The day his son was born should have been one of the happiest days of one man’s life. However, when his wife experienced life-threatening complications after the birth, he was confronted with the possibility of losing her. And it was in these heartbreaking moments that the man realized his biggest regret about their relationship.
Humans have been getting married to each other for centuries. As a result, you’d think that we’d have the whole business sussed out by now. However, given the complicated nature of matters of the heart, matrimony remains a tricky landscape for couples to navigate, and many of us face stumbling blocks.
One of the first mistakes that newlyweds tend to make is believing that their marriage will be easy. More often than not, sharing your life with someone else is hard work, requiring constant re-evaluation as couples ride the storms that life throws in their way. There will undeniably be dark times, but husbands and wives have to venture through them to find the light once more.
In an article published on the Psychology Today website in 2016, cultural historian Dr. Steven Mintz outlined four major sources of tension within modern-day marriage, as he saw them. These included the conflict between marriage’s traditional insistence on commitment and modern society’s obsession with self-fulfillment.
Mintz argued that traditional gender roles dictated that women previously gave up their own individuality for the sake of their marriage. However, with members of both sexes now free to pursue their own happiness, relationship difficulties can become much harder to resolve. As a result, people often go their separate ways to find their own fulfillment, without compromise.
Another source of tension within marriage, says Mintz, is the modern-day emphasis on intimacy within marriage and how that interacts with the everyday pressures of social and economic factors. People tend to think of matrimony purely as an emotional bond. However, it remains an economic union as well, so money issues can create an unexpected wedge between couples.
The third tension that Mintz lists is what he calls “existential reality.” According to him, this is the fact that conflicts are unavoidable in marriages, given that they are the most psychologically demanding relationships that most of us will experience. And as tensions rise, romance can fade into the background.
The final sources of tension are the expectations that we put on marriage at the same time that tradition support mechanisms of the union are fading away. In the past, couples relied on help from friends and family who lived closeby. But over the years, marriages have become more isolated. As a result, in his Psychology Today article, Mintz compares matrimony to “a lonely life raft in a storm-tossed sea.”
On top of all this, some common problems facing married couples today include seeing less of each other due to work and childcare commitments. Elsewhere, even those with the best intentions struggle to share responsibilities equally, particularly when kids are involved. So even couples with the best intentions find that divisions of labor are often skewed unfavorably for women.
With all the challenges facing couples, it’s little wonder that many marriages end in divorce. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) America’s divorce rate stands at 3.2 per 1,000 people. And while it’s good that people no longer feel compelled to stay in relationships they’re unhappy with, many people experience regret after a split.
In 2014 the Daily Mail reported the results of a study that had found that half of divorced people had regrets over their split. Furthermore, research showed that 54 percent had questioned their decision in the immediate aftermath of their divorce, many of them recognizing that they still had feelings for their exes.
The survey had been commissioned to coincide with the DVD release of the British comedy film The Love Punch, which starred Pierce Brosnan and Emma Thompson as divorcees. Two thousand women and men took part in the research, all of them having divorced or split from a long-term partner after five years together.
The breakdown of any romantic relationship can lead people to wonder where it all went wrong. And some common questions newly made singletons might come to ask themselves include: could I have tried harder? Did I appreciate them enough? And did I realize I had something worth holding on to?
It’s often said that we don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone, and the popular phrase can sometimes be applied to failed relationships too. Some times it takes hindsight to appreciate what we once had. However, often a jolt of reality is all we need to see that we’re actually on to a good thing.
That’s exactly what happened to one anonymous gentleman who shared his story with the AkkarBakkar platform, which publishes people’s stories in their own words. The article in question appeared on the site in 2016. However, its message no doubt still resonates with readers today.
In the emotive article, the writer revealed the details of his personal life. He said, “My wife and I have known each other for over eight years. It started off as friendship, then love, and finally marriage.” However, he added, “It seemed like we were progressing, but the sad truth was how we had slipped into a slow degeneration.”
There were some clear differences between the man and his wife, particularly in the way that they communicated. Writing on AkkarBakkar, he explained, “I have always been someone who is not socially adept, and speaks less. And she is the complete opposite.” As a result, things in their relationship went awry.
Eventually, the man found himself drifting apart from his wife. He withdrew from their relationships, and when he wasn’t at work, he was distracted by his phone or laptop. And what’s worse, he didn’t think that it was a problem that he was sacrificing quality time with his wife for screen-time on his gadgets.
The man explained, “[My wife] would be so upset about how we had drifted apart. But I mostly dismissed it as how couples need to forget romance and be more practical as marriages progress.” However, this husband was about to have a rude awakening that would make him realize how much he’d taken his marriage for granted.
In 2015 the man and his wife had relocated to the U.S. to work. In their new country, they had no family or friends nearby. As a result, they had to rely on each other more and, as a result, they grew closer together. The man told AkkarBakkar, “For the first time in eight years, I was beginning to realize how much I had missed out on.”
Revealing his newfound appreciation of his wife, the anonymous writer added, “I had such a wonderful partner. My BEST FRIEND was at home, and I had looked everywhere for emotional support when the chips were down. If only I had put that laptop or phone aside and spoken to her, I wouldn’t have grayed so early.”
The couple’s bond grew deeper still when they welcomed their first child, a boy, in 2016. Describing the birth of his son, the new dad wrote, “We had a baby! A little baby boy who finally arrived in our lives after nine long months of waiting. I was still exhilarated with the way his little hand had wrapped around my finger.”
At that moment, the man vowed that he would “make up for seven years of neglect” in his marriage. But just as he was beginning to realize how much he’d taken for granted, it looked possible that he could lose everything. He explained, “That is when it struck like a lightning. Our moments of loving togetherness suddenly seemed like they would disappear forever.”
After the birth of their son, the man’s wife developed complications in the form of a life-threatening blood disorder. Recalling the devastating moments when he realized that he might lose his wife, he wrote, “I had the baby in one hand and my other hand outstretched holding my wife’s. I was dumbfounded and wrecked as she was wheeled away for scans and tests.”
So what should have been one of the happiest days of the couple’s life – the birth of their son – quickly descended into despair. And all the husband could do was put on a brave face as he waited to learn his wife’s fate. He explained, “My wife is my rock, but I had to stand strong without her. I had to stand strong FOR her. It all felt completely out of place.”
However, while the man was trying to remain strong for the sake of his wife, deep down he couldn’t help but fear the worse for her. As he contemplated losing the mother of his child, his mind ventured to all those moments when he’d put other things before his wife. And he soon wished that he could turn back the clock.
In particular, the man berated himself for spending time on his phone and laptop when he was at home with his wife when he could have focused his attention on her. Writing on AkkarBakkar, he said, “Thanks to my work and my gadgets, I had spared no time for my wife. It took a jolt to realize her importance in my life – a jolt that I don’t even wish upon my worst enemy.”
The anonymous writer considered how the modern world seemed to value virtual interactions so much, sometimes at the detriment of real-life bonds. He said, “We have all lived with this moronic assumption that gadgets and social media bring people closer, but I have seen it wreck face-to-face interactions even in the most important relationship of my life.”
It was then that the man realized his biggest regret up until that moment was having not spent more quality time with his wife. He wrote, “I just wish I had switched off that phone while talking to her. Turned off that cricket match. Not replied to that office email late at night and listened to how her day had transpired.”
Seemingly reliving his marriage in his mind, the man wished he would have “stayed up long enough to give her company while she cleaned up the kitchen” and “held back [his] hunger to dine with her.” Reflecting on these regrets, he asked himself, “What wouldn’t I do to get back every minute that I didn’t spend with her?”
It had taken the man being faced with the possibility of losing his wife to realize what an asset she was to his life. As a result, he didn’t know if he’d ever get the chance to put things right in his marriage. And this revelation must have broken his heart. In his piece for AkkarBakkar he mused, “You always regret everything in hindsight.”
Before long, the moment of truth was upon the man. Recalling the moment he learned of his partner’s fate, he wrote, “As my wife was being wheeled back into yet another room in the hospital, the doctor wore a grim expression. My face was flushed, heart thumping. The doctor told us that the situation was serious… But curable.”
Luckily, the man had been given a second chance, and he was convinced that he’d never take his wife for granted again. He wrote, “Relief rushed over me in a huge wave. But I was still scared. I was still bloody terrified of losing the most wonderful woman in my life. That is when I decided – I don’t care what happens, I am not letting the woman of my life go away. At ANY cost.”
The writer added, “I sat down next to my wife with tears in my eyes. And I told her, ‘We are going to fight this out. We have to see him grow and walk into the sunset together.’ She had never seen me cry, and she did now. Her eyes welled up, but she wouldn’t show it. She knew it would break me.”
To help the man’s wife get better, she had to endure a prolonged spell of painful treatment. But she had her husband by her side throughout it all. And while there was lots of sitting around to be done, he never got bored. Instead, he focused all of his attention on simply being there for his wife and newborn son.
Reflecting on how his wife’s illness had changed him, the man told AkkarBakkar, “I hate it that in the past, I couldn’t sit for 10 minutes to talk to her. I don’t think I can ever make it up to her, but I’m trying to be a better husband. I am away from work, but it is not occupying my mind. I don’t bother to check my emails.”
The man continued, “In the past, I wouldn’t miss replying to an e-mail. There are only two things that ring in my head right now – My wife and my kid. We haven’t had the chance in the past two weeks to celebrate our son’s arrival. But we know this too shall pass. And we will have a long and happy life together.”
With that in mind, the man was convinced that his wife’s illness would eventually make them stronger as a couple. And this time he was willing to put the work in to ensure that they could be there for each other no matter what the world threw at them. He wrote, “We are taking it slow, and every day is a progress. But it’s a long haul.”
So while the anonymous writer didn’t want to seem preachy to his readers, he hoped that some of them would reconsider how they prioritized their own lives after hearing his story. He explained, “I hope everyone understands that a WhatsApp forward can wait. An office email can wait. A cricket match can wait. Liking a photo on Facebook can wait.”
Giving some parting advice, the man added, “Don’t let your love and loved ones wait. You never know if it is too late. Happiness is incomplete if you don’t have the people to share it with… Cherish your loved ones, and give them what they deserve – it’s a hard lesson to learn if you take them for granted.”