Marriage is a two-way street that both partners work to keep it going. While most people believe that it is husbands who cheat on their wives more, sometimes wives also make many mistakes in marriage and contribute to its becoming toxic.
He was the one who lied and cheated. But now I realize that I am not getting away with it.
At first it was easy for me to point every single finger and toe at my husband because he ruined our 10-year marriage. He’s the one who cheated and left without looking back. And long before that, he kept locking me out and choosing to bury himself in his work to avoid what happened to us at home.
The pointing of blame was my coping mechanism for getting through the difficult first months of our breakup, and “how dare he” was my mantra. I gathered an army of supporters around me who, like me, were utterly appalled by this man’s insolence.
Because obviously lying, cheating, and leaving the family trumps anything I’ve done in our marriage in the past decade. Or?
For months I denied any guilt for the breakdown of my marriage and held on to the picture I painted of myself as the gentle, selfless and long-suffering wife. It wasn’t until I found a therapist to call me for my anger that I was forced to take one long hard look at my inadequacies.
It was not nice.
Here’s what I now know that actually messed up my marriage and led to the divorce. May it serve as a warning to you. Before it is too late.
Here are the 4 mistakes I made in my marriage
1. I put my children first.
It’s easy to love your own children. It takes little effort and they will worship you no matter what. Marriage is the polar opposite: it is work. And whenever my marriage started to feel like work, I would sign out and take the kids in tow to the Build-A-Bear workshop or the science museum. Often times, I planned these adventures when I knew my husband couldn’t come (and was spoiling my fun).
I told myself it was okay because he prefers to work anyway and always looks grumpy on family outings. I mostly chose to snuggle up with them in our bed and blamed his late bedtime and snoring for the sleep arrangement. The result was that we were hardly meant to be alone and never had evenings without children. Well, maybe once a year on our anniversary.
2. I didn’t set (or enforce) boundaries with my parents.
They were often at our house, sometimes they came unannounced and just walked in. They helped around the house and did things we had never asked them to do, like folding our laundry (wrong of course). We went on vacation with them. They corrected our children before our eyes. My own fears of upsetting my parents should keep me from drawing a line in the sand and asking them not to cross it.
The few times I stood up for my family’s autonomy, I didn’t hold my parents to the same standards in the future. My husband literally married my entire family.
3. I emasculated him.
I thought love was about honesty, but we all know the truth hurts. As we felt more and more comfortable (read: lazy) in our relationship, I stopped trying to take the sting out of him. I talked to my friends, my mother, my work colleagues. All. The. Time. “Can you believe he didn’t do that?” And “Why in God’s name did he do THAT?”
Instead of building its ego, I trampled it. I often belittled him, said that his job was unimportant and his friends dismissed as “followers”. I scolded him for doing things wrong when, frankly, he just wasn’t doing them my way. At times I spoke to him like a child. I checked the family finances and tortured him over every penny he spent.
And in the bedroom – yes, you guessed it – he got it all wrong too and I wasn’t shy about telling him. When our marriage fell apart, I kept looking for flaws and flaws to justify my superiority. In the end, I had zero respect for him and I made sure he knew and felt it every day.
4. I haven’t bothered to learn how to fight properly.
I know it sounds strange to say that there is a right way to argue. But there is. I tended to keep the peace in our home by keeping my mouth shut when things really bothered me. As you can imagine, all of the little things that drove me crazy grew into a huge suppressed ball of anger that would occasionally break out in a huge, really scary fit of Hulk-esque anger.
And by anger, I mean anger in the sense of the clinical, psychiatric definition. In retrospect, I justified my anger by saying that a woman can only take so much. When I look back, I was a terrible slut during those episodes.
I am not writing this mea culpa in the hope of winning my ex back or even wanting his forgiveness. I am writing this because I can’t believe how long I should bury my head in the sand. I hope other women out there will pull out theirs and take a good look around.
And while I’m still hurt that my husband chose to solve our problems in another woman’s bed, if conversation and counselling could have helped you, I know full well that my behavior was part of what made him drifted there.