Divorced at 29: Reflections on a Marriage That Wasn’t

Saying ‘I do’ in my 20s was not one of my brightest moments.

It probably ranks down there with drinking OJ after brushing your teeth and/or eating Whataburger at 2 a.m. with a stomach full of alcohol. All occurrences, while widely varied, end with the same sour face.

I attended college at a private university in the south, where women were applauded for getting engaged before the end of their senior year, and expected to become mothers by their mid-20s. While I do not blame society for my poor decisions, I cannot help but acknowledge that my environment certainly encouraged me to place a greater importance on marriage at a young age, rather than on a career.

There are women far smarter than I who did not fall into the trap, and I applaud them. I, on the other hand, felt driven by a ticking clock. My timeline was etched in stone, and damn if it would be altered in any way.

Oh, to be young and foolish. Post-divorce me winces at the determination of my younger self; a girl blinded by others’ expectations of her and oblivious to what she truly wanted.

And that’s the thing: I believe that very few women (and men) genuinely know what they want and need in a partner until they have the opportunity to experience the antithesis. My marriage served as the antithesis of what I needed in a spouse — we could not communicate our way out of a cardboard box, sadly, and did not see eye to eye on…basically anything.

We met in our late teens, during a time when emotions ran high and rational conversations were non-existent. In retrospect, he and I were the poster children of opposites attracting — a relationship that began as a relatively harmonious yin and yang, but slowly evolved into a gasoline and matchstick situation. Sporadic grumbling became the norm, and at the end, our differences resulted in days of resentful silence.

Those around us chalked up our bickering to youth (“he will grow out of it, she will mature”), but as the days and years progressed, it became harder to write off our warring dynamic. I, like many other twenty-something divorcees, experienced an internalized tennis match during every fight. Do our issues stem from immaturity or incompatibility? Is this a phase, or permanent? Is irrational, childish behavior pushing us to fight like this, or are our personalities forever ill-matched?

All questions that I asked myself on what seemed like a never ending loop. All questions that I wish I could have answered far sooner.

Ultimately, it took the better part of 10 years to realize that we were simply not right for each other. A decade lost to unnecessary wars over grocery lists, dirty socks, and whose car took up more room in the garage. Yelling. Finger pointing. Rinse and repeat.

So while it would be easy to look back with ample remorse and bitterness, as I am further removed from signing my name on the divorce papers, I find myself grateful. For the opportunity to learn (albeit the hard way) and grow into someone who embraces her independence.

22-year-old me was terrified of that word.

30-year-old me loves who she is because of it.

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