My husband, Jon, and I had two babies in our first three years of marriage. And less than two years after the birth of our second little guy -- a fussy baby who did more crying than sleeping -- our marriage was over. It was your typical strained-relationship-with-little-kids story:
I was overwhelmed at home; he felt pressured to provide. I felt like he didn't do enough to help and resented him for it; he got tired of the heaved sighs and the nights I slept curled toward our baby instead of him.
I don't think I've ever felt so alone in my life as I did one night at 3 a.m. after a fight, when I was nursing the baby. I wished I could wake Jon up to apologize, to keep fighting -- I didn't care what; I just wanted to feel like we were in it together. The list of arguments, resentments, and disappointments had grown so long. Caring for two small children was completely overwhelming, and I was pretty sure I was doing a cruddy job of that too. I just couldn't seem to find the energy to be a good wife or even to care about the state of our marriage.
It was the first night I allowed the thought of divorce to enter my head, and once that thought was there it took up permanent residence. That night marked the beginning of the end for Jon and me, and the next year spiraled into a lot of painful fighting, distrust, and utter disconnection -- which ultimately led to our divorce.
But we're lucky: Our story has a happy ending. Jon and I just celebrated what would have been our 15th wedding anniversary last July -- and the date that became our "backup" anniversary a few months later. Because a year after our divorce was final, we got back together. What? Just like that? Well, don't get me wrong. When we decided our relationship was worth fighting for, we still had a long, uphill battle ahead of us.
We had to relearn how to relate to each other, how to parent together as a team, how to communicate -- even how to fight in a healthier way. But we eventually made it official and remarried -- and Marriage 2.0, as we call it, is a huge upgrade over version 1.0. It turns out that the painful process of splitting up shone a light on all the mistakes we'd made along the way and made us determined never to go there again. As I look back, these are the five most crucial lessons I learned.