Divorce is always sad. It's saying good-bye not only to a person you once loved (and perhaps still do), but a dream that you had. A life that you thought you'd live. But if you're really lucky, you can come away from it wiser than before. You can learn lessons about not only who you are -- but who you want to be with someone else who isn't your spouse. A recently divorced man named Gerald Rogers posted a touching essay on Facebook dissecting everything he'd learned from his failed marriage -- and what he could do over if he could. We could all take away some lessons from his divorce experience.
1. Never take your spouse for granted. It's one we hear all of the time, but that we're nevertheless prone to fall into, given our often-exhausting lives. Too often work and kids and other family members and everything in between comes before your spouse. After all, you expect your spouse to understand. To be there no matter what. To put up with it. And, sadly, by the time you figure out that may not be the case, it's too late. Says Rogers:
NEVER EVER take that woman for granted. When you asked her to marry you, you promised to be that man that would OWN HER HEART and to fiercely protect it. This is the most important and sacred treasure you will ever be entrusted with. SHE CHOSE YOU. Never forget that, and NEVER GET LAZY in your love.
2. Don't start looking outside your marriage for the feelings you should get inside of it. Rogers phrases this as, "Protect your own heart." He describes that as:
Just as you committed to being the protector of her heart, you must guard your own with the same vigilance. Love yourself fully, love the world openly, but there is a special place in your heart where no one must enter except for your wife. Keep that space always ready to receive her and invite her in, and refuse to let anyone or anything else enter there.
I think with social media, this has become the new threat to marriages -- letting people in where you shouldn't. It's so easy to sit there on your computer and, with a few keystrokes, begin flirting, flattering, sharing, and otherwise beginning the slow process of opening yourself up romantically to someone else. And, of course, because this person isn't really "real" (even if he or she does exist), he or she seems so much BETTER. By the time you realize your fantasy isn't all it's cracked up to be, your spouse may have cracked into your email and your marriage is kaput.
3. Court her every day. Rogers admits we all change, and therefore we must keep choosing our partner over and over again, which means courting and fighting for the love of our spouse over and over. Again, something that's very easy to forget with the long, slow slog of time. While I think it's just impossible (and impractical) to court with the fervor you used at the very beginning every day for decades, there's no reason you can't continue to remind yourself that nothing is forcing your partner to stay with you. And that you owe her the interest, love, and affection you gave her/him in the early days.
These are some valuable words for people who are married and may be finding their dedication flagging a bit. But I wonder what his ex thinks of them? While on the one hand, it's nice that he seems to have learned his lesson. On the other, it would have been nice if he'd learned it earlier.
What do you do to keep your marriage strong? If you were married before, did you learn anything from your divorce?