He was the one who lied and cheated. But I realize now that I can’t get off scot-free.
At first, it was easy for me to point every single finger and toe at my husband for obliterating our 10-year marriage. He’s the one who cheated and walked out without looking back. And long before that, he repeatedly shut me out, choosing to bury himself in his work to avoid what was happening to us at home.
Blame was my coping mechanism to get through the first difficult months of our separation, and “how dare he (gasp!)” was my mantra. I rallied an entire army of supporters who, like me, were totally, utterly and completely aghast at the nerve—the gall—of this man.
Because obviously being a lying, cheating, family abandon-er trumps anything I did to our marriage in the past decade. Right?
I deflected any and all culpability in the failure of my marriage for months, holding on to the picture I painted of myself as the gentle, selfless and long-suffering wife. It wasn’t until I found a therapist who called me out on my bullsh*t that I was forced to take a long, hard look at my shortcomings.
It wasn’t pretty.
Here’s what I now know actually screwed up my marriage and led to divorce. May it will serve as a warning to you. Before it’s too late.
1. I put my children first.
It’s easy to love your own children. It takes very little effort, and they adore you no matter what. Marriage is the polar opposite: it’s work. And whenever my marriage started to feel like work, I would check out and head to Build-A-Bear Workshop or the science museum with the kids in tow. I’d often plan these adventures when I knew my husband couldn’t go (and spoil my good time). I told myself it was OK because he preferred to work anyway and always seemed grouchy on family outings. I chose most nights to cuddle with them in our bed, blaming his late-night bedtimes and snoring for the sleeping arrangement. As a result, we were hardly alone together and never had kid-free date nights. Well, maybe once a year on our anniversary.
2. I didn’t set (or enforce) boundaries with my parents.
They were at our house frequently, sometimes arriving unannounced and walking right in. They’d “help out” around the house doing things we never asked them to, like our folding laundry (incorrectly, of course). We’d vacation with them. They’d correct our children in front of us. My own fears of upsetting my parents kept me from drawing a line in the sand and asking them not to cross it. The few times I did stand up for my family’s autonomy, I didn’t hold my parents to the same standards in future. My husband, quite literally, married my entire family.
3. I emasculated him.
I thought love was about honesty, but we all know that the truth hurts. As we grew more comfortable (read: lazy) in our relationship, I stopped trying to take the sting out it. I talked smack to my girlfriends, my mom, my co-workers. All. The. Time. “Can you believe he didn’t do this?” and “Why in God’s name did he do THAT?”