Dear Divorced Millennial,
First, I would like to congratulate you on your new life. You went through one of the hardest things to experience in life outside of a loved one's death, and here you are -- perhaps a bit frayed around the edges but full of hope, wisdom and enthusiasm nonetheless.
Maybe you're reading articles about what you wish you knew before you got married. Maybe you're even writing them because it's all too easy to believe, once you've been in and out of a marriage, that you finally have love, relationships and marriage figured out.
Please don't take that as a diss -- it's not. Because I was once a 20-something divorcee and I thought I had it figured out, too. As a matter of fact, I was so convinced that I had it figured out that I missed some obvious red flags when I met, fell in love with and then married the man who became my second husband. Since he had been married before and we both experienced infidelity, I thought he had it figured out, too.
That's why, after 14 years, he became my second former husband.
Clearly, something was wrong. And what was wrong was me.
It took me two divorces -- one in my 20s and one in my 40s -- to get it. But get it I did. Here's what I learned:
- Divorce doesn't necessarily make you smarter about relationships: Unless you delve deep into the behaviors and patterns you learned from your family of origin so you can understand the stuff you brought into your first marriage that isn't working well for you, you'll bring it into the next one. Sure, your new spouse may react differently to it, but you still need to own it. Thankfully, I did a lot of intensive work to understand what I did to contribute to the demise of my second marriage, and I learned how to act differently although it's a work in progress. I don't know if I would have done that if I'd stayed married; I think I just might have had to hit bottom first.
So, if you've divorced by 30, do you want to spend time reading -- or writing -- articles on what you wish you knew before you tied the knot, or do you want awareness? Being divorced doesn't mean you have awareness; it just means you're divorced. Understand your own behavior and patterns, and then ask yourself what you want from a romantic relationship and whether marriage is the only way to get it. Then, you'll be on the road to awareness.
Vicki Larson is an award-winning journalist, blogger and co-author The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press, September 2014.)