I wrote an article a while back about what I learned from being married three times. For the most part, the piece was well received. There were a few people who have very strong feelings on people who have married multiple times. Those feelings were bad feelings and they vehemently told me how much I suck for getting married three times.
Recently my husband, Randy, and I were out for dinner. When dining out, I love eavesdropping on other people's conversations.
The couple in the booth behind us were on either a first date or maybe a second date. They were definitely in the 'getting to know you' phase.
They were talking about someone they both knew and the man said this:
You know, I can see getting divorced and remarried once. I can even see getting divorced twice. But if you get married THREE times, then there is definitely something wrong with you.
I perked up and Randy looked at me and shook his head.
Randy: Don't say anything.
Me, feigning innocence: Say what? I'm not going to say anything. I mean, I shouldn't even speak because there is definitely something wrong with me.
Randy: Do you have to talk that loud?
Me: What? I can't hear you over the sound of my three marriages.
I have been married three times. Divorce sucks. It's hard and depressing and getting a divorce is never about just ending a marriage. Divorce smacks you about in many different ways. I decided that maybe I wasn't finished passing along the lessons I learned from being married multiple times.
1. A world of difference exists between compromise and compromising yourself. Marriage requires compromise. Sure, it would be nice to always get your way, but that rarely works. For instance, sometimes I have to watch boring subtitled movies and sometimes Randy has to watch movies where a lot of shit blows up. That kind of compromise is good. But when you find you are compromising yourself to the point where you are no longer recognizable to yourself, then the compromise becomes toxic.
2. Endings are hard. It makes no difference if you are still friends with your spouse or if you both hate each other with the heat of a thousand suns. Ending a relationship is hard. Endings get easier as time passes. One day, you will wake up and know that you gained strength from the experience.
3. Holding on to bitterness causes wrinkles. That might be a lie. I don't know if it causes wrinkles or not. But I am quite sure that holding on to bitterness doesn't do you any favors. I knew someone whose husband had left her 15 years earlier, when their children were very small. Whenever she spoke of her ex, and she did often, she always prefaced her comments with: When Bob left me and ripped apart his children's lives. She never said, "when I got divorced" or "when my marriage ended". She always said "when he walked out on me". I felt sorry for her because the bitterness was so thick you could taste it. She also had wrinkles.
4. Don't be a shuttlecock. What a hilarious word. I love saying shuttlecock, I love writing shuttlecock. But you shouldn't be a shuttlecock. If you end a relationship, people around you will have opinions. They will tell you what to do. Don't sail back and forth like you are in a game of badminton. You know your own mind, you know your own reasons. Stick to your guns and do what you need to get through a shitty situation.
5. Settling is sad. Once in one of many therapy sessions, a therapist asked how I was. I said "Oh, I don't know. I'm fine." He told me that sounded very sad.
Fine. I'm fine. Not great. Not terrible. Just okay. He asked me if that is what I wanted from life. Not that life would always be cotton candy and building castles in the sand, but life should be more than just "fine". Don't settle. The fact that we are alive and that you are reading this is amazing. We exist and that is a miracle. Do more with your life than just sleep walk through it.
6. Your children will be around people not of your choosing. Don't get caught up in insecurity about another woman or man being involved in your children's lives. If you are lucky, then they will love your children. How can another person loving your kids be a bad thing? I didn't want another woman to have a hand in raising my son. I had no choice in the matter. She was not good for my child. She didn't want him around and she treated him badly. I realized how much better it would have been if she had loved and nurtured him.
I am far from the best mother in the world, but I love my stepdaughters like they were my own children. I adore their children with everything I am. I have to think that is better than what my son lived through. He was the designated babysitter and housekeeper. Even when he was very small. At age 5 he would come home from a weekend with his father and stepmother and tell me how many loads of laundry he had to do. She's dead now. And no, I did not have a hand in it, but I'm not sorry, either.
7. People judge you. Fuck those guys. Their opinion of your life is not your business.
8. People wonder what is "wrong" with you. Sometimes, they will even be rude enough to ask what is wrong with you. My suggestion? Make up an outrageous answer and then follow up with a highly inappropriate and personal question of your own, like "Why does your nose have that funny curve to it? Were you beaten by trolls as a child?"
9. People will not always be kind when you are hurting. They will say things like "Well, this is what you wanted." Please refer to number 7. Fuck those guys. Surround yourself with people who rally around you. You'll need the buffer for a while.
10. Distract yourself. This works in many stressful or painful situations. I am not good at crafts. I don't have patience. I have a hard time following instructions, but that doesn't mean I won't build the shit out of something when I'm stressed. I will paint, glue and glitter until I'm exhausted. The end product might not be pretty, but in the end, my brain feels better.
11. Give yourself a break. Try to not get caught up in the cycle of "if only" or "what if". It won't help. Forward motion, baby. Life means forward motion. That doesn't mean we can't learn from our mistakes, but dwelling on them is just self-punishment.
12. Just say no to camping. People love to break off into camps when they are faced with a volatile or difficult situation that is not their situation to deal with. They will set up their space and fly their little flags. One group will have the "Divorce is a sin!" flag and another will have their "You should have tried harder!" flag and then there is the "Get out there and start dating!" flag. Personally, I hate camping. Let people sit at their campsites and say what they want. That's when I go to a place that has room service.
13. Don't apologize. Like I said, a lot of people have opinions about people who get divorced. Your life is your life. Hold your head up and don't apologize for who you are. You don't owe the world an apology because your relationship ended.
In the end, we are all who we are. You own your life and you have no control over other people's opinions of your life. What you can control is how you allow that to affect you.
Don't get me wrong, I allowed myself to be defined by other people's opinions for a very long time. I felt embarrassed when people found out how many times I've been married.
Hell, I was committed to Randy, but I didn't want to marry him, only because I was afraid of what people would think.
Now? I am happy with my life. I adore my husband even though he drives me crazy sometimes.
I'm going to go ahead and stick around, though. Even though he sometimes makes me roll my eyes so hard I can pick up old Laugh In episodes in the back of my brain, doesn't mean I'm sorry for a single second of our marriage. And I have run out of fucks to give over anyone who has a negative opinion about my marriages.
You know, most of these apply to "the end" of a lot of things. Leaving a job, moving away, cutting toxic people from your life. There are many situations in which we experience a "divorce" of sorts.