There is a stigma that comes with multiple divorces: “MY GOD, you’ve been divorced twice! Why in the world would I take advice from you?!”
I get it! I used to be the person who judged everyone that’s been divorced and to be divorced two or three times? Yikes!
- Why can’t they just work it out?
- Why are you giving up so easily?
- What will God think of all this?
Those were my thoughts BEFORE my first divorce.
If you would have said to me at age 18 that by age 38 you will be divorced not only one time but you will remarry and get divorced again…Beth, you will have two failed marriages in the next 20 years, I would have laughed hysterically in disbelief. I mean, I was a born again Christian and would dedicate my life to God and my husband!
Terry and I were soulmates and lovers, we understood each other, we were in a whirlwind of young love that we thought would last forever. We naively believed that nothing and no one could break us apart. The first six months of us meeting, we were in a love tornado and we wanted to spend every waking moment together.
He was in the Marine Corps and I was attending college in southern California where we met at a dance club. I didn’t think someone as handsome as him would be interested in me. This was 1998 before everyone owned a cell phone, but he sought out what dorm room I was in, called me and asked me out on a date. I was shocked and of course said YES!
After our first date, we were inseparable and wanted to spend every free moment together. We did until the school year ended and I moved back home, which was 6 hours away. We talked as much as possible and wrote love letters. I already knew I was not going back to school and he suggested we move in together. I was hesitant because I didn’t think my parents would approve. Plus, I was a Christian and I was worried about how God would feel about us moving in together as an unwed couple? Terry knew the thought of moving in together was causing me stress and suggested we get married.
I had to think about that for a few days because I was only 19. But, I couldn’t stand the thought of not being with my soulmate. I thought, “We are destined for each other so why wait? Let’s get married!”
Things were great for a few years until they weren’t. We moved out of southern California to Springfield, Missouri. Right away, we had financial problems from his lack of money as a child and problems in the bedroom due to the shame that I carried growing up in a Christian home.
Years went by without either of us being able to properly communicate these problems. We dealt with them the only way we knew how: I was stashing cash in fear of running out of money and he was getting his needs fulfilled outside the marriage.
This led to him leaving me with no chance of getting back together because he was already engaged to another woman. Unfortunately, I had no choice in the matter but to follow through with the divorce and step aside so he could be with this woman who was the new love of his life. He didn’t want counseling and he didn’t want to talk about what we needed to work on to save our marriage. Unbeknownst to me, his family had known he was in a relationship with her while still married to me. They had met her, spent weekends with them together while I was working and they knew he wanted to divorce me and marry her. Yet none of them said anything to me. I was completely blindsided and extremely hurt.
I was 25 years old, alone, afraid, and feeling betrayed. My faith crumbled, my codependency sky-rocketed and four years later I’m back at the altar! Wait, what?!
Husband #2 appeared to be a great man for a second. But, he also had a serious alcohol problem in conjunction with deep and untreated insecurities that manifested as narcissism. A friend of mine who was a recovering alcoholic said to me, “Beth, you need to know that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” I dismissed his friendly and direct warning, ignored all the red flags, and nine years later, I’m in divorce court again.
With all that said, I feel like I qualify to give you a few pieces of advice before you say, “I Do.”
Don’t ignore the red flags
I know it’s extraordinarily hard when you are in love and googly eyed. He/she is gushing over you and you adore this person. According to several studies, the average time someone will be in love is 2-3 years. That’s a long time!
One red flag to pay particular attention to is that your friends don’t like your partner. They love you and want what’s best for you. A true friend will speak up and say what they’ve observed. It might be your saving grace if you receive what they are communicating to you. Try not to make excuses for your partner’s behavior (red flag BTW) and receive what your friend communicated. Think or meditate on their words and observe for yourself. Ultimately it is your life, but don’t dismiss someone that loves and cares for you.
Your partner’s actions don’t line up with their words
This item can best be explained with examples:
- They say they love you and then say mean things to you or lash out at you.
- You both agree to go to a friend’s house for a party and then your partner cancels at the last minute, leaving you to go alone or stay at home with them.
- They will tell you that you are beautiful but then make fun of your appearance or belittle you.
- They say “I’m your biggest fan!” and minimize the things you’re passionate about.
- They encourage you to spend time with your friends and family then send you relentless text messages asking when you will be home.
Being engaged doesn’t have to end in marriage
This is a big one and I mean BIG! Being engaged DOES NOT mean you are obligated to marry this person.
If you have serious doubts or any doubts, then take a deep look into yourself and ask if this is right for you. They may be a great human but you two may not be great together. I’ve known many wonderful people that marry another wonderful person but it ends up in a dysfunctional marriage or divorce.
“But Beth! I’ve already told everyone and we had an engagement party and engagement pictures. What will everyone think?” Who cares what they think! This is YOUR life not theirs and more than likely they will respect you for being brave. The people who truly love you, want you to be happy. They know that marrying the wrong person will NOT make you happy. It is a world of disappointment. You end up feeling like a fraud and experiencing years of guilt and shame. Personally, I’d rather disappoint some people for a moment than disappoint myself for a lifetime.
“But I’ve already spent loads of money on my wedding that is non-refundable and so have my parents?!” I would suggest trying to get as much money back as possible. You may take a little bit of a hit due to the wedding industry’s policies.
“But our wedding is today, tomorrow, or next week, I can’t back out now?!”
There are a million different reasons you will tell yourself that you should continue with the wedding but if you are seeing red flags, narcissistic behavior, or any kind of abusive tendencies. Or maybe you don’t love them anymore or it just doesn’t feel right. Take it from someone who has two divorces under her belt: STOP and seriously consider your decision. Don’t worry about disappointing people because that is going to happen. Think about YOU!
It doesn’t always have to be the end because maybe you just need some counseling or other kind of professional help. You two can heal together and that can be beautiful. Please! Before you follow through with this huge and lifelong commitment, you want to feel great about your decision. This will alleviate a lot of pain and heartache for everyone involved.
Your partner does not enhance your life
Relationships are give and take. Sometimes they are hard and sometimes they are fun, but if your partner is constantly making you feel bad about yourself, I would dig a little deeper. Maybe it has something to do with past trauma or they are projecting trauma on you. Either way, it needs to be addressed before you say, “I Do.” Perhaps couples counselling or individual counselling can help.
Know and love yourself before walking down the aisle
I cannot tell you the amount of people who have “lost” themselves in a relationship or marriage because they didn’t take the time to date themselves first. Then, once they get older, resentment will build and that is not healthy for either party. So really get to know yourself before making a big commitment with a partner. I like to say “date yourself” and figure out your wants, needs, and desires. Then, you can properly communicate and set boundaries within your relationship. At least you will be equipped and ready to feel the life and passion flow through you. You and your partner will be grateful for it and your relationship will be stronger.
Finding love is a beautiful feeling and being ready for that love is even more satisfying! Take your time and get to know yourself and your partner. Your life will be better for it and your marriage will too!