A Divorced Woman’s Thoughts on Marriage (Actually, Just Engagement – For Now…)

When I first mentioned this subject of this blog series to a friend they retorted with ‘Well, that won’t be snarky at all, will it?’. I was a little dismayed by the response. Not every divorced person is angry and bitter toward the institution of marriage. Not every heart walked away without learning any sort of lesson or making any observation of the fault they carried. My thoughts on marriage are not the sad, horrid, spitting rants of a scorned woman. They are more like a warning, a beacon of hope and a cautionary tale all wrapped up in one lovely Cat Lady package (note that ‘Cat Lady’ is presented as a proper noun. #CatLady).

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I definitely have spent a fair amount of time straddling the fence of guilt and blame from my divorce. I was far from perfect, as was the former spouse. We were really young and complete strangers to one another (we barely knew each other’s middle names when we said our vows). We were in love with a lot of things, including the idea of one another, but we were not in love with the deep, complicated person we held behind the puppetry form that courtship takes. No, we had not taken things slowly, we had not yet had time to pull away the gauzy, black curtain and find the messed up little person operating the glorious figures for which we had fallen.

I can’t speak for him with total confidence, but I can guess he was in love with the idea of ‘Wife’ as presented to him by the society of his parents, peers and house of worship. A lovely, apron-clad woman in the kitchen, a matronly figure to care for him at the end of the day, a hellcat in the bedroom and a saint on Sunday. I was just as guilty, for I had placed upon him the heavy burden of handing me a purpose, defining me as a woman and giving me a life, I thought at that time, of which I was completely unworthy. 

So with my background laid open for harsh judgment, I will now give a list of my unsolicited and unqualified thoughts on  relationships, engagement, marriage and so on. Let’s just call this a list of observations.

BEFORE THE NUPTIALS:

  • If you ‘can’t wait’ to be married – wholly examine your reasons for the sense of urgency.
    • Is it because when you close your eyes and think about the future, you cannot imagine your life without this particular person? Is it because when they say your name there is a sense of deep, inexplicable comfort in the tone and inflection of their voice? Is it because the two of you share something intrinsic that is hard to explain and precious to you? Do you want to face all the challenges of life with them? Are you actually AWARE that life is challenging?
    • Are you clocking your life on some ridiculous calendar that might as well have been put in place by a game of M*A*S*H in 5th grade? Are you watching all your friends get married? As they one by one they have babies, buy houses, start SAHM blogs and just GLOW with the perception of marital bliss… are you consumed with the feeling that LIFE is passing you by?
    • Is it because your person makes sense on paper and fits everything you thought you would ever want and all your friends would tell you that you would be crazy not to marry them? Is it because they line up with everything it seems like someone should want
  • Be sure you have some life experiences under your belt.
    • FINISH YOUR EDUCATION. In today’s culture this may seem kind of like mute advice, but it’s important. Never turn your back on investing in yourself. You may have aspirations to be the best stay-at-home-mom/dad that ever lived (which is an amazing aspiration if that’s what you truly want!). However, the experiences you receive in your college years, the lessons you learn, in and out of the classroom, will prepare you for your role in life in ways you never could imagine. FINISH. COLLEGE.
    • TRAVEL. No, South Padre for spring break with 15 of your closest friends does not count. I mean real travel. Take a semester abroad. Spend a summer working at a mountain resort. Road trip to some beautiful destination and spend some time doing something other than what college life and your early 20’s consists of – a party. Really. Go somewhere that you would not be ashamed to tell your parents, your boss or your future-in-laws about in great detail. It is so very worth it and you might even find a piece of yourself out there.
    • Live all on your own. Economy might dictate whether this is possible or not, but if you can swing it – DO IT. Having no one else to rely on – no parents, siblings, roomies or otherwise cohabiting humans –  for the bills to be paid creates confidence in your capabilities. Each month that you are able to keep the electricity on, the rent paid and the giant slobbering wolf pack of student loan debt collectors away from your door is like getting to know yourself just a little bit better. You learn how to manage your finances, create a solid future for yourself and you prepare yourself to be a partner in the business of life as well. Cats optional, but highly recommended. 

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  • Unload the expectations and talk about the tough stuff.
    • Expectations are relationship killers. Especially the expectations that remain unspoken. You have to unload your expectations in front of yourself first and examine them. Are they realistic? Can you see your partner fulfilling these things? More importantly, can you see yourself voicing these desires openly? (Remember this for married life, because those nasty expectations continue to creep up, evolve and grow larger the more your lives become intertwined). Once you understand what you want, communicate these things to your person. Clearly, maturely, but without demand, express your desires. If you have truly inspected them for yourself and found them reasonable there is no reason you should be afraid of speaking up.
    • If you find something is difficult to discuss with your chosen one you better find a way to get it out there. It’s usually something of great importance that gets caught right in the hollow of our throats. No matter what, we can’t seem to get it out. While we waste time struggling to find the right words those important and often life altering conversations seldom ever make it past our larynx. For whatever reason – cowardice, fear, compassion, pride – we rarely utter those things that are so hard to say and we suffer for it. Don’t set yourself up for that. Your unspoken words could save you from an unhappy union or could possibly make for the best relationship of your life. Say the hard thing.  25d99e0b5335d90b88f02e6353cea832

I am no one to give advice on relationships, engagement or marriage – obviously. I’m a 34 year old divorced woman with a penchant for felines and an unhealthy attachment to a piece of furniture. Take my words for what they are – the musings of someone who has walked a few miles into something, made an unexpected and enormous mess of things and is simply trying to be better for it.

In case you missed it, these observations are from my own life, my own mistakes and errors in judgment – they are my own hard learned lessons. I am not ashamed to say it – I messed up, I messed up real bad. However I think it’s important to share your faults and your mistakes with others in the glorious glow of hindsight, so maybe they won’t stumble in the same way you did.

Life is beautiful when we share ourselves, our stories and our aches to make each other better, don’t you think?

38 thoughts on “A Divorced Woman’s Thoughts on Marriage (Actually, Just Engagement – For Now…)

  1. Hi Cat Lady, nice to meet you 🙂 I’m 34 too and married still, with rough spots along the way (as is the journey. :)) I think your advice is spot on! The spark of a good connection is wonderful! But there is so much beyond that – a damaged, hurt, fragile, beautiful, wonderful soul who needs love and understanding, just like you do. Until you get real with yourself – and feel safe in communicating that with another – you’re probably not going to find what you really *need* in the relationship and with the right person. The good news is there is someone out there for everyone (at least I believe in that :)) and it only takes times, understanding and honesty if you really want to build the relationship you need and deserve.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing! A couple of my friends have gone through similar things. They got married very young and were swept up with the “idea” of marriage and planning a wedding. They totally weren’t prepared for what marriage really is. I agree that you should get to know yourself and get as much life experience as you can. I appreciate you being so brave to put yourself out there.

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  3. Pingback: Blogelina Commentathon – Group E | Blogelina

  4. Expectations and communication are two biggies that I had to learn how to deal with after I was married. Thankfully I had observed a good marriage in my parents so I felt like it gave me a headstart. We’ve both had to learn how to discuss the hard things and how to do it in a respectful way.

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  5. This is a wonderful post. You have learned from you life, that is truly great. I love your list of things to do before you get married. Discovering and becoming more of who “you” are before marriage, I think, increases the joy and fullness of a life lived together!

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  6. I think you are spot on with a lot of these things. People do not consider the seriousness of marriage. They think it will be some fairytale of sorts but is is far from it. One of my favorite quotes is this: President David O. McKay (1873–1970) observed that too many couples come to “marriage looking upon the marriage ceremony as the end of courtship instead of the beginning of an eternal courtship. … Love can be starved to death as literally as the body that receives no sustenance. Love feeds upon kindness and courtesy” (Man May Know for Himself: Teachings of President David O. McKay, compiled by Clare Middlemiss [1967], 289). Thanks for sharing your story.

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  7. I have been married for many years, and I will say this, Marriage is hard. Marriage is work. Marriage is worthwhile. I think that a good marriage will come if both people let go of there selfish notions and try to see things from the others perspective. I truly believe that love, true pure love will come with time. The following saying is something I whole heartedly beieve in: Do not pray to marry the one that you love, but to love the one that you marry. I wish you all the best and enjoyed your post. Thank you

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  8. I think a lot of people get swept up in the Hollywood romance idea. Meet a charming someone, fall madly in love, have the perfect wedding, families blend, have loads of children and live happily ever after. When, in reality, relationships are not all rainbows, butterflies and unicorns. It takes a lot of work from both sides. Add in little ones and it gets a lot more complicated. If you get swept up in the Hollywood lights of it all often you will find yourself knocked on your rear thinking WTH just happened. Which is not to say that it can’t work that way, it’s just a tougher path to follow. I think you made some great points about finding and KNOWING yourself before committing to someone else. If you don’t know you, how can someone else know you? ☺ I too am a lover of snark and all things snarky. ☺

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  9. This is such a great post! Marriage takes work, and effort on a daily basis. It’s not always perfect, all the time. You are going to fight and have arguments, but it is getting through those tough times and supporting your spouse no matter what that makes it worth it. I think our mistakes in life make us who we are today, and can show us what we want/don’t want.

    P.S. I’m a crazy cat lady too. 🙂

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  10. Great advice!

    I think the biggest key, and the best way to be successful in a relationship, is to first love yourself and be happy with you and what you do!

    It reminds me of the old saying “You can’t love others until you love yourself.” It’s so true! I think that any person in a relationship who follows this advice will be a greater chance of it working out!

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  11. Finishing college (and/or graduate school) is important. Once you get married, involved in someone else, and maybe start having kids, it’s so much harder to go back. Today education is so important and almost required for a decent job. Once you get the degree, no one can take it away from you, no matter where you are in your life.

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  12. The week my husband and I were married I couldn’t wait to be married. It wasn’t because I couldn’t wait to get started. It was more because I couldn’t wait to have the wedding week drama over and done with.. so everything could get back to normal.

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  13. I have an understanding on failed relationships. My own marriage is in a long state of separation. I know what it would take for my marriage to survive. I also know that if it doesn’t, what I would do differently to make any new relationship work.

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  14. I totally agree with you, Amy. Life before love is important, it’s crucial to be able to stand on our own two feet without relying on the magic of love that will solve the world for us.

    I like being married, I learn every day and fail twice that often. It’s a work in progress no matter how young or old we are.
    I wish you all the best xx

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  15. Love this! I especially agree with living on your own – completely before getting married. I only did it for 6 months and that is a regret I now have. Thanks for your words of wisdom and also that adorable cat picture!

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  16. You make some great points. Expectations can have such a negative impact on relationships. I also appreciate that you address saying the hard things. You are completely right; the things that are hardest to say rarely get say and they are usually the things that need to be said to allow a relationship to really be real and reach a deeper level. I got married at 19, my husband was 23 and it has been hard. I would do things a lot differently if I had a chance to do it again. I would put a lot more work into it from the start and I would have spent more time preparing for marriage. And I also would spend our first few years of marriage trying more things like moving away together and having adventures together.

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  17. You make a lot of great points. The hardest things to say are usually the things that need to be said to allow a relationship to reach a deeper level and be real. I got married at 19 and my husband was 23. If I could go back I would do a lot of things differently. I would have spent time preparing for being a wife and I would put more work into my marriage to avoid some of the difficult things that we went through. I also would have spent the first few years of our marriage having adventures together like traveling more, try moving to another state for awhile. I love that we grew up together but I would have done things to do it a little better.

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  18. I think you are a really wise person….especially to have learned these things so early!

    I didn’t marry til I was 34 and had picked up a lot of these, simply because time passes and I had a lot of fascinating open doors. There was one guy I’m ever thankful that I DIDN’T marry. On paper he hit a lot of the right notes…..but I don’t think that life would have treated us well together.

    Great, great words. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

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  19. I hear you on the expectations. My dad gave me some good advice before I got married: Be careful of unmet expectations. When we have expectations…and then our spouse (or parent/friend/whomever) fails, what do we do? Get angry, sullen, fight? Or contemplate, think and have a discussion? We need to be careful of the expectations we place on our spouse (like you said) and evaluate them. And voice them. Not voicing them is setting your spouse up for failure and that’s not fair. Voicing them provides dialogue and relationship and offers your spouse the chance to rise to the occasion, understand you better, and more.

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  20. Expectations are a huge problem. There is no good to come from them. I expected my husband o be one way for the rest of our marriage and then he became ill and he is not the same person as before. Things change, people change. Marriage is a commitment. I don’t say this is a judgmental way, as I am in my second marriage, but I advise everyone to study up on what a commitment means before you make one. I was 16 y old the first time. I didn’t have a clue. I wish I would have been told to study about commitments before I married the first time. It might have turned out differently.

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  21. If only I had read this 20 years ago! I too married too young and for the wrong reasons, but now, after a marriage, a divorce, and many years as a single mom, I am engaged again and I can honestly say I got it right this time. At 38 I have learned so much more about myself and, I credit those single years as being the years I ‘found’ myself and now know what is important in life, and in a relationship. This is great advice you gave, hopefully the people who need it most will heed it!

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  22. This was a great read for someone who is unhappy in life and can’t figure out why. While I am not that person, I can see how this would make someone stand up and take notice of themselves…sort of a self reflection. I think you sell yourself short though by saying you messed up. Every experience we have shapes us into who we are today. You are obviously a very well adjusted “cat woman” 🙂 who had some good and bad life experiences. But those experiences helped you help others. I would say that isn’t really a mess up. 🙂
    Great read, thanks for posting!

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  23. Love this – so many women get married so young with all kinds of expectations and they are totally set up for disaster! I am not sure if that if it is still as bad as when I was young, but the society pressure will kill you. I tell people not to get married, live with yourself first, then live as a couple and then after a few YEARS then you can start thinking about marriage.

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  24. Thanks for sharing your heart. I agree that expectations are relationship killers! So true! We live in a culture that teaches life should be easy and fun, but the reality is life is hard. Relationships are hard and take time and energy and still have no guarantees. So sorry you have had to go through the heartache of divorce, but it sounds like you have grown through the hardship. Blessings!

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  25. Thank you for your honest and revealing post. All really good advice that I think most can relate to. I have been married for 23 years, and we have certainly had our ups and downs. I wish we would have taken the time to have the hard discussions in the beginning, but as they say it all worked out in the end. I wish the best to you and your cats, and just know that from the hard lessons come the big breakthroughs. Best to you!!

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  26. What great advice! I know so many people who didn’t consider these things and ended up really hurting. My husband and I followed many of these and we still are crazy most the time:). I really appreciate your willingness to reflect on something that is difficult for you and use it for the good of others. I admire your reflection and your desire to focus on what is healthy for the next go round!

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  27. This is very helpful commentary on relationships and marriage. One of the points that you make, about living on your own for a bit, I never got to experience that. Although, I don’t think I really ever wanted to….unless you count having your own room for a year in an on-campus house during college…then I did live on my own, I guess. Reflecting back on that, I don’t think I would like living on my own personally, but I’ve definitely had enough experiences to grow as an individual. I feel like I’m rambling. Oh, and I got to ask…are those your cats posing so awesomely with what seems like extreme looks of contentment on their faces? If so or not, great pic either way.

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  28. This post is heartfelt and raw. Thank you for sharing. I am able to feel your pain through your words though you don’t use words that say “pain”. I commend you for sharing something that had to be difficult for you. I agree that life “can be” beautiful when we share ourselves, our stories and our aches to make each other better. It all depends on what you do with it.

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  29. You make great points in this, I was at the same age you are now when I had my first and only divorce. And it’s okay, I think when you come out with more wisdom than when you went in, and especially if you know yourself better then that is even better for your next one! I can’t wait to learn more about you and your own insights to life!

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  30. Amy, well said! Ahhhh, M*A*S*H! (Funny, my sons’ speech therapist and I were just talking about this game last week!) While my husband and I have been married 16 years (going on 17!) it has not been easy. Not. At. All. We have had serious ups and downs along the way. Four kids, in-law’s (apron strings), roommates (at the beginning – best day was when we moved and we had zero roommates), and a lot more. We have seen friends go through rough patches, some got divorced, some re-married (and some of those got divorced, again). Marriages do not always work out. It has to be wanted by both (at least to some degree). Thank you for this post! ~Adrienne

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