THE BLOG
05/30/2013 03:25 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2013

Marriage Is Not a Test

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Marriage is not a test.

I lived.

I loved.

I lost.

But I didn't fail.

Society makes assumptions about those who are divorced. Maybe we lack the fortitude to persist through difficulties. Perhaps we possess some great fatal flaw that makes us unable to sustain matrimony. Or, possibility we are flighty, given to jump in without thought and give up just as easily.

There is often shame inherent in admitting that one is divorced, like some scarlet letter "D" is forever branded upon your character if your "ever after" ended sooner than expected. It's as though you failed at one of the biggest assessments you face as an adult.

In the strictest sense, my marriage did fail. After all, it ceased to exist upon the receipt of the horrific text: "I'm sorry to be such a coward leaving you this way but I'm leaving you and leaving the state." Furthermore, my husband failed me through his betrayal and abandonment. I failed him by not seeing that he needed help and I failed myself by not being aware of his actions and the signs of a crumbling marriage. Yet, even with all that defeat, I refuse to look at my marriage as a failure. That label undermines our years together with all its shared memories and joys; the shared life and experiences are negated with that single word. Although I did feel as though I failed in some ways, I was adamant that I was not going to let my divorce define me as a failure.

Failure is an act, not a person. I'm divorced. Not defective.

As I grappled with the end of my marriage, I found comfort in the words of others. Others who had faced their own challenges and were determined to learn from and grow from their mistakes and unrealized goals.

There's always failure. And there's always disappointment. And there's always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums. Michael J. Fox

When the marriage died, I felt like I expired right along with it. As though my respirator had been yanked from my face and I was struggling to find the strength and will to breathe on my own. I felt unanchored and unable to escape from the pull of the dying marriage. Failures are not vacuums; we can summon the strength to move beyond them. The realization that I could choose to redefine my divorce was powerful; it gave me the motivation and momentum to continue.

I've come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy. Tony Robbins

I am often asked if I would have married him if I could turn back the years. I would. Yes, the divorce and associated suffering have been the most painful experience of my life. Yet, I could not imagine my life without having endured that pain. Without that failure, I would not have the perspective that allows so much gratitude and acceptance in my life today. Acceptance that extends to forgiveness for my ex and myself for the conditions that led to the end of the marriage.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. J. K. Rowling

I used to be too fear adverse in my old life; I would engage it what I call "practicing the perfect," which is a way to feed the ego at the expense of the soul. I would try things only if I believed that I had a good chance of success. Interestingly, the cataclysmic end of the marriage released me from that fear of failing. I learned that it's rarely fatal and that security is only an illusion. You'll never know what you can do unless you try.

A failure is not always a mistake, it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying. B. F. Skinner

The tendency is to respond to failure in one of two ways -- blame others or internalize the mistake. That's the ego talking again. It's helpful to realize that most people in most situations are doing the best they can. I used this to help soften towards my ex. I realized that he didn't do these things to me; I was simply collateral damage in his decisions. I also let up on the self-flagellation for not recognizing any red flags.

Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble. Shahrukh Khan

Our egos are a bit like young meatheads in a gym. Flexing in the mirror, wanting to appear strong and capable amongst the others. This means that sometimes we will try to lift more than we can without asking for assistance. And, just like in the weight room, this can only lead to disaster. When we fail at something, we can either give up or ask for help. Allow yourself to be humble, ask for a spotter and you'll not only gain the respect of those around you, but you will also be able to lift more than you ever thought possible.

I don't believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process. Oprah Winfrey

My biggest issue with labeling my marriage as a failure is that it focuses on the end and ignores the 16 years together. The 16 good years. Those still count. I still think back and smile. I may not love the man but I still love the memories. I think this thought is especially poignant for those with children from the union. It's important for the kids not to think that you see the marriage that created them as a waste, a mistake. In some way and for some amount of time, it was successful.

Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Denis Waitley

Divorce is a powerful teacher if you listen to its lessons. Its methods may be harsh but its messages are life changing. A failed marriage does not make you a failure. The only true failure is failing to live and love, even if that means that sometimes you may lose.

Read more about the lessons of divorce on my website, Lessons From the End of a Marriage.

All quotes from brainyquote.

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