Several different couples I'm friends with are uncoupling right now. They're at the very beginning of the separation process. It's got me thinking. Because when I look in their eyes, when I hear their voices, I recognize the fear and sadness that permeates their souls and colors their minutes and future plans and past memories.
They ask me for advice. They ask me for my support. They ask me for reassurance that everything will be ok in the end. I try not to give advice, because their priorities and situations differ from mine. I gently ask them to listen to their own guts, and do the next right thing. I remind them there are no right answers. There is however, a way to do things with kindness and grace. Even when it's really hard. Even when you don't want to because it's so hard. Especially when it's hard. Especially when you don't want to.
I remind them of this, because as I witness their journeys, I am brought back to my own separation over seven years ago. I remember the fear and panic and confusion and grief. I remember acting from those fears and panic and grief. And I was not as kind as I could have been, as kind as I should have been.
I was disappointed and wounded and broken and angry. I did not know then that I had a reservoir of grace that I could have tapped into. I also did not know during the marriage that I had this reservoir of grace and mercy and loving kindness. Perhaps I didn't then. But honestly I think we all have it in ourselves. It was my responsibility to tap into that, and I did not know how at the time. Or it was too hard for me. Or I just didn't.
So I'm thinking about what I could have done differently during my marriage, during my divorce. I think of both because though they seem to be opposites, they're in fact both about connections. Divorcing the father of your children does not sever your ties to him. He will always be a part of our lives. He still occupies this house, and I know this when I look into my children's eyes.
If only I could have been more gracious, more kind, I think. But then what? Would I still be married? Probably not. It was not meant to last for many reasons. I do not regret the divorce. But I do want to ensure I do not make the same mistakes again. I'll make other mistakes, but not these.
So I've learned it's better to be kind than right. I've learned... well, everything else stems from that. It's better to be kind than right. So many of the small disagreements that pile up like little pebbles until they build a stone wall -- so many of them could have been dealt with without turning each pebble into a resentment.
But see, I thought I was so smart. I thought I was so insightful and wise. I thought for sure I knew what was best. I was right. I tried to force things. I made sarcastic and snide remarks under the guise of humor.
There were so many other problems that would have spelled the end of the marriage anyway. But I could have been kinder. For that failing, I am sorry. And I'm sorry I couldn't come up with a list of 5 lessons I've learned. But if your default is "It's better to be kind than right," then the love and respect and support and compromise and communication come with it. I'm a slow learner, but I won't make that same mistake again.
This post originally appeared on BonneVivanteLife. Please note the thoughts expressed in this essay are not meant for abusive relationships.