Wife: Ok. [starts to let it go] [resists better judgement to drop it] [decides to annoyingly persist]
Wife: Cause you know. If you are upset about something you can tell me.
Husband: NO! I am fine! Nothing is wrong! I am not mad!
Wife: [burst into tears] Why are you yelling at me! You don’t love me anymore! [runs off sobbing] [locks self in bedroom] [gets mad when husband doesn't come after her and offer comfort] [puts this incident in mental tally book]
Women, just because you tend to hold things in till you’re ready to explode in an violent sharknado of raw emotions, doesn’t mean men do the same. If he says nothing is wrong than nothing is wrong.
Also, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Not everything is about you. Everything your husband says, does, or thinks is not for the specific intent to either please or piss you off. This hard lesson I learned from my own experiences.
Number 6 – Don’t Expect Him To Be A Mind Reader
This one goes hand in hand with numbers 4 and 5. Women and men think and communicate in drastically different ways. Don’t expect him to think like you or be a mind reader.
He cannot possibly be expected to know the motive or reason behind your latest silent treatment or emotional outburst. You can’t lie to him and say nothing is bothering you then get angry three days later because he didn’t read your mind and change the offending behavior. Mature and respectful communication doesn’t work that way.
My favorite offensive female behavior is the high expectation mind reading. This is where a women has set high expectations for a specific event or scenario, right down to the scripted narrative, and gets frustrated with her spouse when he fails to play along. This particular example is often a result of Number 1, unrealistic romantic fantasies.
Number 7 – Don’t Try To Change Him
Remember the man you fell in love with? That’s your husband. Love him not some idealized better version of him you created in your head.
If you marry a pretty mellow guy don’t be surprised if he doesn’t turn out to be a fierce corporate office ladder climber. Calling your mild mannered husband weak or lazy isn’t fair, especially since it was his tender, laid back demeanor that initially attracted you to him. Chances are there are plenty of things about yourself he’d love to change but knows suggesting it would be hurtful.
Unless your husband intentionally sought to deceive you before marriage, like hiding past criminal activity or infidelity, than you have absolutely no reason to demand major personality overhauls. Don’t marry potential. Don’t marry a man with the goal of making him your own personal pet project. If want to train and groom something get a puppy.
Number 8 – Don’t Use Sex As A Weapon
I want to be clear here before I elaborate further. I am not advocating wives to submit unreservedly to their husband every sexual demand. It is perfectly acceptable to say “I love you dear, but tonight I am not in the mood”. We all get headaches, have tiring days, or are just feeling a little bit un-sexy.
What I am referring to is the common practice women use of withholding sex, and even general physical affection, from husbands in hopes of getting their way. Women know how much their husband love and desire sex so withholding it for the sole purpose of controlling them is horribly cruel.
Reverse the roles and imagine if your husband refused to hold your hand or give you a hug when you were upset simply because you failed to meet a demand of his. Yeah. You withholding sex is like that.
Number 9 – Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations
A lot of women I know think of marriage as the crossing the finish line of courtship. The wedding was the goal and once they had their trophy day all that hard relationship work was finally over. No. Marriage is the starting line of a life long marathon.
Ladies, it is possible to feel lonely, sad, depressed, isolated, and angry even when you are married. Your husband is not there to make you feel entertained and happy forever and ever amen. Also, just because you feel these negative emotions doesn’t mean you are no longer in love or that your marriage is in serious trouble. Believing that marriage will magically transform your life and solve all your problems is what we call an unrealistic expectation. Let go of that.
In fact, let go of every preconceived notion you think you have. Stop measuring your real marriage with the impossible one in your head. See also Number 1.
Number 10 – Don’t Abuse Your Husband
Yes, men are victims of spousal abuse. Abuse is not just physical in nature, it can be emotional and verbal too. More men than you think of victims of abuse. And I take it as seriously as I do physical abuse.
When you belittle your spouse, criticize his efforts, and mock him you are being emotionally and verbally abusive. I know it’s all the rage to paint the patriarch of the house as a blithering fool but if it’s behavior you wouldn’t want done to you then tell me why exactly you think it’s OK for you to do to him? Do you think your feelings are more important than his?
You don’t want to be called a bitch anymore than he wants to be called worthless loser. Constant criticism and nagging is soul crushing and no one wants to be around someone who can’t muster a few kinds words.
Number 11 – Don’t Put Your Children Before Your Marriage
I know this goes against all your mommy instincts. We are nurturers by nature. But you have to realize that kids will grow up and move away in pursuit of their own lives. Then all your left with is the man you chose to ignore and put in second place for a good duration of your marriage. Don’t be surprised then if the idea of being alone with you till he dies scares him into divorce.
If I could do this one all over I’d sit down with my ex-husband and agree to a parenting plan before I had my son. Doing it after the fact leaves you to wing it and argue about the decisions.
Carve out time for each other to be alone. Never let your kids interrupt their father when he is speaking. Do what you need to do to make sure your husband feels appreciated. Ladies, I cannot stress this enough. Men are not put here on earth just to sire your children and bring home a paycheck. They need to be loved, feel important, and know they hold a place of priority in your heart and life.
Number 12 – Don’t Cheat On Your Spouse
I know this last one seems like “Well duh” kind of advice. But you’d be surprised how often it happens.
Of course if you become involved in an extramarital affair you are blowing your marriage. Cheating; however, doesn’t specifically mean sexual affairs. Women have more prevalence toward emotional affairs and it’s way more common than you’d think. Having an emotionally intimate relationship with anyone other than your husband is cheating. Plain and simple. Don’t share you heart, and yes body, with anyone than the one who you are pledged to.
I would go as so far to say that even playful flirty in social media is being unfaithful. Having an inappropriate email correspondence with another man is cheating. It may seem harmless since there is no physical intimacy initiated but you are still sharing a private part of yourself with someone else. And that is being unfaithful.
Any one or combination of the above behaviors is fuel for the fires of divorce. All these habits create tension and drive your husband away. But the good news is that all these behaviors are changeable. If you recognize them in yourself that’s the first step to working on improving the way you treat and communicate with your spouse. Mutual respect, patience and kindness go a long way. And that’s really all it boils down to.
Now go home this weekend and love the hell out of your spouse. Cause believe me, being divorced is no picnic either.