Lessons I Have Learned From Four Marriages
This is a candid account of what I have learned about what makes a marriage fail. Well, what made mine fail anyway. I may well expand on this deeper and turn it into a book, I just don’t know. What I do know is I thought about not writing about this.
I will tell you now, this is a longer blog post than normal so if your social media accounts are screaming for your attention right now, you may want to come back and take 4 or 5 minutes to read it later.
Yes, I have been married four times, I suppose that qualifies me to be a celebrity!
A lot of people are shocked when they learn about my past love life. Some, who are honest, tell me I have failed in love to be married 4 times. I disagree with them, but they are entitled to their opinions and I am certainly not offended by what they think.
Others give me scornful looks like I am an alien. Still more are horrified and I have noticed some people kind of wince and withdraw, as if I am going to suddenly propose or place a ring on their finger! That’s quite comical to me too.
Others have just looked at me strangely. I see the cogs of their judgemental minds moving faster than the thumbs of a millennial typing a new social media post as they try and comprehend four marriages! Can you just imagine what goes through their mind when they also find out that on top of the marriages, I have also had 2 or 3 serious relationships?
Even some of my closest and dearest friends think there is something inherently wrong with me. Maybe there is.
Yet I don’t think I have failed in love at all. I know of other people who have lived with their partners or who have had more serious relationships than I have had marriages. So I view myself as a success in that respect. At least I was willing to make a real go of the relationship; marriage to me was a sign of love and commitment.
I just believe in marriage. And I still do.
Of course this could be what psychologists call personal bias; whereby the individual will always put themselves in the best light when telling stories of events of themselves, no matter what ‘wrongs’ they have done.
Yet, isn’t it strange that people flock in droves to listen to an entrepreneur who has lost 4 businesses. I guess when it comes to affairs of the heart the viewpoint is just different.
Now I am a coach, a bloody good one at that (There goes the personal bias again) yet I haven’t coached anyone regarding in-depth relationships…not romantic ones anyway. But, maybe I should.
So here is what I have learned about being married four times and having a string of other ‘failed’ relationships. I certainly did a lot of things wrong.
( I am referring to ‘wife’, ‘her’ and ‘she’ in this blogpost for ease of writing, not because of any judgemental viewpoints on gender or same sex marriages. You may replace the words with partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband etc as you see fit)
Put Her First in Your Life
In today’s absurdly politically correct world it isn’t exactly popular to think or behave like this. The art of chivalry is slowly dying out in my opinion. But I think that is terrible.
I believe in putting your wife first; above all else. Before your job, your sport, your bobby – everything. You should make your wife your world and everything should revolve around her. She should be the biggest priority in your life.
But I didn’t always believe or act like this.
I remember on my 2nd marriage when I was working abroad (My wife, our daughter and two of her beautiful daughters, who I loved as my own – and still do – came with me) in South East Asia. At the time I was hell bent on making more money than ever before; it was my number 1 goal. I was working all hours to achieve this, sometimes 16 to 18 a day.
The drive to reach my target went so far that I decided to work on both Christmas eve and Christmas day. We had only been in this foreign land about 6 weeks and my wife and girls had not really settled in and were missing family back home. Especially at this time of year because they had always spent Christmas with their extended family.
Now I did achieve the goal I set myself and some. But looking back now, what do you think I wish I had done? Of course, spend time with them. I missed an excellent opportunity to create more memories with my wife and girls. I certainly don’t look back and think, “Oh, if only I had spent even more time at work”
My work ensured I worked every weekend, every bank holiday. I was never there for her. She was 2nd to my job when she should have been first in my life.
So should your wife. Make her the most important part of your life. Treasure her. Make her your Queen; your Princess.
(I don’t carry regrets with me by the way; but this isn’t a blog about not dealing with regrets. I blogged about that here)
I have mellowed over the passing of time and through my experiences of course, but I used to be very selfish in some aspects of my life.
I remember when I was courting one of the great women I married, you know, that phase when we are selling ourselves as a partner and a mate. I was happily highlighting all of my good points and conveniently glossing over anything else. She asked me if I liked football (Soccer). My reply was, well yes, but only the major tournaments and finals. I don’t really want to watch it any more than that!
One of the main reasons I said this was because I had already found out that her ex was a footy fanatic. I didn’t want to be like him. The truth was, I enjoyed it too. I didn’t go to matches, but I was an avid watcher and follower.
My selfishness boiled down to me hogging the TV every saturday night. I would never really compromise on what we watched through the football season, which is 9 months of the year.
In other small areas I was very clever in getting my own way when it came to what film to go and see at the movies or watch on the television. Or where we went when I did have a day off.
I should have swallowed my ego and compromised a lot more. Compromise is not giving in or being weak. If anything it is being strong. It also doesn’t mean that you get walked all over either. I look back at that wonderful woman who did compromise and realise she was very wise and strong for doing so.
Selfishness does not contribute to a happy, lasting loving relationship. Compromise does not guarantee it either but it is an attribute that certainly increases your chances.
Learn to Communicate Better in Your Marriage (And learn anything else that will improve it)
Books, courses and online videos are in abundance when it comes to learning about relationships. However, I think most people learning are single people on how to get a relationship. For those of us in a long term relationship or marriage there are plenty of books and learning too, but I think the majority of us think we have it covered.
Even when our marriage is in trouble we tend not to seek help.
It is rather like coaching, not enough people seek the help that is out there to get what they want or change their life or make an aspect of it better and so it is with relationships. Not enough people seek help to repair or enhance theirs.
I was one of them. I would walk away from relationships rather than sit down and talk things through. In my marriages I would generally be aggressive and shout.
But what is wrong with buying a book on how to communicate better in your relationship? If that is going to improve the quality of your time with the person you aim to spend the rest of your life with, isn’t it worth it?
We seek outside help for our physical health, our prized cars if they breakdown, a leaking roof, advice for a holiday we are about to embark on. Yet when it comes to the most important person in our life we ignore all the wisdom that is readily available to help us.
I used to be what I call an impatient shouter, especially in arguments. I would fly off the handle. I had to be right at all costs. For somebody who was in the sales and the communication sector, I never stopped to think about how I could transfer the skills that were getting me to climb the corporate ladder so well into my marriage (s).
Even when discussing something we simply disagreed on, I would shout. I used to say that I am not shouting, just being passionate. Now and again, I would admit to being overly zealous. But I never shouted in normal circumstances! Never. Not me.
And by communication I also mean the use of body language and our listening skills. Sometimes, our wives don’t want solutions thrown at them, they want someone who will sit and listen attentively.
My body language would often be projecting hostility or impatience, a defensive attitude or anger and I would never fully listen to what any of my wives were actually saying to me.
Now I would ask if I wasn’t sure whether she wanted a solution or a listener, “Would you like me to offer some suggestions or would you prefer me to just listen?” Not ideal, but better than jumping in and reeling off those impulsive, male quick-fixes when they are not needed or wanted.
The Other Communication I am Referring to
And of course let’s not forget that we must also speak up about what we dislike or don’t agree with in our marriages. And, just as importantly, let our wives have that same freedom without us getting upset or taking it personally and becoming defensive. That attitude just causes more unnecessary arguments .
The great American family counsellor Dr Irene C Kassorla once said, “Tell the other person you disagree with how they are treating you in your, ‘Can you pass the salt please’ tone of voice.” What a great way to communicate something you don’t like your partner doing!
“Why the hell did you just waltz off and leave me for so long at the party tonight? You knew I didn’t know anyone there! You are so inconsiderate!”
Your wife will feel under attack after a statement like that. That can only provoke a negative response.
“I was feeling a little nervous at the party tonight because I didn’t really know anyone there. Next time we go to a function like that, can you stay around me a little more often? Is that okay?” (In your please pass the salt tone of voice)
This way of communicating is better than letting small hurts fester inside of you. Pent up, negative feelings have a way of coming out in other areas of your relationship, in some form or another. And stacked one on top of another soon become big hills of resentment.
So imagine how much your marriage would improve if you paused and trained yourself to communicate in this way?
I never used to bottle things up but I was at the other end of the continuum…I blurted things out bluntly with not much regard for how my words would be interpreted or felt.
Oh yes, take the time and learning on how to improve your communication in your marriage. The benefits are immense.
Never, Ever Flirt with Other Women
I wanted to give this topic a section all of it’s own. It could quite easily have gone under Put Her First but I think in this digital day and age it merits its own section.
I used to think that one of my wives was overly jealous and insecure. I was so wrong. In front of her I was just harmlessly flirting or just ‘being me’. If somebody smiles at me, I have to smile back would be my defence.
I remember once when a scantily dressed woman crossed our line of vision as she walked past us. She looked directly at me and smiled, head tilted slightly forward. I smiled back.
My wife told me her looking at me in that manner was my fault. I went through the roof and a huge heated argument ensued. I argued my case through shouting and blaming my wife for an overly jealous, paranoid mind.
I hadn’t taken the first look. She did look at me first. She did look flirtatiously. She did ignore looking at my wife. I did only smile back without my little boy lost look smile.
But it was still my fault. My good lady’s reason for this was because I was “Giving out the vibe”. We had many more arguments because of this. I just couldn’t accept her reasoning. But she was right. Dead right. It took me years to accept she was right.
When you are truly happy in a relationship other people won’t look at you. Yeah sure, they will give occasional glances but there will be no interest there.
Have you not noticed this in your own life? When you are courting more people tend to look at your partner. This is because they are still unsure that you are ‘the one’. So signals are being transmitted that they are still available.
Once they are secure with you or know it will now be long term, the signals cease to transmit their vibe.
I was one of the world’s biggest flirts; but it never stopped at flirting. True, I would even flirt with any woman, regardless of the fact that they weren’t my type or I had no inclination to get them into bed at a later date.
When I look back at that man that I was, which I don’t do very often, it is like watching an old movie of someone else. I no longer see a confident young man; I see a guy with low self-esteem and an immature attitude harbouring an inner grudge for women.
Luckily I got out of this destructive, hurtful way of life. Although, like all change when something has been deeply rooted inside for so long, it doesn’t always completely disappear – or all at once. A residue remains and from time to time it can revisit us. It takes more effort to resist old patterns of behaviour when they do resurface.
So your wife should be the center of your universe. No other woman should be in that orbit of focus. Think about it: If you truly love your wife with all your heart and soul, why would you even want to flirt with someone else? You shouldn’t.
There should be no need, let alone any want.
In today’s ever increasing digital age, with more and more people baring their bodies on instagram and facebook and even Youtube, the temptation to just click a harmless ‘Like’ (Or Love or Wow now) is strong.
It may appear harmless, after all you are only clicking on a friends picture or update right? But what message does that give your wife? How does she feel in all of this? If she sees that you are constantly clicking your ‘love’ for other women, how significant does that make her feel?
And what about those harmless flirty messages or personal pictures they send you? Or you send them? Why would they do it? Why would you do it? What does that say to your wife?
“Oh it’s just harmless fun!” How often do you hear that?
I have learnt, to the cost of my heart and my pocket, that it’s really not worth it.
Some may argue, but if you are happy, secure and self confident what possible harm can it do? Well, I say it is the start of the disease. Look, if your wife was constantly clicking like and wow on bare chested males in speedo’s (Okay, maybe not the speedos) how would you feel?
Just don’t do it. You shouldn’t need validation from anyone else. Work on your self-esteem and self-confidence because whether you agree or not, or like it or not, that is the root cause for your ‘need’ to flirt.
Keep a Sense of Humour
I have been blessed with a good sense of humour. It was one of the traits that got me more females over the years than I am going to admit to in this post. So maybe it was a curse as well as blessing. I certainly didn’t have the rugged, tall, dark good looks of other guys so I had to rely on my smile, deep voice, confidence, a good body and my ability to make people laugh (Maybe I will write about the ways I got so many women? But morally I don’t feel I should).
As Groucho Marx once said, “Make a woman laugh, and you are halfway to the bedroom” I lived that line.
But I am not referring to humour to win over other women, I mean for your existing marriage. Adding a touch of humour to your relationship diffuses so many small matters that could quite easily develop into bigger things.
Laughter causes so many of those happy chemicals (Endorphins) to flood the brain that make you feel good. They are also quite addictive. These good, positive feelings will then resonate throughout the rest of your home and marriage.
Learning to laugh at ourselves is also great. Not everything that our wive’s say to us need to be taken too seriously and certainly not as an attack on our overly-sensitive, manly ego’s.
I remember one of my in-laws whose wife used to shout orders at him as soon as he got in from work. “Take the rubbish out Frank” as soon as he entered the door from a real hard day’s graft. He never answered back. Never got upset. Never got annoyed.
He laughed at it. “It’s all stress Rob” he used to say jokingly. Where is he now? Just recently celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary. And he is madly in love with his wonderful wife. They have a great relationship and are so happy together. He instinctively knew not to take everything she said all so serious.
He knew his wife had also been working hard very at home with their 3 kids too. He wasn’t a weak guy. He was strong and tough. But the humour he added to his own attitude and his marriage worked wonders.
He could however, have stopped these earlier of he had learned to communicate better. But I guess he was compromising 🙂
These are some of the important lessons I have learned. There are more. They may go in my book if I decide to write one.
I like the words in this song.
As Rihanna sang in, Only Girl in the World (Emphasis added)
Want you to make me feel like I’m the only girl in the world
Like I’m the only one that you’ll ever love
Like I’m the only one who knows your heart
Only girl in the world…
Do that one thing and you are well on the way to a loving and lasting marriage or relationship. Not half-heartedly, passionately.