It was the best of times, it was ... short and kind of sucked.
Why do so many young people these days decide to divorce after such seemingly brief marriages? We asked several women and men in their early 30s and their answers were what you might expect. They got married because their biological clock was ticking, the fear of being alone, they had just come off a bad relationship, they had marriage envy, all their friends were doing it, the usual reasons.
They left for the usual reasons, too: cheating and lying, physical and emotional alienation, what they wanted in life had changed, whom they thought they married turned out to be somebody else. For all of them, the day-to-day living, the trying to make it work, the self-blaming and finally the self-awareness that led them to pack it all in was like watching time-lapse photography -- a marriage and divorce editing down for the perfect You Tube video.
IN THE BEGINNING
Georgia: When I met my husband and decided to get married, it just felt right at the time. I was in love and also knew many others who were meeting their husbands and getting married. He was tall, dark, and handsome. We had the same goals and the same views about what we wanted: kids, living situation, activities, school, etc. It just made sense.
Rhonda: When I met my husband, the passion was sort of missing, but I overlooked it, along with some other things that greatly harmed our marriage (his temper and aggressiveness, his possessiveness) because he was seemingly trustworthy, stable, and responsible. I figured this is what marriage is, that you have to sacrifice some things to get others, that this was the best it was going to get. I was also trying to get over a cheating ex--a toxic relationship that I kept finding myself going back to. With the ex there was passion, but no stability or trust.
James: Everyone thinks only women have biological clocks--not so. My dad was 44 when I was born. My memories of him (he died when I was 16) are mostly of him sitting in a chair, reading the Times or watching the news. It was my Mom--14 years younger-- who took me to the park to play ball or bike ride, that kind of stuff. I loved my Dad, but I did not want to be an "old" father. I was 32 when I met my first wife. She was 29 and already divorced. We both rushed into marriage a year-and-a-half later. Between the two of us, the clocks were ticking so loudly it's a wonder we got any sleep.
Jenine: I dated my husband for a long time. We had a good foundation in the first city we lived in. I moved to a bigger city for him. It seemed a natural progression.
Sascha Rothchild: (Author of "How to Get Divorced by 30: My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage"): I had been dating my boyfriend for three years and was on my own arbitrary timetable. Three years to me meant get married or break up. I also got swept up in all my friends getting married and wanted to join in the fun, the parties, and the presents. I thought being married would make me settled, happy and whole. It did none of these things because I myself was not settled, happy or whole. And in the back of my mind, I wasn't sure I was in love.
AT THE END
Georgia: My expectations of the marriage and myself had changed. I was very social and loved going out with friends and organizing our activities. We decided to move to the suburbs to build a big house in the middle of nowhere. Even though I loved the house, my role as a wife began to evolve into something I didn't want. Boredom was sinking in and the emotional connection with my husband was slipping. We were fighting hard to keep it but instead ended up just fighting. The roles in the marriage had been reversed and that had to be changed. That was the beginning of the end.
Rhonda: We moved from a city to the suburbs in the hopes of starting a family. We were by far the youngest couple on the block. I felt very removed from the energy and youth of the city--I almost felt sequestered ... trapped there. It was very difficult to make friends or to find activities outside of the house with people my age. All there really was to do was to focus on my husband, and as I started to depend on him more and more as my only outlet, that's when I started to realize that I wasn't happy and that we had less in common than I originally thought. I realized that I was coming home to an empty life every night. I had a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood, a comfortable life, and so many material things for which anyone would be grateful. But the core--the elemental connection with my husband, the passion and understanding and ability to communicate openly--was missing. I felt so sad and alone.
James: One night I thought, I cannot have one more conversation about the cat ... where is her intellectual curiosity? Why didn't I see this before--passion replaced conversation in the beginning ... now I felt like I was living in a vacuum. She was also trying to make me into her father: All good husbands are in bed at ten during the week and by midnight on Saturdays. And everything I cared about was of no importance to her. I started smoking again.
Jenine: My husband cheated. I did not know the girl. This happened after eight months of marriage and I was crushed. I quickly realized it wasn't me; he was a serial cheater. But at first, I blamed myself: What did I do wrong? I also noticed he told lies; though they never seemed big enough to worry about, they should have been red flags. He lied on the golf course, in business, he was a chameleon and a great actor. He behaved like a good guy, because he knew what I wanted to see and hear--and he became that--on the surface.
Sascha: We constantly compromised to the point that both of us were unhappy. We put little effort into keeping our relationship strong and quickly turned into roommates that slightly annoyed each other.
WHAT WAS LEARNED
Georgia: Date for a long period of time before getting engaged. If I had dated my husband longer, I would not have married him. Know yourself first: what you like and don't like, what you can live with. Be happy with yourself first--your husband should be a complement to you, and you to him. Make sure you can say, "I'm good with me before I can marry you."
Rhonda: Ask yourself the tough questions. We ran into fertility issues, which put a strain on the marriage. But what it really did was make me stop and ask myself, "Before I enter into this next complicated phase of my life and delve deeper into this relationship by bringing a child into this world, am I even happy with this man? Is this the person I want to spend the rest of my life with?" In short, do not rush! I know the pressure from family and friends is so hard to resist and you feel like if you pass this opportunity up you'll never have another, but it's critical that you carefully evaluate the relationship before settling down!
James: Have the courage to make the necessary changes. Don't believe you are each other's last, best hope. You are not. But you can let ticking clocks and fear of loneliness make you think you are. I was the one who walked out (during a snow storm) - not a popular guy. I had to take a long hard look at myself and the bigger picture. What am I doing with my life? Where did I go wrong? Will I be able to move past the pain and embarrassment and have the life that I want and deserve? Will she? I am very happily married again to someone who is more like me. My ex-wife is happily married to someone more suitable for her. I think we both learned to be more realistic about ourselves. As hard as it was to leave, we both know it was the right move.
Jenine: Don't ignore the warning signs. Make sure you are with your boyfriend for at least a year and don't ignore the lies. My ex was a master trickster. You need to thoroughly know the person you are with.
Sascha: Don't get on the marriage train, unless you're sure it's the ride you want to stay on. Ask yourself why you are getting married. If the very first thing that pops into your head isn't "because I want to spend the rest of my life with so and so" then call it off. It's easy to get swept away on the marriage train, but easier to get off before your next stop is divorce.
Randi Small and Jen Schwartz are the co-founders of DivorceCandy.com