Two Divorces Made Me Terrified Of Marriage

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Two Divorces Made Me Terrified Of Marriage

Recently, I’ve been overcome with baby fever. It’s about time, I guess. I’m almost 38, so if I want to have kids, now is probably the time. When I discussed it with my partner, he had a question: If we do have a baby, should we take the plunge and get married, too?

It was a reasonable question, and I told him yes, that would make sense. And truthfully, I would love to call him my husband. He’s an open, thoughtful, and supportive man. But there’s one problem I struggle with: my history with marriage.

My boyfriend is once-divorced. But I’ve been married — and divorced — twice. The first time, I left my husband. The second time, my husband left me. I felt like the universe had evened the score when it came to me and marriages. And I’m not sure where that leaves me with a third marriage. In fact, it’s made me pretty terrified of ever getting married again.

It’s not that I don’t think my boyfriend would make a good husband. I know he would. In fact, he’d make an excellent husband. But the problem is me. I’ve already failed at being married, twice. What if I get married a third time and I screw it up all over again? Someone — two someones — supposedly cared about me enough to marry me, and then it all went downhill. What’s the common denominator here? It’s me.

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I fully blame myself for my failed marriages — even though the first was a joint problem, and the second was an abusive hell on Earth. Regardless of why either ended, I’m personally filled with shame. I’m ashamed I couldn’t hold it together. I’m ashamed I couldn’t make two serious relationships work.

I’m convinced there’s something wrong with me — that I’m unlovable for the long term.

That if something starts to go well, I will somehow figure out a way to ruin it. I don’t feel worthy, I don’t feel deserving, and I don’t want to put my partner through whatever it is I do to ruin marriages. He deserves better than that; he deserves better than me.

I realize this is unfair, both to me and to him. I’m being too critical with myself, and I’m not giving him a chance to make things work and show me that I’m wrong. Essentially, I’m writing off his feelings about me altogether — and that’s not right. But at least I know it’s a me problem, right? That means I can work on it and try to improve my mindset.

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There’s a cliché that people never take their own advice, and in this case, that’s completely true.

If a friend were to come to me with this concern, I’d tell them to stop being ridiculous. You aren’t defined by your past relationships, and just because someone is twice-divorced, that doesn’t mean they’re destined to be alone or to have another marriage fail. We can all learn from our past mistakes and our past situations.

I know now that my first marriage ended mostly because we got married way too young and didn’t have the maturity to deal with that level of commitment.

I know my second marriage ended because my abusive husband shacked up with someone else, and there’s nothing I could do about it. It wasn’t my fault I was abused. But my brain doesn’t accept it. My brain tells me I’m broken. And I struggle with that every day.

I still want to pass that advice on to other people, though. Regardless of how many times you’ve been married or how many relationships you’ve been in, you’re still worthy of love. All relationships fail until the last one that sticks, right?

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t tell yourself you’re not capable of being in a lasting relationship. And don’t do the same thing I do, and beat yourself up over something you couldn’t control. It’s not worth the stress.

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Jennifer Billock is an award-winning writer and best-selling author. She's been published in The New York Times, Smithsonian, Wired, and National Geographic Traveler.