By Audrey Cade for DivorcedMoms.com
Five years have passed since my divorce. I was depressed and devastated by the demise of my relationship, and disappointed that my marriage had come to an end -- but I can honestly say that I don't regret now that this was the outcome.
I acknowledge that I had a part in the demise of our union. I recognize that little-by-little I turned away from him and our actions toward one another slowly dissolved the connection we once had. Upon reflection, I can identify five critical things that he could have done differently throughout our marriage that could have saved it.
1. Make me feel special. The once girlfriend, me, used to feel treasured and important to the once boyfriend him. This is an all-to-common predicament of romantic relationships. The initial glow of dating brings out the best in all of us, and we see the best in each other. Over time, the feelings of excitement and admiration tend to fade behind the drudgery of everyday responsibilities and familiarity.
I was not naïve to think that our relationship would carry on indefinitely buoyed by clouds of first love energy. I knew a marriage would take work to remain strong, yet I hoped that I could continue to feel special as a wife.
Sadly, he stopped making the effort to continue doing the little things to show he cared about me or thought of me as more than a co-habitant of his home, the maid, or mother of his children. I have since remarried, and I appreciate how much of a commitment it is to keep feeding the flame every day and to let your partner know, every day, how much they are loved and appreciated. My husband and I were both previously married; therefore, we are much more aware of how fragile and precious our marriage is and how necessary it is to never take one another for granted.
2. Help out. According to traditional gender roles, the man works outside the home and completes more "manly" jobs, such as mowing the lawn, while the wife cares for the children and the home. My relationship mirrored those ideals, with the exception that I also worked full time. My days became filled with running in circles working, taking care of children, and eventually being responsible for all of the household chores.
By the conclusion of our marriage, I was the one who did all of the shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and the majority of child-rearing tasks. Somehow I managed it all. As years of bearing most of the weight of our household began to take their toll on me, I became resentful and angry. I finally convinced him to agree to take on one household chore to help me out: washing the dishes.
He did as promised a few times, then we ended in a power struggle because he refused to continue doing them. I didn't want to feel like I was his mother telling him what to do; yet, the only way I could get him to pull his weight was to nag. One spouse cannot be left to feel responsible for everything with little or no help.
3. Make the marriage a priority. A marriage is like a flower that requires love and care to flourish. By the time we work eight hours or more in a day, sleep another eight hours at night, complete daily chores, and run around with the kids, there's not much husband-wife time left.
I was usually exhausted by the time I put the kids in bed and, disgusted because I felt like I had moved all of the day's mountains myself. I often tried to get his attention during the evening to talk or spend time together. He developed a routine of coming home from work, plopping down in his recliner, eating his dinner in front of the TV, and not diverting his time or attention to myself or the kids for anything.
He probably gave up on me because I was so wrapped up with the kids, and perhaps he didn't feel that I had any time for him. To be fair, our marriage did need to come first -- even before the kids. I had my priorities backwards for a long time because I thought that once I became a mother, they should come first. It was hard for me to recognize that for us to remain healthy, we needed to leave the kids with a sitter and go out on a date and find other ways to keep watering our flower and helping it grow. Two wrongs don't make a right. I did what I did in my attempt to be the perfect mom, and he probably tuned me out because he felt like it was pointless to try.
4. Grow with me. The superstition that breaking a mirror causes seven years of bad luck originates from a belief that one's physical being is recreated every seven years; so, if you break a mirror, the soul could become entrapped in the shards of glass and take seven years to become whole again. I relate this to the growth and development that takes place within each person throughout life, seven years at a time.
Your reflection in a mirror looks more mature in seven-year increments, and your perspectives, knowledge, and experiences grow by those leaps, as well. We are not the same people we once were. This is a natural transformation that occurs, made more complicated by sharing life with another who is also continually growing and changing. A couple has to work to grow together by staying connected through shared activities and interests, learning, experiencing life, and staying on the same path together.
The more wise and mature version of yourself may not have much in common with the former you; but a couple needs to keep growing in sync by taking an interest in each other's passions and progress to be sure to still have enough in common with one another to keep the relationship strong. Compatibility doesn't mean that you still have everything in common, but you should still be intrigued and in sync.
My ex and I grew from one seed into two sprawling vines, no longer recognizable to the other. I found myself speechless by things he would say, thinking to myself, "I don't agree with that!" or embarrassed to be associated with the person he had become.
5. Break up with the porn habit. I understand that men like to look, and temptations for lust are everywhere. I wanted to please my husband and be available to him. We became out-of-sync when I often went to bed at about 9pm to be ready to get up early the next morning while he often stayed up past midnight. I discovered that after I went to sleep, he would stay up to watch porn.
I was most hurt by the fact that he chose to do this behind my back, rather than making me a part of his needs and desires. It made me feel undesirable, not "good enough," and betrayed for keeping this side of himself from me. This progressed to create deeper problems with our intimacy and a bigger wedge between us.