5 Things I Learned From My Good Marriage (& 2 I Learned From My Bad One).

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Relephant reads:

The Best Marriage Advice from a Divorced Man.

11 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Marriage. 

How a Bad Marriage Saved My Life. 

I’ve been married twice, once to a very bad man, and once to a very good one.

The first time was mercifully brief, but packed with pain, while the second is in its 10th year and is what I consider the garden in which I’ve planted my adult life.

Both marriages taught me things; here are five from my good one, and two from my bad.

First, the good.

1) I can agree to disagree.

I used to be the sort of person who went nuts if someone disagreed with me. I argued my point with a passion of—I hate to admit it—Sara Palin-esque determination. I wasn’t trying to be rude, (although I inevitably was) I just couldn’t fathom it when someone couldn’t see, and defer to, my point.

In fairness, if my opposer argued equally passionately and convinced me I was wrong, I would back down, but that rarely happened. And it was exhausting to everyone involved.

My good marriage taught me that multiple valid opinions can co-exist at once.

2) I don’t have to hold grudges.

I come from a family of big grudge-holders. We stored up  grudges like chipmunks store up acorns, just to have ample supply should the need arise.

I had the good fortune to marry the most mythical of creatures; a non-grudge holder. This man not only lets stuff roll off his back, he doesn’t even feel it rolling. Once I figured out that my grudge-y silent treatment was ineffective simply because it wasn’t recognized, it was easy to let it go.

In love, when nobody is keeping score, the game is a lot more fun.

3) I am not perfect and I don’t need to be.

In the past, I firmly believed  that if I wasn’t perfect I wasn’t deserving of love, nor would I be able to keep a lover. This had the contrary effect of magnifying my imperfections. I was fast and loose with the truth in order to make myself look better, I always maintained a high powered electrified fence around my emotions, and I never went to bed without wearing a little make up.

It took someone else unapologetically being who they are, and being gentle with my silliness, for me to drop the facade.

4) I am worthy of love.

This is so sad to say, because saying it means I thought I was unworthy of love, but it’s the truth. I don’t where, how or why I came up with that belief, but it was as deeply embedded as a tick in the hide of a deer.

Not only have I come to understand that I am worthy of love, I’ve come to understand that everyone is worthy of love. Every single person no matter how ordinary, plain, or boring has a flickering flame of magic inside and just needs the right person to stoke that flame, (every person except my ex-husband, but he was a sociopath so that doesn’t count).

I am reminded of that nice couple from the movie “Fargo”, the wife of which was the pregnant police officer and the husband of which was trying to design a postal stamp. The final scene in which he tells her, with disappointment, that his illustration was chosen for the one cent stamp, and her reaction of genuine excitement exemplifies to me, true love.

5) Real romance isn’t about grand gestures.

Like that one cent stamp, it’s the small things that reveal love. As most girls do, I had dreams of weddings and glamorous dresses, romantic proposals, bouquets of flowers and choirs singing. Okay, maybe not choirs singing, but you get the drift.

Those things are fine, but a random forehead kiss when you’re feeling cranky, a walk in the woods together, and those moments when you lock eyes for an instant and it’s like you’re reading each other’s mind are the real stuff of fairy tales.

Now the bad marriage.

6) Some things are more important than marriage.

I am a fiercely loyal woman, and I felt, despite constant verbal abuse, degradation, and humiliation, that I was married, so I should stay married.

The idea of being on my own, even though being with they guy I was with was so awful, seemed awful too, and breaking the commitment we had made to one another, inconceivable.

But if you make a vow, and making it systematically destroys you, it’s okay to break it. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you a person who doesn’t want to be destroyed.

7) Nothing is more important than love.

Finding yourself in a love-less marriage is like finding yourself at the gates of hell. I am not saying that you should feel lovey dovey all the time (who did say that? Joe Walsh?), but you should have a sense that the love between you and your spouse is inviolable. Even during moments when you hate each other (and you will), you can still reach down a little further and find that love, and if you can’t, it might be time to re-evaluate.

When I was in a bad marriage, I felt bad about myself most of the time, now that I’m in a good one, it’s the other way around. If you can manage to find someone with which to share your life who makes you smile more than he makes you cry—a lot more than he makes you cry, then take the plunge.

If not, it’s better to hang solo—you can love yourself just as well.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


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Erica Leibrandt

Erica Leibrandt is a licensed mental health clinician, certified yoga instructor, and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and we can never dance too much. Connect with Erica on Facebook and Twitter. And visit her website.

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anonymous Jan 6, 2016 1:32pm

This is so accurate and definitely what I needed right now. I keep being told “vows are about making it work no matter what, you don’t just give up”.. But if the relationship is toxic, you have to, yeah? Thanks for your insightful words.

anonymous Aug 8, 2014 4:59pm

Great article. Excellent advice. Fortunately, I have been single long enough, to have mastered those lessons. And, I'm still close to both my husbands. Grudge holding runs in my family. I won't participate in it. I'd rather be a lover, not a fighter.

anonymous Feb 28, 2014 3:00pm

Well said. Now I need to go watch Fargo.

anonymous Jan 11, 2014 11:06am

Beautifully honest and well written. I truly felt like it reflects my own journey. Thank you for sharing!

anonymous Jan 10, 2014 12:29pm

Erica, your articles really speak to me, Thank You

anonymous Jan 10, 2014 4:17am

Ohh wow, I love how you referenced Marge and Norm from Fargo. Since the first time I saw that movie I've always thought "THAT is what a relationship should be like." Very lovely article. 🙂

anonymous Jan 9, 2014 8:40pm

Gosh was this a timely piece for me !

Thank you for writting words I need to hear over and over and in different ways rigt now.

I am on my way out of a bad one. Hard but necessary .

Your words were my “last read of the day” .. So helpful <3

anonymous Nov 17, 2013 10:02am

Thank you. I am in the midst of re evaluating my "loveless" marriage. What a scary and difficult thing to do. Your timing is impeccable. The thought of Being alone terrifies me-but you've definitely given me pause for reflection (again).

anonymous Nov 16, 2013 11:27pm

Thank you Erica, for sharing. Finished reading your article with the words “spot on”. Life to my mind means learning. Love

anonymous Nov 16, 2013 11:00pm

Was it Steve Miller who talked about being lovey dovey all the time? Thanks for another great article, Erica. I have enjoyed several of yours lately.

    anonymous Nov 16, 2013 11:51pm

    Bah! Sandee..was it Steve Miller?? I can't remember!

      anonymous Dec 8, 2013 5:46pm

      It was Steve Miller! The Joker. Great article, super self-reflective.

anonymous Nov 16, 2013 10:24pm

YES! I feel like I could have written this myself. Although I am not yet remarried, but well on my way there with my sweetie of 2 years. Leaving my marriage was the hardest and best decision I ever made. Now I know what true love looks like and feels like. Thank you for speaking to all of this so eloquently and from the heart. I completely agree!