By: Rebecca P. Coniglio, LCSW
Author of Lily’s Little Life Lessons
Growing up in the 80s wasn’t exactly a time for learning lessons about living happily ever after, especially not in my house. Don’t get me wrong, my parents were high school sweethearts and my mother certainly did not choose to get divorced. She still misses being married and June 22nd, her wedding anniversary, is always a hard day for her that usually involves some retail therapy. My parents’ divorce was so messy and hard for me that I grew up without a model of what a good marriage looks like. I had no idea how the long term effects of being a child of divorce would impact my own marriage. I was naive enough to think I would just grow up, get married, and well you know…live happily ever after.
Enter Brian, a dark haired dark eyed Italian boy, who I met at a summer job while in college. I only got a job in the first place because my father didn’t think hanging out by the pool all summer was a good idea. From the very beginning I sensed something about him that made me believe he was a good man, but that does not mean we have had an easy road. We dated long distance through college and then got engaged way too young. That engagement got called off, but we were somehow always drawn back together. Looking back now, I can see how immature we were and how jealous and insecure I was from my childhood trauma of living through a life altering parental divorce. Brian had a very different childhood. His parents just celebrated their 44th anniversary, so it was challenging for Brian to step into my world of divorce and despair, but I guess he loved me enough to do it.
Almost 11 years ago we got married on a beautiful August evening surrounded by family, friends, and all kinds of child of divorce drama, you know-who is sitting with who, who is walking me down the aisle… We muddled through, but as with all marriages our past came with us, well certainly with me. I have to say that I have learned valuable life lessons about marriage from my husband and my mom, who is now a marriage counselor, thank you very much. Here’s what I know now-maybe this sage advice can help you too!
You should be able to talk to your partner.
Treat your partner like a friend.
Don’t yell…especially if your partner doesn’t like it and has asked you not to!
Have your partner’s back!
Ask for what you need, no one can read your mind.
No one is perfect but some people are perfect for each other.
Work to resolve your past so you can enjoy and appreciate your present and future.
Sometimes you just have to laugh.
Practice gratitude every day.
The final and most important lesson I have learned is…not everyone leaves, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Along our journey together, we became parents to a magical little girl, Lily. Being parents has strengthened our bond because we have a shared commitment and responsibility to give this special person the best life we possibly can. Becoming a mom was a huge wake up call for me. I want Lily’s life to be different than mine; I want it to be better. She would get sad when she heard us yelling, so I had to mature, get it together, and do better. I want her to see Brian look at me with love in his eyes, and I want her to hear me say thank you to him for always being there for me when I need him. I am not saying I have a picture perfect life or that I have all the answers, but I have listened and I have learned.
Rebecca’s book, Lily’s Little Life Lessons is available for download in the Good Reads section of thesmartdivorce.com.
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