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.
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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.