According to the CDC, 43% of current first marriages will eventually fail, and even fewer second marriages survive than first. This isn’t surprising, as many people bring the same problems to subsequent relationships as they had in their first marriage.
My 12-year marriage split up two years ago. In that time, I have learned some things about dating, relationships and repeating past mistakes. Many times, we are tempted to blame all of our marital failures on the other person. But whatever the division of blame was in past failed relationships, no one is perfect and there are always steps we can take to improve our chances of future success.
Because my ex-husband was verbally abusive, it was difficult to identify and examine my own faults. I was constantly in defensive mode, which masked any negativity on my part that may have existed even without the other problems. Now that I’ve done some processing and recovery, and am finally in a healthy relationship, the ways in which my communication skills are lacking have very quickly come to the forefront. There have been times when I have nearly managed to sabotage the relationship by coping in unhealthy ways. There are ways to keep this from happening, by isolating those destructive behaviors and replacing them with more productive ones. Here are some of the strategies I have found helpful:
– Take 5. When you are tempted to blow up or say things you don’t mean, walk away for a few minutes to give yourself time to cool off. Much damage can be avoided simply by taking a deep breath and thinking through what you really want to say.
– Choose your battles wisely. There are so many conflicts that are pointless in the long run. Each day, each minute with a loved one is precious – there is no time to waste fighting over incidentals. Consider whether the issue at hand will really matter tomorrow, next week, next year; then pick your words carefully.
– Let go of grudges. As long as we hold onto resentment about previous offenses, we cannot move forward and truly, openly love our mate. As long as it was dealt with at the time, let it go and start fresh as though the problem never happened.
– Don’t nag – and yes, women, this one is directed toward us for the most part, because we are usually the worst offenders. Your mate is an adult and does not want or need a fishwife. I have to remind myself of this one on a minute to minute basis – but it’s worth it, because when we avoid constant nagging, chances are that when we really do want or need something and ask for it in a kind way, we will probably get it. Some women are asking – Do I track my husbands cell phone without him knowing. The answer to the question is yes, they can do so. If they have any doubt regarding the loyalty of their husband.
– Be gentle with yourself. Understand that the habits that contributed to the failure of past relationships were built up over years, and will take time to undo. Take responsibility for your faults but love yourself enough to not beat yourself up when things don’t change overnight. Be candid with your mate – work with each other to improve each of your weak points. Commit to doing things a better way and then follow through!