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No one plans for divorce. Whether you’re jumping into a marriage after a quick few months of dating or years of planning, no one signs their certificate with the thought that they would one day be signing dissolution papers. Divorce is painful no matter who starts the process, and it takes time to process the death of the relationship and the life that goes along with it. You have to start over. You are at ground zero with a road ahead of you that you didn’t plan for or want.

Out of all of the heartaches, frustrations and shame that can come with a divorce, there are also important lessons that you learn. With a clear heart you can more clearer see the mistakes and poor choices that led you down that path.

My past relationships and heartaches changed me in many ways, but most of all they prepared me for the wife that I am today.

I learned that no matter how much you plan for your marriage, you will still be unprepared. You will learn more about each other than what you saw during your season of dating. This isn’t a bad thing, but personal traits or habits will seem to suddenly appear and can throw you for a loop. Preparation and pre-marriage classes are absolutely important, but keep an open mind and heart to the changes that will certainly come your way.

I learned that not everything that was endearing at year one is cute later down the road. The point being that your honeymoon period will end. You will get annoyed at things you weren’t expecting, but you don’t have to let it dictate your words or actions. Extending kindness in the wake of annoyance creates happier days and a more stable home.

I learned that marriage is a partnership of two imperfect people who will make mistakes and will not always give their all. Showing compassion for your spouse allows them to show more compassion for you. You will each have moments of weakness and times when you will give less than the other person. Learn to take care of your spouse and allow them to take care of you. Whoever said marriage was 50/50 was likely never married. Marriage needs to be whatever your situation calls for. Sometimes it gets close to 50/50, but usually it’s something else entirely.

I learned that forgiveness is a necessity that should be given daily. You will hurt each other through your words and actions even when it isn’t intended. Learn to assume positive intent and choose your battles wisely.

I learned that love is much more than a feeling. I love, and am in love, with my husband but I must also choose to love him each day. The choice to act in love towards your spouse can be easier some days than others, but it is a choice that needs to be made daily. The type of love that a marriage requires is much more than a feeling; it is a state of mind, a choice of lifestyle, and it needs to be shown in all of your actions.

I learned that each marriage will go through seasons. What starts in summer will eventually make it’s way through fall, winter and then spring. The hard times make the sweet times even better. Don’t get lost in reminiscing on past warmer days while failing to see the positive change that is around the corner. Work obligations, parenting responsibilities, arguments or trials are all a part of marriage but you won’t live in tough times indefinitely; change is inevitable. Each period of hardship creates the opportunity for an even brighter future. The true test and strength of your union comes during your struggles.

Marriage is the most difficult and rewarding commitment you will make in your life. Even though you will have seasons of difficulty, the heart of marriage and the joys it brings are worth every effort it requires.

Amy Bellows

Amy Bellows, Ph.D. is a freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband and their 3 children. She currently juggles the roles of wife, mom, step-mom, and a full-time corporate career while squeezing in writing between hockey practices and late night feedings. You can find her at http://continuedoptimism.com/ or on Twitter.

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