How to Make a Happy Marriage, From a Divorced Single Mom

I was laying on the massage table chuckling instead of relaxing. I was chuckling at the fact that I had to pay someone to touch me. I mean, I sometimes pay my kids five bucks for a back massage, but that’s different. They don’t really want to do it and they don’t really care. They’ve never walked around looking and feeling as stiff as a 4×4, so how could they understand the necessity of a little back massage?

As I got over my giggles and finally succumed to the relaxation, I had all these ideas running through my head about advice I needed to share ASAP. My first order of business is to share my thoughts on marriage (I’ll share my thoughts on divorce another day…not to give away the ending to my story or anything!).

Divorce was never in my plans…however, neither was getting married. I always wanted children but really had no desire to get married. I’ve always been a free spirit and felt that marriage would cramp my style. Not that I’ve ever been a huge fan of dating multiple men at the same time, I just felt that marriage would make me feel confined and trapped. My happiest days were when I got to live on the road, performing in ice shows across the country. And when I was not on the road, I was happiest bouncing around from gig to gig.

Then the fateful day came when I met Mr. Wonderful. He was hot (yeah…not a good enough reason to give up my plan to never get married), he was a surfer and a snowboarder. He was edgy enough, but not the typical bad boy I always fell for and he didn’t even play the guitar.

We were both crazy about each other. We partied, we laughed, we danced, we had a blast. We decided we should go ahead and get married. While he never proposed, we tentatively planned a wedding. And by planned I mean we talked about where and when we would get married. Everything was rosy and perfect…can’t you tell by the amazing foundation and dose of reality we were living in?

On New Year’s Eve a friend suspected I was pregnant, and this was before I’d even missed a period. In light of the aforementioned partying and it being the most famous day for partying of the year, I decided to take a test. It said pregnant before my pee even hit the stick. We were both ecstatic, for real! But, I was still not going to get married. I was certainly not going to get married while pregnant. And I even more certainly was never going to get married in Vegas, pregnant or not. God knew I was pregnant. God knew I was unmarried. I didn’t care what people thought, that was on them. Until one day I stumbled across my birth certificate and realized that my baby would not have the same last name as me.

So, we called our parents and our closest friends and hopped in the car to trot off to Vegas to, ya know, tie the knot. Now, I was a small girl a mere 8 months earlier, but unlimited chocolate cake and lemonade enabled me to gain 70 pounds (yep…you read that correctly). Right before I waddled myself down the aisle of the Little White Chapel, the pastor asked if I was sure I would be able to make it. I simultaneously giggled and glared at him as my bowling ball sized belly contracted right there for all to see. My daughter may have been trying to stop the wedding…or bless the wedding…I have no idea, but she definitely made her presence known.

After the nuptials the bride, the groom, the bride’s mom, the groom’s mom and stepdad, and eight close friends celebrated Vegas style at one of the trendiest restaurants on the Strip with endless food and drink flowing all night long. Once the tab had been paid, everyone retreated to their rooms or the casino…the bride? Well, the bride ended up in the honeymoon suite taking a long jacuzzi bubble bath all alone while the groom gambled until the next morning with his buddies because they drove all the way to Vegas to be part of the event and he couldn’t possibly leave them to fend for themselves all night.

And that is how I spent the first night of my married life. I would’ve gone to my mom’s hotel room and watched a movie, but to be honest, I was embarrassed. But, I got the last name I wanted and my child and I would be forever bonded by a piece of paper, as would my husband and I.

Until we weren’t. That piece of paper meant nothing…except that I have learned a lot and hope to help some couples live together peacefully, happily (for the most part), and successfully. Because while I love being single, having a partner for life could be a pretty amazing thing.

First of all, if you have children and are sleep deprived, haven’t showered or had a hot meal in 84 days…don’t fret…it will pass. Trust me. You will sleep again. You will shower again. You will drink hot coffee again. You will have a meal get cold because you were too busy chatting and enjoying yourself to eat. Trust me, I know this for a fact. You may sleep with three children on top of you…you may sleep crammed like a sardine in a twin bed after falling asleep reading to your child…but, you will sleep. And you will be surrounded by the best love in the world.

Speaking of beds, don’t, and I repeat don’t, get a king sized bed (unless you or your husband is physically too big for a smaller bed). A king size bed gives you the oppportunity to let any divide grow. You can each retreat to your own side of the bed and never touch, never be close, not even when sleeping. So keep the smaller bed, keep the physical closeness. With children, jobs, life, etc., it’s often hard to find time to connect during waking hours on some days, which adds stress to a marriage. Getting to snuggle at night, even if you think you don’t want to, will improve your marriage. Sleeping and snuggling together will give you both the chance to reconnect and just be there for each other, no one needing or asking for more from the other. Until the baby cries…or you hear the teenager sneaking out…but, at least you had that time together.

Make sure you do something regularly as a couple. If you can’t afford a sitter figure out a way to make it happen. Organize a child swap between a couple of other moms. Or see if your local church has something to offer. I put together an event at our church to help save marriages, at least that was my goal and I hope it is working miracles in the marriages of the families taking advantage of the program. The first Sunday of the month, the kids get to stay after church and play, have lunch, and be well taken care of while the parents get a few hours of free time to do whatever they want.

There are also things at home you can do regularly to strengten your relationship. You can read a book together, out loud, to each other (a couple I know who has been married for 30 years and raised three children together do this regularly), so it’s not as crazy as it sounds. If this isn’t possible every day, you can have a set time each week that this can happen. You can go for a walk together every morning. Yes, you’d most likely have the kids in tow, but this is a great way to connect and start the day as a couple and a family. You could get up half an hour before the kids (I know, sleep deprivation…but you will sleep again soon) and sit together with a cup of coffee. This can be a time to unite with each other before the craziness of the day takes over.

If your husband consistently gets to play softball every week while you are left with the kids, and if he never makes it a priority for you to go out and do something, figure out a way to make it happen. I know it doesn’t seem fair, but you have got to make sure that you are getting what you need. Hopefully you are still married because your husband reciprocates. If not, talk to him about it. And if he doesn’t get it, or can’t get it, find a good therapist. If you can’t afford a therapist, find a support group. And, while I’m not a proponent of divorce, shockingly, I am a proponent of knowing when to throw in the towel. Sometimes, divorce is the answer. No one should stay with an abusive or cheating partner, no child needs to grow up in a house filled with anger, fighting, and lies. Children deserve the best their parents have to offer, and if that means with parents who aren’t together then that is the path that must be taken.

If he drives like a NYC cabbie and it drives you nuts, you can drive…or you can drive separately and meet him there. If he consistently complains about the way you do his laundry, he can do his own laundry or send it out to fluff and fold. If he likes to stay up late and you like to go to bed early, you can carve out a little time after the kids go to sleep to chat and be together, like an in-home date, then you can retreat to your separate areas of the house (just make sure you both end up in the same non-king size bed each night). You have to be flexible and creative, don’t get stuck in stereotypes of marriage and parenthood.

I think the most important way to make a marriage thrive, to raise successful (I’m not just talking about financially successful) children, and make the most of your life is to laugh, be flexible, make the best of whatever situation you find yourself in, love…love everyone and everything, and always try to see things from the other persons point of view. Did I mention laugh? My son and I spent two hours the other night reading cheesy (and clean) one liners to each other. We both laughed so hard that we cried. My daughters passed through a few times and got in on the fun a bit too and laughed and laughed. Even one of my teen daughter’s friends laughed along with us via FaceTime!

I’ve been a single mom to three wonderfully active and on-the-go children for the last nine and a half years. Their ages are 14, 12 and 11, and all are competitive gymnasts. A couple of us are involved in the entertainment industry and musical theatre, so we spend a lot of time in the car driving across the City of Angels. We laugh, we cry, we fight, we love, we read, we sing, we tell stories, we glue to our phones and ignore each other, but at the end of each day we hug each other, say I love you, and wake up the next morning hoping to do a little better each day. My marriage didn’t last, but I still have the same last name as my children.

Whether you are married, divorced, or single, I hope you realize and cherish your value all on your own. I also hope you realize and cherish the value of your marriage, your partner, and your children. They are all gifts. Your children will be grown soon, sooner than you know. Then you can hit the town and be the cougar on the prowl or be the madly in love couple that everyone looks up to!

You’ll also like Divorce Was Not in the PlanTips to a Happy, Healthy Sex LifeWhy I Share My Story of Healing After Domestic AbuseMarriage Advice That Will Change Things More Than You Think…, My Ex, My Kids and a Funeral,  Dear Single Mom, You Inspire Meand don’t miss our podcast with licensed therapist, Dr. Zoe Shaw: Is it Time for Counseling? A Therapist Helps You Decide – 004.

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