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'Being divorced was good for my second marriage'


For better and for worse, being divorced at age 29 has had a profound impact on my life - and on my love life in particular. My first marriage was a year-long disaster that ended with me leaving my husband on my lunch break. I never thought of myself as the "Dear John" type, but our relationship had reached a volatile point where leaving was essential.


When I jumped back onto the dating scene as a 29-year-old divorcee, I was incredibly self-conscious about the big "D" that I seemed to wear everywhere I went. Would anyone want to date me, or was I simply "used goods?" When I went on a couple of dates through an online dating service, I didn't make any love connections, but I did feel a sense of kinship with the one divorced man who I met for coffee. I knew that he "got it" - he understood that good people sometimes get divorced. It happens.

Just a couple of months after my divorce was final, I stumbled into a romance with a man who had been a good friend in college. I probably wasn't ready to meet "the one" - if there's any such thing - but we couldn't help ourselves;the potential between us was undeniable, and we'd already screwed up the timing several times in the past. Still, I questioned my own ability to make good decisions about love. What if I picked the wrong person again? Falling in love while also grieving the breakdown of my marriage - which I saw as a very personal sort of failure - was complicated at times. During the first year after my divorce, I worked hard to reinvent myself by changing careers, training for a marathon, and righting my financial situation. I also worked with a therapist who helped me realise that I needed to stop beating myself up about my divorce. My new love waited patiently. At age 31, I remarried, and it turns out that my first marriage wasn't a complete waste of time. In fact, being divorced has been good for my second marriage in a lot of ways.


When I planned my second wedding, simplicity ruled the day. I realised that it didn't matter what we wore or how fancy the food was - attending to the wedding details was less important than attending to our relationship. So we planned a fun party with semi-formal outfits, farmer's market flowers, barbecue fixings, apple pies, and local microbrews. Rather than jetting off to a tropical island after the wedding, we sped home and feasted on newlywed sex and leftover Chinese food.
Once I was remarried, I was (and still am) very cognizant of the fact that my dear husband and I are not stuck with each other - things could, indeed, fall apart. Some might argue that this mindset isn't healthy and that I should just have faith in our marriage. At times, this awareness does cause over-thinking on my part. For instance, I have an intense fear of turning into a so-called nag, and while this may benefit my husband in some ways, I don't always ask him for the help that I need.
On the other hand, I think that my awareness of our marriage's vulnerability actually benefits our relationship in several ways. One, this mentality helps me remember to let the little things go. When my husband does something inconsequential that I find annoying, I remind myself that overall, he is an amazing partner, and I keep my mouth shut. But I'm not above sighing deeply once he's out of earshot. Two, it helps me examine my own annoying habits, because like most people, I have a tendency to reserve my least charming behavior for those who love me. Three, it pushes me to be proactive when we drift a bit too far off course. While marriages have their ups and downs, it's best to avoid crossing certain lines in the emotional sand.


Many people crave the passion of a red-hot love affair, but in my experience, those relationships often fall flat or take a turn for the unhealthy. My first marriage became emotionally destructive and downright dramatic, and life's too short to live in a constant state of conflict. After living in an environment with so much up-anddown emotion, I have a true appreciation for the steady simplicity of a healthy union.
These days, life with my husband rarely screams "romance novel, " but that's okay with me. We love and respect each other, and most of the time we bring out the best in each other. In a good marriage, not every day will be perfect, but every day is an opportunity to keep choosing each other. Thankfully, I believe that I chose quite well the second time around.

US-based writer Emma Wilhelm edits the blog Divorced Before 30. This piece was inspired by her yet-to-be published relationship memoir, 'From Splitsville, With Love

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