names have been changed and or omitted in this post
"So… I want to ask you something… and I want to know because we all have our things, right? No matter how our marriage was or how it ended we can all look back and say we could or should have done some things differently. You know I've told you my things… but what would you say were yours?" He asked me.
Beside him dressed in an army green tank top and skinny jeans I nodded and spoke "No, I get it… we do all have things we look back on and realize where we were at fault." I affirmed. I paused momentarily reflecting and then spoke "For me… several things… first off, I shouldn't have married him. When I got married I married him because I felt we had a great friendship." I stated, referring to my ex…"I felt like we would make great partners. I didn't have any passion toward him but I thought the friendship would be enough. Or at least I kept telling myself that." I grimaced… "Later of course I realized how wrong I was."
He nodded "So how did you come to realize you were wrong?" He asked.
"Because I'd dated Jeremy… and I realized how much chemistry we'd had… it was amazing. We never had sex because I'd wanted to wait. I'd had an abortion with my ex. But it was obvious Jeremy and I had chemistry. So I knew what it could be… but after that fell apart I began seeing my ex again and we got married. Unfortunately emotional wise I took Jeremy into my marriage with me… I knew what I was missing but I kept telling myself it didn't matter." I admitted.
"So… you just kinda stuffed that part of you deep down and dismissed it…. " He observed sadly and shook his head "That had to be hard… because you're a very romantic, passionate person."
"Yeah… that's true. I guess I did stuff it down. My ex is not romantic or passionate. He's very practical." I acknowledged. "So that caused problems… then of course there was the money." I said. "Granted, I was angry he was spending so much money on big purchases like the house he had to have, the Jaguar, gadgets, etc. Yet I was spending money on the house decorative wise… trying to fill a hole… trying to fill an unhappiness." I admitted "I wish I hadn't... but lesson learned. During the divorce he tried to say that I was spending fifteen hundred dollars a month. It was more like five to seven hundred… granted, I didn't need to spend that much regardless and that was wrong of me but it still irritated me that he exaggerated the amount." I paused "When he bought the Jaguar I got pretty ugly... I couldn't understand how someone who once drove a truck and was fine wearing a fleece jacket from Target became so different. I said some things I shouldn't have. It chips away at the relationship when you do."
Colossians 4:6 ESV Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
We sat in silence a moment and I spoke "One separate issue was our son. When he was really young my ex wouldn't acknowledge he had issues… and so we lost some time on getting him the help he needed… later we put him in ABA therapy… he did speech therapy for free through the public school system. I thought we needed to spend more money on helping him. We were always arguing about how to help him, how to parent him and not in agreement."
In a healthy marriage or even after a marriage's demise where two people self reflect they can acknowledge how or where they screwed up. Someone who is open to self reflection is able to scrutinize their own past actions and say "I was wrong… " or "I shouldn't have handled it that way"… " I said ugly things I regret" or maybe even "It wasn't what I said but how I said it. " We all have things we could have done differently and later in hindsight those things are oh so glaringly in our face like a blinding sunset during our five o'clock commute home. We simply cannot ignore it or escape it's reality. We sit there with sorrow or maybe regret… maybe pain that is coupled with a vow to never ever let those poor choices be made again. We feel the bittersweetness of the situation… we can feel some triumph in that we have had insight into how we contributed to our marriage's tribulations or even failure… yet also a yanking on our heartstrings of how it is too bad it is what it is now… that all is over with and there are no re-do's…. obviously in the exception of where abuse occurred.
I can say now… fast forward to today from the last time I saw Jeremy walk away nearly twenty years ago… it's been a long road to get where I am now. I look back and see a man who turned out to represent one of my biggest lessons in life. If you have passion… if you have chemistry with someone… if you have serious feelings of any depth for someone… tell them. Don't hold back. Because we rarely ever regret doing something… we almost always regret not doing something. And when we don't say how we feel… that I can most certainly assure you come back to haunt you for a very long long time. It has the ability to emotionally annihilate you, affect your future relationships and even tear your marriage apart. Fortunately now… I am in a good place and I see a bright present and future ahead… I know now without a doubt how incredibly important it is to have chemistry, passion and friendship with who you're with. To not is to settle and not only jip yourself but the person you're with. To stuff away something you feel so strongly about it is to deny your true feelings and needs. To deny what you really need and want is to deny what the other person should have or had with you as well… it's a domino effect and has long repercussions.
When it comes to money… no amount of material things… clothes, decor, jewelry, etc will fill an emptiness within or an unhappiness caused by our life circumstances and or a spouse who is not good for us. Regardless of what the issue is… the solution is not to "fix" it with shopping and trying to get a momentary high of sorts to make us feel better… because eventually like an addict we must put aside our drug of choice and address the true issues underlying…. the shopping is merely a surface symptom of a larger issue going on. The best thing to do is find better ways to cope with whatever were dealing with… whether that be therapy, exercise, hobbies, etc… and yet in that if abuse is happening the best thing to do is find the nearest exit or boot the abuser out the door.
It's a known fact that couples who have children with special needs have a tougher time keeping their marriages intact… divorce rates are higher in this specific group of married couples. There is understandably so much strain and pressure both emotionally and financially on couples that they may crumble under it all. Sometimes one parent won't acknowledge there is an issue which wastes precious time and causes resentment to set in… once therapy takes place it can drain a couples savings and even day to day living… the expenses are high and often wait lists for help are very long adding to the frustration… compounded perhaps by having other children who maybe aren't getting the time and attention they also need and deserve. It's often an uphill battle that is really no one's fault and certainly not the child's… it just comes down to parents only have so much time, energy and resources at their disposal and some things begin to slide… namely the time and effort into their marriages. Likewise patience may run thin as couples try to find agreement on what therapies are actually useful, needed and money well spent… throw in the typical parenting dilemmas like discipline, chores, rules, etc… and there is potentially a recipe for disaster.
So the question must always be asked… what have I learned?
If married where can I improve? If divorced where could I have done better in my marriage? Taking responsibility is essential for where we lacked or when we didn't choose our spouse… these realizations must occur or we may just be doomed to make the same poor choices yet again. It takes courage and vulnerability to not just admit to ourselves that we messed up but then admitting it to someone else… it's a huge and humbling thing to do that. Take heart though in knowing that you can make these acknowledgments and doing so doesn't make you weak or flawed. Quite the contrary because it doesn't come to those who can't stand to take a magnifying glass and look within at their mistakes. Someone who walks through life with an arrogant spirit simply cannot afford to let anyone see that they may not have it all together. Instead, they decide that they are always right and everyone else is perpetually wrong. They decide that they have it all together and the other ones are always coming up short. They decide that their marriage failing is their spouses fault and theirs alone… they take zero responsibility for any wrong choices, hurt or grief. They finger point and they blame… someone who is of a narcissistic nature believes they are are above others… once you admit any mistakes made a narc will rejoice in your admissions… for now in their eyes they have you agreeing they have clean hands.
But their hands are far from clean. Just like in the movie The Girl On The Train when Tom blames Rachel for everything and takes zero personal responsibility for his choices he shows what a psychopath he is… and he is exactly like those toxic individuals we may have been prey to. Narcissist's, sociopath's and psychopaths never admit they are wrong. Subscribing to a spotless record and dismissing any wrong doing on our part in life keeps us in a prideful mindset. It keeps us from being real, from being transparent and focuses on making ourselves look good… i.e.; worshipping, idolizing, catering to our image and ego when in reality that does nothing to honor God. It simply detracts from our relationship with Him and keeps us stuck… just stuck on ourselves instead of something bigger than us.
Proverbs 16:5 ESV Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
The good news is regardless of whether we saw the signs early on that the marriage could one day be toxic or if we were completely bamboozled and found out only after we were securely planted within the marriage… is accepting grace from Him. Our guilt can be soothed by asking for grace upon repentance. Then we can give ourselves grace…. not excuses but much needed grace for our choice in he or she. Yes, there are the coulda, shoulda, woulda's … there always will be. But let's remember that our misguided ways, our best intentions that turned out wrong, our blatant hurtful choices… they can all be given grace. We may have given other's grace, perhaps even our ex husband or ex wife… and yet not given it to ourselves. We may chronically beat ourselves up because we chose someone not good for us to begin with. We may walk around silently telling ourselves how stupid or dumb we are to have chosen who we chose… or how were so silly to have been tricked… because not everyone gets tricked. Some people marry nice people and live long happy lives together. So we verbally strike ourselves because we didn't get on that train of true love… that instead we obviously (internal eye roll) got in the line of ding dong's that didn't know what they were doing. But here's the truth… instead of wanting to beat ourselves up like that because were human(!) and sometimes make mistakes or get the wool pulled over our eyes… maybe dispensing grace to ourselves and losing the self pride would be wise… maybe it's time. Maybe it's past time. To stop looking back. To start looking forward.