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Many of us have gotten back together with someone after breaking up. Some of us have had years and years of an on-and-off-again relationship. Less likely, though, are the odds of giving your marriage another chance after going through the process of getting a divorce. But that's exactly what these four women did. Here are their stories, and the important lessons they learned about love.
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"My husband and I have a lot of history. I was 19 years old when we met. He was my first boyfriend, and we bonded over our troubled upbringings—I had an abusive mom and a father who pretended not to notice, and he had an alcohol and drug addiction. I wanted out of my hometown in Missouri, so we quickly married and moved to California. We immediately had two children. But unfortunately our respective troubles bled into our marriage, making it a very rocky one. Our divorce was even worse.
I swiftly remarried, not because I found someone that I loved more than my first husband, but because I wanted to give my kids a sense of security. I'm pretty sure he knew that was why, too. We stayed together for 15 years, but they were unhappy ones. We fought a lot, and he never seemed to warm to the idea of being a stepfather.
One day, after my kids were grown, I ran into my first husband. I knew right then and there that I still loved him, despite not having seen him for 15 years, and even though he hadn't been in our kids' lives. I told him that our friendship was deep enough that if he promised to stay clean and strived to become the husband and father he should be, I would forgive him. And he did. Our 4-year-old grandson adores him, and he has rebuilt his relationship with the kids.
I don't believe anyone at 19 or 20 truly understands marriage, the commitment and the journey. It's a deep, complex dance of give and take, and friendship is more valuable in the relationship than gold. I realized that the older you get, the more you understand the meaning of life, love, friendship, and unconditional love." (Here's why these 9 women say they'll never marry again.) —Lisa,* 58, Springfield, MO
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"I've loved my husband, Patrick, since I was 13 years old. It took 10 years for him to notice me, but when he did, we both fell hard. We married 9 months into our relationship, recognizing we both brought issues into the marriage, but believing love would be enough. I knew he was the one.
But we were married to our jobs, and we grew apart and began to resent each other. After 4 years of marriage we had a baby, which only exaggerated our differences. He divorced me 3 years later. (These 6 milestones will make or break your marriage.)
Despite our issues, I always knew he was the one, and I was devastated. It took me several years to start dating again, but I ended up meeting and eventually marrying a nice man. The love of my life was taken, so I settled for second best. My ex remarried shortly after I did. Oddly enough, both of our marriages ended 2 years later within days of each other. We got back in touch with each other, and after much hesitation we agreed to try again and went to counseling. We joked that we didn't know what to call it: 'Pre-marital? Post-marital?' But it worked, and we remarried 11 months later.
We just survived another 18-month separation after intense life circumstances drove us apart once again. And yet I never believed for a minute we wouldn't work it out. We have been through too much to end up apart now. Again, we had growing to do and perspective to gain, and we had to do it on our own. One thing we both realized is that we were each partly to blame for our problems. We both noticed that the same issues kept cropping up with new partners, so we had to ask, 'Who is the common denominator?'
Choosing to appreciate and focus on what you love about a person, versus what bothers you about them, is what's going to determine which direction the relationship will go in. We need to complement each other, not try to find someone who we think will complete us, because a successful relationship is comprised of two beings already whole, who are willing to acknowledge their shortcomings and work on them." —Angela, 48, Nashville, TN
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"My husband and I were married for 13 years, though we separated at least seven times throughout our marriage. During our many separations he lived with friends, at church programs and addiction recovery rehab ministries. Looking back, I realize I always welcomed him back home too soon each time.
He was diagnosed with an intimacy disorder, and a large part of it was an addiction to pornography. After years of struggling, and tens of thousands of dollars spent on 15 different counselors, I had no choice but to give up. I knew he loved me, but the selfishness of his addiction trumped his ability to be a better husband, and we had become roommates at best.
After a lot of soul-searching, we separated for good, and I filed for divorce a year later. He contested nothing, owning his problems and apologizing.
Two years later, while traveling on business, I was alone in my hotel suite, and I had a heart-to-heart with God. I asked him why the men I had been dating were all turning out to be dead ends: They looked great on paper, but nothing long-term was materializing. I found myself questioning my divorce. Did I move on too quickly? Just putting my feelings and worries out there helped, and from that moment on I felt as if a weight had been lifted. I figured whatever happened would be God's plan.
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Eerily, the very next day my ex-husband called asking me to please consider reconciliation. Honestly, though, I was hoping to find and fall in love with someone completely new. But I decided to follow what I considered to be a sign.
After a month of just talking, my ex-husband and I met again at the end of March 2015. We dated for a little more than a year, got engaged, and remarried in early June of this year.
It has been so different the second time around, mostly because I learned that I contributed to our marital issues, too. The first time around when we'd fight, I would get really angry, which would flame the fire. The counseling we both received during our time apart helped us realize that we have to handle our problems differently in order to achieve different results." —Leslie,* 49, Yonkers, NY
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"When we got married, I was 23 and my husband was 24. We separated after 2 years of marriage and were divorced for a year before getting remarried. My husband is the one who wanted the divorce, not me. Looking back, I realize I went into the marriage with some baggage that needed to be resolved: My mother died when I was teenager, and my father left around the time she started getting ill, so in a sense both my parents left me. And I brought that insecurity into our marriage. My husband was very independent and needed his alone time, which was threatening to me. His sense of independence made me only want to hold on tighter, and that smothering is exactly what pushed him away. He was (brutally but respectfully) honest the whole way through and told me that I needed time to learn from this. (And that's not even one of these 4 ways you're ruining your relationship without even realizing it.)
Following our divorce, I had no choice but to learn how to take care of myself and to be OK with being on my own. I got my own apartment and even went on a few dates, even though I was still in love with my ex. He dated as well, but still would visit me at my new home every week.
I believe that my personal growth is exactly what brought us back together. Trusting that I could take care of myself without my husband made our relationship so much stronger. We've now been happily married for 32 years." (Try these 5 therapist-approved tips to get your relationship through any rough patch.) —Sharon,* 52, Franklin, IN
*Names have been changed.
The article 4 Women Who Got Divorced—And Then Remarried Their Ex-Husbands originally appeared on Prevention.