1. Love isn’t always enough.
I don’t doubt that somewhere in the last 25 years my parents loved each other but I did learn that it wasn’t enough to keep them happy with one another. Even now, I find glimpses of their love when they talk BUT their inability to trust or effectively communicate about things ended up being their downfall. Love is vital to any great relationship but without the other two, it’s just not enough.
2. Your children will likely learn more about self-respect if you separate/divorce.
Too often couples find themselves well aware that their relationship is irreparable but tell one another to fake it for the kids. Your children aren’t stupid and they know what’s up. In the long run, trying to make it work for them shows them that being unhappy in a relationship is acceptable. This is particularly reflective of parents who have trouble keeping their issues behind closed doors (like mine). Though it may hurt to separate and have your family split between two homes, it makes for a much healthier conversation & home. I would rather have been split between two happy homes than stuck at an unhappy one.
3. Your partner isn’t going to change so stop thinking you can “fix” them.
I think my parents wasted far too much energy hoping that they would wake up one day after a late night argument and the other person would suddenly be exactly who the other wanted. The truth is, my dad is always going to be exactly who he is and my mom is going to be exactly who she is and sadly they’re just not compatible. Had my parents recognized this earlier, they’d save themselves the misery of having to deal with one another and us as kids, the misery of having to witness their misery. I learned to accept that you can’t redefine a person.
4. You can’t control everything.
I have to admit this one makes me sad. I wish we could have control over our relationships but the only relationship you are in control of is the one you have with yourself. My main takeaway from learning this watching my parents relationship unfold is that when you do take the time to focus on you, your hobbies and just things that make you happy, you are benefitting the relationship 10x more than you would trying to control it.
5. Learn to be open with your feelings.
Sure there were plenty of things that my parents felt bothered by but because they never spoke about them clearly and quickly, simple conversations became fired-up arguments. This taught me that even the most serious conversations can be held calmly if you’re conscious of your tone and address the concern in-person as soon as possible.
6. Apologies are powerful.
When said sincerely, “I’m sorry” holds A LOT of value. If you’re willing to recognize that you are wrong you send two messages: 1. You have self-awareness (side note: far too many people lack this) 2. You understand what your significant other is trying to communicate and your significant other will appreciate it!
7. Follow your gut.
If you feel something is wrong, it likely is. If deep down you want out of something, why spend a lot of energy convincing yourself why you don’t? Though I’m guilty of needing a concrete answer before getting anxious about something, seeing my parents go through whatever they were going through showed me that though sometimes the answers aren’t clear as day, the feeling you get at the pit of your stomach is there for a reason.
8. Learn to keep conversations personal.
Growing up, I saw my parents involve other adults or even us as children, at the wrong time in a conversation or in a conversation we had no business being a part of in general. Note that there are some things you will only be able to resolve between the two of you. Adding additional opinions from other “adults” can drag the situation and ultimately cloud what your actual thoughts are. Uhm, hello, follow YOUR gut.
9. Appreciate the little things.
I’d like to think this one is self-explanatory but considering my parents failed at this part here’s a little more detail: hug each other, kiss, cook for one another, bring home flowers randomly, etc. and say thank you!
10. You can teach your children to love both of you regardless of the problems you faced in your unsuccessful relationship.
My mom did an incredible job at this. There’s no doubt my parents were both jerks to each other in different ways and I do hold a bit of anger about being involved in it sometimes but more importantly, I don’t let their issues or my issues with their relationship affect how I much I care for them. When I was old enough to understand the depth of my parents arguments, to have a reasonable opinion or old enough to pick a side, my mom constantly made it a point that regardless of my thoughts on the matter, my parents were my parents (parents who loved me no matter how much they hated each other) and that was something I could never change.