After 16 years of marriage, Gerald Rogers finalized his divorce and wrote down some advice he wished he had received a long time ago. His Facebook posting went viral, with over 10 000 likes and 100 000 shares at last count.
I’m not divorced, nor do I have any plans to be, but I thought I would give my perspective on Gerald’s advice, and then offer my own advice for married women who would like to stay that way.
MARRIAGE ADVICE I WISH I WOULD HAVE HAD:
Obviously, I’m not a relationship expert. But there’s something about my divorce being finalized this week that gives me perspective of things I wish I would have done different… After losing a woman that I loved, and a marriage of almost 16 years, here’s the advice I wish I would have had…
1) Never stop courting. Never stop dating. NEVER EVER take that woman for granted. When you asked her to marry you, you promised to be that man that would OWN HER HEART and to fiercely protect it. This is the most important and sacred treasure you will ever be entrusted with. SHE CHOSE YOU. Never forget that, and NEVER GET LAZY in your love.
Oh dear. Courting, dating and taking for granted are all different things. Life doesn’t always leave room for courting and dating, neither of which has anything to do with taking someone for granted. You should not be asking your husband to PROVE his love to you, over and over again. He has already proven it. It happened the day you got married. What you SHOULD do is be grateful. Say thank you. Acknowledge all the little and big things he does for you. And make sure you reciprocate. Don’t keep score. Life is long and it will all balance out in the long run, which is what you are in for.
And most importantly, understand that men and women show their love in different ways. Women tend to like to talk about it. Men tend to show it. Neither is better than the other. Don’t try to bend him to your way of communicating. Listen to the love, even if it’s silent.
2) PROTECT YOUR OWN HEART. Just as you committed to being the protector of her heart, you must guard your own with the same vigilance. Love yourself fully, love the world openly, but there is a special place in your heart where no one must enter except for your wife. Keep that space always ready to receive her and invite her in, and refuse to let anyone or anything else enter there.
Okay, sure. Protect your own heart. But at the same time, don’t make the mistake of thinking your husband will be the one person to fulfil all your needs, and all your desires. The only person who can do that, ultimately is YOU. There will be many passions in your life that come and go, and some of those you will share with your husband, and some you won’t. That’s okay.
I think one of the biggest myths we cherish about love and marriage is that there is one, and only one person meant just for us. That really doesn’t make any sense. There are 7 billion people on the planet! The idea that only one of those humans is the perfect match for you is nonsensical. You are both going to meet people with whom you feel a spark, a connection, a sense of compatibility and mutual attraction.
So what? Accept that there are many, many people with whom you could create a happy, harmonious life, and then let it go.
You’ve made your choice. Whatever problems you are experiencing at any given time, whatever part of you is going unfulfilled or unsatisfied, understand that trading in for a new partner won’t change that. You’ll just have new problems.
3) FALL IN LOVE OVER and OVER and OVER again. You will constantly change. You’re not the same people you were when you got married, and in five years you will not be the same person you are today. Change will come, and in that you have to re-choose each other everyday. SHE DOESN’T HAVE TO STAY WITH YOU, and if you don’t take care of her heart, she may give that heart to someone else or seal you out completely, and you may never be able to get it back. Always fight to win her love just as you did when you were courting her.
No. I hate this. Marriage is not and should not be conditional on how you happen to feel at any given moment. Yes, you will both change. People change. Marriage vows are about navigating those changes together. As one. Even the not so great changes.
…to have and to hold from this day forward, forsaking all others, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part
4) ALWAYS SEE THE BEST in her. Focus only on what you love. What you focus on will expand. If you focus on what bugs you, all you will see is reasons to be bugged. If you focus on what you love, you can’t help but be consumed by love. Focus to the point where you can no longer see anything but love, and you know without a doubt that you are the luckiest man on earth to be have this woman as your wife.
Again, I disagree completely. Make a list of all the shit that drives you absolutely nuts about him! The things you want to kill him for! The stuff that makes you scream and want to tear out your hair! The things he does that makes you take stock of just where the knives are.
And now, for every item on your list, write down the shit that YOU do that makes him go insane. For every irritating, annoying, infuriating, frustrating thing that he does, I guarantee you, you do something equally exasperating.
And then laugh about it. Humans are annoying. Everyone has their own quirks and foibles and idiosyncrasies and all those things tend to annoy the shit out of the people they have to live with. That’s just life. You don’t need to ignore the fact that your husband irritates the shit out of you on occasion. Just keep in mind that you yourself return the favor.
No one is perfect. There is no need to pretend they are.
5) IT’S NOT YOUR JOB TO CHANGE OR FIX HER… your job is to love her as she is with no expectation of her ever changing. And if she changes, love what she becomes, whether it’s what you wanted or not.
Yeah, I agree with this one. Don’t expect your partner to change, but at the same time, know that he will. It’s not up to you to decide how or when or in what direction he changes. And if you don’t like the change, talk about it with him, but understand that the tables will turn soon enough, and it will be him not terribly happy with how you have changed.
6) TAKE FULL ACCOUNTABILITY for your own emotions: It’s not your wife’s job to make you happy, and she CAN’T make you sad. You are responsible for finding your own happiness, and through that your joy will spill over into your relationship and your love.
These things are not mutually exclusive. Yes, it is your husband’s job to make you happy and he most certainly CAN make you sad. And yes, it is YOUR job to make him happy, and you most certainly can also make him sad.
But that’s not the same thing as saying ALL your happiness will come from your partner. It won’t. A marriage in which both partners are devoted to making the other person happy is a joy indeed. That’s really the key to how you make a marriage work. You make your husband’s happiness YOUR priority and he makes YOUR happiness his. That’s how the whole deal works. That doesn’t mean you turn yourself into a self-sacrificing martyr dragging the burden of other people’s well-being like a cross through life. Nonsense.
Making the people you love happy is what will make YOU happy. It’s not just true for the people you love, either. Making other people happy is what makes us happy. It makes us human.
7) NEVER BLAME your wife If YOU get frustrated or angry at her, it is only because it is triggering something inside of YOU. They are YOUR emotions, and your responsibility. When you feel those feelings take time to get present and to look within and understand what it is inside of YOU that is asking to be healed. You were attracted to this woman because she was the person best suited to trigger all of your childhood wounds in the most painful way so that you could heal them… when you heal yourself, you will no longer be triggered by her, and you will wonder why you ever were.
You were attracted to this woman because she was the person best suited to trigger all of your childhood wounds in the most painful way so that you could heal them
Yikes! Well, that certainly wasn’t the reason I chose my husband, and I’m almost sad to read that Gerald chose a woman that brought back all the pain of his childhood. I understand how the wounds of childhood can be painful, and that relationships can indeed help to heal them, but I personally found that I let go of all the pain of my own blighted childhood by being the kind of mother I never had.
I can understand marrying someone like your opposite sex parent if that relationship was principally loving and affectionate, but on the whole, I don’t think I would advise anyone to marry someone who triggers pain and a sense of being wounded.
8) Allow your woman to JUST BE. When she’s sad or upset, it’s not your job to fix it, it’s your job to HOLD HER and let her know it’s ok. Let her know that you hear her, and that she’s important and that you are that pillar on which she can always lean. The feminine spirit is about change and emotion and like a storm her emotions will roll in and out, and as you remain strong and unjudging she will trust you and open her soul to you… DON’T RUN-AWAY WHEN SHE’S UPSET. Stand present and strong and let her know you aren’t going anywhere. Listen to what she is really saying behind the words and emotion.
This is really beautiful, and absolutely true for women, too. When your husband is upset, it’s your job to hold him and let him know that everything is okay. Sometimes you will need to be the pillar on which your husband can lean. All too often, I think women don’t truly appreciate that men can be floored by an emotional reaction. Men can receive staggering blows. Men have all the same emotions and reactions and feelings as women, as sometimes those will be overwhelming.
Don’t run away or act disgusted when confronted by your husband’s emotions. Don’t be afraid of anger or physical expressions of inner states of being. When women get really angry or upset, they tend to cry. When men get really angry or upset, they like to kill things in virtual reality. One isn’t better than another. And both are felt with equal depth. Don’t sneer at how your husband expresses his emotions.
9) BE SILLY… don’t take yourself so damn seriously. Laugh. And make her laugh. Laughter makes everything else easier.
Absolutely. But if your idea of a laughter filled weekend involves a Benny Hill/Three Stooges marathon, maybe give your wife a pass to go to a period costume drama at the theatres with her friends?
Just a thought.
10) FILL HER SOUL EVERYDAY… learn her love languages and the specific ways that she feels important and validated and CHERISHED. Ask her to create a list of 10 THINGS that make her feel loved and memorize those things and make it a priority everyday to make her feel like a queen.
Aww. This is sweet. Make sure you do the exact same for your husband. He will have a love language all his own, and a list of specific things that makes him feel loved and cherished. Be the Queen. Absolutely. Don’t be a Princess. A Princess is a spoiled brat who thinks Daddy should give her everything she wants by simple virtue of existence. A Queen knows that she has a job: she rules a realm with a King at her side. She has privileges and rights, and she knows they come with responsibilities and obligations. You can’t have one without the other.
That’s a marriage.
11) BE PRESENT. Give her not only your time, but your focus, your attention and your soul. Do whatever it takes to clear your head so that when you are with her you are fully WITH HER. Treat her as you would your most valuable client. She is.
Oh god no. This comes across as way too much attention. Life has so much drudgery and routine and things that just need to get done and sometimes the loveliest feeling in the world is just getting through the work knowing the other person is there. He doesn’t have to be the sole focus of your whole life, nor do you have to clear your mind so you can focus only on him, him, him.
And please don’t think of your husband as your most valuable client. Your marriage is not a transactional relationship. Viewing your partner as a client to whom you are obliged to deliver services reduces the whole relationship to one of functionality. And when the relationship doesn’t function any more?
You replace it.
Marriage isn’t a commercial relationship. Don’t turn it into one.
12) BE WILLING TO TAKE HER SEXUALLY, to carry her away in the power of your masculine presence, to consume her and devour her with your strength, and to penetrate her to the deepest levels of her soul. Let her melt into her feminine softness as she knows she can trust you fully.
Ladies, be willing to be taken sexually, to be carried away in his masculine presence, to be consumed and devoured with strength, to be penetrated to the deepest levels of your soul. And be willing to return the favor.
Again, make his pleasure your primary goal, and let him make your pleasure his. It reinforces how the whole relationship works.
13) DON’T BE AN IDIOT…. And don’t be afraid of being one either. You will make mistakes and so will she. Try not to make too big of mistakes, and learn from the ones you do make. You’re not supposed to be perfect, just try to not be too stupid.
Yep. Good advice. Just try not to be too stupid.
14) GIVE HER SPACE… The woman is so good at giving and giving, and sometimes she will need to be reminded to take time to nurture herself. Sometimes she will need to fly from your branches to go and find what feeds her soul, and if you give her that space she will come back with new songs to sing…. (okay, getting a little too poetic here, but you get the point. Tell her to take time for herself, ESPECIALLY after you have kids. She needs that space to renew and get re-centered, and to find herself after she gets lost in serving you, the kids and the world.)
Yes. Very true. And remember that sometimes your husband will have those moments when he feels like nothing more than a walking wallet. Like an ATM machine whose purpose in life is to grind out cash and hand it over. Of course, you are all living in the same life, and all benefitting from everyone’s work, but that doesn’t mean he won’t occasionally feel like his usefulness boils down to a number on an IRS form.
Be sensitive to those moments. Make sure your husband knows he is more than just a tool the family uses to survive. Set aside money just for him to spend on what he likes, and make no comments. Give him time and space to go and be the man he is, and not just an instrument you find particularly useful.
15) BE VULNERABLE… you don’t have to have it all together. Be willing to share your fears and feelings, and quick to acknowledge your mistakes.
Yep. Every one screws up. Say you’re sorry. And when it’s his turn to fuck up and ask for forgiveness, be gracious, accept the apology and then let it go. Don’t bear grudges. You screw up, too. If he screws up big time, consider it money in the bank for some future transgression on your part.
16) BE FULLY TRANSPARENT. If you want to have trust you must be willing to share EVERYTHING… Especially those things you don’t want to share. It takes courage to fully love, to fully open your heart and let her in when you don’t know i she will like what she finds… Part of that courage is allowing her to love you completely, your darkness as well as your light. DROP THE MASK… If you feel like you need to wear a mask around her, and show up perfect all the time, you will never experience the full dimension of what love can be.
Again, the alternative to wearing a mask and pretending to be perfect is not complete transparency. I don’t need to know everything going on in my husband’s mind. Jesus. I don’t want to! And I’m pretty sure he would go insane in about five minutes if I shared everything going on in my mind with him.
Somethings are better left unsaid. Somethings are just things you THINK. No need to share. Again, think about his happiness. Will telling him X or Y add to that happiness or detract? Make his happiness your priority and text your girlfriends about your frustrations.
17) NEVER STOP GROWING TOGETHER… The stagnant pond breeds malaria, the flowing stream is always fresh and cool. Atrophy is the natural process when you stop working a muscle, just as it is if you stop working on your relationship. Find common goals, dreams and visions to work towards.
Yes. This. No matter what life brings, what changes come your way, you find a way to work together. Til death do you part.
18) DON’T WORRY ABOUT MONEY. Money is a game, find ways to work together as a team to win it. It never helps when teammates fight. Figure out ways to leverage both persons strength to win.
Well, you can worry about money, but don’t fight about it. Fights over money are apparently a huge source of conflict in a lot of marriages. I would seriously consider NOT marrying someone if you can’t agree on the ground rules for how to manage money.
19) FORGIVE IMMEDIATELY and focus on the future rather than carrying weight from the past. Don’t let your history hold you hostage. Holding onto past mistakes that either you or she makes, is like a heavy anchor to your marriage and will hold you back. FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM. Cut the anchor loose and always choose love.
This is probably the key thing Gerald gets right. And of course the biggest thing to forgive in any marriage is infidelity. Some people consider infidelity a deal breaker. Have sex outside the marriage and the marriage is over. I don’t take that stance at all. My principal interest would be in what motivated the infidelity.
Sex on the side, as a little entertainment, is annoying and I wouldn’t be especially pleased about that, but I wouldn’t end my marriage over it either. I have made it clear to my husband that if he IS going to have sex with someone other than me, he chooses a professional. For one thing, the risk of disease is considerably lower.
And the risk of pregnancy and other emotional complications is also much, much lower.
My strategy for keeping my husband faithful is to have a lot of sex with him. Leave him with no energy or desire to consider professional alternatives. Seems to be working.
Sex with another woman he loves would be a much bigger problem. I personally would still not end our marriage over that kind of infidelity, because we have children and I am not going to punish them because I have neglected my husband to the point that he has a full emotional relationship with someone else.
That kind of infidelity would indeed be very troubling, but I would accept partial responsibility for that scenario, and turn my attention towards working on our own relationship, and that wouldn’t be possible without forgiveness.
Gerald is right. Forgive. And forget. And then work on what led to the problem in the first place.
20) ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE. ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE. ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE. In the end, this is the only advice you need. If this is the guiding principle through which all your choices is governed, there is nothing that will threaten the happiness of your marriage. Love will always endure.
As long as “always choose love” means “put the other person first” then I agree. But that MUST be reciprocal. If he is not going to put you first, not going to forsake all others, not going to make you his priority, then you are wasting your time and your life.
And so is any man. None of us exist to be a tool for others to use. It’s absolutely true that marriage works best when the other person is the top priority, but if the feelings and actions are not returned, the relationship is just an elaborate exploitation of one person by another.
And the sad reality is that marriage really has become a vehicle for one person to exploit another, until they get tired and decide to trade in. What I take away from Gerald’s post is that he deeply regrets not supplicating his entire personality and needs to the woman he loved. That may be cruel, but it’s the feeling I am left with. There is so little sense in his writing that any of their marital problems were caused by her. It feels like he accepts complete and total blame.
There’s something heroic in that.
And something bitter, too.
Everyone knows that ultimately, marriage is a gamble. There are no guarantees. But when the odds are stacked so horribly against you, why would you take the risk at all? In my opinion, Gerald’s advice doesn’t help, over all. Encouraging men to yield everything they can to women, without insisting that women yield the same to men, is only handing women a sword.
That tends not to work out very well.
I gave ’em a sword. And they stuck it in, and they twisted it with relish. And I guess if I had been in their position, I’d have done the same thing.
Richard M. Nixon
Why would a man fight a battle he knows he can’t win?
Lots of love,