Our Wedding Was Incredible, We Were Divorced a Year Later

An as-told-to story of an anonymous woman who’s been through it

11.17.16
i-got-divorced-after-a-year-of-marriage-man-repeller-feature

I asked one woman to tell me everything about her divorce: what it felt like, what it still feels like, how it changed her. This is what she said.


We got engaged in our sixth year of being together. Married in our seventh. Divorced in our eighth.

I never thought incessantly about marriage, but when my friends started to get engaged and married and pregnant, I felt something that I didn’t expect. A pressure. Suddenly it was constant, from every direction. I went from being in a relationship, whatever, to that relationship being placed under a microscope by everyone in my life.

“You’ve been together so long, when’s he going to propose?”
“What’s wrong with you or him or your relationship that he isn’t proposing?”
“Why isn’t he choosing you?”

Everyone wanted that box checked for me. The concept of an engagement and marriage wasn’t about finding a lifetime partner, it was about social validation. I started thinking: I want that. I was happy in the day-to-day and I knew I loved him and suddenly engagement felt like the right next step. He felt the pressure too. To some people, a guy looks like an asshole if he waits.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t thinking about what I wanted, who I was, where I was going. Instead, I was worried about how to make it work. I was thinking, “What can I do for him, for us?” instead of, “Is this relationship working for me?” I didn’t bother to reflect and take stock of whether I was happy or not. I was just thinking, “Oh my god! I’m getting married! I’m registered for all this stuff! I got a wedding dress! I checked the box! I’m in the club!”

That’s probably why I didn’t see my divorce coming. I assumed it wasn’t in the cards. We’d been together for seven years. We’d weathered some shit. Why would we get divorced? But marriage ended up being a catalyst for our relationship ending, oddly enough. While it didn’t force me to take to stock of the relationship and my life, it certainly did for him.

We were married for 14 months without a peep. And then, within a matter of weeks of him telling me he didn’t want to be with me, we were separated. Month 15, done. It went fast. I chose to accept it versus fight it. I just said, “Okay. What now?”

Maybe that makes me sound like an asshole, but I was devastated. Fighting it sounded worse. I was so hurt, so scared to be alone, which I hadn’t been since my mid-twenties, before we got together. But that was the whole point. My relationship had defined me; I didn’t know who I was without it. A lot of women in their twenties worry about finding a partner, but the focus should be on finding out who the hell you are. At least that’s where my focus should have been.

I was ashamed. Divorce felt like the ultimate failure. I remember thinking, “Who can survive this? I have no idea.” It leveled my life. Telling people was hard. It took me months because I didn’t know how people would react. I was terrified. But everyone was so wonderful. The only thing I didn’t want was other people’s anger — which some people had, on my behalf. It was no good for me, made me feel weak, like a victim. I wanted healing, kindness, compassion.

I don’t think there was anything grossly wrong with our marriage. He realized it wasn’t what he wanted, and I had completely disappeared into the relationship. I think these two roles are common in a troubled relationship. One person doubting, the other in denial and losing themselves in it. Losing yourself is how you lose someone else, too. You stop doing shit you like and you stop liking when your partner does stuff they like. You stop taking care of yourself and you start expecting your partner to make you happy. And as soon as you do that, you’re fucked.

At the time, I felt blindsided by the separation. In hindsight, I kind of knew we were off and wasn’t paying attention. I was aware of our limitations as a couple from the beginning, but I never toiled over whether he was right. I accepted him. I loved him. I was all in. But he wasn’t. There was an imbalance.

Growing is hard. Growth sucks. It’s work. But the outcome? So worth it. In the beginning when everything felt so dark, like a shock, like a failure, I didn’t realize that there was this amazing person inside me waiting to come out. I didn’t realize how much I’d lost myself. I’m barely a year out now and am so much happier. I have all this energy, energy I was putting into the relationship that’s now going into myself, my career, my family, my friendships. I’m like a new person.

I feel the stigma when I tell people, but I actually like it. Because saying I’m divorced lets people know I’ve been through it. Like in my dating profiles? I say it outright. Divorced!!! To me that says, “I understand relationships. I’ve been through a serious one. I’ve been there.” I like having it as part of my story. This evolution has completely informed who I am.

My relationship with divorce has changed a lot. If I get married again and, after ten years, we get divorced? I’ll still view that as a successful marriage. People change. That’s okay. There is more to life than getting married. A spouse is a supplement, a partner, but we’re all responsible for our own happiness. We overemphasize romantic relationships. Our roles as friends, sisters, daughters are equally important. I’ve realized I can accept and give love to so many different people in so many different ways. Turns out I had a lot of other places to put it.

While we’re on the topic of  marriage, here’s one woman who thinks they’re overrated.

Illustration by Charlotte Trounce; follow her on Instagram @charlottetrounce.

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  • PCE

    we ARE all responsible for our own happiness! I think that’s the biggest takeaway from this, for me at least. For so long I feared changing careers because of what my parents, my grandparents, my friends etc would think. I worried that my relationship with my bf was “weird” to other people because we didn’t DO EVERYTHING together – i.e., he loves skiing, I hate it – so he goes on ski trip with his friends and I’m booking yoga retreats and spa days with my friends. It keeps us both happy and sane. Our individual lives should be enhanced by our spouses/SOs, but the core of you should still be YOU. So important.

    • Allegra

      “Our individual lives should be enhanced by our spouses/SOs, but the core of you should still be YOU.”

      This is so well said.

    • Mallory

      I think that a lot of us care so much about the expectations of others, and we forget or do not focus on what truly makes us happy. Focusing on your happiness is such an important aspect of self-care, and I couldn’t agree with more when you say “the core of you should still be YOU.” It truly is so important.

  • Allie

    This is such an important article. I absolutely love it and hope I remember to re-read it again when I need it most. Thank you for sharing.

    “We overemphasize romantic relationships. Our roles as friends, sisters, daughters are equally important.” – So. Much. Yes.

  • I can’t tell anything about the marriage from my own experience. But seeing my friends getting married and then divorced I can tell this post couldn’t be more accurate! I love reading The Man Repeller it’s my biggest blogging inspiration <3

    http://mrs-sarcastic.blogspot.com

  • annie holland

    I love this so much. There is something out there that tells us our SO should fulfill our every need, but we are so much more than just who we are in a relationship with. Self love and respect are important to all of us, it is sad how easy it is to loose sight of that. Thanks for the honesty and support Man Repeller, you’re the best.

  • Christel Michelle

    This was so beautiful. It’s ok to not be in a relationship, and don’t let your relationship consume you if you’re in one are such important pieces of advice.

  • lauren

    This really resonated as someone having almost the identical timeline. Together for 6, married in the 7th, divorced in the 8th just 14 months later. Just 8 months out from it now myself, those first few months were some of the most painful moments in my life – reconnecting with myself, experiencing what it truly means to be lonely, but ultimately placing ME first and finding the light again. “Losing yourself is how you lose someone else, too. You stop doing shit you like and you stop liking when your partner does stuff they like. You stop taking care of yourself and you start expecting your partner to make you happy. And as soon as you do that, you’re fucked.” Amen to this. I appreciate Man Repeller tackling this topic and really needed this read today.

  • Holly Laine Mascaro

    This is such a great, honest article that everyone in our remote age group (any age group) should read.

  • Erin Beck

    This says everything I’ve wished I could say about my divorce. Especially: “The only thing I didn’t want was other people’s anger — which some people had, on my behalf. It was no good for me, made me feel weak, like a victim. I wanted healing, kindness, compassion.”

  • The Keyboard Slayer

    Love this post. I do believe we get caught up in this stigma that we are not fulfilled unless we find a partner, but that is so far from the truth. Loving & investing in yourself and ensuring your happiness is your main priority is the best thing you can do.

  • Erin EJ

    I’d love to read/see more about your warning signs and how and why you ignored them. I think those could be potent messages for people who may find themselves in a similar situation. Also, good for you for celebrating your “status.” Believe it or not, a majority of Facebook friends of mine were married for under 18 months. They all totally purged their accounts of the evidence, which is a shame that there is so much shame!

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    Wow…it’s as if you read my mind. I’m only 22 and have never been married, but at this juncture in my life, I have similar thoughts about this supposedly end-all-be-all institution. We (especially women!) have been conditioned to view marriage as the apogee of success, and divorce as the exact opposite. But like you said, it almost seems ridiculous to assume that people will remain compatible over the course of 5,10,20 years. We’re encouraged to spend our lives improving and developing; maybe such growth involves growing apart. I’m still a hopeless romantic at heart. I believe in true love and desperately want to get married. But if I were to get divorced, I’d hope that the romantic in me would survive. That the same sense of hope that led me to believe in soulmates would likewise help me be optimistic in the face of such heartbreak.

  • “A spouse is a supplement, a partner, but we’re all responsible for our own happiness. We overemphasize romantic relationships. Our roles as friends, sisters, daughters are equally important.”

    Would it be too blatant to share this with my couple friends who are virtually attached at the hip? Also with the mere acquaintances who look upon me with pity and say, “But you’re such a great person! I’m sure you’ll find someone someday!”

    *Insert equivalent of a ‘kindly fuck off’ emoji here*

  • Rebecca Schiffman

    this is such an amazing read, and i really related to it (although i haven’t been married, relationships still apply). once we get lost in relationships and expect others to give us happiness is really when we are fucked. thanks for letting me know i am not alone 🙂

  • N

    I love seeing this. I was in a very similar situation as well–we dated for about 3 years, he proposed, married by year 4, separated by year 5. It came out of no where. I lost 20 pounds the first few months because I nearly forgot how to eat I was in such shock; such depression. But soon I started to rediscover my strength. When we separated, it was still all about him: “What’s HE thinking? What does HE want?” and I realized I had been thinking that way for longer than I realized. After about 6 or 7 months of separation (and therapy), I started to retrain my brain–making it more about me: what’s healthy for ME? What do I want out of MY future or MY life? What do I deserve in a relationship? Ultimately, and to my own surprise in some ways, we ended up working things out and are now back together. And I’m happy with that outcome, but I realized I would’ve been happy and fine with myself had we parted ways too. You realize a lot about yourself when you go through that sort of loss, whether you work it out or get a divorce. And while it was super, super painful and I’m still processing that pain, I did learn a ton about myself and relationships. Including how to work on focusing more on me.

  • I loved this, but as someone in the 4th year of a serious relationship that is getting toward marriage in the next few years, this is my biggest fear. Not fear of being married because I feel like it will just further cement what we already have. I feel like we’re both all in, and we’re both so happy, but what if it’s not enough? Am I a chickensh*t for not wanting to lose him?

    Someone slap me if I’m getting ahead of myself.

  • Koko

    this could only be written by someone who has been married without kids – kids change the whole game and make it much more difficult to act upon the realization that the other one is not the life partner you wanted at your side

  • Maybe I’m just weird, but I honestly never want to get married. Maybe it’s because my parents divorced but to me it’s not a necessary step in a relationship. I’ve never daydreamed about my wedding or anything like that.
    I’ve been in a relationship for 5 years, we live together, have a dog together, run a website together, file our taxes together. In my eyes we’re pretty much already married, a ring or paper wouldn’t change anything for me.
    Still, this was an interesting read since we’re heading into year 6. But I don’t feel that I’ve lost myself, if anything he’s helped me find myself. In our first year of dating I tried really hard to cater to him – I wanted us to have common interests so I started listening to his music, watching his favourite shows, even eating his favourite meals. Then it got exhausting and I started missing the things I like, so I caved and he told me to just be me. So we both take time to pursue our own interests, but have also found common interests and activities we can do together. I think we have a pretty good balance.
    And if it doesn’t work out … I’ll be devastated, because at this point I can’t really imagine life without him. But I know that I’ll be able to make it through, wish him the best, and know that our time together was essential in my journey and helped me grow as a person.

  • pia_k

    Just bookmarked this article and titled it ‘Read After Breakup’ 🙂

  • Hannah M Roberts

    Such a clear and beautifully written piece – reminding us in a society full of constant “box ticking” of life – just how Important it is to be yourself and look after yourself. What’s right for you isn’t for everyone! Thank you!

  • ValiantlyVarnished

    Love this! As a woman in my mid-thirties and single this is something that I struggled with in my early thirties. All of my friends were getting married and having kids and I felt like there was a deficit in my life. Like I was missing something. And it sent me into a deep depression for awhile. Now that I am on the other side I can actually realize a few things: I actually LIKE being single. I like that I have the entire bed to myself and that I don’t have to make decisions and take someone else’s feeling into consideration. I’m actually good at being alone. I like my own company and I like myself. I know who I am. I have a clear understanding of what I do or don’t want in a relationship. And I also have stopped putting pressure on myself to think that if I don’t get married or don’t have kids that my life is somehow incomplete. If those things are meant to happen for me then they will. If they don’t I can still be a happy and fulfilled human being. And here’s the kicker: If I had been married or had kids when I was in my twenties I don’t think I would have been ready for either! It’s only now that I have accepted where I am now and being okay with it that I feel I’m ready for whatever comes next.

    • Senka

      At 33 I feel exactly the same.

    • art

      You echoed my exact sentiments, except I am a guy. Men are also pressured into believing they have to get married and have kids in order to have a complete life. A single man in his 30’s with no kids is seen as odd. But again, its up to the individual to find out what brings them true happiness. I am 30, single. and love my freedom. I can travel when/where I want, live life the way I want. Do I get lonely at times, and wish I had someone to share my life with? Absolutely. But at the end of the day, I don’t know if I would trade anything for the freedom of being single and live my life exactly the way I want.

  • gashgoldvermillion

    As someone who just ended my marriage it was really interesting to read this perspective.

    I will say, though, as the leaver there is very little in the way of sharing about your journey. At least I haven’t found it. In the same way you write about not wanting people’s anger, I don’t want their congratulations. I know I’ve made the right choice, but it’s not something I need constantly validated, and hearing people say they knew your marriage wouldn’t work from the beginning is the worst response imaginable.

    I know the emotional journey is somewhat easier for me than for my ex, since I did make this choice and I get to claim some agency at least. But I do find it interesting that we so rarely see narratives like this from the person who left.

    • lauren

      Completely agree with this. The most disheartening response I’ve received are people saying they weren’t surprised or they had reservations about the marriage in the first place. Worst ever. Gee, thanks? I also have been shocked at the amount of villainizing that has gone on for my ex – and I think that is mostly because I think that’s what people THINK I want to hear – but it’s not. The reactions you receive could be a whole post in and of itself – I believe all of my closest friends have the best intentions but sometimes you just need someone to listen. And the reactions of strangers and acquantances! Don’t even get me started…

      • Rebekah Novak

        I got a lot of the opposite reaction: people saying they were so surprised. I was like “really? Where have you been?” It didn’t bother me too much, more made me realize maybe I hadn’t been sharing my life with my friends and family as much as I thought I had.

        Totally with you on the villainizing- I only had one friend who would do this, and my ex was not even a bad guy, but she would just go off, including calling him an asshole. He’s a lot of annoying things but he’s by no means an asshole. It just felt like her finding a proxy for issues with her own exes, it did not feel like it had anything to do with my situation, and just turned the conversation into me trying to talk her down from her irrational reaction. Not helpful or pleasant.

  • YNMD

    I’m really happy for this woman that she’s found her own acceptance, but as a woman who’s been with her partner for 11 years and married for 6 of them, this still reads as kind of terrifying for me. I can’t imagine my partner pulling this bullshit on me, frankly. You were with a guy and, after that many YEARS, he up and decides he’s done? Huh. Frankly, I suppose not being with someone who pulls that kind of sh*t is better than the alternative. Still, I’d cap his knees before I reached my own person zen.

  • Having survived a divorce in the 10th month of marriage, I can say with confidence that marriage was not the life-affirming dream I had hoped it would be, and its dissolution was not a disaster. Even my father said to me, as we moved the last boxes out of my ex’s apartment for the long drive back home: “I have never been prouder of you than I am today, seeing you stand up for yourself and walk away from unhappiness.” Leaving can be costly and humiliating (especially at 30), but consider the alternative!

  • María Belén

    “My relationship had defined me; I didn’t know who I was without it.”. Oh girl, this post just hit way too close to home. I relate to everything this article spoke about (but on a break up level). I guess the only thing left to do it’s to learn to not avoid our instinct and not give in to social pressure about where people think your life should be (easy peasy, right?).

  • Tanya D

    Good article and great feedback below but I haven’t read anyone considering how we (women, girls, mothers, sisters) put the pressure of marriage upon each other. We are so critical on ourselves without the added pressures of social status. How about we just support each others choices?! If everyone around you is getting married and you find yourself single, don’t start doubting yourself.

    Celebrate your single hood. And if you’re married and you have a single friend, still keep her in your life. Ask her how her day is and give her the encouragement she needs to hear to follow her path. I was with my exhusband for 18 years. We had good and bad times but we both managed to keep our separate interest and my interests included meeting my girlfriends out for shopping, coffee, a meal, or just having wine at her place.

    This is only my opinion but I think marriage will happen when the couple decides it’s right for them. Don’t let anyone from the outside of that union tell you when it should happen or feel pressure to make it happen.

    Peace!

  • Natasha

    Thank you, this was such an interesting and moving read. I think society sets us up into thinking of life as such a linear thing, with a bunch of steps and checkboxes leading to marriage/kids/success as the ultimate destination. But lately I prefer to think of life as a collection of moments, with the point being to simply have as many good ones as possible. Whether that means 5 marriages or none, many short relationships or one lifetime partner; it’s up to us. There’s no right or wrong way to do this thing 🙂

    • art

      I am abit late but cant help but reply to your comment. You are so darn right! Life is about enjoying moments and finding what makes you truly happy. We get duped into believing that being alone is the worst thing possible, that you have to get married and have someone to share your life with. While I agree that marriages and having someone to share your life with is indeed a beautiful thing, it may not necessarily be for everyone. We are all unique and want different things out of life.

      • Natasha

        Hi there! I totally agree. Life is what we make of it, and love takes so many forms. Thanks for bringing me back to this post, i enjoyed reading it again.

  • Myfanwy Hood

    This is fantastic and so accurate! Thank you 🙂

  • This article is beyond beautiful. Such an inspiration. I was married for a year and a half. We only dated for 8 months but both of us were all in. He asked me to marry him. No pressure. I didn’t say anything about marriage. As a matter of fact the day before due to the emotional strain of my life I told him to either be the supportive boyfriend I needed or walk away. On second thought maybe that was pressure. For me it was casual. Stay or go. He proposed the next day. In 2 weeks we were married and he fell out of love with me a month later. The divorce was no shock. It was him falling out of love that confused me. How do you go from being adored to hated in 31 days? I just wrote my next article on this issue a few hours ago and wondered whether it should even be published. Then I read this and realized a divorced women’s experience needs to be voiced. More for other women than ourselves, but both are healed in the process. Thank you for sharing.

    • pennyjenny

      That’s the rough part about new relationships (less than a year); you’re still in that HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY window where everything is enchanting and fun and exciting. Once that dies down, you can get a better picture of what your relationship will really be like.

  • Woman lover

    Strap on time! She should work on attracting other women then repelling men. Save it for your psychiatrist.

  • Ms E

    “You stop taking care of yourself and you start expecting your partner to make you happy. And as soon as you do that, you’re fucked”. <—This is the truth right here.

  • John

    I see so many of my girlfriends get married in record time before they turn 40- it makes me sick to see the pressure you women are under !

    If you were an underwriter for an “insurance happiness company ” “marrying men” would like the highest risk activity-men get worse with age – hell we are at our prime at 18 ! Who the f&@; wants to be at their prime 18- put it this way no asks if Keith Richards is happily married- but no one lets Oprah off the man hook- she saved populations in Africa and all 60 mins could talk about is her relationship with men

  • pennyjenny

    This is SO GREAT. I’ve been with my partner for eight years, and neither one of us cares to get married. People give him shit for not asking, which I find to be quite sexist. We’re both a bit cynical and not “wedding people.” And for me, marriage itself feels a little sexist/too traditional for me. (I am really happy for my friends who get married; I just think it means different things for different people.)

    Your line “If I get married again and, after ten years, we get divorced? I’ll still view that as a successful marriage. People change. That’s okay,” really resonated with me. Society has this weird idea about “true love” and the concept of marriage, and I find it to be really limiting. There’s nothing wrong with things not working out. It’s sad, but it isn’t the end. Life is totally random and crazy, and I choose to see it as an adventure.

  • Grant Giokas

    That sounds like the other person was isolated and controlled to the point of “needing out” rather then they were never “all in”.

    When your relationship defines you, you actually take away the identity and whole life of the other person as well. Shame the amazing person on the inside didn’t show up to the relationship… from my personal experience it’s much harder being the person being abused trying to escape and build their own life back.

  • Strong Woman

    This was so well written and I can so relate to everything that you’ve touched on. I never once in my life ever thought I would someday be divorced, and I don’t think my ex did either. We would endlessly talk, even before the marriage, about how we were going to persevere no matter what. Unfortunately I had a little bit more dedication to this thought then he did because he filed for divorce a few weeks shy of our 1 year anniversary. I was so embarrassed and obsessed over the thought of being “damaged goods” to other single men out there, it absolutely terrified me. But deep down I’ve started to realize that life isn’t perfect, people aren’t perfect and the only person I have control over is myself. It’s a shame I wasted 10+ years of my life with this man, when I probably could’ve been out there searching for the one… but I am thankful for one thing. I walked out of that marriage with my head held high and my nose cleaned. I never cheated, never lied and I gave it one hell of a go. I’m not sure if he will ever regret his decision, but I hope he’s truly happy with the woman he left me for. I on the other hand will be using this time to make myself happy and whole without needing someone else to fill that role for me. We only have one life to live and thankfully I was saved from a situation that could’ve made me miserable for many more years. The universe has big plans for me AND for you as well!

  • art

    Good article. To be honest, I never completely understood the stigma behind divorce. I mean, people change and grow apart, isn’t that fact of life? don’t get me wrong, I realize that divorce is a very painful thing to go through, because you realize you will not be spending the rest of your life with the person you though you would. I also realize that when kids are involved…..OK, that’s a whole other topic! I also find it highly commendable when people make every possible effort to save there marriage. But the fact is, if two people are just not compatible anymore, isn’t it better that they go there own ways and just get on with there lives? And why try to save a marriage if a person’s heart is not really into it?