Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Posted on May 13, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Because I’m pretty honest about my first marriage — both good and bad — I sometimes get messages or comments from women who are marrying as young as I was the first time, wanting to know what I would have done differently (other than, I suppose, not being young).  I suspect other readers have been turned off by the same topic, figuring I just made stupid decisions that had little to do with my relative youth.  In my last session with my fabulous therapist, he asked me the same thing: what could I have done differently?

Thing is, I didn’t think I needed to do anything differently, not at 21. There’s not a thing you could have said to me that would have made me doubt our ability to make our marriage work.  We loved each other, we’d lived together, we knew each other’s weaknesses.  How could we fail?

So accepting that waiting to get married wasn’t gonna happen, I would say to myself: decide that no matter what, you won’t get divorced until you’re 31*.  Wish for it, consider it, but then set it aside until your 31st birthday.  On that birthday, take stock of your relationship and then decide.

Your mid-twenties are going to be turbulent years, years spent trying to figure out how to extricate the threads of your own being from the cloth of your family.  You’re going to feel lost, and alone, and not very sure about anything… and you will blame your husband and your marriage for that.  You’ll believe you have lost yourself in him, are alone because he’s not with you, would know yourself better if you didn’t have to worry about him, and while that may be a little bit true, it’s mostly not.  Without a pact — a real, honest, boots-on-the-ground commitment — to not actually leaving until those years are behind you, you will lose a wonderful man who was a great husband.  You’ll discover that your life is just as crazy without him as it was with him and you’ll suddenly realize that it wasn’t him, it was you all along.

I love the wedding ritual Miss Cowboy Boot blogged about because it’s so real it’s mind-blowing.  In my determination to learn all I could to recover from my divorce, I’ve talked to countless married couples, all of whom confirmed there will be times you will contemplate divorce.  Really?  Yes, even the ones who’d been married for decades.  Without preparing for them, you might believe — like I did — the problem was in your choice of mate.  And you might be right… but you might be wrong.

So we’ll be building our own little Lifeboat Box, and I’d love to hear other ideas for how to make it through rough times.  I’m also asking guests to share words of wisdom rather than the more traditional well wishes.  I’ll even provide envelopes so nobody feels uncomfortable being honest. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with a new bride? Please share.  I’ll take all the help I can get.

*For some reason, 31 seems like a good grown-up age to me.  I suppose it might be different for you.

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5 Responses to “Coulda Woulda Shoulda”

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this is so on point. both my guy and i are mired in those mid twenty mazes of who are we, what do we want to go with our lives. i sometimes unintentionally blame my difficulty with self-actualization on him, but really i just need to figure it out for myself.

Thanks for articulating my feelings better than I ever could.
“There’s not a thing you could have said to me that would have made me doubt our ability to make our marriage work. We loved each other, we’d lived together, we knew each other’s weaknesses. How could we fail?” that was me at 22. And then the turbulance hit and I didn’t stick it out. I’m generally at peace with my decision to not stick it out now but there is always moments when I think I should have worked harder – shoulda woulda coulda but then I couldn’t at the time, easier in retrospect than living it. And ultimately I found a very different and stronger love. Whether it was because of me being in a better stronger place or a more “right” man for me. I suspect a bit of both.

I’ve been saying that age and length of relationship don’t matter as people debate and question what is best in both, because people can change and have those years of questioning their very core at any point in their life and we never know when it will come. But I think the twenties are probably the most likely time, which was the case for me so waiting til both you and your relationship are older gives you a better chance. I’m not sure whether to advise sticking a marriage out through those years if you choose to marry young but I totally agree with you in preparing for those tough times and working as hard as you can.
I saw the wine ceremony near the beginning of our planning and I’d really like to include it too or something similar.

I liked this article: http://www.shrinktalk.net/archives/why_marriages_fail_1.phtml not groundbreaking but a nice overall look at it.

Ok. But what about the argument that it is going through the loss that is the catalyst to understanding. It is the divorce, blaming him, blaming no one, blaming yourself, finally (if you do the work)…..gaining wisdom and insight…..that leads to the true appreciation and understanding of what a marriage really is and what it will take……all of that learning process being triggered by the initial loss, the crushing disappointment, the escape of divorce. Can this really be done while that person stands faithfully beside you? Can you see reality while emerged in the security of the “dream”? I question.

Well, in my case, I do believe that I would have “found myself” (well, this version of myself, which I happen to like) eventually. Would it have been easy? No. And reconciling the hurt you put someone through while searching for yourself is tough… but in my case, it was definitely possible. Giving myself a “deadline” would have given me some much needed perspective and growing up time.

I think that each person makes your own interpretation.

[…] of angst and soul-searching since he asked me to marry him, two years after I met him at a bar, and finally coming to terms with my past and the whole purpose of this wedding thing, it was […]


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    I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and divorce papers) to prove it. Here I am again, pledging my life to my (new) love with eyes wide open (and heart racing) knowing full well how emotionally traumatic this can end… and doing it anyway.

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