Some marriages struggle from the start because partners fail to heed the warning signs before the wedding. Have you committed any of these errors in choosing your mate?
1. You ignored red flags and married him anyway.
You see them, but you end up talking yourself into thinking that they aren't a big deal. For example, Ken was open about his commitment phobia but women keep trying to convince him otherwise. Hannahís husband James was always out of work and unwilling to pitch in to support the family, but she didn't see that coming even though he ditched class and called in sick to his part-time jobs when they were in high school.
One of my best friends married an angry man. Not just a man with a short temper. A man with a furious temper. One of his former girlfriends warned her about his inability to control his wrath, but my friend thought she was just jealous of their relationship. After all, he was a good-looking guy with no shortage of dates. Besides, he had good reasons for being mad: his dysfunctional childhood, the jerk in the office, the idiot in the car in front of him. He never took responsibility for his anger. Over the years, his raging fury took a toll on the marriage and family. She regretted not being honest with herself before walking down the aisle.
2. You thought you could change him over time.
He had some bad habits, ranging from flirting with other women to thoughtlessness to poor money management. But hey, no one is perfect, you tell yourself. With your influence, he could learn new ways. He loves you enough to change. Itís not that you canít change a man, but youíre fighting his nature. Change does not come without a high priceóand itís usually your marital bliss. There is wisdom in accepting a man the way he is. People do change because humans grow from their experiences, but they don't change just because you want them to.
3. You didnít think the small things would be a big problem.
I knew my husband was a smoker when we married. It didnít bother me much. He seemed, dare I stupidly admit, cool. But when we had children, it became a huge issue: Didnít he care that he was shortening his lifespan when he had children to raise? Didnít he care that he might leave me a young widow? I was angry that he knew the inevitable health consequences but didnít try to quit smoking. It was like seeing a cliff in the distance and not veering course. Would I be forced to watch him suffer with emphysema? How could he be so selfish?
Janet thought her boyfriendís sloppiness was boyishly cute, and she felt needed when she cleaned his apartment. Fast forward five years into their marriage and his messy ways are not so endearing, especially when they both work to raise three equally untidy children.
4. You chose him for the wrong reasons.
My sister married her first husband to please my father. He was a good match in most ways but she wasnít ready to get married. Nothing could change that. Young Chris lived with an abusive father and needed a way out. Her boyfriend proposed and it seemed like the perfect chance. Kathy, whose absentee parents live in another country while she grew up in an English boarding school, suffered from low self-esteem and was drawn to a man who showed he ďcaredĒ with his domineering nature. But after counseling and schooling, her esteem improved and his ďcaringĒ was now ďcontrolling.Ē
So now what? What is one to do when one realizes that she made some mistakes in selecting her mate? Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I love him?
2. Do I have children with this man?
3. Can I grow from being with this man by learning tolerance, acceptance, love, forgiveness?
4. Does a man have to be perfect for me to love him?
5. How important are my marriage vows to me, spiritually?
6. Are there any joys at all in my marriage?
7. If I stay, are my health (physical, mental) and happiness at risk?
8. How many years have I invested into this marriage?
Consider your responses carefully. We learn from our mistakes, and sometimes, a mistake is a happy, accidental, learning experience. I saw some red flags, I thought I could change him, I didn't think the small things would be a big problem, but I think I chose him for the right reason: I loved him against all rational sense. There were times when I thought I should not have married him, but we grew from our mistakes, and we're still married and in love 26 years later.