Originally, this was going to be one post, but after writing 6,000+ words, I have broken it into a 3-part post. You all know how I like multiple posts on a slow roll. Part 1 of “10 Mistakes I Made in My First Marriage” contains mistakes 1-3. I hope you learn something!
This is the most vulnerable I have felt writing, since starting this blog. I am nervous that the things I write could be misconstrued. Plus, I feel awkward writing about my 1st marriage, I mean who wouldn’t? I feel a little ashamed with being divorced. I feel awkward knowing that some of you knew/know my Ex-wife.
Maybe, just maybe, I am assuming too much.
Overall, I could not be happier. My failed marriage led me to my amazing wife Samantha. Everything happens for a reason, and through the ash is the opportunity to be reborn.
Why would I open up and talk about my failed marriage? Because, not one person has ever helped another person by staying bottled up, secluded, or lying about their past.
This is not a hit piece, where I blame the other person in the equation, while making myself the pillar of purity and all things righteous. First, it would be completely unfair of me, and secondly, my pillar shattered into dust long ago, and dust is hard to glue back together. [Update: Having written half of this piece, I now can say that I never expected civility to be this hard. Sorry, truth is the truth.]
With that out of the way, let’s get real.
I won’t get into the obvious things that married people all know (hopefully). Like marriage is work, marriage is hard, and marriage takes two people putting effort into it, and yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah.
What I will get into, is what I learned about myself, and my effort in a failed marriage. You will read how I am addressing those things in my marriage now. I do this in an effort to help those who may not realize their own mistakes, and because I never want anyone to feel the pain of a divorce. Nor do I want anyone to experience the destruction of a family, a life, a person, an identity, or even a basic belief of hope in humanity.
Here are the mistakes I made…
I was not honest with myself. The future was a place where my envisioned path to success was without road bumps, or failures.
- What I did: I lied to myself more times than I can count. I believed things about myself and about my abilities that I had no way of backing up. In turn, this made me lie to my spouse, and I didn’t even know they were lies. I told myself lies about how easy life would be, how fast I would reach success, how healthy I would be when I got older, how great a Christian I would be, how happy we would be, how much we would travel, and so on and so on. Looking back on it, I was crazy, like out of my mind crazy. Stupid. Ignorant. Naive. I am sure many other descriptors.I wasn’t intentionally lying, but they were lies none the same. One can call it the power of positivity on steroids. I simply would remove certain words in a statement about the future, and would insert “will”. Example; “I will be a marriage and family therapist.” Or “We will by a house before 28.” Or “I will be an amazing man of God.”Whew… what a liar I was. It’s truly hard to see that until you can look back on what went wrong. Some people never realize they are doing this and continue to hurt their relationship. Others can realize it without having to experience divorce, which truly shows wisdom.
- How it Hurt My Marriage: The main problem this continual lying to myself caused, was unrealistic expectations. Sure, the other person in the equation could have been more supportive, patient, wise in their own right, but I was the one saying the lies. The expectations were set so high, that there was never a possibility of reaching them. As a result, what do you think I became? I became a failure. I was the scape goat to all life problems. I was always, no matter what, the reason behind the hardship. The problem with that faulty thinking? I started to believe it. Then it became a nasty cycle of high expectations, doubt in myself, failure, and reaffirming of the truth behind the doubt. It became a continual cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy. It was ugly, and caused many problems.
- How I’ve Attempted to Correct it: I’d be lying if I said that I am 100% better in my attempt at realistic future outlooks. Now, as an attempt to reverse that pattern, I tend to do the opposite of lying about a great future. I still lie, but now I say how awful that future looks. It’s easier to deal with disappointments, if you always expect them. What’s wrong with this thought process? It’s still the ugly cycle of making a crummy future happen, because I am assuming it will, and that assumption makes sure I will. The beauty of the divorce, and seeing this pattern before, is that I recognize the cycle now, even with it’s new manifestation.
So… what am I to do?
Not believe the lies!
I write my life goals out every day (or try to), and I work towards achieving them each day. One step at a time. My wife helps me stay positive, and believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. Each day it gets easier to be realistic about the future, which is that I can achieve anything I want to, but it’s going to take a whole lot of work! Bad habits cannot be broken overnight, but seeing them as bad habits is the first step.
I gave into my ex-wife’s desires (financially) in an attempt to make her feel happy, even though I knew better.
- What I did: In a marriage, one simple mistake, can then become a pattern, and then new mistakes are created from that pattern and branch off into new patterns. It is a snowball effect. The simplest way to describe the 2nd mistake is to say that I let my guilt from the 1st mistake, trump logic and reason in my financial decisions. Basically, by not achieving the success I said I would, my ex-wife would get down about it. As I was the self-proclaimed bread winner, and all around leader responsible for our future cool guy, I would feel enormous guilt when she was unhappy. It was all my fault. I wasn’t doing what I said I would do. I was failing. It wasn’t happening fast enough. I took ALL responsibility. So, call it what you will, most call it “retail therapy”, and others call it complete irresponsibility. I call it mistake number 2. I wanted to give her everything, so I never said ‘no’ even when my mind screamed it from all corners of my brain. I knew it was stupid and lazy, but mainly it was cowardly. I knew better. This is a mistake that I am still paying for today, quite literally.
- How it Hurt My Marriage: This tactic hurt my marriage because it reaffirmed the belief within our house that I was failing at life. With each big setback, or punch to the gut bad news I had to give, my weakness in wanting to make her happy came out to play. She learned this very quickly, and I don’t blame her for my own weakness, because I was weak. It also hurt our marriage for obvious reasons, like the stress of financially never catching up. If you spend money you don’t have, especially if you add that to past POOR decisions then the problem becomes compounding… obviously. This problem caused us to not be able to hang out with friends very often, because it always involved money. It involved nearly always being broke around the holidays. It involved not being able to buy a house, or have emergency funds. It hurt, it hurt, it hurt. Sadly, this has hurt my new marriage, because it is the ghost of the past that still isn’t finished haunting.
- How I’ve Attempted to Correct it: I should really take the “I’ve” out these statements, because truly I could not correct any of these without the help and support of my amazing wife. My wife helps in every aspect when it comes to not spending money we don’t have. She does her best to act like it’s no big deal when we are tight financially. She sees a future of now debt in the very near future. We work tirelessly at achieving that goal, and it gets closer and closer. It feels better and better. Money is and will always test most if not all marriages at one point or another, but now it’s easier for me to say no when no needs to be said. In this case, it is not saying it to my wife, it’s saying it to myself. Again… bad habits are not created or broken overnight.
I watched porn
- What I did: This is easily the most revealing, and embarrassing truth I have written about. I hate writing about it. I hate more that I used to watch porn. It is because I feel so vulnerable and embarrassed that I feel I MUST share it as mistake # 3. I think the “what I did” aspect of this mistake is an obvious one, so I won’t spend a ton of time on it. I will say that I believe this is one of the most destructive issues attacking marriage today. There is a lot of scientific data that should scare the hell out of men (and now a lot of women) who watch porn.
- How it Hurt My Marriage: This mistake put unrealistic expectations of what sex should be like between two married adults. Fantasies soon build into darker desires, and more thrill is needed. It turns sex from fun and loving, to animalistic and aggressive. I am not saying this happens overnight, or that dabbling into the latter two is not normally desired from time to time, but I am saying that it is a disease. A disease of the heart. All the sudden a man will find reasons and/or ways to pleasure himself while watching porn, versus making love to an actual human that loves him… his wife. It blows my mind how destructive it is. This disease has hindered and burdened some of the best men I have known… and it’s a shock when you find out who it has hurt. No one wants to talk about it, so it get’s swept under the rug. Hell, I want to sweep it under the rug… but it needs to be out in the open. Another way that watching porn hurts a marriage, is that the women in porn never age, and our spouses do. It’s all kinds of wrong, and I could go on for days about it, but it is hard to talk about.
- How I’ve Attempted to Correct it: It doesn’t get much simpler than this, but I just don’t do it. I don’t ever want to do it. Whether you agree or not, but I (and my wife) agree that it is cheating. I don’t want to cheat on my wife. I want her, and only her forever. Those girls in porn are never going to put up with my crap, and still say they love me, but my wife will. My wife is the mother to my daughter. What kind of message would I be sending to my daughter about marriage, and men’s desires? It sends a message of a woman never being enough for a man. It can destroy a woman’s self-image and confidence. Do you want your wife to never again believe she is sexy? That is the risk you take when you replace her with porn. The best way is to stop. For those who have much stronger addictions, then there are accountability websites that will alert 5 accountability partners anytime you go to a questionable website. I’ve known people in the church that used programs like this, and it was the only thing that stopped their addiction. Yes, it is an addiction in most cases. Just stop, for the love of your marriage, the health of your heart, the relationship you have with God, just stop.
This post is a cry out to anyone that is hurting their marriage. No, my mistakes are not yours, and may have nothing to do with your life or decisions, but maybe parts of them do. Maybe there is a little truth in my words that tug on your guilt strings. Give it to God, and put time and effort into making a strong marriage. It is worth every bit of effort and time. Love is the best gift we’ve been given, so do not harm the love between you and your spouse. (Now, I’m just going to pretend I did not post this, y’all have a great day!)
Look for Part Two, with Mistakes 4-7 Monday!
Part Three, with mistakes 8-10 Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
As always, your likes help spread the word and are very appreciated. Your comments are usually my motivation for continuing, so thank you for either.