Many mid-lifers find themselves disappointed by love and marriage. Actually, “disappointment” largely understates it. Broken hearted may be more appropriate.

There is much talk about “how damaged” divorced people are. They are described as bitter, cynical and guarded. I disagree-once you tumble (think Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars) it is not a surprise that you are extremely mindful when you attempt those stairs again. You fall once and you pay keen attention after that.  Mindfulness is not cynicism and divorced women are extremely mindful- they pay attention and do not let themselves get swept up in emotional drama. They now know that the first step to being in a healthy relationship is choosing a partner carefully. While chemistry make bring you together, it is not enough to sustain without common interests and similar values.

Many have also learned that just because they “didn’t fight” in their marriage, it doesn’t mean there wasn’t conflict. Often conflict is buried, ignored ordenied for the “sake of the relationship”. But eventually stifling your voice for the “sake of the peace” takes its toll. Sleeplessness, depression, body aches, digestive woes, substance abuse and a whole gamut of ailments are linked to stress. And while stress is a normal part of life, that long term unresolved stress-the kind that turns into resentment and angry can make you sick. On the flip side, relationships where there is constant bickering and arguing with no resolution are equally problematic.

Learning from mistakes is how we grow. Otherwise all that pain would be for naught. Many of those “Disappointed” make the journey from devastated to healing, renewal and hope. They are wiser for having taken the journey. Below are some thoughts from twenty wise women as they look back on their marriage and share what they learned about themselves and relationships.

  1. What you see it what you get. I am embarrassed to say, I married him thinking I could change him.
  2. Love doesn’t conquer all. I actually thought it would.
  3. Next time, (if there is a next time) I will speak up more.
  4. I lost myself to save my marriage. Then he divorced me and I lost the marriage anyway.
  5. I wish I had listened more carefully when he expressed dissatisfaction. I minimized his concerns and now I realized I was dismissive.
  6. I wish I had left earlier.
  7. I should have left the first time he hit me.
  8. I wish I had paid as much attention to my marriage as I did my kids.
  9.  Believing, “If he loved me he would know what I am thinking” is a bunch of BS. Love doesn’t make someone a mind reader.
  10.  Saying “I’m sorry” and repeating the behavior means absolutely NOTHING.
  11.  I screamed a lot. I now realize I had no idea how to express my needs in a calm manner.
  12. I played games, I tested him; I was so insecure. He failed the “tests” and he got tired of jumping through all those hoops.
  13. I thought I needed to win every argument. Now I know that when one wins, the other loses and over time no one wants to feel like a “loser”.
  14. Drinking (gambling, spending, drugging) gets in the way. A healthy relationship is impossible when one partner is active in their addiction.  
  15. Instead of nagging him to go to therapy, I could have gone myself and worked on my own issues.
  16. No one partner is completely to blame.
  17. I expected us to do everything together. I smothered him.
  18. I thought we were the couple that would last forever.
  19. Ya’ know. I had my doubts before I walked down the aisle, but I thought it was just jitters. Besides I didn’t want to disappoint everyone. I should have trusted my gut and run for the hills.
  20. I hung on for so long and now I am amazed-I don’t even miss him.

Perhaps, you are nodding as you read this list. You may have your own words of wisdom. Through all the turmoil and drama of divorce, make time for yourself-to reflect honestly on your marriage and what you have learned about yourself. Be careful not to assign blame. You did the best you could at the time. There are always lessons buried in the heartbreak. Take the time to find them and the self discovery will be worth the effort.


© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986.She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback.


  1. Karen on the 03. Mar, 2013 remarked #

    I learned you can’t make someone love you. I turned myself inside out to make my marriage work. Now I am with someone who loves me just the way I am!

  2. cj on the 03. Mar, 2013 remarked #

    It is quite amazing, isn’t it, that we can take these times of adversity and learn so many lessons if we are ready to do so. Those “faults” that we so willingly assign to our husbands when all is not perfect in our marriages, can – from a distance – be recognized for what they are; two-sided stories with each of the partners contributing to the dysfunction.
    When we are ready to take culpability for our own behaviors then we can grow into stronger and wiser women.

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