Divorce at 25: What’s it like when all your friends are just getting engaged but your marriage is ov…
Scrolling through Facebook, you get that familiar feeling.
It seems like every week, there’s another engagement or wedding filling up your social media feeds.
But what’s it like if you’ve already been there, done that and got the ring – but then it’s all fallen apart?
Going through divorce when you’re young and most of your friends haven’t even got married yet can be tough. It can lead to feelings of failure and a serious confidence knock.
And there are practical concerns too – how many millennials can afford an expensive divorce lawyer?
Bronni was just 21 when she got married. She met her husband in her final year of university while he was stationed at an RAF base nearby.
Just months later, they were walking down the aisle.
‘We had to decide pretty quickly if we’d call it a day or take the plunge and commit,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘We met in March 2014 and got married in December 2014 before he was posted to a new camp.
‘This enabled us to have a home together and for me to move with him when I graduated.
‘I was obviously a little wary given how much of a whirlwind our relationship had been but I really did see a future together, albeit very different from the one I’d imagined for myself at such a young age.’
A year later, the couple discovered they were expecting their first child, but when Bronni’s husband went through a bereavement, cracks started to appear.
She says: ‘He seemed to make a conscious effort to push me away. He thought that this was protecting me but I felt like I was going through a very difficult pregnancy alone.
‘I attempted to seek help from counsellors but he didn’t really seem to want to engage.
‘It became clear to me that our priorities were very different as he chose to leave the RAF in order to spend more time as a family but he became focused on a new career and it put a massive strain on our relationship.’
Before their son turned one, they discovered they were expecting another baby but at their first scan, they found out that the baby had died.
‘I found it pretty traumatic but I felt that he didn’t really acknowledge it and once again shut down and seemingly acted as though it didn’t happen,’ she explains.
‘We spent most days arguing and the atmosphere at home became very stressed and my mental health really suffered.
‘I once again pushed for counselling but this didn’t seem like an avenue that he wanted to pursue and instead he felt that a divorce was the best option for us so he filed for it in February 2018.
‘I felt incredibly scared as the pressure to single-handedly care for our son lay solely on my shoulders.
‘I know that in effect I’d always felt like a single parent as my husband had always worked away from home so in reality it wasn’t too much of a change.
‘Once the legalities and financial aspects of our separation were sorted, I felt much more of a sense of relief and positivity.
‘I felt better in myself than I had in months and I really started to enjoy life again and had much more motivation.
‘I’m able to be the best mother I can be now and my days are filled with doing things for our family of two, rather than having unnecessary stresses, pressure and upset to contend with.’
Although Bronni learnt to embrace her new life, she was worried about how others would react to her being a young divorcee – particularly as she had kept a lot of their relationship troubles hidden.
‘Other people were shocked as I’d hidden just how miserable and dysfunctional we were for some time.
‘I’d tried for so long to create the illusion of a perfect happy home and family but I realised that all three of our lives would be better if my husband and I separated so that was my focus rather than others’ reactions,’ she says.
Although they had broken up, Bronni had to learn to continue to see her now ex-husband and let him into the home they had previously shared, for the sake of their young son. This included letting him stay in the house overnight and going on days out together.
Now, over seven months on, she admits seeing him regularly is still difficult.
‘We disagree over certain things and it’s really hard when you’re the one caring for a child 99% of the time and meeting their basic needs as obviously the other parent can sometimes be the ‘fun’ one who can buy them expensive treats and provide things that you can’t,’ she explains.
‘I’m giving our son all I can and I’m giving him a happy, stable and fulfilled life so I need to keep reminding myself of that when certain aspects of ‘co-parenting’ upset me.’
Even when children aren’t involved, going through a divorce is not straightforward for other people.
Suaad was 25 when she got married in May 2017 but ended up asking for a divorce in November 2017.
She had been with her partner for two years before their wedding day, which she said was a lovely day.
But just a few months after walking down the aisle the couple started to argue.
‘Before the wedding, everything was good and I didn’t have any doubts. The day itself was stressful but I really enjoyed it,’ Suaad tells Metro.co.uk.
‘For the first few months, it was fine but by the end of September, things were getting rocky. I started to realise it wasn’t the right choice. I tried to make it work but by November, I just felt like I couldn’t do it anymore. It was a buildup of things and it was getting worse and worse.’
In November, just six months after their wedding, Suaad asked her husband for a divorce and moved out.
‘When it came to asking for a divorce, there was a sense of relief. I was just glad that terrible time was coming to an end.
‘I spoke to my parents before I mentioned it to him and they said they would support me no matter what. Neither of us were happy so I felt there was no point continuing,’ she says.
But living as a Muslim, Suaad admits that she faced judgement from her community.
She says: ‘When I said I was getting divorced, everyone suddenly had an opinion about what I should have to do.
‘People were quite judgmental – it wasn’t my family – but I felt like people in my community were.
‘They were saying things about how I wouldn’t be able to get remarried because people wouldn’t want to marry someone who has been married before. It comes with a stigma – like I’m not ‘pure’ anymore.
‘It was ok though – my happiness was more important. I felt like even if it meant I would never remarry, I would rather be happy.
‘Rather than making everyone else happy, I have to put myself first.’
A year on from separating from her husband, Suaad is trying to move on.
‘I wouldn’t say I never want to get married again – just because I had a bad experience doesn’t mean the whole thing is terrible, but I am wary of people and relationships.
‘I’m not looking for anything but maybe someday, if I did meet someone, I wouldn’t be against getting married again.
‘Right now I am focusing on my life and my career,’ she said.
Getting over a divorce or breakup at any age is not easy but Simone Bose, a counsellor with Relate, has some advice for what to do, particularly if you are young.
‘Whether you are young or old, the situation is very similar. There is a feeling of failure that it didn’t work out but you can learn from the experience and have positive relationships in the future,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Young people sometimes feel like time is running out. I do think it is worth seeing a counsellor to start to develop a different narrative around your experience. Sometimes you end a relationship and you don’t fully understand what happened.
‘I have seen quite a lot of young people who have just got divorced and I think they feel that they haven’t developed themselves an an individual because they married young. Your twenties are important years to develop who you are and what you do.
‘When the relationship ends, you might feel like you missed out on things. You should start to explore yourself again and start to build your own self-worth as an individual.
‘When you are younger, your parents are often quite a lot more involved in your life. You look to them no matter what age you are but often more so when you are younger.
‘They might be an amazing source of support for you but they might also say things such as “I told you so”. Be careful and put some boundaries up.
‘It’s important that you have self-care and surround yourself with positive people. Your friends who aren’t married might not have the empathy that you need.
‘They might dismiss it because you are young and you still have time so find the right people.
How can I get help?
Relate is the UK’s largest provider of relationship support. If you want to talk to someone about a relationship and get some support, you can find your nearest Relate Centre and give them a call.
‘If you have children, that person is in your life and it’s not a clean break. You don’t want your child to be caught in the conflict. You need to try and have a space where you can speak rationally and try to build some sort of friendship for your children.
‘That again may involve counselling because that is where you can just talk with somebody else helping you.
‘If people are going through a break-up and they can’t afford a lawyer, you can go through mediation who can help with the legal aspects and make negotiations to decide what to do before you take that to a lawyer.’