How did I become a statistic?
The day I got married, so many years ago, I not only made the vow to my husband “till death due us part,” I also pledged to myself that I wouldn’t become part of the around 50 percent of couples that end their relationship in divorce.
Yet here I was, sitting nervously in the lawyer’s office next to a man that I had spent the past 20-some years with. The problem? This man that I had shared so many life changing moments and memories with had become a complete stranger to me. Somehow over the years we had completely stopped talking, the space between us growing wider ever day.
Over the years I had tragically watched so many of my friends and parents of my children’s friends go through divorce. I had seen first-hand the struggles that the couples’ faced as they began their lives apart, juggling the kids back and fourth and taking on new tasks never before attempted. I heard about the arguments over money, listened to tales of adultery and fighting over custody. It terrified me to even think of going through such a feat.
During this time, even though my marriage was far from happy, I still kept my vow to stay together, creating the “picture perfect” happy family for everyone on the outside to see. I knew that our fighting and days of no talking were not healthy and that everyone would be in a far better place if I would just close this relationship, which had actually ended long before. Still, I was not brave enough to take that step. It was just such a giant step.
Finally I had enough, thus leading to my visit to the lawyer’s office. I decided it was time to be happy.
Although I had vowed not to have my life go in this direction, several horrible circumstances led me to this point of no return. The day had come to face my fears head on. I felt defeated, scared, elated and curious all at the same time.
It was during this difficult time that I did a lot of soul searching. It was also at this point that my new lease on life came and with that I compiled a list of things that are necessary to make a relationship work. Finding myself head over heels for a new man that treated me like a queen, I decided that I would do whatever it took to keep our love alive.
So why would you want relationship advice from a recently divorced woman? Because I’ve been to the bottom, suffered through the hurt, and learned from my mistakes. Through this time, I shed enough tears to fill to overflow a bucket. With my wounds still fresh, I offer up tips to help others:
1. Communicate. Talk with your partner. Say good morning. Every morning. Welcome them home from work each and every afternoon. Have conversations during dinner about their day. Ask questions and listen to their answers. Make them feel important. These things may sounds trivial but without communication in a relationship you have nothing.
2. Say you’re sorry and mean it. Being stubborn does nothing to help a relationship. We are all human and make mistakes. If you are at fault, swallow your pride, apologize and mean it. Simply saying the two words, “I’m sorry,” make a world of difference and can end an argument instantly.
3. Show affection. Human touch is so important in a relationship. I think it had been over six months, toward the end of my marriage, since I had been hugged by my husband. I now make a point of hugging, kissing and holding hands with my partner every chance that I get. I give him back rubs after his trips to the gym and after difficult work days. It makes you feel close and keeps the intimacy alive, connecting you on a higher level.
4. Stroke their ego. Everyone loves compliments and handing them out is easy to do. Tell your partner how nice they look or what a great job they are doing, when working on a project. Send them a text during the day, letting them know that you love what a hard worker they are. Hearing something like this can only make the other person smile and feel special.
5. Thank them. This to me is a huge deal. I spent years as a stay-at-home mom and was never complimented on all of my work. I realize that my spouse had no idea of the long dedicated hours that I put in to our home and family, but a simple thank you would have been amazing during those difficult years. Life is hard. Take time to thank your partner, even if it is for something small, just to let them know they are appreciated.
6. Be honest. Don’t ever hide things, no matter how trivial they appear to you, from your partner. Trust is something that is earned and once it is lost, is extremely difficult to gain back. If you have done something wrong, the best way to remedy the situation is to come forward with honesty.
7. Put down your phone. I know that before my divorce all of my spare time was spent playing games or looking through my social media accounts on my cell phone. I was lonely and this was my way to connect with friends. At the time I didn’t see anything wrong with participating in this activity, but looking back I now that was part of the destruction of my marriage. Because I had my face behind my phone screen for several hours a day, I disconnected myself from my own family. My advice: put your phone down. Spend time with your partner. Time is something that you can’t get back and is never wasted when spent with the one that you love.
8. Laugh. Life is full of a constant stream of ups and downs and sometimes it can make you feel completely overwhelmed. I’ve found that sometimes I take things way to seriously and just need to laugh. Instead of arguing over trivial things in life, I try to laugh things off. Hearing my partner’s laugh and seeing him smile is one of the greatest feelings I can have and brightens my day.
9. Go out to dinner. Never stop courting. Whether you’ve been married 40 years or are just getting to know one another, never stop going out to dinner. Hold hands, looking into each other’s eyes and act like teenagers again. There is nothing like getting dressed up and going out to spark something in your relationship again. Reminisce about fun times that you have shared over drinks and just enjoy each other.
10. Respect. Never stop respecting one another. That means giving each other space, and also remember that there are two people in every relationship. No matter how angry you may find yourself during an argument, always respect your partner and their feelings. It can be the thing that keeps you together. Once the respect is gone, so is the relationship.
Marriage and relationships are a difficult job that takes constant work to stay afloat but are also one of the most rewarding gifts in life. Everyone needs love in life and with some dedication, we can reap the benefits of a good partnership.
I’ve learned all of this the hard way, but I’ve picked myself up from the bottom and am only looking forward with positivity now. My fiancé is the best thing that has happened in my life and has truly taught me what true love is.
Author: Jill Carr
Image: Courtesy of Author, Insomnia Cured Here/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman