I'd like to get married again someday. I'm from a divorced family — neither of my parents remarried or had long-term relationships afterwards — and I'm divorced. I'm fascinated by what it takes to make a marriage great — not just last, that is an easy, lazy thing — but have a really fantastic, sexy and enduring partnership.
Aside from reading the research and examining the relationships of couples I know personally, I have found some lessons about marriage in — ironically — my own divorce.
After all, a relationship is a relationship — even if you're not romantically involved with the other person and sometimes find smoke billowing out your ears when dealing with them.
Here are 12 things I have learned about marriage through divorce:
- What goes around comes around. If you are nasty, manipulative or vindictive, it only makes your own life hell eventually.
- When you give the other person what they want, you are really giving it to yourself. Good will is a powerful thing.
- Sometimes you can be so right you are wrong. I wrote the book on this. I can say with confidence that my logic is far, far superior to my ex's. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't have let a whole, whole lot of stuff slide. Or argued so goddamn much about every little stupid thing. Just. Let. Stuff. Go.
- Relationships can get really bad. But then they get better. Then worse again. Then really great. Then you wish you could get divorced from your divorce. But you're stuck in your divorce. So you make it work.
- Sometimes it is so bad it really, truly will not work. Then you must take drastic measures.
- Sometimes when you see red, you are being irrational. Sometimes you need an outside party — friend, pastor, therapist, judge — to lend perspective.
- Family can mean lots of things.
- You can't change other people. But you can change how you react. Cliche' but true.
- At the end of the day, the only person you can really truly count on is yourself.
- You always have to compromise. A dad friend bemoaned that now he's divorced, he is no longer free to relocate from New York to Los Angles as he'd dreamed. “But,” he realized as he spoke, “If I were married I'd have to negotiate that anyway.”
- There really is nothing like an old friend. I've know my ex for 13 years. He may not know EVERYTHING about me, but he knows a whole lot. We can talk about our families in short-hand and crack up if someone mentions a Pootie Tang quote. We share so much history — much of it really fantastic. There is an intimacy that is precious.
- Life is better when you can enjoy the kids with their other parent. No one loves the kids as much as their dad. When you can sit next to each other at the Mother's Day show or go for a burger after the little league game, that is a very real benefit for all parties included.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.