Getting divorced in your 20s

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Hi,

I’m a twenty-something-year-old divorcee. How does that sound as an introductory line?

Coming from a female, it’s often met with empathy. Women may say, “Well love it’s not your fault, men are dogs anyways” or men might say, “Hmm baby… that man doesn’t know what he gave up”. Coming from a man, however, it’s a different story.

In discussing my recent Facebook status change from married to single, I feel as though men who get married at a young age actually have a harder time than women at settling down again. Even though a relationship may not necessarily be what I may be looking for right away, as I am still navigating my way through the emotional healing cycle, this has been something on my mind.

All my friends and even some strangers have agreed that the words “I’m a divorcee”, uttered from a twenty-something-year-old man, instantly conjure thoughts of accusation. “What have you done this time?”, “Why didn’t you try harder to make it work?”, and my favourite “Don’t ever tell a woman that you’re getting divorced” are some of the lines I hear.

‘Don’t ever tell a woman that you’re getting divorced’

I come from a background where secrets are the norm, and emotional distress is discussed neither openly nor comfortably, so after being with someone who is highly compassionate and emotionally engaging, seeking the support within my original environment seems inexplicably difficult, because I am now trying to find something that I have come to accept as the norm in an environment that is void of such interaction. They say we marry the parent we never made peace with. It’s easy to tell who I was for her, but my family life is so cloudy, with all the secrets and lies, it’s hard to tell who I saw in her and which parent she was like for me. People say that I’m lucky not to have any assets or children involved, but the metaphorical surgery that takes place during this process is like no other experience, and sure as hell doesn’t feel like luck. The way I see it, she was my asset, and I was hers.

The burden of not sharing these thoughts and feelings about this surgical procedure I am going through has become tremendous, because as my friends have clearly put it, no one wants broken merchandise. Some of you might be thinking well how is it different from having a ten-year relationship with someone and living with them? And you’re right; by the time we reach our late twenties we all have ‘baggage’ of some sort. Some people have kids. Most have unresolved feelings for a past lover, and quite a few of us have had our hearts broken at least once, but this is different. That oath made at marriage – that oath of staying together through sickness and health -means that the journey toward a shared future is much further along than a common-law relationship. It also holds true that at this age most of us still have an idealistic vision of what marriage means, even in this modern day. But what the storybooks forget to do is provide insight into what happily ever after really means.

‘The way I see it, she was my asset, and I was hers’

Just as with every other relationship, all marriages have stages, and with many theories available about the stages, there is no consensus on the steps, required time or best way navigate through them successfully. Generally speaking, there is the passionate stage, the disillusioned stage, rebellion (yeah that again), reconciliation/divorce, and, if the previous stage is passed, some sort of autopilot proceeds.

The inability for ‘professionals’ to conclusively agree on these stages is rooted in the formation of a unique and complex individuality when two people decide to enter this union, and with the hastened pace of the technological world today, human interaction is evolving. These factors have led me to somewhat disagree with the ‘stages’ school of thought because my marriage seems to have zoomed through these stages, and instead of staying in auto-pilot some sort of conflict would throw us back into the first stage and the cycle would start again, partially because we may not have completely dealt with the emotions of previous conflicts, and partly because we were still discovering ourselves. So every time we go through the stage again, the lessons are different and it is handled differently. It’s a constant learning cycle.

Now that the relationship has ended, the hardest part to handle is the knowledge that it’s not an unfortunate death that has caused this surgical procedure, but some other combination of factors, and even though I was the one who initiated the procedure, she is just a phone call, an e-mail or a journey away.

‘The hardest part to handle is the knowledge that it’s not an unfortunate death’

Not being a subscriber of make-ups and break-ups, the adaptation to single life while accepting this feeling of loss has been a bit hard… and wild at the same time.  In running from being alone, I’ve met a few really beautiful people (too bad the timing wasn’t right). I’ve had some great sex (good thing I’m not in Trinidad… ha ha ha) and had some interesting conversations (with people who have not known a thing about my situation of course because as I said before, being married changes the reaction I get from women my age, and at a time when I should be honest with myself and others, I lie).

All this ‘destructive’ behaviour has really been to regain that connection in some weird way. In reality though, it does more damage than good, because all it does is remind me of things I used to do or couldn’t do when I was with my ex. I’ve even contacted her a few times with mixed responses, but because we’re both trying to heal, sometimes I end up wishing she just didn’t respond because the pain that comes rushing back is just too much.

What makes it even harder is when the people you thought would be there for you don’t understand, and distance themselves, which fosters the feelings of bitterness. So seeing a number of my friends becoming engaged often meets a very anti-marriage response albeit with some sort of congratulatory tone tied in somewhere just not to sound like a sour grump.

In retrospect, although we are all different and our unions provide a different set of factors that contribute to the dynamics of the relationship, it’s amazing how many ‘educated’ individuals embark on such a significant journey, and insist on doing it without even seeking to widen their frame of reference to help understand and deal with some of the issues and emotions they may face by consulting the experiences of others through books, counselling or even spiritual guidance.

The idealistic vision still held by most means a lot to them, especially at my age. So until more of my peers start experiencing these feelings for themselves later in life, or understand the many dynamics of relationships, the stigma attached to being a male twenty-something-year-old divorcee will be an issue for me.

 

Image credit: blog.beliefnet.com

 

5 Comments

  1. Karen Francisco

    kfrancisco

    June 21, 2010 at 8:24 am

    It’s clear to me that you have the ability to love so at this time just be… take the time to heal and be in the moment with you. Whatever it may be: happy, angry , or sad. Don’t judge your feeling or analyze it. My favourite line is:

    ‘The way I see it, she was my asset, and I was hers’

    You took my breathe away!

    Continue to heal, as you continue to love life and yourself more everyday!

  2. highly flavoured

    July 10, 2010 at 8:15 am

    being a divorcee myself in my twenties I can feel your hurt. what got me through was friends and family. Just having a support system.even if it is one friend that you can call to go lime or something. An also when you feel the need to be alone that is when you need to be out with friends the most. It was nice to hear it from a man’s point of view

  3. Cara M

    July 28, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Hi Andrew,

    I was interested to read this article and your perspective on divorce in your 20s.

    I’m also a twentysomething divorcee. In fact, I just had an article published about it. I’ve pasted the URL in case you’re interested in reading about my experience.

    On balance I’ve found the experience to be net positive, despite the devastating heartbreak. I hope over time you find a way to make peace with the path your life has taken.

    Take care, and be kind to yourself.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/facts-and-arguments/im-a-twentysomething-divorce/article1637460/

  4. barbara

    March 24, 2011 at 10:06 am

    hi :)i am divorced and in my twenties. I couldnt help but nod in agreence with everything you have said. It hard to figure out what you really want after all this takes place. the confusion the anger, sadness, fear…and i agree that its harder for men to say “i am a divorcee” because of the reaction factor, but for me despite the reaction i receive its like getting the wind knocked out of me. hahaha it has been a very interesting road, it has forced me to find myself and come to terms with what i really want. and as totally clique as it sounds this expierience has made me a better person, made me stronger. as i am sure it has made you. it sounds it.

    and i have gone thorugh the exact same thing with friends. people i really thought would always be there with me have left me high in dry. and amaizngly some of the people in my life that have supported me and helped me to heal have truly surprised me. but life is just that, one long string of surprises :)

    As hard as this whole situation is and has hard as it is always going to be, it is apart of who you are now, just as much as it is apart of me now for my situation. Dont let people put a stigma on you. because really, if it isnt this it would just be something else. people think what they want no matter who you are. or how great of a person you are.

    hold onto some of that idealistic thoughts on a happy ending too. divorce is a horrible thing to have to happen to anyone i know, but that doesnt mean that there isnt a happy ending out there for us somewhere : )

  5. Onya West

    April 22, 2012 at 12:10 am

    stop…reading…my…mind! lol

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