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What I wish I would have done: Lessons from my divorce
I wish I would have taken steps to be a better wife and to enjoy marriage before I no longer had it. - photo by Marilee Kellis
I truly enjoyed being married. I liked having a partner in life, someone who was pegged to me. I appreciated having someone to say goodnight to. I enjoyed knowing that every moment of every day I was an important and integral part of another person's every moment of every day. I was comforted by having someone be that for me, too. I intended my marriage to last for life, and beyond. I entered marriage with the intent to stick it through no matter what.

Looking back, I have regrets about my marriage. There were things I wish I would have done differently while I was married.

I never did anything seriously wrong in my marriage; no huge mistakes that warranted divorce. More, I'm talking about the little things that I left out of marriage that could have made it really great.

I wish I would have taken better advantage of how spectacular marriage could have been, while I was married. That's what I regret: wasting a bunch of time and energy being unhappy, when I could have, instead, been using that energy to enjoy my marriage.

So, here are some things I wish I would have done while I was married:

1. I wish I would have started each day with affection.

My ex-husband and I have different internal clocks, meaning he spent a lot of time awake late at night and into the wee hours of the morning, and I spent a lot of time alone in the mornings (with the kids) while he was sleeping. This annoyed me. So when he did wake up later, I was typically irritated and nasty toward him. No hug and a kiss, or asking how he slept or if I could make him breakfast. I did do this sometimes, but more often he got crusty looks and passive-aggressive comments.

Instead, I wish I would have greeted him with warmth and kindness every day. I wish he could have counted on that. I know it would have helped me feel better about who I was and what I was doing with my marriage. It probably would have helped him feel more interested in being around me as well.

2. I wish I would have made myself feel pretty more often.

After many years of marriage, a person can forget that her husband is also her boyfriend. I did. I didn't try to look my best when he came home. I tried a few things a few times, but not often. Fixing my hair, putting on a little makeup, and wearing attractive clothes really improves the way I feel about myself -- and that helps the way I treat others.

3. I wish I would have apologized more.

I sometimes make the same mistake twice, or don't stop myself before making a rude comment. I do, however, recognize when I make a mistake and do my best to apologize to those around me.

I think though, that these repeated mistakes bothered him. So at some point, I stopped saying sorry. Maybe I wanted him to start taking more responsibility for our disagreements, instead of me always being the one to initiate making up. But I shouldn't have stopped saying it, anyway. I should have said it as often as I meant it, and more often.

4. I wish I would have taken steps to get myself mentally healthy.

I had a lot of misconceptions and errors in thinking during my marriage. I wish I would have realized sooner that I -- not my husband -- was responsible for my own happiness. I should have taken efforts to get myself there, regardless of my husband's choices.

For me, that required mental health counseling and a lot of scaling back on things outside the home. Once I scaled back, I was able to really focus on real needs to get myself into a good place.

I would have enjoyed marriage quite a bit more if I didn't rely on the status of our relationship to dictate how I felt about myself and how I treated others.

5. I wish I would have planned more one-on-one time outside the home.

We both enjoyed being at home, watching TV or browsing the Internet. But we forgot to date each other. I would have enjoyed marriage more if I had been more proactive about making that happen.

Being mentally healthy would have helped with that. Having a better self-image would have helped me work through the difficulties. I wish I wouldn't have given up on that, even when it felt one-sided. Because that's part of the fun of marriage -- spending time together!

Had I done these things listed above, I would have enjoyed marriage more, and I would have set a better example to my daughters of how to be a wife.

Now, enough regret -- on to learning from the past and making the future better!
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