The next brave soul to participate in my interview series is one of my best friends, Alyssa. I have known Alyssa for almost 4 years, and we have been inseparable from the moment her dad set us up on a "blind lunch date". She played a huge role in my support system after my divorce as she guided me through the process with her strength and her wisdom. I honestly don't know what I would of done without her.
When I got ready to do this interview series, she was the first person who came to mind. While Alyssa does not have any children, she still has plenty of advice about how to find yourself after your divorce and how to seek out your forward. I am so excited for you to meet her today, and for her to share her story.
- Before your first marriage, what red flags were you most likely ignoring? I was so blinded by thinking I was “in love” I didn’t think about the forever part or the part of really getting to know someone. I didn’t think about how old I really was or that I had all the time in the world to just date and figure out who I really was. We didn’t even talk about what our dreams and goals were for the future.
- During your first marriage, what were some things that your relationship lacked? COMMUNICATION. I didn’t realize it at the time, but we didn’t know how to really talk to each other. Since we got married so young, we started growing farther and farther apart as we got older.
- Do you think that placed unrealistic expectations on your first spouse? If so, in what way? Yes it did. As we got older, we started having different dreams and we didn’t talk about them because we didn’t want to fight.
- In hindsight, what did that teach you about realistic expectations from another person?No one is perfect. Finding the imperfections in your partner and loving that person anyway is a real partnership. I believe that loving everything about your other half and learning how to communicate and compromise with that person is what makes up a healthy relationship.
- What kind of unrealistic expectations were placed on you by your first spouse? First of all, as a young girl growing up in the South, the expectations of getting married and planning a big wedding is something you spend your whole life dreaming about. You don't really think about how it will affect the rest of your life. It’s not all romantic fairy tale after marriage and that puts a lot of stress on a couple who expects it to be that way.
- When you and your first spouse finally separated, what was your first thought? I think I was in shock. We both made mistakes and our marriage was over so quickly. We gave up without a fight which was the easy way out. Marriage is not easy, but we never communicated about anything, so by the time the divorce was mentioned in our minds there was nothing left worth fighting for.
- What was the hardest thing about being on your own for the first time in years? The hardest thing was not knowing HOW to become independent, because I had NEVER been out on my own. I went through a really hard time, and wasted a lot of time trying to find who I was as a person. I was not only suffering from the depression of going through a divorce, but I was also struggling with the emotional part of being alone and not knowing what to do next.
- Who made up your primary support system? How did those people help you the most? I was actually all over the place. I didn’t live near my family, so I decided partying and staying busy all the time was the answer. I felt lost and depressed for a year. After moving to Missouri, I was still going through the motions of trying to find who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. After a while, I slowly started going back to school and trying to figure out who I was.
- What are your thoughts on dating after divorce? I don’t think anyone should date for at least a year after their divorce. I know that sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, but I wish I would of waited. I was so lonely and looking for any kind of attention I could get. I dated way too much. I either ended up hurting people or allowing myself to get hurt. I believe that the first year should be about being alone, and getting some counseling that will heal you to heal properly. Since you are already an emotional wreck from my divorce, when you try to add dating to the mix it usually turns out not being a good way to start to your new beginning.
- How did that change in the months and years to come? I didn’t actually feel happy and content with who I was, or where I was headed in my life until about 4 years later. I was looking for happiness and closure in all the wrong places. In the beginning, I wasn’t looking to God or accepting proper guidance from my family. If I would of done those things, I think I would have been happier a lot sooner.
- Tell me about the moment you meant your current spouse/fiancé for the first time? Meeting Jonathan was at the perfect time, but it was also the wrong time. God put him in my life right when I needed him the most. We went through so many struggles in the beginning of our relationship. We were both trying to find ourselves as individuals, but at the same time we knew that the love we had was real. I wouldn’t want to change those struggles, because they made us the stronger, Christian couple we were meant to be. God made him for me, and I have no doubt in that. The struggles that I endured before him were baggage in our relationship, but they also made me a stronger partner. I don’t take the little things for granted. I cherish every moment, and I have come to respect the value we place on faithfulness and communication in our relationship.
- When did you know that they were the right one for you? I honestly knew that Jonathan was the one for me during the first month we met. I've never met someone like him shares the same values, dreams, and religious beliefs as I do and who respects the way we were both raised as much as he does.
- What is something you admire most about your current spouse/fiancé? I admire so much about Jonathan. I admire his compassion, the love he has for me and his family, his outlook on life, and how positive he is in every situation. He is so outgoing, and laid back about things. He always puts other first and loves to learn new things.
- How did your previous marriage help to prepare you for your current marriage? I am not even close to the same person I use to be. It prepared me to be more cautious, more selective, and rely more on God. It's helped me to open up and communicate with my partner. It has taught me how to appreciate the small things, and to compromise with the wants and needs that my partner has.
- If you have children, let’s talk co-parenting. How do you feel the transition has affected your children the most? We don’t have kids, but we have talked a lot about it. We know it will change our whole world, and becoming a team instead of enemies is so important. We have the same family values and Christian values, and we want the same things for our kids.
- If you could define your life after your divorce in one word what would it be and why? STRONGER. The struggles become a part of the person you are today. It affects your personality, your dreams, your outlook in life, and even the choices you make with your current partner.
- If you could go back to the first time and tell your young newly engaged self one thing, what would it be? WAIT. Find yourself first. Go to school, have fun, date around, and figure out the things you like and don’t like.
According to divorce statistics:
- 27.6% of divorced women are under 20 years old.
- 36.6% of divorced women are between the ages of 20 to 24 years old.
- 16.4% of divorced women are between the ages of 25 to 29 years old.
- The numbers greatly reduce after 30 years old.
Now before you get your panties in a wad, I'm not saying that every young marriage is doomed for divorce. However, I am saying that I know a lot of women in my generation who have signed up for marriage, because they got caught up in the wedding dreams without considering how that decision would affect the rest of their lives-just like Alyssa and I.
If you are young and newly engaged, I hope that you will consider Alyssa's wisdom and take her words to heart. Marriage is HARD work, and it's something that you have to be committed to fight for long after the beauty and excitement of your wedding day fades away.
To all of my young friends who are under age 25 and feel like they need to be in a hurry to get married and have children: Stop and take a breath. You're life is not escaping you, and you have plenty of time for all of that. Embrace your journey. Take some time to discover who you truly are and what you truly want in the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with. Trust me, you don't find out who you truly are until your late 20's and from what I hear, your 30's are the best years yet.
To all my lady friends who have been there and walked the well worn valley of divorce: may we remember what is was like and be a beacon to all those young women who look up to us. May we encourage them to wait and to take the time to find themselves before they make a mistake, and endure a lesson that is incredibly painful and hard to learn. May we encourage all the young married ladies around us. May we lift them up in prayer, and point them to the Truth. May we help them find their strength to fight for their commitments when the going gets tough and they feel like they don't have any fight left in them. May we never promote divorce as an option or a "way out". May we never sing the "praises" of divorce, but use the lessons we have learned for good-never harm.
You know? I adore the maturity you can hear in Alyssa's voice in this interview. She is a woman who has walked a difficult road, endured the fires, and walked away from them purer, stronger, and ready for the future.
What about you?
What's your story?
(If you are divorced and you would like to be considered for an interview in my Life After Divorce series, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)