I’m a two-time loser. That’s right, I’ve been divorced twice! It’s bad enough to have one divorce experience and one relationship black mark, but two? How does someone manage this incredible feat? Any of us who are divorced even once may experience feelings of shame and guilt for having a failed marriage, then doubts about our ability to pick a good partner or function in a relationship. Imagine the self-doubt and humiliation that accompany multiple strikes!
Where did I go wrong, what could I do different, and what can I learn from my twin mistakes?
I have had to do a lot of self-exploration and reflection about my life to figure out how I earned the title of a duplicate divorcee’. I’ve had enough divorce in my life, so I needed to make sure it was not something I ever invited back in. I couldn’t rest until I analyzed why my marriages failed, what my part was in these situations, and what (if anything) I could change about myself.
I was a bit relieved to know I wasn’t the only one with this dubious distinction. I had at least two other friends – nice, educated, well-liked women- who had been in my shoes. The common denominator we all had with spouse #1? We all married very young.
Statistics show that couples who marry between 20-25 years of age have a 60% divorce rate. My friends and I were all between 18-20. Education, income, and other factors have a huge bearing on young marital success; and, let’s face it, most couples in this age range are only just starting in life and often struggle with money, jobs, and other issues.
I will beg and plead with my kids (and anyone else young who will listen) that there is no hurry to get married! I implore them to get an education, travel, and experience as much as they can because in late teens and early twenties they are really still just kids with so much to learn about life and themselves. How can one know what to choose in a partner if they don’t even completely know who they are?
I thought we were different. I thought I was uncommonly mature and focused and that our love was unique and indestructible. I had my family’s blessing because they had known and liked him for a long time. Instead of exchanging vows, a wedding, and an intended lifelong commitment, he should’ve just been my first boyfriend who I would later discover wasn’t a good match for me.
I gave him most of my 20’s and walked away from my marriage with a broken heart and the shame that my would be perfect marriage was a bust. I was not equipped to be an 18-year-old bride facing very adult matters such as mental illness, infertility, infidelity, pornography addiction, and much more. The experience made me grow up rapidly, but there was no need for any of it to happen!
I have forgiven him and myself for our critical error in judgment. In a weird way, I don’t count this marriage. Yes, our relationship consumed a decade of my life, but he was my teenage crush turned serious relationship flop that never should’ve happened. I have good memories from that time of traveling to all kinds of interesting places and meeting new people; but, I rarely speak of him or that marriage, nor the fact that it even happened.
I decided that since marriage #1 was a disaster, (and largely for things out of my control) that I should not be prevented from having love or happiness in my life again. I felt as though I had done everything I could to save my first marriage. I tried to get him to go to counseling, I tried to be sympathetic to all of his problems, and we had clearly both grown up, just not together or in the same direction. It was time to move on.
I am completely responsible for my next marriage mistake. I met a new man after marriage #1 was complete, we began dating, and became serious very quickly. I was his first real relationship. I had relationship experience from my first marriage that my new partner did not. He was excited to meet someone he felt so connected to and fell hard very quickly. I think I wanted to feel loved again, was terrified of being alone, and somehow I though “like” would be good enough.
I wanted to feel stable. I wanted to feel needed and part of something. He was part of a tight family, which I did not have. He was interested in settling down and having a family, which by now I was too. It wasn’t fair to either of us. I should have been much more selective. I should’ve given myself more time after my divorce. I shouldn’t have been so afraid to just be on my own. I didn’t take enough time to get to know who he was. I ignored red flags. I just wanted to be happy again.
According to 2015 Census Bureau report, 58% of marriages are between first-timers, meaning that 42% of brides and grooms were married before. That was me, heading down the aisle for the second time. We married within a year and a half of dating. We had some good times. We had two beautiful children.
Within two years of getting married I was submerged in doctor’s appointments and therapy for our son who was born with special needs. We never really did find “us” again. My world was consumed with caring for the kids, working, and trying to take care of our home. He all but stopped talking to me or interacting with us. I became lonelier and lonelier until I was severely depressed and staring down the barrel of another marriage that was fighting for air.
Some of my acquaintances who have been divorced twice have moved on to subsequent relationships. From what I can tell, they are more mature, wise, and aware of what to seek or avoid. Others have told me “that’s it! I’m getting a bunch of cats and sweatpants because I’m done with relationships!”
Even if the fault with these relationships has been the other people, what is it about us that ends up with those spouses? The answer to that question is different for each person. Maybe we gravitate toward the wrong people because we have unresolved issues from our childhood. Maybe we are trying to “fix” broken souls or don’t feel worthy of better? In any case, it’s hard to trust your own judgment in people or life decisions after two divorces.
I would say that I am another level wiser about myself and relationships after marriage #2, but it is incredibly embarrassing to clue anyone in about my marriage track record. In my case, dating need not always involve a ring, and more time and care needed to be given to really knowing my partners before such a commitment. I’ve made and will own my mistakes, and in some cases some things were out of my control. This is just another life experience that need not define me, and I’m still allowed to be happy.