When I was initially asked what I learned from my first marriage (and what I would do differently going forward), my response was a simple, “I would choose a different man.”
Which was certainly important. (Goodness knows, I wasn’t about to marry the first one again!).
But it wasn’t everything.
In fact, if my lessons from the divorce had ended there, I fully believe that I would have ended up repeating the exercise.
Because choosing the right person is important.
But it’s only the beginning.
The early stages of a relationship can be like a mirage glimmering on the horizon, promising a perfect future. A utopia after the long search.
“Finally,” you think,”This is the one.”
And then you move closer. And you begin to see the reality of the person. The veneer of perfection begins to flake off and their flaws begin to show.
“That’s okay,” you think, “Nobody’s perfect.”
And you learn how to work with the inherent flaws and how to maximize each other’s strengths.
And then something changes. Maybe a partner begins to withdraw. Or external pressures stress the relationship. The person you married (or thought you married) no longer seems to be the person in front of you.
“Who is this person?” you ask, “Who did I marry?”
But that’s the wrong question to ask.
Because choosing the right person is only the beginning.
Think back to the last time you were in the market for a new apartment or house. You crafted a list of the characteristics you needed and those you wanted. You set a budget and drew boundary lines. And then came the search, probably longer and more frustrating than you anticipated. No one house was perfect. And in the end, you probably ended up compromising on at least a few of your must-haves.
If your home was of the move-in-ready variety, you probably experienced a honeymoon period where nothing needed repair or updating. Yet every home in time requires attention and effort in order to keep it in working order.
Those needed repairs are not a sign that you chose the wrong house or that it’s time to put up a For Sale sign. Assuming that you initially picked an appropriate home (and not a one bedroom for a family of five), it’s an indication that some changes need to be made. And changes are a normal part of life.
When we place an inordinate amount of emphasis on choosing the right person, we’re ignoring everything that comes after.
When we’re relaxing after the hard work of finding the one and neglecting the effort that goes into keeping the one.
When we put too much importance on initial characteristics, we open ourselves up to disappointment when circumstances alter those traits.
And perhaps most importantly, when we pay too much attention to finding the right person, we’re ignoring our part in being the right person.
When I first stated that I would chose a different man, I was not yet ready to see and accept my role in my first marriage. I saw my responsibility as beginning and ending with making a poor initial selection.
And yes, I royally screwed that one up. But my role in the relationship dynamic didn’t end there. And until I was ready to tackle what comes after making a choice, I wasn’t ready to try again.
By all means, choose wisely.
And then recognize that choosing is just the beginning.
It’s what comes after that truly defines you and your marriage.
Forget tall, dark and handsome, these are the traits that REALLY matter in a mate.
Learning from my mistakes – critical ways my second husband is different from my first.
And sometimes we do choose poorly. Own up to it. Learn from it.