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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Zunter

How My Divorce Changed My Opinion on Marriage — For Better & For Worse

I was a good wife. A loyal wife. A wife who never cheated, a wife who never strayed, and a wife who absolutely tried her best to be a long-lasting partner.

Alas, all of these ‘angelic’ wifely qualities could not save me from what was at the root of it all — a severely damaged partnership. The marriage was sick at its core no matter how much love, care, concern, and compassion I attempted to infuse into it.

The poison always seemed to creep back in, much to my horror and astonishment. No matter how much I played nursemaid to this ailing marriage I could not cure it — certainly not by myself and certainly not on my own.

It does indeed take two to tango, as the saying goes.

The darkness of my first marriage laid down some valuable lessons for me. It taught me that when people say you can’t change someone — you need to believe them.

There is nobleness to trying to salvage a damaged person and then there is the folly of beating a dead horse.

The flawed man whom I had married wasn’t just a danger to himself but a danger to me and everyone else who entered his orbit. My fatal flaw was choosing to stay with this person time and time again. As time went on, and the longer I chose to tolerate the toxicity, I became just as toxic.

Subsequently, my first marriage ended with all of the ugliness and violence that suits a traditionally bad ending.

After leaving my first husband and later filing for divorce, I went through the many stages of grief, like anyone else who has been through the traumatic event of putting a marriage into the dumpster of lost dreams.

Only my first marriage wasn’t trash. There were good moments too. There was even a good year there somewhere in those 6 years. The problem was that most of the goodness took a whole lot of effort to extract from the bad parts. The shade in our marriage constantly overtook any light.

I simply couldn’t make something pleasantly solid out of the broken parts.

I became numb. I started drinking more. I started dabbling in other things that were not healthy. And then there was the affair with the married man.

I’ve often thought that my disappointment over being ‘the good wife’ yet still ‘failing’ at marriage took me to a place mentally where I was somehow able to choose becoming someone’s mistress over healing in the way that I should have.

It’s almost as if I scorned the whole idea of marriage and I decided somewhere along the line that if someone else was willing to stomp on their marriage vows and have an affair with me — well then that was their choice. It had nothing to do with me, right?

Only it did have everything to do with me.

No matter what my actual culpability was in the affair I participated in, at the end of the day I still had to deal with the consequences of my own actions, whether I was the one who was married or not.

‘Not my vows that are being broken’ only goes so far as an excuse. Eventually, that road runs out and you’re still left carrying the baggage you’ve picked up along the way.

All those years I spent in my first marriage, mostly miserable, I probably could have cheated on my then-husband or even left multiple times.

But I didn’t. I kept trying. I kept beating that dead horse.

My opinion on marriage went from viewing it as a sacred union that meant everything, to an institution that meant nothing.

The idea of marriage became a joke to me. Something that no one around me seemed to take seriously — so why should I anymore?

What I realized after shunning away from the idea of the sanctity of marriage was that marriage itself can never be perfect just as the people who get married aren’t perfect.

My first marriage fell apart because my ex-husband and I were just not equipped to be together in that kind of long-term commitment. The odds were stacked against us. It didn’t mean there wasn’t love there. We were just not compatible. And, as I’ve said in other articles, THAT’S OK.

It’s OK to end something that’s not working. It’s not so much a failure as it is a realization that you made an honest mistake. Admitting that and moving on is not only admirable, but it’s also often very necessary for everyone’s health and well-being.

Throwing the marriage out with the proverbial bathwater is sometimes needed.

Cheating on your spouse, on the other hand, is an active attack on a marriage, a callous rebellion of the vows you promised to keep. Anyone engaging in an affair should never expect that their marriage will last, or last with any kind of trust involved — especially if the other spouse finds out about it.

Marriage can still be sacred. It just takes two people willing to make and keep that partnership alive. If you can find a partner who desires to be with you and you both feel fulfilled together, it is entirely possible to accomplish a loving and productive union long-term.

Now that I’m in my second marriage going on a decade, I know that I do possess the qualities needed to manage a committed and healthy relationship. I just needed a partner who shared my values and a desire to build something better.

I also needed to grow up — a lot. I can’t stress that enough.

There is no fairytale marriage. There is no prince. But there are those of us who are capable of being dedicated and loyal partners — despite being jaded, despite being betrayed, and despite making colossal mistakes in the past.

More from Michelle: My Heartfelt Advice To Any Woman Having an Affair with a Married Man

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