We’ve all been there: A long-simmering relationship issue bubbles to the surface. In the heat of the moment, we say things we don’t mean. Other times, we’re too scared or too proud to clearly communicate our needs.
After a breakup or divorce — and with the benefit of hindsight ― it’s easier to see where things went wrong and how issues could have been handled differently.
We first asked divorced men to share what they would have done differently in their marriages (you can read their responses here) and then asked divorced women to do the same. Here’s what the women told us:
I wish I would have asked for help when I needed it.
“I have one single regret from my marriage, and that was not speaking up when I felt overwhelmed and needed help. We were newlyweds, and I had just given birth to our daughter. Becoming a new wife and mom, I let societal expectations and pressure completely screw with my head. I thought I had to be this super mom and wife, perfect in every way. To me, this meant doing all the child-rearing, housework and cooking while attempting to look like I just stepped off a Victoria’s Secret runway.
I put impossible daily tasks on myself and got burnt out fast. I ended our marriage because it seemed like the only way out of the stressful life I had created. I was so bitter and angry towards a person who just could not understand why. Looking back, all I had to do was say the words to my ex-husband, ‘I need help.’ I know now that if I had communicated my feelings, we might have had a better chance at marital life.” ― blogger Valencia Morton of Millionairess Mama
I wish I had worked on myself more before I got married.
“I wish that I’d had a better sense of my own identity and self-worth, and that I’d been wiser to first confront loneliness before joining a partnership. That I’d waited longer before marriage in order to enter it from a place of strength and abundance rather than fear and loss. That I’d understood that the person we might choose in our 20s and 30s to have a family with might be very different than the person we might choose in the middle of life, the man or the woman to grow old with.” ― writer Holly Martyn
Related Video: Marriage Advice Couples Wish They’d Received
We asked married couples at various stages: What marriage advice do you wish you had gotten as newlyweds? From being married for 5 hours to 65 years, take a look at what these couples have to say.
I wish I had the courage to end things sooner.
“My regret is that I allowed a bad situation to go on too long. My husband’s expectations for our relationship and our life together shifted not long after we got married, and we fought about it a lot. In hindsight, I wish I’d had the courage and self-awareness to confront the issue itself. Instead of standing in my power, I avoided the ugly truths of our existence together and allowed the relationship to languish while we both suffered.” ― divorce coach Tara Eisenhard
I wish I’d realized that being a wife wasn’t the only thing that defined me.
“The biggest regret I have from my marriage is that I didn’t have autonomy. I created an unhealthy dynamic by seeing my husband as the more important person in our relationship. Instead of cultivating a meaningful career, hobbies and outside interests for my own growth and development, I over-identified with the role of being my husband’s wife. I made that role my complete source of the feelings of worth and value as a woman, wife and human being. When the dynamic became unhealthy, I wasn’t able to recognize it because I’d placed all my personal power in someone else’s hands.” ―author Patty Blue Hayes
I wish I had taken responsibility instead of pointing fingers.
“I wish I’d thought harder about my own accountability. I was so busy finding fault that I didn’t pay enough attention to all the things I could have done differently. In part, because I was young and fairly immature, I hadn’t figured out that I can’t depend on someone else to make me feel happy and fulfilled. I assumed the end of the marriage would signal the beginning of perfection because he was the problem! I wish I’d understood that the stages of marriage can be cyclical and that perhaps it was worth trying a little harder to figure things out. Our divorce was devastating for our kids, and from that perspective, it’s a big regret.” ―Lisa Lavia Ryan
I wish I had stood up for myself more.
“I wish I would have fought for myself harder before the real problems began. I often rolled over in arguments, bottled up my feelings and neglected my own needs, usually putting his first. I am a much stronger person today than I was over 10 years ago when we divorced. There are so many things I do differently in my second marriage. I fight for me now because I realized I am worth it.” ― writer Trish Eklund.
I wish I would have learned how to speak his love language.
“I wish I had loved him the way he needed to be loved. It wasn’t until our divorce that I learned about the five love languages. Mine are physical touch and quality time, while his are acts of service and words of affirmation. Looking back, I know that our love languages were in constant conflict. When I wanted to go for family walks after dinner, he wanted to make sure the dishes were washed and put away. When I wanted to lie on the couch and curl up with my head on his lap after the kids were asleep, he wanted to clean up the toys in the living room and hear my thanks for the fact that we would be able to start the next day clutter-free.
We both feel and show love in very different ways, which is something I didn’t recognize at the time. When he did those things he felt were important, I criticized him, which was the exact opposite of what he needed to feel loved.” ― writer Aubrey Keefer
I wish I had maintained my sense of independence.
“I wish I hadn’t lost myself to my partner. I gave everything I had to our relationship, often setting aside what I wanted and what I needed, for what I thought would better our marriage. But in the end, not only did it destroy me, it left no foundation for a stable relationship. You can’t be what anyone else needs you to be if you can’t even be what you need to be for yourself. If I could go back and do it all again, I’d make myself more of a priority.” ― writer Eden Strong
Responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity and length.