Career & Marriage – Third Time’s A Charm
Professionally speaking, I have been incredibly fortunate and have proudly shared my many successes. However, I have not been so fortunate in my personal life. I grew up in a small town and married my high school sweetheart at the age of 18. Yep, it’s true. Like so many others that marry that young, it ended in our mid 20s, and I am sad to say, not amicably. I take much responsibility for this. I’m guilty of putting my career before my marriage and we suffered for that.
When I met my second husband and the father of my daughter, I was in my 30s. I thought we had it all. We had a good 10 years, but in the end, we could not hold it together. We cared deeply for each other and still do but we knew we would be happier and healthier if we moved on. Upon reflection, I realized I needed and wanted something different for myself. I wanted a more balanced life where I could put my marriage and my family first. I had been the primary breadwinner in both of my marriages which eventually led to an imbalance and an inability to be true partners.
When I started dating Keith, my current and forever husband, I found that balance. Keith was also a very successful executive. He was supportive of my career and my desire to have a more balanced life. We worked together professionally and therefore had a mutual respect for each other well before we became a couple. That only grew as we moved from business partners to life partners. We have not had it easy – blending two households, sharing three children and at one point running seven businesses between us. We are almost 12 years into our life together and we are stronger than ever.
So, what is different? First of all we are older and have a much better understanding of who we are and what we need and want. No one goes into a marriage expecting it to end however we had three divorces between us. Divorce is painful for everyone involved. We took inventory of ourselves and our lives before we entered into this marriage. We shared openly about all of our mistakes, challenges and successes in our prior marriages. Being open allows us to learn and change the things that we wanted or needed in this marriage.
Second, we have very similar goals and values. This means more than you can imagine. We define a committed marriage in the same way…there are no grey areas for either of us. We speak often about our short-term and long-term goals as a couple, family and business partners. Being and staying aligned is extremely important. Of course, we do not agree on everything but in general we are very much aligned.
Third and maybe most importantly we work at it! Before we even moved in together, we committed to couples counseling. For over 8 years, we have gone to therapy twice a month – we call it “marital maintenance”. Often, we are just catching our therapist up on the latest, however occasionally we have real issues to work through. Having a venue to do this and with a person we trust is invaluable! In my prior marriages we went to counseling when things were difficult, but it was too late by then. Investing in your partnership is priceless.
Finally, we did not get in a hurry. We both had children to consider and there was no way I was going to move my child in with someone unless I knew it was the real deal. We were together over 4 years before we moved in together and another 3 before we married. We wanted to have the support of our friends and family and most importantly our children. The time served us well and I believe built a stronger foundation for our marriage.
Finding balance was not just about finding the right partner it took a concerted effort on my part. Moving out of the corporate world and becoming a business owner played the biggest role. Not because I worked any less but because I had more flexibility in my schedule. I could work when the kids were at school and after they were in bed. I made a personal commitment to get breakfast on the table and get the kids off to school (or online) before I opened my laptop. I planned my days and weeks around school and sporting events, so I was there to cheer the kids on. Dinner time has always been important to me and I love to cook so this is our family time. As the kids have gotten older there are many nights that just my husband and I are home now but I still cook and we still eat together at the dining room table. No phones are allowed at the table! Keith and I grab time together when the kids are gone or in bed and we plan a date night every week. A balanced life does not just happen – it takes planning and commitment, but it is worth it!
I used to beat myself up over the fact that I was on my third marriage, but I am now very proud of it. I made my mistakes. I believe in love and I believe in commitment. I also believe that you must find your own happiness in order to be your true self and your best self for your partner and your children. I regret the pain that some of my choices have made however I do not regret any of my marriages. I learned a lot about myself in my first marriage which allowed me to find a deeper love as I grew older. I have a life-long friend in my second husband and will always share our beautiful daughter with him. And I have my forever in Keith.