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I suddenly understood why my marriages had failed. I was to blame


At first, everything seemed to be going well between my husband Doug and me. We were together for three years before we got married and merged our four children into one family.

But soon conflicts arose. We fought a lot about the kids, Doug’s lack of income, and what I did at home compared to him. At the time, I was the CFO of a large private school and the primary breadwinner for our family.

Doug and I went to marriage counseling, where we blamed each other in front of a complete stranger. The drives to our appointments were cold and distant, and we argued all the way back.

Kathy Murray is a relationship coach from the United Kingdom. She was on the verge of divorce after marrying her second husband, Doug.
Kathy Murray

Before I knew it, our lack of intimacy had me begging, pleading, and crying. I felt so unwanted and alone. This lack of connection, both physical and emotional, seemed to trigger arguments about everything.

Eventually I moved into the spare bedroom when we both started threatening divorce.

My approach to marriage and relationships at the time was that I knew better and was sure that Doug was wrong for being a parent, that he should make more money and definitely have sex with his wife . I thought taking her to a marriage counselor would fix everything.

I wanted to feel safe, so I was in control of everything. At the time, I didn’t know it was unreasonable. I thought the more I lectured him and/or explained to him how he should be a good husband, the more he would jump in and do what I wanted, but nothing changed.

I thought if I got angry, or cried and begged, he would see how much he was hurting me and change, but nothing changed. In fact, he became more distant and indifferent. I went to the gym, lost weight, and got in shape, but it didn’t improve the intimacy or connection in our marriage.

I was ready to divorce – which would have been my second – but I knew it would be devastating for our four children. None of our previous spouses were involved and we were trying to create a family life for them.

But we just didn’t know how to overcome conflict. I didn’t know how to continue without the connection, intimacy, and fun we experienced when we were dating.

I was living in the guest room and didn’t want my second marriage to fail. The Cold War was terrible. I wanted to do everything I could to make our marriage work. I just didn’t know there was anything I could do. I thought it was Doug who needed to change.

I blamed my husband because I didn’t see how I was doing anything wrong. I was the breadwinner of the family, I was a single mother before we married, I raised two children on my own, I owned my own home, and I had a successful career.

Doug only had his kids once a month, during the summer and school breaks, so he wasn’t used to managing bedtime, homework, and household chores. I was so frustrated and so were his kids because they didn’t much like the tight ship I was running with strict bedtimes.

My husband was struggling financially and was using credit cards to buy things I didn’t think were necessary. I thought his lack of interest in physical intimacy was his way of punishing me for something.

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong other than constantly complaining and begging him to see my point of view, which never worked. At that time, I felt superior, smarter and more capable than Doug.

The therapy created more fights, before and after the sessions, but during the sessions we were in front of a professional, so we were not as open or we over-complained and criticized each other. I didn’t learn much except that I didn’t want to go back to marriage therapy.

I complained to my friends while pretending at work that everything was fine at home. The fights got so bad that one day my best friend told me to shut up or get a divorce. It was shocking, but she was tired of me complaining about Doug.

I was devastated. I booked a flight to visit my mother. I knew she would listen and know what I needed to do. I brought a few books with me, including one called The abandoned woman.

While reading this book, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. For the first time, I realized that I was responsible for the failure of my marriages. It was very painful. I sobbed that night and all of the next day. But underneath my pain, I felt a glimmer of hope.

Kathy and Doug
Kathy credits a self-help book with saving her marriage.
Kathy Murray

I realized how repulsive my control was and that it was creating the opposite result I wanted. I believe the reason I became so controlling is because I grew up in a dangerous childhood where I suffered physical and sexual abuse.

I then checked that no check was necessary, but I didn’t realize it. Being vulnerable or not knowing what was going to happen was terrifying.

I realized that respect is like oxygen to men and that I didn’t need to do the same. Being controlling made me do everything, and then I became resentful about it.

Learning to say “I can’t” and focusing on self-care has had a huge impact on my tolerance for daily life. My complaints and complaints have decreased significantly. I learned to be grateful and look at the glass half full rather than half empty.

I felt so relieved to know that another wife, author Laura Doyle, saved her marriage from the brink of divorce. It gave me hope that I could do it alone too.

I learned that as a wife, I set the tone in my home. That old adage “happy wife, happy life” started to ring true for me. I learned to be more vulnerable and receive support rather than doing everything myself. I also learned to listen and not have to defend myself, argue or have the last word.

My marriage improved when I started saying things like “whatever’s on your mind” when my husband asked me what he should do with the cell phone plan. Not only did my husband appreciate being trusted, but I felt relieved that I didn’t have to do everything and could trust my husband to take care of our finances and decisions like cell phone plans.

My husband began planning romantic trips and pursuing me physically and emotionally. We laughed again, cooked together, traveled and loved raising our four children together.

After changing my approach to my relationship, I felt worthy and respectful. I felt grateful and happy instead of resentful and exhausted. I felt like I had a brand new husband and a brand new marriage. I smiled a lot more, and intimacy and peace returned.

Now my marriage is as good as I can stand it. We’ll be celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary this December, and it feels like a fairytale dream come true.

People have said it’s amazing, even our adult children tell us how proud they are of us. All of our adult children come often because they love the love they see in us and experience when we are all together as a family.

We have more physical intimacy, emotional safety, and connection than I ever thought possible. Our marriage continues to improve as we adventure through different stages of life together. I feel cherished and adored and my husband feels respected and appreciated.

I am very grateful for the personal change I have made in myself. My entire family was saved from a painful and heartbreaking divorce, and my personal transformation after those days of rage and fighting is unrecognizable.

It made me realize that being a ridiculously happy wife is not only possible, it’s easy.

Kathy Murray is a relationship coach from California.

All views expressed in this article are those of the author.

Do you have a unique experience or personal story to share? Email the My Turn team at myturn@newsweek.com.

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