Thoughts on Marriage From a Young Divorcee
This article originally appeared on Mode.com.
“Would you ever get married again?” I get the question all the time. I got divorced when I was 26, which, while not altogether rare, isn’t an everyday occurrence. In fact, contrary to popular belief, the divorce rate in the U.S. has been steadily declining since 1980, when the first-marriage divorce rate probably peaked at around 40 percent.
In any case, hearing someone got a divorce at age 26 probably sets off a slew of preconceptions and judgments in your mind, and I’d like to address the most common one: divorce makes you bitter.
My ex and I were together almost seven years, married for two. He is a kind, loving man; somehow, we just forgot how to love each other. I’m far from bitter or cynical. In fact, the dating experiences I’ve had since my divorce are much more likely to brand me as “bitter” than my divorce. Bitterness is ultimately a choice, and I opted instead to remain a realistic (not hopeless) romantic.
My belief in the institution of marriage has never been firm. In my world, marriage is paperwork, health benefits and familial bureaucracy. Marriage is easy. Commitment, however, is not. I find myself often trying to explain how marriage and commitment are not one and the same.
Time and again, we see couples overcome with infatuation, overwhelmed by passion and overthrown by emotion who rush into marriage. On the other hand, we all know a couple (or seven) that has diligently filled the happily-ever-after prescription: date for two years, move in together, get engaged, get married, buy a house, have babies, and the list goes on unrelentingly.
On either side of the spectrum, the focus never seems to be on the most critical component to any lifelong partnership: commitment. I don’t blame these couples. Commitment is hard. Unlike everyday, easy-breezy marriage—which in most cases comes with a massive, glamorous party and gifts galore—commitment comes only with grueling work.
True commitment to another person means constantly evaluating and improving yourself for them. It means listening to them, not just verbally, but also physically and emotionally. It means giving up a part of your heart to make room for their emotional needs and a part of your mind to make room for their worries. It means learning how to be selfless and open and kind even when you’re angry. These are not simple lessons. They’re taxing and often riddled with fear, tears and resentment.
So, my answer? Yes, I would marry again. But that’s a conditional “yes.”
I would marry if my partner needed marriage to feel whole as a family; because while I have these feelings and beliefs, I don’t expect others to share them. If I fell in love and committed myself to someone long term, I wouldn’t dismiss his needs, feelings or beliefs—including those pertaining to marriage.
But most importantly, I would remarry if my partner had already demonstrated his true commitment to me through consistent and sustainable actions. See, in my world, marriage comes after commitment and not the other way around.