THE BLOG
01/27/2016 10:25 am ET Updated Jan 27, 2017

7 Things My Divorce Taught Me About Marriage

Chelsie Dort

So yeah, I was 22 when I filed for a divorce.

How embarrassing is that? I was distraught. Never wanted the world to know that I had failed at being married. I could not have been more positive that I was going to be the black sheep in the world of people my age, especially since I had a 1-year-old. I prepared myself to be shunned and was in the process of figuring out how to be okay on my own, forever.

Once I got out of the dramatic stage, feeling bad for myself and my situation, I found that, sadly, it wasn't as uncommon as I thought to be young and divorced. It was around that time that I started to put a lot of thought into why we live in a time where divorce is so common and for some so easy.

So with that, I started digging deeper into my divorce to find what I could walk away with to prepare for my future, whatever that may hold. Before I dive into the things that I learned, I need to say that divorce is sometimes the only answer. There will be people out there that tell you that any relationship can be fixed and that you should fight forever to make it work. But it's to those of you that are in abusive relationships whether verbal or physical. It's to those that are victims of infidelity, to those that are taking second place to drugs, alcohol or other addictions that seem to be endless, it's to you that I say, it's okay to say, "I've had enough..."

Marriage is not 50/50. Nor is it 100/100.

I think that we've all heard many times in different variations that marriage requires both people doing an equal amount of work. I can't tell you how many people gave me this piece of advice prior to my first marriage. "Now listen honey, marriage is 50/50, always make sure that you are doing your part." And they were right.

Every person in a relationship has a part, or a role. Each person needs to make a contribution to your home and family each day. It is something that will make or break a marriage.

"You will find that each day, as the variables of your life change, what you are able to offer will change as well. Marry someone that understands that."
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On the contrast, I had also been given the advice that marriage was 100/100. "Sweetheart, you need to make sure that you are giving your all to your partner not half of you. They should be your focus." Again, there is truth in this nugget of good willed advice.

Each person should live their life with the intent to make their spouse happy. They should consistently be trying to find ways to strengthen their relationship and should often go the extra mile for their significant other.

So what is the correct percentage of how much I should contribute to my marriage you ask? Well, the answer is simple and I have found through the best and the worst days that there is no correct answer. There is no consistent percentage that will yield the healthy marriage that we are all searching for. I don't know about you, but each day the amount of energy that I have to offer is different.

Each day has so many different variables that can contribute to how much I am able to offer my spouse and being human, he is the same. There are days where I've been peed on by my baby one to many times, my 4-year-old has been in timeout at least five times and it's only 9:00 a.m. Days where I'm going on my third day without a shower. Days when I get halfway through the grocery store before giving up and buying a frozen boxed dinner, and then while trying to clean up the flour my child scattered all through the house it burnt anyways. We end up ordering pizza.

It's on those days friends that I am not capable of offering 100 percent to my marriage. I cannot even offer 50 percent. Who knows how much I honestly even have left in my tank. But in a healthy relationship, my spouse makes up the difference and fills in those gaps.

On the days that he is dragging himself into bed, and he's only able to offer 20 percent, it's my turn to give him 80 percent. You will find that each day, as the variables of your life change, what you are able to offer will change as well. Marry someone that understands that. That doesn't expect you, even on your worst days to offer more than you are capable. Marry someone that is willing to meet you not halfway but where you need them.

Put on something a little less comfortable.

(Whoever said it's more comfortable obviously never put it on.)

Now I know that there are woman out there that have been blessed to feel "in the mood" just as much if not more so than their husbands, but then there are the rest of us. Those of us that find ourselves calculating how long it's been since the last time that we were intimate and saying, "Ah, I should probably do that tonight."

Now, either way, whichever category you fall in, the lucky or the unlucky when it comes to your libido, affection in every form is absolutely necessary. The reality is that while some of us feel like it's a cruel joke that our husbands are always feelin' it while we are somehow wired completely the opposite, it's not just your husband that needs it.

How awkward is it for me to say that if you aren't enjoying your intimate life, it's about time you start having open conversations about why you don't like it? Well, no matter the discomfort some may feel it's the truth. Do you need a romantic night to feel in the mood? Great, make sure your spouse knows that. Everything needs to be laid out on the table. It is through intimacy that you will find a connection that is found through no other avenue of a relationship.

Affection comes in so many ways other than sex and sometimes I think that as you grow together it's easy to unknowingly move apart. Do you hold hands when you walk down the street, or at the grocery store? Do you say I love you every time you hang up the phone? Does your spouse know that you find them attractive? Do you kiss them when they come home and before they leave?

Affection is, regardless of it's form, one of the most important ways of showing your love. No matter where your relationship currently stands, I can promise you that putting on something a little "more" comfortable will make the harder times of your marriage easier to bare.

Go to bed angry.

I can't even tell you how many nights I have spent up fighting for the sake of not going to bed angry. Let's have a quick talk about why you should absolutely go to bed angry.

I don't know about you, but the night time, when you're tired physically, mentally, emotionally and more, does that really seem like the ideal time to try and have a rational conversation to you? I mean, maybe it does. I have found that when I force myself to try and fix a problem late at night, I often out of frustration find myself saying things that cannot be taken back. Things that of course I didn't mean, but once those things have left my mouth, they aren't going back in.

"Life is about the time that you spend together. It's not about where it's spent."

Also, I'm kinda a crazy emotional monster sometimes. Especially when I'm tired. Would I admit that to my husband? Never. But it's more than true. Anyone else ever have a fight late at night and as your head hits your pillow you can't help but think "WHY CAN'T HE JUST UNDERSTAND? I'm making complete sense, it isn't rocket science." But when you wake up in the morning you think, "I wasn't making any sense at all. Let's hope he doesn't remember that."

And even if you tried to continue the argument, you couldn't back up your very well thought out, brilliant points from the night prior. You then find yourself a little embarrassed for making such a big deal out of something that really never would have mattered if you hadn't have been so completely and totally exhausted.

Explore the world together -- even if you can't afford it.

Now, I am of course not suggesting that you go into debt to travel to the places that you've always wanted to see. What I am suggesting however is that you see the world for the beautiful place that it is from close up. Sometimes I struggle looking at Instagram and Facebook posts because I see all of these people whether friends, family or people I know from high school that have struck success in some way or another. So while I'm sitting on my bedroom floor covered in I don't know how much spit up folding laundry, they are on a beach in Tahiti or walking the Great Wall of China and I find myself feeling frustrated and defeated.

I want to travel too! I want to take my husband and go on some special adventure, but we don't have the money. So instead when date night comes around we go to one of the same five restaurants we always go to and we head home. It's led me to wonder if the world is only meant to be explored in places that you can only get to by plane.

I've had to ask myself if the beauty of the world can only be found in places that cost more than I make in three months? In the past year, my husband and I have found that there are mountains to be hiked, rivers to be waded. There are trails to be ran and sunsets that are begging to be seen. The hole in the wall restaurants that you find are important. And so is that favorite place that you go to when you want to pack a picnic and get away from the world. Life is about the time that you spend together. It's not about where it's spent.

I love my husband first and my children second.

One of my first memories was made in my moms bathroom while I watched her do her makeup. Hearing my mom tell me, "Honey, I love you more than you will ever know, but I love daddy most." I was so sad and I felt like it was so wrong at that time. I never forgot those words and when I had my own children I promised myself that I would never pass that on to my kids.

After my oldest son was born I dedicated my life to him, as seems normal. Date nights were short and sweet because I needed to get home to the baby, even though he was safely with my mom. Our nights never consisted of anything remotely romantic because I was way to tired from investing all of myself in our son. It wasn't until my marriage became difficult that I realized that what my mom had said had been true. Even though as a child it was hard to hear, it was one of the many reasons that my parents marriage held strong all of those years.

Children are your heart, ya know? They are everything. Everything that you do revolves around what is best for them. And that is perfectly fine. There is however a line that needs to be drawn in the hypothetical sand. Make time for date nights that include conversation about more than your children.

Again, while this might seem impossible, try to save at least a tiny amount of your energy for intimate time with your man. A couple that loves each other first, and is united in their efforts to raise happy and healthy children will see that they are more solidified in their relationship. They will find themselves on opposite sides of the fence when their children try to manipulate them less then those that put their children first and their spouse second.

The "D" word is not a part of your vocabulary.

Do you remember that couple in high school that was together and then apart, and then back together and then apart, or wait... were they together? The truth was that you never knew because it wasn't that important to them. What wasn't that important? Commitment wasn't that important.

When you get married, you are married. It's no longer easy to break-up in a moment of anger and then decide the next morning after a good nights rest and a yummy bowl of Apple Jacks that you made a mistake. Divorce is not a threat. It isn't something that gets brought up because you're sick of picking up laundry that didn't make it into the hamper for the millionth time. It's not something you throw out as an option because you haven't been getting along lately.

"No marriage is exempt from hard times. It's how tightly you hold onto each other during each merciless crash that will make all of the difference."

Since my divorce, people often ask if we can get together because they need to talk to someone that understands. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to say that this is not the area of expertise that people seek my advice for, it is usually the case that someone wants to know what I did to find happiness after hell. Ultimately, unless you fall in one of the categories previously mentioned, you need to understand that marriage takes work and there is no free pass that excuses you from trying to seek ways to make what appears to be a broken marriage work.

The comfort that comes from marriage is great. But it is not an excuse to let yourself go.

I've gotten myself into hot water with this topic before but I stand strong in my stance that just because your husband loves you, it doesn't give you an excuse to lose yourself. Remember when you were dating and you would stop before their house to apply a fresh layer of lip gloss, run a brush through your hair and spritz some perfume? Remember how you would shop for the perfect outfit for special occasions or dig through your closet and settle on the seventh outfit that you tried?

Regardless of what anyone says, being physically attracted to the person that you are with plays a significant roll in your relationship. Physical attraction is one of the prime traits that drives you to getting to know someone better. It's what pushes you to talk to the guy in your stats class. Not because you know anything about him, but because he's hot. Right?

Now, am I telling you that it's not acceptable to put on a few pounds or decide not to do your hair and makeup sometimes? I would be a hypocrite if I was. And while I hope not to offend, the harsh reality is that while your spouse loves you for who you are on the inside, they also love who you are on the outside. They love the angry face you make when you're mad because they find it cute. They love that you scoot really close to them in bed at night leaving them next to no space to sleep. They love that right? Or maybe I just tell myself they do because.... I definitely do that. They love the broken parts of your soul. They love the dark and bright sides of you.

But, no matter how many small random reasons they have to love you -- no matter how strong the connection of your souls may seem -- it is my firm belief in which I will always stand my ground that the physical connection that you feel, the electricity that runs through your body when your hubby puts on those jeans that you love and some cologne, he feels the same way. I promise you that he will appreciate it, no matter how big of a sacrifice you have to make to put it in, he will appreciate the effort that you make to keep that spark alive physically.

The truth is that every marriage will find themselves slammed up against the rocky shore by waves that seem to be relentlessly trying to break them apart. No marriage is exempt from hard times. It's how tightly you hold onto each other during each merciless crash that will make all of the difference.

So does it make sense taking advice from a woman who's marriage fell apart? Maybe. Or maybe not. Who would have thought that divorce made me better at marriage? But what I can tell you is that my divorce not only changed me as a person, but it changed the wife that I choose to be.

Maybe my marriage didn't end on my terms, but it was an opportunity to better myself. And I've found peace, love and success as I've changed the things that may have helped create cracks in the foundation the first time around. Thank heavens for second chances, huh? While it may not be my story, and for some it's best that it's not, make sure that every day you are doing everything it takes to make your first time a charm.

This post originally appeared on 3boys1blogandme.

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