Six Lessons Learned: Getting Divorced In My Twenties
Navigating life as a twenty-something divorcee can be a doozy. While divorce at large has become wildly common in our society, when you take a look at millennials, most of us are holding on strong, either to our singlehood or to our marriages. Only 3% of us are divorced. In fact, odds are that I will remain the only divorcee amongst my friends until we’re in our forties. And when my first friend goes through a divorce, I will be ready - with support and wisdom and an epic care package including raw cookie dough and gallons of wine.
But the thing about getting divorced in your twenties is that nobody makes you a care package. You may have mentors, parents or grandparents who have been through a divorce, but odds are they had kids, and houses, and twenty years of memories in a garage to sort through and their wisdom isn’t wisdom for you. So you go at it alone. And you learn the lessons on your own.
Here’s what I learned.
Life goes on.
The world will not end because your marriage did. There will still be Christmases and birthdays and the day that used to be your anniversary. And you will get through each of them. Each significant day and big life moment will come and go with a few less tears and a few more smiles than the last.
The lives of the people you love will go on too. And while they may be there with shoulders to lean on and couches to crash on at first, at some point, possibly before your divorce is even final, they’ll get caught up with their own lives again. Don’t be discouraged when they stop asking how you’re doing. Don’t interpret their lack of checking in as an assumption that you should be “over it” by now. And don’t be afraid to ask for that shoulder or that couch if you still need it.
My marriage was not a mistake.
I hate when people say “Ugh, I can’t believe you got married so young. You were crazy.” I hate it because it’s rude, but also because I wasn’t crazy. I was in love. And of all the things I will regret in this life, allowing myself to love and be loved will not be one of them. I married my college sweetheart and for every terrible, toxic moment we had, there are ten that still make me smile. J, my ex, is the first man who made me feel safe enough to be silly. As trivial as silliness in a relationship may sound to some, as a type A perfectionist with a world of insecurities, being loved by someone who cherished my silly, goofy inner-child was a gift beyond measure. I’m grateful for the years that I spent with him and all the ways he helped to mold me.
My divorce was not a failure.
I wish that we, as a society, stopped viewing relationships that come to an end as failed attempts at love and started viewing them as just… love. Why does the goal of every romance need to be eternity? As grateful as I am for the time J and I had together, I am equally grateful that those years came to an end. And while he will always be a part of me, I am proud of myself for choosing to walk away from what was no longer right for either of us. I read a quote from Ally Condie’s Matched the other day that summarized my thoughts here. She said “growing apart doesn’t change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled. I’m glad for that.”
I am still datable.
The first time I told a man I was dating that I had been married before, I was so nervous I thought I would vomit. We were three dates in and I thought he’d be furious at me for wasting his time. For allowing him to spend time and money taking me out to dinner THREE TIMES, when I had this giant secret that obviously made me undatable.
When I managed to finally get the words out, his eyes got huge and I thought to myself “dang it, Kayci, I knew it. You should never have told him. Or even bothered trying to date again. No-one will ever want you.” But he interrupted my self-deprecating internal monologue with kindness and understanding.
After spending a few minutes answering the questions that have now become standard to me (“wait, you got married in college? was it like, a religious thing? why did it end?) he told me how much it meant to him that I’d chosen to share that, how attracted he was to my honesty and how excited he was to be dating a woman who knows from experience what she does and doesn’t want in her next relationship.
Since then, I’ve become that girl who over-shares on first dates. I get all my baggage on the table as fast as possible. And I’ve yet to meet a man for who wasn’t willing to date a divorcee.
No matter what, I am so wildly alone.
I moved myself out of the house J and I shared, alone. I sat on the floor of my shower after I was assaulted by a friend who’d offered to be a shoulder to cry on, alone. I sat in my hotel suite letting the truth that my divorce was finalized after a three year battle wash over me from head to toe, alone. And as much as I know that there are people who would have loved to carry the weight of these moments with me, these burdens are mine, and only mine, to bear. The memories, the traumas, the fears, the insecurities, the guilt and the shame - they are mine and no-one else’s. There’s a loneliness in that - and it’s one that I’m afraid will last forever.
No matter what, I am so wildly loved - and so wildly, lovable.
As alone as I am, I know too that I am loved. A fact that J, at the end of our marriage, left me questioning. A fact that, these days, I remind myself of often. The people that love me love me fiercely. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends - they love me. Without rings or exchanged vows - these people make the choice, every day, to love me, to think of me and to cherish me. And maybe one day I’ll find a man who will choose to love me as well, but I’m no less lovable, and no less loved, if I don’t. Because the love that surrounds me today, and every day, is boundless.