In the shower this morning and I remember my friend Michele is coming over to give me tips on how to properly update the dressers. Instead of what I would normally do which is cross my fingers and start slapping paint all over.
Because also I am impatient and I hate doing prep work.
Which made me think about her sister (and also my friend) Melanie and how she and her husband recently renewed their vows after 25 years together.
Which brought my thoughts back to Michele and her husband and I don't know how long they have been together but I know they were high school sweethearts.
Which made me think about my first date with Dean and how I told him I wanted to get married and have kids some day. And I was careful to say I didn't mean it had to be him, but if that wasn't a direction he ever saw his life going, then there was no point in going any further.
I've always believed honesty is the best policy. I've always been upfront about my feelings, wants, and needs.
Which led me back to my first divorce.
The crux of this post will be - it takes two people to make a marriage work.
And marriage is work. It takes work to not become complacent. To just accept the status quo. And I say this because in my first marriage I know I had become depressed. Not sad depressed, but definitely apathetic.
By all outward appearances, I had a dream marriage. Dean and I were a great couple and lord knows EVERYONE loved him. And we were college sweethearts, together for 15 years by the time it was over.
We never fought until the last 6 months of our marriage. So what changed?
About two years before the end, I was taken off the pill by my doctor. I'd gained too much weight over the years (still haven't lost that baby fat) and now my blood pressure was too high.
Within a few months I felt like I was waking up. It's the only way I can describe it. Almost like I'd been sleep walking through my life up until then. Things that hadn't bothered me before, started to. I'm not going to get into the minutiae because that could be a book, but I wasn't happy with just leaving things how they were.
Because I'm a woman, I immediately assumed all our issues were my fault and I tried to fix them by myself. I lost weight. I started caring about my appearance again. I tried to make myself more interesting to him.
But I was the only one changing.
Eventually I told him what I was feeling, what I had been doing to try to fix it, and he just said things were fine the way they were. Nothing needed fixing.
And I kept trying. And he kept doing the same things he always did.
I was 35. I wanted romantic love. And I don't mean passion necessarily, but definitely affection.
He wanted a roommate.
Then we started arguing more. Things that hadn't bothered me before suddenly drove me insane. I asked him to make a few simple changes.
But he didn't do any of them. So I told him we needed professional help or I wanted a divorce.
Which scared him, so we sought counseling.
At our first session, I told the counselor why we were there, what I had done to try and fix it, and what my "demands" had been. And I remember him looking at Dean and saying my requests were simple and actionable - which would have been his homework for us from the first session BTW - why hadn't he done any of them?
And his answer was "I don't think there is a problem".
As I am on my third marriage, perhaps I'm not someone who should be handing out relationship advice. But if your partner comes to you and says I'm unhappy and we need to fix things, then there IS a problem.
Which - for what it's worth - is also what the counselor said.
I tried to make it work. I tried everything I could think of. I didn't want to break up our home. I never wanted a divorce. I was scared to death of being alone for the rest of my life - how was I going to survive financially on my own? I didn't have a nest egg. I didn't have a 401k.
I won't say Dean wouldn't let me have those but his argument was he would be inheriting a LOT of money one day so we wouldn't need it for retirement so the only reason I would need any kind of savings was if I was planning to leave him some day. Which I wasn't. And we did need every penny we made, so I never had one.
The closest I got was the savings account I opened for our Disney trip.
For anyone reading this, please start your 401k as soon as you are eligible. Don't let anyone talk you out of it.
After 6 weeks of counseling, our counselor advised us to go our separate ways. If Dean was unwilling to make minor changes to make me happier, he couldn't see a future for us.
And somehow, even after all of that, Dean was still shocked when I moved out. Which I had to do because he refused to leave.
What was my point?
I guess my point is, you have to work at being a couple, being married, for the long haul. One person cannot do all the heavy lifting.
I remember when I moved out and some of my friends were less supportive than others. Not many people knew I was unhappy or that we'd gone to counseling because we kept up appearances. They thought I did it on a whim.
My own mother - because I still spoke to her back then - asked why. I said because I was unhappy and I did not want my boys to grow up in an unhappy home like I did. Did he hit you? No. Did he cheat on you? No. Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling? No. No. No.
She didn't understand why I would put my own happiness above staying married to someone I no longer loved - or frankly by this point even liked - anymore. Which I know had more than a little to do with her situation because I literally cannot remember my parents being in the same room and NOT arguing with each other.
And I know a lot of people assumed we would get back together because how could we not?
Because if your partner is hurting and you aren't listening, there's nothing there anymore.
Which is why when Daniel and I decided to level up our friendship, I made my expectations known. Always be honest with me. If you think you want to cheat on me, let's discuss it first so we can figure out what is going on. Together.
And I would check in with him at least once a year, making sure we were still good...which he always said we were but then we all know how that turned out.
I was so distraught partly because I thought we had both learned from our prior marriages. What we wanted in a marriage and in life.
And it worked for awhile until I guess it didn't. I just am unclear on when it first didn't. But my first reaction on realizing he was unhappy - which isn't really the right word, I think it was more apathy - was can we go to counseling?
And he said no.
I can't save a marriage if the other person just walks away. I need other people to understand that.
I remember a comment one of my friends made on another person's post between marriages one and two, and although it wasn't directed at me, I still took umbrage at it. It was something along the lines of people that get a divorce are just lazy. They don't want to put in the work.
But a marriage is two people. And both of them have to make it work.
We aren't friends anymore.
And here I am on marriage number three. Still hoping this open and honest policy I bring to the table is going to work.
Mind you all of these thoughts went through my head at lightning speed while staring at the shower floor. Which frankly is a little gross because we have hard water build up or something - we cannot get it off and we have tried every cleaner out there.
Which made me miss having a cleaning lady come in once a month because Rob is the kind of guy that doesn't really think about cleaning. Unless I make him do it.
And I hate nagging but I hate being the only one cleaning the house more. But I also know that my standards are a bit higher than his (less a judgement on him than it is on me).
We are all a work in progress.
I'd also like to state for the record that I do not think I am perfect - far from it. But I also can't fix pieces of me if I don't know they need work.
I don't know what the secret is for a long, happy marriage but my best guess is both partners need to think it is worth working on.
Anyway, that's what I was thinking in the shower this morning. Thought I'd share.