Marriage is tough. I could end this article right here had it not been for the fact that this particular marriage was a little bit different. This marriage didn’t get the chance to die out slowly from boredom or monotony, nor did it get a chance to explode in an emotional upheaval of adultery or betrayal. Because this marriage was a Beginner Marriage that was born out of fear and hope, and ended 10 months later before it even had a chance to mature. I can say this now because this was 10 years ago when I married and divorced in one year. This is not a confession of regret mind you, because I learned important lessons that I carry with me still, alongside a sigh of relief.
Admitting to ourselves that we have made a big mistake is difficult. Many of us live our whole lives in dissatisfaction because we are too scared to see our mistakes and own them. As if keeping the mistake in the dark shadows of our consciousness somehow eradicates it from the history of humankind, we choose to pretend that everything is fine, nothing is wrong, and that we are as happy as can be. We fear disappointing our loved ones, embarrassing ourselves, and losing trust in our ability to make autonomous and responsible life decisions. We prefer to live a path that is separate from our own just to avoid feeling like failures or worse, to admit that we have caused hurt to another. But mistakes have a way of teaching you a lot about life. Here are some of the lessons I learned from making a pretty big one:
1. Your hidden beliefs can really get in the way of your life. They lurk just under your awareness but they dictate your thoughts, feelings, and actions. It’s useful to acquaint yourself with some of these shoulds so that you are not lead by them blindly.
How would you finish the following sentences:
I should be…
People should be….
Couples should be…
Children should be…
Life should be….
Men should be……
Women should be….
Work should be….
Family should be…..
Friends should be….
Fathers should be…
Mothers should be…
Ask yourself: Are these statements accurate? Do they represent the person that I am today, or an old version of myself which I have already outgrown? Are these beliefs getting me closer to the life that I want, or are they getting in the way?
2. Trust your gut. Sometimes when your mind tells you one thing, and your heart tells you another, it can get confusing. When I was struggling with whether to marry my beginner husband or not, a friend of mine suggested that I close my eyes and focus my attention on my gut while asking myself “Should I marry this man?”. I followed her directions, and my gut’s reaction was an immediate and undeniable ‘NO’, but it scared me so much that my head quickly kicked in with what it does best – rationalizing itself into doing what it wants, what is most convenient, and what will cause the least amount of immediate pain. By the time I opened my eyes I was convinced that the answer was ‘YES’. The hardest part of listening to your gut is accepting what it says without arguing with the message.
3. Friends are great but they are not objective. When I struggled with my decision to marry I consulted my friends. The ones that were already married suggested that it was cold feet, it was normal, and that I should pay no attention to it. And the ones that were single warned “If you’re questioning it now, then it’s probably not right”. Input from lovely and supportive friends can be confusing, because after all as loving as they may be, they are projecting their own values, and fears onto you, and onto your situation. So, when facing a tough decision, talk to a couple of friends so as to not be alone in your confusion, but remember that the only one that truly knows what is right is YOU.
4. Sometimes in life you just have to go for it. I went for it – I got married. It was a mistake but not a regrettable one, because I learned so much about life, relationships and myself. It was my practice run, and it made me much braver, smarter and better at coping with all of my future mistakes (which are ample).
5. Know that you will survive and everybody will get over it. Sure I felt guilty for keeping the gifts, but I kept them anyway. Sure, I had to answer the question “what happened’? a hundred thousand times, but I survived and so will you. Sure, it hurts for a while but your heart has an amazing ability to heal when you let it.
6. Making mistakes is OK. Live your life in a way that you wish for your children to live theirs. Imagine that your child was facing a big decision and didn’t know which choice to make. What would you tell her? Imagine that your son, or your nephew, or another innocent wide-eyed child that you care deeply about had just made a mistake but was too frightened to admit it. What would you tell him? I hope that you’d tell him that mistakes are a part of life, and that without them there are no lessons. I hope that you’d tell him that his mistakes don’t define who he is, but rather it is his bravery for admitting them, and moving on that shows of his true character.