Young, dumb and divorced in your twenties

‘Divorced’ might not necessarily be a label you associate with twenty something year olds… but historical data from the Office of National Statistics shows that those who marry in their teens and early twenties are at much greater risk of getting divorced.

In 2017, 11% of divorces were of those in their twenties. There’s a lot of shame and stigma surrounding divorce, and some say this is elevated by being younger. But whatever happened to your twenties being all about making mistakes?

Messy isn’t here for judgement, we’re here for messiness, rawness and honesty. So we spoke to Rachael L (who goes by @datingforbaddies online) who has first hand experience of getting divorced by twenties and intends to banish any kind of shame around it.

“I really never dated in my 20s because I was with my ex husband. We were married for about two and a half years and I was divorced by 29.

“Before my mid twenties, I wasn’t really the type to do much introspection. I don’t think I really got to know myself before marriage.

“My mom had passed away, and in hindsight it just completely changed my whole life. It changed me personally, I no longer knew who I was without my mom around.

“She passed when she was 59, which is fairly young. So it just made me think about my life and my happiness and who I wanted to be as a woman. My Mum gave so much of herself to everyone and not a lot to herself , I realised that I don’t want to live that way… I want to make sure that I’m really happy with the person I’m with”.

Recent studies have attributed ‘getting married too young’ as one of the most commonly reported reasons for divorce in the UK, but outside of official statistics, many psychologists attribute ‘pivotal events’ or major life changes such as a loss of a loved one, as a trigger for divorce.

Divorce isn’t an easy decision, and Rachael explained that it was difficult to make the decision to file as she didn’t consider herself to be on bad terms with her partner.

“I attempted to get the paperwork set up once before the divorce and didn’t go through with it. I think just the guilt and the uncertainty was eating me alive. I was fortunate that my ex partner wasn’t a terrible person and it wasn’t an unhealthy relationship, it just wasn’t working for me and I didn’t know myself. I stopped gaslighting myself and telling myself that there’s something wrong with me. me it took me some time to get to the point where I was like no, I think this requires a divorce.

“You start kind of convincing yourself to stay, and asking ‘can’t I just get over this? Is this something we can work on? But I think so many people do that and they end up staying in relationships that Just leave them feeling so unfulfilled and so trapped, and that’s not healthy.

“Of course we want to give things a chance, but if you just have this overwhelming feeling of it’s not working, listen to that. I’m not saying jump to divorce, in hindsight we never went to couples therapy or anything like that. maybe that would have helped. But it was the right decision for me. I’ve learned about myself and who I want to be in this world. It’s been so life-changing.”

For a lot of people, the idea of dating after a break-up or divorce feels so daunting.

“It was hard that I was the first person in my friend group to be divorced because it felt like I was the only person in history to have ever gone through something like that. Of course, the divorce rate is really high and it’s actually very common, but it didn’t feel like that at the time in my circle. I have made a lot of friends since though.

“If I could go back and tell my younger self something I would say please don’t be scared of what people will think don’t live your life that way. There may be people who will judge you but that’s their prerogative, There’s also going to be people who support you and who love you and want the best for you.

“As a divorcee, I thought people weren’t going to want be because I was divorced, but no man ever cared. I’ve dated men who were divorced too. All of those stories are just in your head.

“I struggled so badly with feelings of embarrassment feelings of failure. I highly recommend someone who’s going through that to please make sure you have the right support again. But I struggled with those feelings immediately after.”

There’s a lot of negative talk around the current dating scene, and for many people, the experience isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There’s a ghosting epidemic, and it’s scary going back into the world and putting yourself on the line. But it’s not something we’re going through alone.

Rachael says, “Being totally real, of course I’ve had some feelings of regret since. I think that’s important to say. I’ve wondered what would my life would be like if I didn’t get divorced. I’ve absolutely had thoughts of if I didn’t get divorced, I wouldn’t have to be in the dating scene right now. I wouldn’t be single. I might have children by now. I had these thoughts and it’s normal to have these thoughts especially because dating is not easy these days. I don’t think any of us can be dishonest about that.

“But at the same time I try not to think in what if’s because who knows if it would have worked out any differently. I’m very big on not living in the past. Ultimately I’m creating a future that I really love and deserve.

“I tried to date soon after but definitely wasn’t ready. So I took some time to myself and focussed on my job, making friends, my existing relationships and rebuild that relationship that I lost with myself.

“There’s just so much beauty in this. You get to come back to yourself. You get to have beautiful experiences. And yeah, I truly don’t regret any of it, I really don’t.

 “I just think it’s something not like I said before you just feel so alone in it, especially if you don’t have friends who have gone through it, especially if you don’t have people who understand it fully. it can feel so leaving yourself with those feelings. Those overwhelming feelings can just feel just awful and so heavy. But you’re actually never alone with it. And there’s people who are exactly…

“I wish when I was going through this that I was able to speak with someone who understood it or could help me understand it from an objective, please so again that support is just important and I’m just like I love that we’re talking about this because it’s important for people to hear for sure.”

For more articles about relationships and all their complexities, visit our friends, family and flings pillar.