The twenty-fifth birthday of a young woman's life is usually quite a milestone -- it's the marker that the first quarter of your life has passed, and you're now wise enough to do Grown Up things like begin a career, get married, and start a family. But instead of ringing in my twenty-fifth year with the "ideal" life of a master's degree and new diamond ring on my left hand, I had a manila envelope full of divorce papers.
We met my sophomore year of high school, and I was immediately head over heels for him. He was emotionally mature for a sixteen year old boy, and he saw through my nerdy, awkward demeanor to the girl I was underneath. We were that inseparable high school couple that everybody expected to get married, and two years after graduation, we did. We had a beautiful wedding, we bought a house, and we adopted two cats -- I had everything I thought I wanted.
Fast forward to four years after the wedding, when I was beginning to drown in a depression that I'd hidden from everyone for years. I was twenty-five years old and hadn't yet finished college because I couldn't muster the motivation to go to class. I was receiving rejection letter after rejection letter for the novel I'd written, and my husband and I slept under separate blankets with as much space between us in the bed as possible. But at the same time, I had a house, a decent job, and a sweet man who took care of me. It was the ideal life, right?
For years, it never crossed my mind that my depression had anything to do with my marriage. My husband was a hardworking, caring man -- but the "caring" part went too far at times. He was a tad controlling, claiming it was out of his concern for my safety. It bothered me that I had only the illusion of freedom, but I dealt with it because he had a good heart.
We both blamed my disinterest in sex on a fictitious hormone imbalance, or kidney stones, or endometriosis, or any excuse that camouflaged the fact that there was something much deeper going on. But I knew deep down that I didn't have a hormone imbalance. We just didn't have the same connection we had as teenagers.
We had no chemistry. We had nothing in common. We didn't get excited about each other's accomplishments, and we didn't even have actual conversations anymore. Simply put, we had grown apart as we grew up.
This wasn't what I wanted my marriage to be. I was tired of tip-toeing around my life and missing out on experiences that I wasn't allowed to have. I wanted to be with someone who was excited for me, not someone who was always mad at me for disobeying him. I suddenly realized one day I was pretending to be someone that I wasn't, and I couldn't do it anymore.
I was then launched into the most confusing, emotionally tumultuous period of my life. We tried to mend our problems, but the harder we tried, the more I realized it couldn't be fixed. We were just too different. So I began the arduous process of moving out of my home, filing for divorce, and breaking the heart of the man who still claimed to love me. It almost destroyed us both.
I've heard the saying, "people don't change" hundreds of times. But people grow -- and with growth, there's always change. I knew the girl that he still loved was a girl that didn't exist anymore. He loved the idea of who he thought I was, when in reality, he didn't know me at all. The day that I signed my divorce papers, I was a completely different person than the day I signed my marriage certificate. And two years later as I write this article, I know I've changed even more.
I've become stronger, independent, and aware of what I want and who I am. I've realized that I don't need another person to define me, because I am perfectly capable of defining myself.
I have never been happier.
I don't regret my marriage or my divorce, because both experiences were learning opportunities. When you find love, you've got to treat it like it could slip away at any moment. Because it can, and it will if you don't continue to challenge each other and help each other grow. You should be kind, courageous, and generous to one another, and never lose sight of your partner's individual dreams.
And above all, make sure to never lose yourself along the way.
If you divorced in your 20s and learned a lot about love, life and yourself in the process, we'd love to hear your story for our series, Divorced By 30. Send us a 500-800-word essay or an idea for a blog post to email@example.com
Also on HuffPost: