In 2012, I published a blog post called 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage. It was a post I wrote from a place of complete insecurity, I assure you.
Since then, more than 70 million page views have been recorded on that post. Debate has ensued, many people have found strength in it for their own relationships or for their own futures, and many people have even been aggravated by different parts of it. All for a post that I thought would be forgotten and buried a week after writing it.
I’m truly thankful and humbled by the response it’s gotten, and I assure you it’s surreal to know that so much of my dirty laundry is waving in the wind of millions.
As its title indicates, I shared 16 Ways I Blew My Marriage, and later the second half of that list. It was my role that I recognized in it all. My confession. Things I know I could have done better and should have done better in both marriages. It was what I realized when I had no “make it work” advice for my sister on the eve of her wedding; only “don’t botch it” advice.
As I wrote it, I remember thinking it would be a good idea to follow up with a list of things I wish she (either or both wives I’ve had) would have done better or differently in our marriages. A list of things that hurt me, pushed me to react in unhealthy ways, things that turned me off, things that caused resentment, and more. I remember thinking that that list would be completely different than the list I was currently writing.
Why? Because… Every success and failure of any relationship is two-sided. No matter how thin, the pancake always has two sides. Yes, I blew my marriages. And so did they. And while their personal lists of ways they blew it (and that they may feel I blew it) may be completely different, I wanted to share my own perspective.
I hope that by better understanding me in my failed marriages, some of you might better understand yourselves and the people you are with now and in the future.
So, here is my list that I wrote on the one-year anniversary of the original. It contains so many of my own needs and struggles that I wish I would have recognized and discussed with her while we were still married. Like with the first post, I won’t specify which wife or marriage I’m referring to (it really doesn’t matter).
And please, know that my marriages were full of good gestures, wonderful times, and lots of functional communication. Both women I was married to were good women. I don’t want to forget that as I focus on the “needed improvement” part of it all.
1. I just wanted to feel appreciated.
The number one thing I always longed for and rarely got was appreciation. Appreciation for how hard I worked to provide, appreciation for the time and effort I did put into our relationship, appreciation for the work I put into the home and the yard. Instead of appreciation, I was mostly told everything I could be doing better, where I was slipping, every way I was neglecting her, and why it wasn’t ever enough.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d have a sit-down with her and openly talk about my need for appreciation. We’d come up with a keyword, like “donkey lips” that meant, right now I really just need to be appreciated before my top blows! and we could both use it with each other without fear of backlash.
BONUS! When I feel appreciated, I work even harder to be awesome for you. That’s the truth.
2. Time apart was nothing personal.
I promised to be with her for the rest of my life when we married, but the truth is I needed a night the heck away from her once in a while. It didn’t mean I didn’t like her. It didn’t mean I didn’t want to be around her. It just meant I needed to recharge. And because I was sometimes made to feel guilt for needing time away, I began to resent her for it more than I ever let on.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I wouldn’t wait to take a night to myself until I had been pushed to the point of needing it. I’d make a night away from each other a permanent part of our recurring schedules from the beginning so that it never got to the point where we resented each other for lives too co-dependent and intermingled.
BONUS! When I spend the evening away from you, I actually find myself missing you and appreciating you more.
3. She sometimes insisted on being so gross.
I don’t know why, but she loved popping my zits. She’d hunt all over my body for them and even when I told her repeatedly that I didn’t like it, she insisted and told me to stop whining about it because she liked it. But the truth is, it was always a turn off, I never liked it, and it made me less attracted to her. They were my zits. Mine to pop. In private.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d look at her every time she started being so gross and I’d say, “this may sound awkward, but would you mind wiping my butt later, too? Or would it be better if I just keep my own grossness to myself?”
BONUS! When you don’t do gross things, I find you to be pin-against-the-wall kissably sexy.
4. Please just let us not fight.
Some people just aren’t fighters. I am not a fighter. It’s not my personality. And for some reason she loved to fight. She loved to push those certain buttons that she knew I couldn’t not fight over once they were pushed. Sometimes I would even straight up beg her to just not fight one time and let it go, and she would push harder and she would push more buttons until we were in a straight-up brawl.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: Any time she got into one of her “I want to fight” modes, I’d look her right in the eyes and take off one piece of clothing every time she said something new, all in silence and with the most seductively puzzling look ever. If she asked me what I was doing, I’d just say, “I’m sorry, am I reading this wrong?”
BONUS! People who don’t fight and argue as much live longer! Which, you know, sounds pretty neat.
5. I often felt like she’d try to make me less attractive to others.
I think that because it made her feel more secure in our relationship, she sometimes did everything she could to make me less attractive to others. She encouraged me to take seconds, thirds, or even fifth helpings at meals. She’d encourage me to stop working out and quickly give up on any new fitness goals. She’d tell me how sexy I was every time I was getting fatter and grosser and nastier, and tell me how much less attracted she was to me whenever I got healthier or more attractive.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I would recognize what was happening far sooner and make sure she knew just how insecure being fat and out of shape made me feel in our relationship. And in truth, I would have made sure she and I had similar views and goals on fitness before I ever got too deep with her in the beginnings of our relationship.
BONUS! When you tell me how sexy me getting sexy is, it just makes me want to get sexier… for you and only you! That may or may not include a leopard print thong and trimmed back hair.
6. Sex became so un-fun.
In the beginning sex was so fun. We both loved it. We both were cray cray horn-dogs. But inevitably, over time, sex became two things. A pawn in the game of control, and a chore. To actually get laid, I’d have to jump over all sorts of emotional and mental hurdles that she would put out there in an effort to make me always prove that sex was about us and our relationship and not about just gettin’ a piece. And that often ruined it for me and before too long I stopped wanting to try.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d make one rule about sex with her. And that would be that there were no rules about sex with her. No schedules. No hurdles. No begging. Just let it happen when it happens, and enjoy the times when it is all about gettin’ a piece because those times are just as needed and usually more relationship-building anyway!
BONUS! When we keep sex fun and spicy, great stories will one day be told around the dinner table by the guests we have staying at our house who accidentally hear it.
7. I just needed her to agree to disagree sometimes.
This kind of goes with the no-fighting thing, but it wasn’t always attached to fights. Sometimes we would get into a dispute or a disagreement, and she could not let it go. I would ask to please just agree to disagree, and she could not handle me having a different view, or not agreeing with her, and she would almost always keep pushing until things got uglier.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I would just walk away from it and give us both some space. I wish I would have known in my marriage that it was okay to simply walk away and let things cool when the other person wouldn’t agree to disagree. It’s not disrespectful to do, and it’s sometimes completely necessary.
BONUS! When we agree to disagree, we still like each other. Which is way better than the alternative.
8. Why did I need to befriend Aunt Flo exactly?
Something about periods makes me woozy. It’s always been that way for me. I don’t like hearing details about them. I don’t like talking about them. I don’t like buying her Tampons when it’s not absolutely necessary. I definitely don’t like seeing her used Tampons. Ever. And I think it’s okay that I don’t like it. It doesn’t mean I don’t respect or support or appreciate what she goes through as a woman. I do. It just means I don’t like the thought of uteral lining discharge when I think about her the same way she probably doesn’t like to think about my morning deuce when she thinks about me.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: Any time she brought up Aunt Flo in an attempt to make me appreciate it, I’d start singing old Safety Kids songs with a glazed over look and if that didn’t work I’d bust into some kick-butt 2Pac renditions.
BONUS! When you don’t make me confess affection for your monthly visitor, I am more willing to bring you flowers or chocolates to get your own mind off of it. Because I know it’s an unfun part of your life.
9. I really struggled when I was compared to other men, past or present.
I was often compared to other men. Her father. My father. Brothers. Exes. Husbands of sisters. And more. So often I felt like she looked at the 10% of what she liked in everyone else (that I didn’t have) and completely overlooked the 90% of what made me awesome, all while pressuring me to be more (or less) like someone else. All this usually did was make me feel unappreciated and resentful toward her, and toward others who didn’t deserve it. It definitely didn’t motivate me.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: Every time I was compared to someone else in an unhealthy way, I would tell her how much I appreciate how much she always appreciates the good parts of me until she actually started doing it.
BONUS! When you don’t compare me to your dad, I won’t compare you to my mom, and World War III won’t break out.
10. I felt like church and certain beliefs were never my choice.
This may seem silly being that I was a grown-ass man and could make any decision I wanted, but it wasn’t that simple. I didn’t believe in the religion, I didn’t want to be part of it, and I also wasn’t free to feel the way I did. If I voiced doubts, or tried to skip church, I was made to feel guilt and pressure for it. It would cause all sorts of problems in our marriage, and this just led to me always making up sicknesses or bogus reasons just to get out of it.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I wouldn’t get married at all until I had worked out my own life, my own beliefs, and my own path ahead, and I would make sure that it was with someone who could respect that beliefs are ever-changing and ever-evolving. If I had it to do over with her, I’d be that grown-ass man and just put my foot down. Private misery, I’ve learned, is far worse than someone being mad at you for living an authentic life.
BONUS! When you let me do what I feel is right, I feel like my life is actually my own. When I feel like my life is my own, I feel like I can share more of it with you. Funny how that works.
1. I never understood making me jealous.
I’m not generally a jealous person. But for some reason, she always thought it was funny to do or say things to try and make me feel jealous. If I didn’t respond, she’d hit me even harder and stronger until I got there. But the truth is, while she may have felt some sort of security and satisfaction in bringing jealousy out of me, all it did was push me away hard and fast because she sometimes did it in such hurtful and unhealthy ways.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I would understand the healthy need to see small amounts of jealousy from your spouse sometimes, and we’d have more fun with it. We’d give each other funny challenges before parties that would purposefully induce jealousy, and then we’d laugh about it all the way home.
BONUS! When we trust each other’s attraction and commitment fully, we are able to focus on more fun things like making other shoppers feel super awkward as we “handle” and inspect produce together.
12. I often was told everything I couldn’t achieve.
I’m a dreamer. I like to believe big things can happen for me and the person I’m with and then I like to work for them. And for some reason she always felt the need to be the “realist” and tell me why my dreams wouldn’t work, why I should aim smaller, or why I should give up on the dreams altogether. She would tell me I couldn’t do it. And you know what, it was easier to say okay to her than to fight about it, and very few dreams ever became realities until we were finally apart.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: Every time she told me it couldn’t be done (or shouldn’t be done), I’d start doing a ridiculous tap dance and tell her, “if I can do this, I bet I can do that!”
BONUS! Dreams being reached usually mean a better life and more money, so let’s start with that…
13. Apologies were often so hard to come by.
When we got divorced, I could count on one hand the number of times she had apologized to me about anything. For some reason I think she felt like apologizing meant admitting that I was completely right and that she was completely wrong, and even worse, that apologizing meant she wasn’t as good, or as smart, or as right as she ought to be. But the truth was, a simple apology would have meant the world to me and reset everything way more often than not. Apologies for me are often all that is needed for immediate forgiveness.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d make sure she knew that I knew that apologizing didn’t mean I felt I was right or that I had won. I’d offer her more of a safe place to apologize so that we could both let it go.
BONUS! When you apologize, I think you’re awesome. And I don’t say that lightly.
14. I just wanted her to understand my love language and try to speak it.
My love language is not touch. In fact, touch is way down the list. At the top of my list are verbal affirmation and acts of service, and no matter how much we talked about love languages, it seemed that she always felt touch was how we would get over or past anything, when really all it did was drive me further away because my real love languages were being ignored.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I would sit down with her and find some way to make speaking in each other’s love languages a fun game or contest. Something to keep it fresh in our minds because love languages are so easy to forget when they’re different.
BONUS! When you speak to me in my love language, I feel loved. When I feel loved, it makes me want to make you feel love. When you feel love, we then want to make each other feel loved. And when two people want to make each other feel loved… well, let’s just say nothing bad is going to happen.
15. I just wanted to feel hurt when she was mean to me.
When she was mean to me (as we all sometimes are to our spouses for whatever reason), she wouldn’t want me to feel hurt by it. She would want me to suck it up and “be a man” and get over it and tell her that it wasn’t that mean or bad. But I’m a human being and if she hurt me I just wanted to feel that hurt. I think that’s okay because if I would have just let myself feel it, I would have dealt with it so much better and so much sooner.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d buy a hoodie sweatshirt and paint it like a turtle shell, and when I had those moments in which I needed to pull away and feel hurt, I would put it on, pull the hood over my face, cinch the drawstrings, and tell her I’d come out of my shell when I was ready. I’d call it my brooding hoodie.
BONUS! When you let me feel hurt, you also let me forgive you.
16. Please make an effort to stay young with me.
For some reason, we stopped being young. We stopped going out to concerts, and parties, and everything else we did when we were first dating. We stopped blowing unnecessary money on much of anything. We stopped so many of the things we did as young people, and life got boring with each other in a hurry.
IF I HAD IT TO DO OVER: I’d make it a point to do fun things, and stupid things, and exciting things, and crazy things, and high-energy things no matter how long we were together or how old we got. It really is true that you’re only as old as you let yourself feel.
BONUS! You make all of your old friends on Facebook so effing jealous of all your fun and adventures together when you’re having them. And isn’t that what Facebook is really all about?
Whew. That wasn’t the easiest thing to write.
If you missed my list of my shortcoming and my part in our failed marriage, please read The 31 Ways I Blew My Marriage.
I would love your comments on today’s posts. What do you agree/disagree with? What advice would you give for handling some of those dynamics?
Dan Pearce, Reposted From My Single Dad Laughing Blog