I have a forum at my About.com site. One of our regular posters is just beginning the divorce process. He and his wife are still living in the same home, so he is very new to the legal, emotional, and financial aspects of divorce. He is also of the opinion that all the marital problems are his wife's fault. In his mind, he had nothing to do with the demise of the marriage, and the blame is laid squarely at her feet.
Recently he posted and asked for opinions about online dating. It seems that this man (who still lives with his wife, is angry as hell over her shortcomings, and wrapped around the axle over what this divorce is going to cost him) is ready to date. No, not ready to date, but wants to date... God help the woman who becomes involved.
One young woman responded and told him that another woman could "lighten" things up a bit. She described herself as an "open and positive" person who didn't believe in waiting until the dust settles. No navel gazing for her, no sir — her and her problems are going to move on to the next relationship, and she will do it in an open and positive way.
I read responses from people with this attitude and I don't have to wonder why the divorce rate for second marriages is higher than for first marriages. How can you expect to succeed the second time around if you don't deal with issues that caused problems the first time around?
Be willing to do some navel gazing. Identify possible destructive behavior patterns, make needed adjustments, and don't move into a new relationship making the same mistakes over and over. Below are some questions that will help you recognize how you may have contributed to the problems in your past marriage — questions that will hopefully help you learn from your mistakes.
- What were three major areas of conflict in your past marriage?
- What things did you do to exacerbate the conflict? Remember to be objective. Try to view your actions through the eyes of your ex-spouse.
- In most relationships, there is a passive partner and a controlling partner. Which role did you play and what changes could you make to keep you out of that role in your next relationship? How did your passive or controlling behavior contribute to conflict in your past marriage?
It is never easy to admit fault and take responsibility. Doing so will keep negative behavior patterns from recurring in future relationships, though. In your marriage, if you felt your needs were dismissed by your husband, put some thought into how you may have contributed to the way you were feeling. Are you inclined to devalue yourself? Did you act in a passive way by not letting your husband know that he did things that caused you to feel dismissed? If so, you played a role in those feelings of dismissal and not getting your needs met. Recognizing this means taking an important step toward changing negative behavior patterns that are destructive to relationships.