“The lesson divorce teaches you isn’t to not get married, it’s to not get divorced.”
The lessons. So many, too many to count. But I’ve managed to boil it down to 20 lessons.
I’m still learning, every day.
But I’ve honed these lessons to make sure that when I get married again, it won’t end in divorce.
Because, as bad as divorce is, it’s worse the second time.
My experiences are lessons that I can share with those willing to understand their own fallacies as well as understanding that they control who they marry, who they sleep with, and who they allow in their lives.
You control it. You have the keys. The system is unfair. It won’t be changing anytime soon, but you still have control. Stop listening to those that tell you that you don’t. Because they didn’t and don’t have control either.
I’m not a relationship expert, I’m a “what not to do in a relationship” expert.
So, without further ado, here’s my list. Enjoy and learn from my mistakes:
Lesson 1 – If You Don’t Know Who You Are and Love Yourself as Such, You Cannot Marry Someone Else Without Encountering Major Issues
I didn’t know who I was. I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. And it showed in the marriage. The baseline, foundational things that you need to be in order to love someone else must be there. Your convictions, beliefs, purpose, and boundaries must be there in order for you to make good on your promise to love, honor, and cherish.
How can you marry someone when you don’t know who the hell you are? If it’s checking a box, it’s wrong. Marriage is for good and you better damn well know who you are, your likes and dislikes before you walk down the aisle. And if she can’t respect any of it, she doesn’t get to be your wife.
Lesson 2 – Stop Escalating and Start Connecting
In the heat of an argument, the best thing you can do is stop letting emotion dictate your response. Her emotion is boiling over and she needs to know you’re there to stop it from completely spilling. She wants to vent, not argue, many times over, because women are emotional creatures. She needs to feel you there for her, your strength, your control over yourself and the situation. Sometimes, she just needs to let emotion take over. Nothing may necessarily be wrong, and if it feels like she’s picking on you, sack up and understand that this is something she does to make sure you are there for her.
She values you as her husband and values that you take the time to connect with her, listen instead of dictate, as well as understanding her and what she’s going through.
Lesson 3 – She Won’t Love You Unconditionally, But She Will Love You
The biggest issue that men have to deal with is that they won’t get love the way they want from a woman. She will not love unconditionally, but neither will you for her. It doesn’t work that way, especially for a man and a woman, as conditions do dictate love. So provide conditions that you are happy with. Men have to provide, it’s what we have to do. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can have it your way. But she will love you, but you have to give her something to love and adore. You are the key to all of it, be it your own self love and what you’ve built in pursuit of that love, for her to truly love you for who you are and what you stand for.
Lesson 4 – Vet and Vet Often. You Can’t Prepare for Every Eventuality, But You Can Have A Damn Good Idea of Who You’re Marrying
Take as much time as you need. The honeymoon phase in a relationship over, time to start vetting her. Put her in as many situations as you can to see how she handles herself. That will tell you all you need to know about her. You can’t prepare for everything, but you can have her in enough situations to see how she’ll do when the real deal is upon you. This is good, bad and neutral situations. Get experience with her, gain knowledge about her faults, bad habits, and general demeanor. If she greets you with an ultimatum, walk.
Lesson 5 – Neither Person Gets to Dictate Terms
Terms are agreed upon and negotiated.
Both parties understand what they bring and they bring it.
You want contractual obligation? The State wants marriage in those terms, but you aren’t the State, nor are you a monolithic organism. You’re a human being and so is she. If either side starts dictating, the other side needs to walk. There has to be compromise and agreement on principles in the relationship. Know your roles and be comfortable playing them because it’s who you are. Be prepared for quick negotiations or unforeseen disagreements that must be hashed out. But do it together, and in ways that both of you are comfortable with all that each of you are doing.
Lesson 6 – Communicate. You Can’t Read Minds and Your Partner Can’t Either
Talk early and often and your marriage will be solid as a rock. Get to know each other by talking to each other, early and often, over anything and everything. Know where each other stands on things that confront the marriage and overcome them. Communicate how your partner made you feel, good or bad, and face those issues head on, together. You don’t get to not engage, especially when it may be important to her. If it was important to you and she walked off, you’d be pissed.
Lesson 7 – Sex is Critical
No sex is a deathknell for any relationship. If you’re not having sex in your relationship, it’s dead and needs to be revitalized. No sex is a critical problem that many marriages cannot overcome. Because without sex, she’s just a roommate who helps you with the bills. Your intimacy is of the utmost importance in your marriage. Take it from a guy who didn’t have much sex in the dying days of his marriage, you need to be having sex, but also, having fun with your partner. Try new things in the bedroom, be adventurous, and be aggressive towards each other in the bedroom. You both love each other, so show it, dammit.
Lesson 8 – Better People Make Better Marriages
The bitter truth that most people don’t want to hear is that when you and your spouse are striving to be better, it improves your marriage significantly. Because you are a better, healthier person, you can have a good, strong, solid marriage when you and your partner have boundaries, share in triumphs, regroup after setbacks, and have each other’s backs. The proof is in the pudding, for take a sputtering marriage and add two people trying to get better either physically, mentally, spiritually or all three, and see the infusion of that energy revitalize that marriage. I’ve seen it happen so many times with men who weren’t motivated in marriage suddenly turn things around to the point where everyone associated with the marriage is re-energized. Kids, wife, everything starts to level up as the man rebuilds himself.
Lesson 9 – It’s Okay to Be Wrong. Own It, Fix It, and Move On
Yes. It’s okay to be wrong. But you have to do the one thing you don’t want to do. Swallow your pride and own the fuck up. You aren’t infallible, and neither is she. But you are capable of being an adult, and that means taking the heat when you screw up. The heat is the easy part, because you then have to fix your fuckup to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Because you’re a functioning part of this marriage, your humility will be mirrored by her, because when she sees you screwed up, when she does it, she’ll want to show that she’s human too. If she doesn’t, you still take the L and move on. Because you are the lead in this relationship, you will hold yourself to a higher standard. And with that higher standard comes her having to raise her standard as well. You set the tone, regardless of what you do, be it right or wrong. Learn from it and move the fuck on.
Lesson 10 – Love Doesn’t Negate The Legal Ramifications of Marriage, but The State Doesn’t and Shouldn’t Get To Interfere In The Loving, Spiritual Bond You Have
We get wrapped up in the State and why they get involved in the institute of marriage. If you don’t want the State involved, you can most certainly choose other options. But as of right now, this moment in time, and for the foreseeable future, your local government is involved. That means that in the eyes of the State, you are in a contractual agreement with your spouse. And depending on the state that the marriage occurs, you may or may not be able to draft a prenuptial agreement. All the more reason for the man to know who the heck he is marrying and the woman to take her time to make sure that this is the real deal. But never, ever does the State get to be involved in the spiritual aspect of your marriage. If you are religious, the church has that on lockdown, and so make sure you aren’t losing the real reasons for marriage in a myriad of tax implications. The state only matters when you get married or when you get divorced. Kick those fuckers out of the bond.
Lesson 11 – Do Things, but Do Them With Meaning and Purpose – Enjoy Each Other on Purpose
The issues I had with our marriage was that my wife was always goading me to do “something” instead of what I was doing, which most of the time was playing video games or watching TV. She wanted me to go experience life with her, and that isn’t an inconvenience. It’s a necessity. Enjoy your spouse by enjoying your life with her. Cherish the things you do (active or passive things) and share that with her, as well as her with you. Try new things with her, be adventurous, solve problems together. This will only strength the bond between both of you. Then, as you do these things, you become better together and start to enjoy more. The snowball gains momentum and gets bigger. Enjoy your marriage by doing things together that you love.
Lesson 12 – Be Her Biggest Cheerleader, and She’ll Be Your Biggest Fan
Support in marriage is one of the biggest deficiencies for men. They are looking for loyalty and a support system, but you have to do the same. She needs to know you’re there for her to support what she wants to do as well. Keep cheering her on what she wants to do, and you will see a woman ready to support her man with anything he’s doing as well. But you gotta show up in her corner, every time.
Lessons 13 – When Your Values Align, You Both Win
When vetting for a woman, pay close attention to her values. If they are radically different from yours, you will have an issue that will be a killer for the marriage. You have to have a partner that is paddling the same way you are, because if you don’t, the boat spins. And you want to move forward and beyond, not stay stagnant. So watch how she conducts herself. Does she hate kids? Then why try to make her a mom?
Does she have liberal values? Then why marry her if you’re a staunch conservative. Does she have issues with her family? Then why try to bring her into yours if she can’t have a healthy attachments to her own kin (save for extraordinary circumstances). You wouldn’t buy a dog person a bunch of cats so stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Lesson 14 – Your Kids are Neither Conspirators Nor Accessories to Either Parent
They’re kids, and they function best in peaceful settings. Your kids are the souls you are raising. Stop trying to weaponize them against your spouse in the hopes of them proving your right or wrong. It’s not fair to them for you to put them squarely in an adult situation when they are anything but adults. You are acting like a child if you are using kids to exert power over your spouse. These aren’t chess pieces, they’re your flesh and blood and they need parents who are adults.
Lesson 15 – She Doesn’t Owe You Anything, Nor Do You Owe Her
The concept of entitlement should not exist in marriage, especially not one way and not the other. No one owes anyone anything when it comes to marriage, but you both owe it to each other to be present and engaged in the marriage. She doesn’t owe you sex because she’s your wife, and you don’t owe her money to pay off her loans because you’re her husband. You both are giving because you are both getting reciprocated by being this way. Stop hanging expectations on someone with no intention of holding them up.
Lesson 16 – Alone Time is Important; Never Underestimate the Importance of Spending Time Away From Each Other
You need your alone time. You need time to decompress and get yours. Refilling your energy meter is important to every person in your life, because you can pour from an empty cup. If your significant other is trying to monopolize your time, it’s because they don’t value your alone time. You have to be able to get away to get right sometimes, and they have to respect that. As a matter of fact, alone time is essential in a marriage because if you were around your spouse 100% of the time, you’d cease to exist as a person. You both were separate people before you got married, and you remain that way even after. Your alone time is golden to do the things you like to do to relax. And if your partner loves you, they’ll respect that time and take some of their own.
Lesson 17 – The Work Doesn’t Stop When The Honeymoon Ends
Never stop working to be a better person, regardless of marital status. You set the standard and you keep improving each week, each month, and each year. Bring it, and she’ll bring it as well. But you have to keep dating your spouse, you have to keep working to be a better person, and you both will revel in the rewards as you continue to grow as a couple and individually. There should be no let up for either of you after the wedding cake is eaten. Too many folks suffer from “get married and let it all go” syndrome. Don’t be that person. Cherish yourself and your significant other by getting after it every day.
Lesson 18 – You’re A Team, But You’re the Leader
Men lead, women follow. The traditional roles may be the new bad words of the 21st century, but it still holds true. You are the leader, you set the tone, and you protect the clan. You’d better be ready to lead, because she’s counting on you. Just as I have said men are the frame while women are the painting, it falls to you to be the foundation on this marriage. The strength and protection you provide is what she needs in order to do her thing and assist you in yours.
Lesson 19 – How You Handle The Hard Times Will Make The Good Times Better
Hard times make better marriages. How you both overcome obstacles says a lot about the health of your marriage. Blame, guilt, and shame have no place in a marriage, when you can replace them just as easily with strength, fortitude, and perseverance. See the tough times for what they are and work through them, never blaming each other for anything out of the other’s control. You can’t be resentful of someone because something happens to them or someone they love that isn’t in the cards. Even when you or your loved ones make critical mistakes, stop, listen, and connect then fix it. Seeing through these times will strengthen any marriage more than anything.
Lesson 20 – It’s Marriage, It’s Messy, It’s Difficult, But It’s Worth It
Marriage is work, but it’s also a teammate for life that supercharges your life. It’s nitrous in your engine, and when you have a committed and dedicated person to your cause, your goals get that much more attainable. But also, you get to share a life with someone you care about, someone whom cares about you, and together, you dominate and build an empire. That’s a “Ride Or Die” to me, and the most successful people in history have had a significant other who watches their back.
I don’t have to tell you that these lessons will work for everyone all the time, but through my trials and tribulations with my marriage and divorce, I can tell you that doing them will only help you and your spouse grow a stronger, more loving bond.
Be the man that she wants to follow. Be the woman that he wants to protect and nurture.
But do it together, and do it for each other.
I hope that I get married again someday. And following these lessons, I know my second marriage will be my last.
And there won’t be a second divorce.