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What Should You Do If You Feel Like You Married The Wrong Person?

Regrets are hard. They don't have to automatically end your marriage, though.

Marriage

It might sound odd, but sometimes, during a marriage life coaching session, I will encourage one or both spouses to hold a memorial of sorts. Why? Well, whenever they tell me something like, they got married because they felt pressured to do so, or they realize, in hindsight, that they didn't know each other as well as they initially thought that they did, or they think they got married at the wrong time and/or to the wrong person, my first response is not to encourage divorce or even separation. No, what I recommend is that they take some time out to grieve the initial decision that they made—to honor their feelings in that way.

Why do I do that? One, because as a child of divorce, I don't take that kind of decision lightly. One way or another, it affects all parties involved, oftentimes in ways that can't be predicted at the time the divorce papers are signed. Indeed, no matter how many folks do it, divorces aren't as simple as breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend. It is far more serious than that. Two, grieving things makes it easier to make wiser decisions on the backend. Meaning, if you don't go through the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—typically you'll just keep rehearsing your regret (which usually breeds resentment and extreme bitterness over time) instead of putting a purpose-filled plan in place for how to move forward.

And three, it has been both my personal experience and observation that sometimes, once we're given the space and time to fully express our disappointment, once we can honor instead of fight our true feelings, rather than leave a situation, we become strong enough to endure it.

I've sat through way too many sessions to not believe that at least one person is reading this because they can totally relate to where some of my clients have come from. If that individual is you, and you absolutely regret who you are currently married to (not because they are abusive or don't love you; that is another article for another time), before doing anything else, fully process these tips. I'm praying that they will help you to figure out how to save your marriage rather than end it.

Revisit What Regret Actually Means

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I say often that I don't feel comfortable being around people who claim that they don't live with any regret. Regret means remorse and, unless you are the most arrogant person on the planet (and you're not; our current president probably is), I'm pretty sure that there is something that you feel badly about doing—past or present.

But here's the thing about remorse. It literally means "deep and painful regret for wrongdoing" and wrong means "not morally right" or "deviating from truth". OK, so if you are feelin' where I'm coming from on the regret tip, and you do regret who you chose to marry, ask yourself if it is because you feel like it was morally wrong to have married them? That somehow you lied to yourself—or to them?

If that is indeed the case, the beauty in having this type of clarity is you can get a foothold on where to go from here. Like if you married them in order to get over someone else or you married them because you were tired of being alone, that doesn't automatically mean that the marriage is doomed. What it does mean is now you have a place of truth to operate from. Now regret is not just an emotion, it's its own call to action in a way.

Ask Yourself If It’s “Currently” or “Constantly”

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I can't remember who said it, but I remember hearing a wife say, "I can promise you that you will have a moment, even as early as on your honeymoon, when you will ask yourself, 'What the hell did I just do?' Exhale and move on. It's totally normal." That said, I don't know one married couple (including married couples who lived together before jumping the broom) who doesn't believe that marriage doesn't change something. If you're not adjusting to something as "simple" as another person's living habits, you've got to find a daily balance of navigating through your expectations as well as theirs. Shoot, it can be hard enough trying to find harmony within your own being without trying to do the same for someone else…every single day…hopefully for the rest of your life.

That's why I say that another thing that you need to stop and ponder over is if the feelings that you have are just in this moment or they're pretty constant. Like, is this just a bad week, or can you not recall the last time you felt any real peace and satisfaction in your relationship? Feelings are usually temporary and ever-changing. Asking yourself this question can help to bring some stability and balance back to your emotional state.

Take Your Spouse’s Temperature

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Just because the two of you are on the never-ending journey of learning how to become one, that doesn't mean that you are no longer your own individual. Hopefully, that goes without saying. Still, sometimes, when there are low points in a relationship—that can even feel like lulls on some days—knowing where your spouse stands can offer up more insight.

What I mean by that is, if you are wondering if your marriage is a mistake, you ask your husband how he feels and he is on the total other end of the spectrum, that may mean that it's not so much regretting the marriage or even him. It could be that you're feeling dissatisfied across the board, you are going through a growth spurt of sorts, or something else is transpiring that you can't quite pinpoint. Whatever "it" is, you are automatically putting onto your marriage, even if that isn't necessarily the core or cause.

This is why communication is so paramount in a marital relationship. Whenever you're feeling like something isn't working, see what your partner thinks. Hearing their perspective can sometimes do wonders as it relates to where you currently are with everything. After all, they are in your marriage with you. You should take into account where they stand.

See a Marriage Counselor

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This is a point that I truly can't stress enough. It really does blow my mind, how many engaged couples will enter something so serious as marriage without signing up for premarital counseling (three 20-minute sessions with your pastor doesn't count; unless you want your marriage to last a little longer than that) and how many couples in trouble exit something as serious as marriage without seeing a marriage counselor as well.

It's kind of an unwritten rule for all of mankind that, in order to gain a clearer perspective on matters, we can't just look at things from the inside out; we sometimes need the help of reputable professionals so that we can look from the outside in too. It's been documented that couples who go to premarital counseling have a 30 percent higher success rate and, somewhere around 40 percent of marriages are saved if they got to counseling after saying "I do" (by the way, a totally invested counselor, therapist or coach trumps someone who simply has a lot of letters behind their name. You can read more about why here).

I will say that, as a marriage life coach whose niche is reconciling divorces, it is difficult (difficult not impossible) to rebuild a house that is almost burned to the ground. What I mean by that is a lot of marriages seek out counseling only when they are fifty feet away from the courthouse. It is so much easier to help couples when they treat counseling/therapy like a maintenance tip rather than a last-ditch effort. Yet, either way, if regret is what you feel, see a counselor. If you don't want to go with your spouse, at least consider going alone for a bit to get some tips and tools that just may help.

Be Careful Who You Talk To

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One of my clients, she was something else, boy. While on the surface she seemed sweet as pie, about four sessions in, I saw that she was mean as a bat (a great read is "Married to Jezebel: It's All About Control"). Although she was all for coming to counseling to "fix her husband", the moment she was called out on her own stuff, she started hanging out more and more with a bitter bestie who was also going through a divorce. I could always tell when she was spending more time with ole' girl more than she should because it was like I had to reprogram her mind from all of the "Girl, you don't need that man", "Girl, kids survive with divorced parents all of the time" (that's true but you do want your kids to do more than just "survive", right) and "If I were you, I…" (please avoid so-called wisdom from people who start out their advice with that line; they ain't you).

There are scientific studies to support that negativity is sho 'nuf contagious, and the last thing that you need when you are feeling regretful is a lot of that all up in your space. Instead of hanging around other women who seem to be anything but pro-commitment, find a wife mentor or married couple set of mentors who can offer up support, encouragement and sound advice. Good energy and positivity can work wonders.

Be Intentional About Getting Your Needs Met

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A marriage is not going to be healthy if both people's needs aren't being met. With that being put on record, if you feel like you regret marrying your spouse because you're not all that attracted to them (single ladies, please avoid that "church wisdom" about attraction not being a necessity in selecting a spouse; YES IT IS), or you didn't have a realistic view of marriage and you see that now, or the two of you want totally different things and you feel like divorce is your only option, ask yourself why that is the case? Especially since the success rate of remarriages only decline with each one.

The reality is a lot of people end their marriages, not because they can't be saved but they stewed in their regret for so long that they don't feel they have the emotional strength and fortitude to fight to save it.

However, with articles like "4 Reasons You Might Regret Getting Divorced Down the Line", "5 Divorce Facts That Might Change Your Idea of Splitting Up" and "Too Many People Regret Divorcing Once the Dust Has Settled", I think it's far more important to try and focus on getting the needs that you have met than calling it quits altogether. Because if your husband is a good one, while it may hurt his feelings that you are currently going through what you are (which is totally understandable; imagine how you would feel if he felt that way about you), he is going to want you both to feel safe and secure in the relationship. He's going to want to know what your needs are and do his absolute best to strive towards getting those needs met.

Also Revisit Your Marriage Vows

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I want to be happy. While that is certainly not a bad thing, I do feel sometimes that we make some rash or irresponsible decisions due to that being our main (and sometimes only) focal point. So, you're going to call out from work for three days in a row because work makes you…unhappy? You're not going to feed your kids because sitting in long lines at the grocery store makes you…unhappy? You're going to allow all of the utilities in your house to get cut off because going through your bills makes you…unhappy?

If you revisit the traditional marriage vows that couples recite on their wedding day, "happy" isn't anywhere in them. At the same time, what it does talk about is sticking through things, when they are awesome and not-so-awesome, for the sake of honoring the commitment that was made. And oftentimes, when that happens, not only does growth in character and a stronger bond develop, but happiness can transpire too.

Regret isn't the best way to feel about a spouse or your marriage, to put it lightly. But hopefully, what all of this did was offer you some other options other than simply ending your union. Life is interesting. Just like you may need to mourn the fact that you didn't make the best decision at the time when you said "I do", you also may need to allow some time of healing and discovery to embrace that your marriage can still be good. If you and your partner are willing to put in the work. If the greater goal is not to regret them but not regret leaving them later up the road.

Grieve it out. But then make sure to choose wisely, OK. On the other side of what you're feeling, it'll be worth it.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

10 Things Married Couples Wished They Paid More Attention To While Dating

10 Things Husbands Wish Their Wives Truly Understood

6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Ending Your Marriage

The Signs Of A Truly Intimate Relationship

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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