“Divorce isn’t such a tragedy. A tragedy’s staying in an unhappy marriage.” – Jennifer Weiner
Hello, SOTGC community,
I have wanted to get married since I was eight years old. Even then, I wanted to be a wife, not a bride; I daydreamed about my marriage, not my wedding. My marriage would be a symbiotic relationship of two halves of the same whole, filled with books, long walks, cuddling, watching movies, and keeping house. Simple, realistic, attainable. I was so smart when I was eight.
The first time that I got married, I was nineteen years old. I wore a white dress with a sweetheart neckline that nipped in at my slender teenage waist and a hem that cascaded to the floor, tulle and beading looking just so. The dress was not really my style because I had no true style yet. I was nineteen. My bridesmaids were not really my friends because I did not know how to identify true friends yet. Again, nineteen.
At the reception, I paid more attention to my friends and family than to my new spouse. After the party was over, and we left and settled down to sleep, I knew that my vision of marriage, with its books, walks, cuddles, movies, and home, was in hand.
And so, my twenties. After halcyon years as English majors, young and happy and sunny years, we entered the gray malaise of graduate school. As the personality dust of our mid-twenties settled, the troublesome cracks of our diverging interests, careers, and mental health unmoored our relationship, and I cut myself free of the sinking ship. It turns out that a marriage requires two functioning adults, a prerequisite that eight-year-old me had not contemplated in her daydream.
Inside, I was an overwhelmed second-year law student, twenty-three and lonely, frightened, and disappointed, struggling to move on. I was a total wreck, and not for just a couple of months. For years. But to some outsiders, I was the heartless cow who trampled her marriage vows and left her sensitive ex to manage his emotional peculiarities and problems all alone. Law students are anything if not opinionated.
I have never written about my divorce before. Very few people save my parents and closest associates know the details, and most of my acquaintances are unaware that I was previously married. If the topic arises, I always get the same questions, even seven years later: What happened? Where is he now? Do you ever hear from him? To which I give the same answers: My life was in ruins; I don’t know; No.
The more interesting people ask the more interesting question: Do you want to get married again? To which I have given various answers over the years: No; Yes; No; I don’t know. As time passed and memories faded, as I forgot the sound of his voice and the old routines, the answer became more assuredly, Yes.
To be honest, even after my divorce I still wanted to get married, to be the dream wife of my youth, when I was so smart and had it all figured out. Am I a slow learner? No. I think eight-year-old me knew what she was about. I also think that nineteen-year-old me knew what she was about. And thirty-year-old me certainly knows what she is about.
As painful, wrenching, and exhausting as the experience of a young failed marriage was, I would repeat it. My divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me: The experience showed me that I was in charge of my own life and that if I wanted to change my destiny, I was going to have to cut the cord, not someone else. I did not dally then, and I certainly do not dally now. I say yes to new opportunities, and I make changes, whether that means moving from rural Illinois to downtown Chicago, quitting my law job to teach yoga, or getting married again.
The second time that I got married, I was twenty-nine going on thirty. I wore an ivory dress with a high neckline and a hem that grazed my kneecaps. My husband and I stood hand in hand, grinning and quaking, in the middle of a cavernous courtroom with the presiding judge and otherwise bereft of company, save that of my parents, whose gentle forbearance has never flagged.
A few months later, at our ceremony for friends and family, I wore a lavender dress with a goddess neckline and a hem that kissed the floorboards. This dress was definitely my style because, at thirty, I had developed a true style. My attendants were my friends because, at thirty, I had at last identified my true friends.
At the reception, my husband and I were practically inseparable, greeting guests and dancing and hamming in the photo booth as a pair. After the party was over, and we left and settled down to talk for hours, I knew that our vision of marriage was in hand: dynamic, surprising, undefined, and exciting. At last, I am a wife. At last, I am living my dream.
Are you considering making a life change? What obstacles hold you back? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.