13 More Things I Learned From Being Married 3 Times

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I wrote an article a while back about what I learned from being married 3 times. The article ended up on Huffington Post and for the most part, the piece was well received. There were a few people who have very strong feelings on people who have married multiple times. Those feelings were bad feelings and they vehemently told me how much I suck for getting married 3 times.

Recently, Randy and I were out for dinner. When dining out, I love eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.

The couple in the booth behind us were on either a first date or maybe a second date. They were definitely in the ‘getting to know you’ phase.

They were talking about someone they both knew and the man said this:

You know, I can see getting divorced and remarried once. I can even see getting divorced twice. But if you get married THREE times, then there is definitely something wrong with you. 

I perked up and Randy looked at me and shook his head.

Randy: Don’t say anything. 

Me, feigning innocence: Say what? I’m not going to say anything. I mean, I shouldn’t even speak because there is definitely something wrong with me. 

Randy: Do you have to talk that loud?

Me: What? I can’t hear you over the sound of my three marriages. 

I have been married three times. Divorce sucks. It’s hard and depressing and getting a divorce is never about just ending a marriage. Divorce smacks you about in many different ways. I decided that maybe I wasn’t finished passing along the lessons I learned from being married multiple times.

1. A world of difference exists between compromise and compromising yourself. Marriage requires compromise. Sure, it would be nice to always get your way, but that rarely works. For instance, sometimes I have to watch boring subtitled movies and sometimes Randy has to watch movies where a lot of shit blows up. That kind of compromise is good. But when you find you are compromising yourself to the point where you are no longer recognizable to yourself, then the compromise becomes toxic.

2. Endings are hard. It makes no difference if you are still friends with your spouse or if you both hate each other with the heat of a thousand suns. Ending a relationship is hard. Endings get easier as time passes. One day, you will wake up and know that you gained strength from the experience.

3. Holding on to bitterness causes wrinkles. That might be a lie. I don’t know if it causes wrinkles or not. But I am quite sure that holding on to bitterness doesn’t do you any favors. I knew someone whose husband had left her 15 years earlier, when their children were very small. Whenever she spoke of her ex, and she did often, she always prefaced her comments with: When Bob left me and ripped apart his children’s lives. She never said, ‘when I got divorced’ or ‘when my marriage ended’. She always said ‘when he walked out on me’. I felt sorry for her because the bitterness was so thick you could taste it. She also had wrinkles.

4. Don’t be a shuttlecock. What a hilarious word. I love saying shuttlecock, I love writing shuttlecock. But you shouldn’t be a shuttlecock. If you end a relationship, people around you will have opinions. They will tell you what to do. Don’t sail back and forth like you are in a game of badminton. You know your own mind, you know your own reasons. Stick to your guns and do what you need to get through a shitty situation.

5. Settling is sad. Once in one of many therapy sessions, a therapist asked how I was. I said “Oh, I don’t know. I’m fine.” He told me that sounded very sad.

Fine. I’m fine. Not great. Not terrible. Just okay. He asked me if that is what I wanted from life. Not that life would always be cotton candy and building castles in the sand, but life should be more than just ‘fine’. Don’t settle. The fact that we are alive and that you are reading this amazes me. Do more with your life than just sleep walk through it.

6. Your children will be around people not of your choosing. Don’t get caught up in insecurity about another woman or man being involved in your children’s lives. If you are lucky, then they will love your children. How can another person loving your kids be a bad thing? I didn’t want another woman to have a hand in raising my son. I had no choice in the matter. She was not good for my child. She didn’t want him around and she treated him badly. I realized how much better it would have been if she had loved and nurtured him.

I am far from the best mother in the world, but I love my stepdaughters like they were my own children. I adore their children with everything I am. I have to think that is better than what my son lived through. He was the designated babysitter and housekeeper. Even when he was very small. At age 5 he would come home from a weekend with his father and stepmother and tell me how many loads of laundry he had to do. She’s dead now. And no, I did not have a hand in it, but I’m not sorry, either.

7. People judge you. Fuck those guys. Their opinion of your life is not your business.

8. People wonder what is ‘wrong’ with you. Sometimes, they will even be rude enough to ask what is wrong with you. My suggestion? Make up an outrageous answer and then follow up with a highly inappropriate and personal question of your own, like “Why does your nose have that funny curve to it? Were you beaten by trolls as a child?”

9. People will not always be kind when you are hurting. They will say things like “Well, this is what you wanted.” Please refer to number 7. Fuck those guys. Surround yourself with people who rally around you. You’ll need the buffer for a while.

10. Distract yourself. This works in many stressful or painful situations. I am not good at crafts. I don’t have patience. I have a hard time following instructions, but that doesn’t mean I won’t build the shit out of something when I’m stressed. I will paint, glue and glitter until I’m exhausted. The end product might not be pretty, but in the end, my brain feels better.

11. Give yourself a goddamn break. Try to not get caught up in the cycle of ‘if only’ or ‘what if’. It won’t help. Forward motion, baby. Life means forward motion. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from our mistakes, but dwelling on them is just self-punishment.

12. Just say no to camping. People love to break off into camps when they are faced with a volatile or difficult situation that is not their situation to deal with. They will set up their space and fly their little flags. One group will have the ‘Divorce is a sin!’ flag and another will have their ‘You should have tried harder!’ flag and then there is the ‘Get out there and start dating!’ flag. Personally, I fucking hate camping. Let people sit at their campsites and say what they want. Fuck ’em. That’s when I go to a place that has room service.

13. Don’t apologize. Like I said, a lot of people have opinions about people who get divorced. Your life is your life. Hold your motherfucking head up and don’t apologize for who you are. You don’t owe the world an apology because your relationship ended.

In the end, we are all who we are. You own your life and you have no control over other people’s opinions of your life. What you can control is how you allow that to affect you.

Don’t get me wrong, I allowed myself to be defined by other people’s opinions for a very long time. I felt embarrassed when people found out how many times I’ve been married.

Hell, I was committed to Randy, but I didn’t want to marry him, only because I was afraid of what people would think.

Now? I am happy with my life. I adore my husband even though he drives me crazy sometimes.

I’m going to go ahead and stick around, though. Even though he sometimes makes me roll my eyes so hard I can pick up old Laugh In episodes in the back of my brain, doesn’t mean I’m sorry for a single second of our marriage. And I have run out of fucks to give over anyone who has a negative opinion about my marriages.

You know, most of these apply to ‘the end’ of a lot of things. Leaving a job, moving away, cutting toxic people from your life. There are many situations in which we experience a ‘divorce’ of sorts.

Shuttlecock.

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66 comments

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  • I’m so glad I found your blog. [Happy sigh.] You’re a total badass. Thank you.

    Oh, and your advice about what to say when people ask what’s wrong with you was great. Next time I get that question, I’m gonna look furtively around the room, lean close, and, in a whisper, ask, “What level security clearance do you have?”

  • Judgey people suck, even if judgey isn’t a real word. Screw them! I apply many of these same things to removing myself from any toxic situation or relationship. Great list!

  • I love your blog.

    I, too, have been married three times and the level of Nosy Parker / Judgey McJudgerson out there is appalling. Plus I never had kids – the perfect strangers who think it’s ok to inquire about *that* issue on first meeting is astounding. Took me a long time to learn to “Please refer to number 7.”

    Thanks for all you do. Seriously.

      • I just wonder why people get married if they have no intentions of staying married until death do them part….and I know there are exceptions, i.e. abuse of sorts, etc. Just wondering your thoughts on believing in a lifetime with that one person and they just give up and walk away….?

        • I don’t think you really wonder at all, I think this is just a way to post a judgy comment without coming out and being completely judgy.

          I can’t speak for other people. I got married and divorced due to horrible choices. I made horrible choices due to my own mental illness issues and the fact that my male role model growing up was abusive and I had a skewed vision of what life was supposed to be like.

  • #11. I once responded to my dearly departed friend Dirty Dan, who was expressing concern about what he saw as my self-destructive behavior, with “There have been no shortage of bigger, badder, motherfuckers than I’ll ever be bent upon my destruction, and if they couldn’t accomplish it, what makes you think that I could?” It was a funny line at the time, but it was also a lie. I know that now.
    Also, I used to have sort of a stock response to unsolicited advice and baseless criticism:
    “So I can be just like you, right?” I haven’t had to use that one in years, so either the peanut gallery has given up on me, or more likely, I just don’t have time for them anymore.
    If you end up married to the right person, the number of tries it took is simply the length of the process that ended up succeeding. Besides, Rilo Kiley said it was OK.

  • Yep, Fuck ‘m. I might not be a better person, but I am a stronger one. Hail to the Queen Darlin’. Spot on with this one. Words to live by!

  • this is just perfect. I’m not quite as damaged as you – I’ve only been married twice…and I’m good here. But this is perfect advice. Passing it on to a friend who is heading into number three.

  • I saw a quote on a t-shirt or greeting card a few years ago that said, “It’s better to have loved and lost, than to be stuck with a jerk.” I agree with that 110% I was in a relationship for 13 years, engaged, but never married. It was the right decision to end it, although I wasn’t sure of that at the time. All I could think was, I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life. I wasted 13 of my prime years and I was going to never find another person who would want to be with me. That wasn’t true and those feelings came from a lot of what went on in that relationship. I wish I would have realized all the points you made in this post a lot sooner than I did.
    I think that people that get divorced aren’t horrible people for it. Most of the time they are really brave even if it takes them some time to realize your 13 points.

    • It’s much easier to see these things when you are away from them. It took a long time for me to be okay with my decisions even though they were truly the right decisions.

  • If you’re happy I don’t give a flying fuck if you’re married, living together or sacrificing small animals on a full moon. Wait … I do care if you’re killing things, because… animals, but how you arrange your relationship with another consenting adult is entirely up to you.
    I was married once, I didn’t like it, so I decided not to do it again.
    Ending are hard. That’s why I refuse to have a pet. Because it will die before me.
    Again with the animals.
    Loved this post.
    The end.

  • “Holding on to bitterness causes wrinkles” This is true, you know. I went to see my therapist last night and I’m in a “much better” phase. She commented on how the cavernous wrinkle between my brows was smoother and that I looked much more relaxed and pretty. So….I guess that when I am stressed or sad, I look like one of the three hags of fate or something. I learned the hard way about being judgmental about other people’s marriages. My sister is on her third marriage and I always felt so superior with my long and “perfect” marriage. Karma is a bitch!

    • I think it’s incredible that you recognize this. Usually when people get all judgey they defend it..they don’t admit that they maybe shouldn’t have judged. You impress the shit out of me.

      Not actual shit.

  • I love this. “I can’t hear you over my three divorces.” Gold. And No.1, that’s powerful. I feel like that’s the one that so many people get confused. I just love how you can impart wisdom and crack me up at the same time. <3

  • This is great. Never been married myself but I had a cousin (God rest his soul) who was married seven 7 times. Personally I could care less. He was my cousin and I loved him. But the funny thing is his parents Always though it was the other persons fault. Every time. I’m not a brain surgeon but the other persons fault every time after 7 times. Give me a break. But he was my cousin and I loved him. Just remember #7 on your list regardless of the topic,

  • I must have missed your original post about your marriages the first time, glad I caught this one! I think people who marry three times are optimists and I like optimists.

  • I am on my second marriage and got very lucky but had I not I would have probably done it again if I met the right person. Ibelieve that there is someone out there for all of us. I just ran into mine quicker than you did but I am so happy you finally found him. He sounds like he is perfect for you! I wish we could have all gone out that night in Nashville I am sure we would all have had a blast! Maybe when we come up over this summer we can get together and have drinks somewhere. We always come up twice in the summer once to pick up my niece and then to bring her back at the end of summer! I’ll let you know when if it sounds good to you!

  • Thank you for sharing that, M. It’s so annoying how people who don’t know you well (or at all) will, upon hearing of your divorce, give you the sad, pitiful look and say something dumb like, “I’m sorry. I know it’s very difficult” then shake their heads and sigh. WTF do they know about my life? Sometimes it’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s just a long time coming and a fucking RELIEF. Mine felt like a transaction of sorts, that I just had to negotiate. Done! Why did people seem confused/concerned/dare I say – disappointed to learn that I was OKAY with it? Like I should’ve suffered more, and more openly, so they could pat me on the back. Why couldn’t someone yell “Good for you for having the balls to get out of a bad relationship!!!”? I guess a lot of folks hear “divorce” and think “failure” ( so 3 marriages = 2 failures and counting?). Yikes. You could go through 5 serious relationships without a marriage license and not be judged so rigidly. My favourite T-shirt message (which I’m sending out to all those judgey, nosy, self-righteous douches): I’d like to high-five you. In the face. With a chair.

  • I’m not into judging, but people who sit around in restaurants and make broad generalizations about other people are assholes. Actually that’s an insult to assholes. I know I’m just paraphrasing at least part of what you’ve already said, but people who go to restaurants and generalize about strangers have something wrong with them.

  • My best friend was married 4 times before 40 though one was an immigration marriage she did for one of our best friend’s lover. She always claimed it was her best marriage as they sadly died and she got an incredible rent stabilized apartment in the middle of Manhattan. I know her best marriage was the one which gave her an incredible daughter who now occupies the apartment while her mother lives down South.

    I called my friend “Elizabeth” for years because–well the whole thing was funny.

    My father’s best friend beat her in the marriage department. He was a doctor and my father would call him if one of us got a hangnail.

    None of us are perfect and it’s our imperfections that make us lovable or so I think

  • I am my husband’s 4th wife, and he is my second husband. We have been married 27 years. I am still not sure he is the last one. I am lucky. I am 67 years old and I don’t care what people think. He might still get the boot.

  • Give ’em hell, Michelle! My oldest sister was married 3 times and divorced 3 times. My next sister has been married 4 times, and divorced 3 times. I was lucky, and found the right guy the first time around, but obviously, that doesn’t happen about half the time. People just love giving opinions, especially when they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, because they haven’t walked a mile in your shoes. They don’t matter.

  • I will freely admit to judging the FUCK out of people who judge people. My husband’s family are some of those people – just because someone doesn’t do something or act the same way as they do, they always have something to say. It’s like they just don’t get that what works for YOU in your limited world view of “right” and “wrong” doesn’t necessarily work for the rest of the world. If you choose to be hostile to everyone that’s not just like YOU, well then your loss I guess.

    I loved this post. 🙂

  • You know what I think about people who have been married 3 times?

    tough shit, I’m gonna tell you ANYWAY…

    I think they are awesome. They give me hope that just because I’ve failed at picking appropriate life mates twice doesn’t mean that there’s not hope for me.

    shuttlecock.

  • Loved this Michelle. I’ve been married three times. It is hilarious to see the look on the person that I tell this too!! I always feel like I need to qualify the three times to people though. The first one lasted a year….so does that really count and really who cares right. So from now on I won’t be qualifying anymore. I always let the person I’m telling this too…..Third times a charm!! and I’ve never been happier!!

  • Such great advice. Shuttlecock. Thanks for the insight for those who are going through rough times in their life. Shuttlecock. Keep giving no fucks Michelle! Shuttlecock.

  • As a distinguished member of the Married 3x club…I can assure you there is plenty wrong with other people!

By Michelle

Michelle

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