Meet my husband, Craig. He’s a gem of a guy, truly. He is kind, generous, has superior communication and relationship skills, and easy on the eyes to boot. (To envision the look on my face while I write this, imagine the starry-eyed emoticon.) He’s pretty perfect. So is our relationship.
Before we got to the place where we finally found each other, Craig had been married three times, and I was married twice. We have seven marriages between us.
So how did we get here?
First of all, I have a different take on marriage and divorce than most. I never considered my previous marriages ending as a failure. Sure, I had many moments of soul-searching about what I could have done differently. That is a healthy response to divorce—you have to ask yourself, “what did I learn?”
But most people fall short when they only concentrate on what they did wrong. There is a more meaningful exercise to go through, and I take my clients through it after divorce.
Let me tell you about one of my clients, Jennifer. She came to me desolate—beating herself up about her decision to divorce her fourth husband. She was sure society deemed her a failure, incapable of having a good relationship. She was right about the part that people were judging her. But she wasn’t a failure.
My first advice was to ignore the opinions of everyone about her own life, including her children’s and focus on something else.
Next, I asked Jennifer to focus on what those terrible marriages taught her about what she really wanted now. I told her the true purpose of all experiences is to refine what we truly want.
She was in no mood to move past the negative aspects of it all, so I had her do a little exercise. It’s what I call, “Don’t Want, Do Want.”
Write Down What You Hate
I told her to take out a piece of paper and write down every single thing she hated, loathed, or was sad about in all of her previous relationships. After she completed her long list, I told her to write the opposite, the thing she learned from the experience–what she wanted now.
What Do You Want Now?
Jennifer wrote down many things she wanted to change about herself, but the most important thing learned was what she really wanted in a partner now, and that was incredibly valuable data.
There had been so many unkind partners, and now she wanted generous people in her life. Through the years of conflict, she now longed for ease and playfulness. Where there had previously been judgment and criticism, she now knew she needed support and encouragement.
Throw the Past Away
Next, I told her to throw away the half of the paper that listed what she didn’t want and keep the part that only contained what she wanted. The new blueprint for her best life was now in her hands, and she was ready to find it.
Now You Know!
My husband and I each took stock like this with our previous divorces, so we had a precise image of our perfect future partner. Without the baggage of the past, we were free to focus on creating our dream life.
And then we found one another in the most unexpected place.
My husband and I are just right for each other. We have a supportive, easy, fun relationship. We needed the experiences to grow us for one another and so that we could appreciate what we have.
Mistakes, divorce, failure are none of those things. We are growing human beings, refining our preferences through experiences. Reframing your adventure in this way can release you from the past and help you set yourself up for your best future.
And somewhere out there is your perfect partner doing the same—getting ready just for you.