There are so many thingsdivorced couples wish they did differently in their marriages, and often they’re only able to make the connection once they’ve parted ways. It can be difficult, when you’re in the thick of a failing relationship, to recognize problems and figure out solutions. But with time and distance, it can all become clear.
That’s not to say the divorce was necessarily a mistake, or that if they’d simply done one thing differently, they’d still be a couple. Each situation is unique, but for couples who have gone through a divorce, it can help to look back on these issues and learn. For example, if communication was their downfall, they might decide to pay more attention to it in their next relationship, so the same issues don’t occur.
“That would include learning basic communication skills such as active listening, validating what their new partner is saying (whether they agree with what is being said or not), being courageously vulnerable, identifying and expressing their core needs, and expressing gratitude for their new partner,” Dr. Gary Brown,a couples therapist in Los Angeles, tells Bustle.
While they may not have learned certain skills in time to save their marriage, they can use them in the future. Read on below for a few more things many divorced couples wish they had done differently, and what they can learn from it, according to experts.
1. Realize The Impact They Had
“Because people who are unhappy in their marriages often blame their partner for their unhappiness, they often don’t realize their own shortcomings and the impact of those shortcomings on their former spouse until after the divorce,” Virginia Gilbert, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in divorce, tells Bustle.
With some distance they can see that it wasn’t necessarily all their partner’s fault, and that owning their side of the relationship may have made a difference.
That’s why going to therapy and taking responsibility for your own actions “are all things that may have had the power to change the outcome of the relationship,” Gilbert says. “But even if they didn’t, the person would know they’d tried their best to save the marriage.”
2. Talk About Problems Sooner
It can be difficult to talk about relationship problems, especially if they’ve been going on for a while. It’s much easier to ignore them than it is to bring them up and potentially rock the boat, Bonnie Duarte, RSSW, PCC, a divorce recovery coach and owner of Duarte Coaching, tells Bustle.
But this is yet another mistake many divorced couples come to regret. “They wish they said something and didn’t just hope,” Duarte says. Once a marriage ends, it can seem like the most obvious solution in the world, but can be a tough connection to make while in the midst of the relationship.
3. Pay Attention To Each Other’s Needs
Once a marriage is over, many couples wish they had paid more attention to each other’s needs, and not taken the relationship for granted, Sonia Frontera, a divorce attorney, author, and empowerment trainer, tells Bustle. Both mistakes are so easy to make once you’ve fallen into a rut in your relationship. But they can be prevented.
“To avoid ending their marriage in divorce, spouses need to be vigilant about each others’ needs, monitoring their interactions to ensure they are healthy and loving, and making changes as they go along,” Frontera says.
4. Address Certain Issues Before Getting Married
“Some couples regret that they knew there were potential problems before they got married, but never really addressed them,” Brown says. Maybe they weren’t great at communicating, or had trust issues that were never discussed.
“This is a particularly common regret and an easy trap to fall into,” Brown says. “When we first fall in love, we tend to over-idealize our new partner and even when there is evidence to suggest that there are and will be potential conflicts, we can tend to avoid them because we don’t want to lose the wonderful feelings of being in love.”
And yet, as you can imagine, working on these issues — possibly by seeing a couples counselor— can be so important before getting married, as well as after so they don’t lead to divorce.
5. Been More Vulnerable
“Sometimes it’s the things we didn’t say that result in separation or divorce,” Kristina Ferrari, M.S.Ed, a psychotherapist specializing in couples and marriage counseling, tells Bustle. Because without communication, it can be difficult to understand each other, or overcome the problems that typically end a relationship.
“It’s difficult to be open and honest with your partner regarding your needs, wants and desires, but doing so provides a real opportunity for authentic change,” Ferrari says. “Relationships can come back from the brink when partners make themselves vulnerable by sharing their truths.”
6. Gone To Couples Therapy
Speaking of couples therapy, “so many couples realize too late that professional help might help,” Dr. Adi Jaffe, PhD, a mental health expert and relationship counselor, tells Bustle. Instead of reaching out to a therapist, they ignore the problems, or try to tackle them on their own — often without success.
But sometimes even couples counseling can’t help, if it happens too late. “With conflict stretching over many years and resentment building, by the time professional help is sought many partners have given up,” Jaffe says. “The earlier you get help, the more likely it is to work to avoid divorce.”
7. Communicate More Often
Whether it’s talking about problems, or simply talking about their day, some couples wish they could go back in time and simply talk to their partner more often. Without communication, “what results is arguments, hurt feelings, invalidation, and a host of other challenges that create regret,” Lesli Doares, a couples consultant and coach, tells Bustle. “
This one can be as simple as eating together more often, texting throughout the day, and spending time together without distractions. While daily habits like these may not fix larger problems that lead to divorce, communication can keep a connection alive.
8. Listening To Everyone’s Opinions
If a marriage isn’t going smoothly, it only makes sense that friends and family might step in and offer advice or encourage a couple to separate. And sometimes that can be a good thing. But other times, this outside influence can get confusing, and may even lead to a divorce a couple later regrets.
“At a moment in time when someone is at one of the lowest points in their life, they naturally are vulnerable to the input of others,” Vicki L. Shemin, JD, LICSW, ASCW, a licensed social worker who practices as a divorce attorney with Fields & Dennis, LLP, tells Bustle. “Too often, however, they lose the ability to evaluate independently what is in their own best interests.”
That’s why a therapist can be helpful in figuring out the best course of action, Shemin says, so they can choose what’s best for them.
9. Not Keeping Their Love Alive
“Looking back, or even in self-reflective moments, too many couples can literally feel their love and romance and respect slipping away in real time,” Shemin says, which is why it’s vital to “carve out time for one another and hold to that commitment.”
If a relationships is faltering, the simplest things — like date nights, vacations, or small moments spent together — can help bring a relationship back from the brink.
That said, sometimes marriages just end, and other times a divorce is actually for the best. But if a couple looks back and wishes they had done things differently, they can at the very least learn from what went wrong, and try not to repeat it again in the future.