Nearly two years ago, I wrote and shared a list of things I did to mess up my marriages in a blog post called “16 Ways I Blew My Marriage.”
That post was read by more than 25 million people.
Wow. If you want to talk about feeling vulnerable, have that many contemplate and scrutinize everything you just admitted to doing wrong. It’s a very surreal and somewhat terrifying feeling. I mean, I tend to write for all of you, and when my stuff goes above and beyond all of you (the people I love and trust), I want to go into a corner and hide for a while.
For the most part, people were kind, and awesome, and appreciative. In fact, one comment I’ve seen again and again was, “we want to hear about the good things you did in your marriages, too!” and “we know you did some great things, as well.”
And, it’s true. I did lots of things to blow my marriages, and I did lots of amazing and good things while I was married that made all the difference in the world. So, here you go. It only took me two years. 16 Ways I ROCKED my marriages.
1. I didn’t ever stop laughing. For long.
Being young and naïve when I got married, it came as a great shock when life wasn’t all roses for me and for my equally naïve and young wife. Holy crap. Turns out sometimes life is just plain hard. And somehow, through every hard time, I always found a way to laugh about it. Eventually.
I always found a way to put the problems in my life into perspective and realize that not only is every hard thing temporary, it also almost always can be funny when you look back it. I learned early that laughter is the greatest tool to get all parties involved through any challenge.
BONUS! Laughter has been proven to boost your immune system. So, not only will your relationship be stronger, you’ll have a much better chance at not getting the Bubonic plague or leprosy. I don’t know about you, but those both sound awful.
2. I learned how to trust.
I’ve already told you how I struggled with jealousy and distrust early on. And it didn’t take long at all after I was married to realize just how much that behavior was going to hurt our relationship. So, I did what I had to do to learn how to trust the person I was with, and to trust her blindly, so that we both could have peace in that area of our lives. I learned that trusting or not trusting does not change what my partner will do. It does, however, change the way I feel toward my partner, and it takes away that major roadblock to my own happiness in the relationship.
BONUS! When you trust your partner, your partner will trust you more. That means when you get out of bed at night, you can actually get away with that midnight snack.
3. I in-lawed.
In-lawed may not be a technically correct term, but let’s go with it. In-laws can be tough. They can be tricky. There was so much history there before I ever arrived, there were so many strange and unanswerable dynamics. And, there were many times when I wanted to push all of my in-laws all out and turn more toward my own family, but I was always good about making sure to love and spend time with my in-laws, despite our differences, because I knew how much it meant to my wife.
BONUS! When you’re on good terms with your in-laws, your in-laws are willing to babysit way more often!
4. I sought to understand myself.
When I left high school, I had no idea just how broken I was and just how little I really knew. It took jumping into a marriage quickly and young to have all my faults anxiously displayed so that I could more easily scrutinize them. And much of what I saw, I didn’t like. So, I began working on those things. One thing at a time.
I began learning who I was. I began the process of understanding myself. And while I was still a very long ways from perfect by the time my marriages ended, I could honestly look back at many times that had been made so much better because of some demon or troubled part of myself which I had overcome.
BONUS! When you start learning just how messed up you really are, you also start to learn just how friggin’ awesome you really are, too.
5. I sought the middle-ground.
Even very young, I understood the concept that there were always two sides to every pancake, no matter how thin. Any disagreement or argument for me was about coming together and meeting in the middle. I had no pride that made me have to be right about everything. I understood that there was a big overlapping gray area in any argument which could make us both happy enough if we could humble ourselves enough to get there.
I never wanted more. I never had to have it all. And I think that made a lot of those little moments a lot easier to solve.
BONUS! When you meet in the middle, you both have to move up or down together if you want to keep the peace. And when you move up and down and up and down, well…
6. I apologized.
Growing up, my brother and I would often do the exact same rebellious things. We’d get into the same trouble. And, we’d often get caught. Together. The difference between my brother and me? He would admit his wrong-doing. He would apologize. And he’d get sent to his room or he’d be given a mild punishment. I, on the other hand, would argue, and declare my independence, and refuse to apologize, and I would end up with a punishment 10x worse than what my brother got, for committing the exact same crimes.
When I was married, I never purposefully became more like my brother, but I think my heart was burdened and heavy from all those years of doing it the wrong way, and I learned that things just end and problems just get solved, if I’ll just be okay with a little backlash or a little correction from time to time. I learned that an apology, whether I feel it’s warranted or not, can do miracles for my partner’s ability to feel better in any situation.
BONUS! When you apologize even in the times you don’t feel like you need to, you start to get those apologies back in return. And sometimes those apologies are accompanied by things like… homemade brownies.
7. I dreamed big.
My entire life, I’ve been a dreamer. I’ve always plotted and planned whatever my next project would be. I’ve dreamed of the successes that could come with my ceaseless efforts and hard work. I’ve shared my enthusiasm and my excitement for my dreams with those closest to me. And in my marriage, I never let my dreams die. I kept constant excitement for a bigger and brighter future going, and I gave my all to seeing my dreams start to become realities.
This was so important to my relationship because it let the present take care of itself without worry of the future. Worry and stress over security are never helpful to any relationship, and I always knew that.
BONUS! When you dream big, and you start chasing your dreams… get this… you often reach your dreams! BIG BONUS THERE.
8. I provided.
Oh, I dreamed big. But I also didn’t let my dreams keep me from providing for my family while I worked to reach those dreams. As a husband and father, I put in the hours, I climbed the right ladders, and I gave my best effort at any endeavor of which I was a part. I never made excuses or depended on others for my or my family’s well-being and financial security. I have always known that financial stress hurts more relationships than any other single factor, and I refused to let that ever be a stress in my relationship for long.
BONUS! Talking about your dreams together is the best pillow talk, maybe ever. There’s something about excitement for the future that makes any hard part of the past just vanish for the moment.
9. I got more healthy.
When I was first married, I got more unhealthy. I got fatter. I got sicker. I got physically lazier. I ended up pushing the scales at 350 lbs. before I realized how unhealthy I was and how my health was going to affect my marriage. So, I did what I had to do and what I could do and I started fighting the fight to get healthy. Losing weight and becoming more active brought more excitement and energy to our relationship, and helped solve all sorts of other little problems that I didn’t even realize were health related, too!
BONUS! How do I put this? Hm. When you’re more healthy, there are more pages of the you know what book you can try. Lots more pages.
10. I gave. And I served.
I have always felt that open and generous giving (of time, money, and things) is such an important part of any relationship. I somehow intrinsically always knew that the best way to fix things within was to help fix things elsewhere, together. I teamed up with my wife in both marriages to do amazing things for people with whatever we had to give at the time, and as we did so, there was no doubt that our relationships were made stronger in the process.
BONUS! Plotting and planning and having secrets together makes you feel like a superspy couple.
11. I ruled my anger.
I was a very angry teenager. Looking back, I don’t know what I was even angry at, really. I was just hurting and angry. And I also loathed that anger so much that when I got married, I refused to give into it any longer, and I made sure to rule my anger until I could understand it and put my angry tendencies behind me.
Oh, it would still flare in the most unexpected of circumstances, but after a few years of owning it and ruling it, the flare-ups became all but non-existent, and anger was no longer a problem at all, and so it didn’t affect my marriages the way it easily could have.
BONUS! If you control your anger, you don’t have to go to bed at night feeling like a tool. Or whatever.
12. I had fun.
I had fun. With my wife. With my kids. With my friends. With my family. With her family. We went on amazing and fun vacations. We played sports together. We got away as often as possible. We had large circles of amazing friends. We had game nights and get-togethers with our parents and siblings. We kept things fun together, and that fun really helped us get through many of the hard times.
BONUS! Do you need a bonus for FUN?! Fun is the bonus! Unless you’re playing Twister. Then fun comes with bonus fun.
13. I didn’t demean.
My entire life I have loathed demeaningly-natured people. I learned early on that there is a big difference between laughing at our quirks and differences, and judging others or thinking ourselves better than others to the point where we find their differences to make them less. Marriage was no different, and I was good at discussing without demeaning, which is so hard to do, especially when you’re in the thick of it or it’s being slung your way.
There were occasional times when I did become demeaning, and there was no doubt that to do so immediately made whatever it was we were fighting about so much worse. Over time, I got it completely in check.
I think that anyone who purposefully demeans others, in or out of relationships, is a real life dementor. And who wants to be that?
BONUS! When you keep from demeaning the person you love, it leaves the door open for more heartfelt talk. Like, whose turn is it to scrub behind the toilet.
14. I humbled myself.
If there is one trait that I learned to want and wish for with any companion, it was humility. Relationships are two-way streets, and any time you combine two lives, you are bound to have major differences rise up in the way you think, the way you see things happen, and the way you want to solve things. Humility goes a very long way in finding that middle ground. Letting go of my pride to get there as quickly as possible was always one of my strengths.
BONUS! When you humble yourself, it leaves the door wide open for your partner to fill up your self-esteem bucket, which is so much more fulfilling than trying to fill it up yourself.
15. I went to counseling.
Yep, I went. With my second wife, that is. By the time my first wife and I ever mentioned the word counseling, I was so mentally distanced from the relationship that I immediately turned her down and refused. With my second wife, we started discovering irreconcilable differences almost the moment we were married, and I humbled myself enough to go to counseling with her to try and avoid a repeat of history. Showing her that I was willing to go and willing to be part of it went a long way in the times between counseling sessions to help us both keep things in perspective as much as possible.
And you know what I learned? I learned that counseling is a pretty amazing and even fun thing if you have the right conselor.
BONUS! When you go to counseling, you get bonus homework from your counselor that involves all sorts of clothesless adventures. True story.
16. I gave her what I was capable of giving her at the time.
In the end, my second marriage ended, and even knowing everything I now know about myself, and having discovered everything I now have, I don’t believe it was avoidable. We were both incompatible long-term, and we never would be compatible. I truly believe that.
That being said, it wasn’t all bad times with her or with my first wife. In fact, the good times very much outweighed the bad with both of them. And, I believe that the good times existed and were plentiful because both she and I knew what we were capable of giving, and we gave it.
I knew I was broken, and I knew I had so much to work on, but I also knew just how much goodness I had, how much strength I had, and how much compassion. I knew what I could give and I knew what I was good at giving, and I rarely withheld it. And, most of the time, it was enough.
BONUS! When you give all that you can, you intrinsically know that. And isn’t just knowing that a pretty dang good bonus, whether your relationship works out in the end or not?
There are sixteen of the ways I think I ROCKED my marriage.
Take it or leave it. I am, in no way, some sort of marriage and relationship expert. These are just my experiences and my perspectives on what I did that was healthy or unhealthy.
Someday I’ll have that long-term amazing relationship on which I can really test out my well-earned relationship perspective. For now, I’ll just share what I’ve got with all of you and hope it does someone out there a bit of good.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing
PS. Would love your comments on insight. Also, if you missed them, make sure to catch all the posts in this series:
16 Ways I Blew My Marriage
The Other 15 Ways I Blew My Marriage
16 Ways SHE Botched Our Marriage