In April of 1968 I married a very beautiful woman with a delightful personality that I had fallen madly in love with.  In September of 1969, she divorced me.  In August 1978 I married a good-looking, fine woman whom I deeply cared about and who demonstratively needed my help.  In 2005 she divorced me.  Two marriages, two divorces.  What happened?  What can be learned from these tragedies that I can share with others to help them avoid the same types of mistakes I made?

I made many mistakes in my first marriage and made a disaster of responding to our breakup and divorce.  My first mistake was not being engaged much longer than five months before getting married.  A longer engagement was important for both of us to learn how to amicably resolve our differences…which renowned marriage researcher and author, John Gottman, PhD, says is the most important skill to have in order to have a happy marriage and avoid divorce.  Dr. Gottman also says that a couple should have at least five positive (supportive, friendly) interactions for every negative (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling) in order to maintain a healthy relationship.  You can easily check the health of your relationship by applying these factors that Dr. Gottman’s research discovered.

Since my first wife usually lost her temper when we fought, I should have taken anything she said or did while in this state with a grain of salt, but I did not.  In addition, we both made the mistake of informing family that we were having problems.  Family and friends are supportive and usually take your side, which although they make you feel good, they cannot be objective in analyzing and resolving marital problems, and therefore usually make things much worse. My family was especially protective of me because of my recent brain surgery, and they didn’t trust my wife very much since for all holidays, she arranged for us to celebrate with her family, contrary to an agreement we had.  Consequently, my family never got to really know and love the woman I loved and married.  We should have gone to a marriage counselor to help us resolve our conflicts.

Finally, and most importantly, as very difficult as it was for me, I should have gone to my divorce-court hearing because I needed to be there in court to listen to my wife’s grievances and then tell my side as to what happened, and fight to keep her, perhaps through court-ordered marriage counseling. Though I loved my wife very much, I was not a good husband and foolishly did not tell her how much I loved her, which I should have frequently told her.

Because we really loved each other, I firmly believe that were it not for my brain tumor, my wife and I would have worked out our problems and lived happily together and raised a family.  She wanted to be a good wife and eventually, a good mother, and the emotional irritation and paranoia that I experienced before and after my brain tumor was removed was temporary and eventually went away.  Our divorce boiled down to a huge misunderstanding: I thought back then that my wife threw me out, my wife thought that I left her, and my family thought I voluntarily left because my wife tried to stab me on two occasions in fits of temper… we never discussed the issue, so it was never clarified and resolved.

My second marriage was completely different, and I bent over backwards to make my wife happy, including accepting a job in Denver and moving to the top of a mountain in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado so that she could have plenty of the quiet and solitude that she wanted and needed.  Knowing that I had been devastated by my first wife divorcing me, my fiancé insisted that we both attend five pre-marital counseling sessions with a marriage counselor before getting married, and soon after getting married I insisted that we attend 30 three-hour “Communications-in-Marriage” couples counseling sessions with two marriage counselors and four other married couples.  This marriage lasted 27 years, followed by my wife traveling the U.S. for six years seeking a religious order. I financially assisted her in this effort.  Today we are close friends.

It was a bath that precipitated my first wife to give me an ultimatum  to either “not bathe then (she wanted us to immediately go food shopping) or get out,” and then follow it up after I bathed with forcing me to call a taxi and then pushing me out of our apartment (only  seven weeks after I had a large brain tumor removed).  Although I thought she told me to “get out,” I was paranoid so it might have had an auditory hallucination. Our conflict should have taken 15 minutes to resolve: apologies on both sides with explanations that we didn’t mean what we said.  However, it was never resolved.  A marriage is faced with many problems over a lifetime which need amicable resolutions.  The consequences of divorce on all parties are so painful that it should be used only as a last resort, after really trying together, face-to-face, to resolve the issues that brought you to the brink. We never seriously even tried because we hurt each other so badly and she was waiting for an apology from me, and I was waiting for her to invite me back since she threw me out. When I finally realized what needed to be done (grovel), my attempt was thwarted by my mother, who was especially protective of me because of my recent brain surgery and my wife attempting to stab me: she yelled at me for wimping out after she overheard my apologies and pleas to my wife on the phone to take me back.  Farewell to my marriage to, except for her bad temper,  a good wife that I dearly loved (though I foolishly never told her), and hello to memories, recriminations and heartache for over 53 years (and still counting).

Divorce is very painful for both spouses and their families so it should only be the very last resort after everything else has been tried and failed, including face-to-face discussions (not phone nor text).  The following is an example of what your discussions might sound like:

“I love you very much and want to make you happy.  I know you’re not happy with some of he things I say and do so please tell me what I can do or stop doing to make you happy.  You may need some time to think of everything so you may want to make a list during the next day, and I’ll do the same, and we can meet again tomorrow night and discuss the items on our lists and clarify them so there is no misunderstanding by either of us.  After we’ve agreed, then we’ll both do our best to be a better husband and wife.”  We’ll keep a copy on the refrigerator door to serve as a reminder of what we will do to improve our marriage.  What do you think?”

If the aforementioned doesn’t work for you, marriage counselors are the people you confer with about marital problems and potential divorce; families and friends can’t be objective about you. Though they are probably well-intentioned, they usually makes matters worse.

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PS: For more information on avoiding divorce, read my article on this blog entitled, “Improving Communications in Relationships & Marriage.”  Also, because making love can heal hurt feelings in a relationship, read the most informative article I’ve ever seen on the subject, my article on this blog entitled, “Older Men, Make Great Love Again,” which is relevant for all men, not only older men.  Finally, my article entitled, “Gut-check Before Getting Married,” might help in selecting a compatible mate.  My blog address is:  www.MikeRussoExpose.com (“Analyses of Domestic, National & International Issues”).


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