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When you get married at the age of 23 as I did, you think you know it all. About love, life, the universe… everything.
I went into marriage thinking I was as grown up as I was going to get, blissfully unaware that one day it would fail, genuinely believing the wedding would fix all that I perceived was wrong with my life.
Spoiler: it didn’t.
If anything it magnified all the wrongs, highlighted the cracks, displayed the faults: like a teenage boy’s bedroom being inspected with a UV light. Marriage led to babies (that other well-known quick-fix) which led to a swift decision to divorce three years after the wedding. It’s a tale well told.
But I’m thankful for what the experience has taught me. Thankful that, though I didn’t learn much about life or love in the process of marriage, I learned loads about it in divorce.
And in the words of Baz Luhrmann, I will dispense this advice now.
You need to love yourself before you can love someone else
For me, my experiences and those of my friends, this is the most important point to make. Self love (not that kind, you perv) is the most vital thing to learn before you can love others. You need to realise how special, unique and loveable you are before you can love someone else and allow yourself to be loved. Once you reach that nirvana of happiness within yourself, life suddenly becomes a lot rosier, trust me.
Compromise is key
Disclosure: I don’t think I compromised once until my children were born. I used to wonder why I would compromise when I like doing what I wanted so much? Compromise was for weak people, right?
Giving up what you want to do for the sake of someone else’s happiness is actually a really lovely and heartwarming thing to do. Not all the time obviously, because that would be no fun, but when required on the odd occasion it’s a sign of love and commitment and is something that is well-worth doing for those you adore. See here: the many trips I make to soft play and to sit through kids’ films at the cinema ;)
Make that significant person in your life happy…
That doesn’t have to mean expensive gifts and trips to Paris. Happiness can be (and is mostly, in my experience) down to the little things: an “I saw this and thought of you” photo texted to them, their favourite meal cooked, a compliment. Making someone else happy is one of the easiest and loveliest things in the world.
…And make yourself happy, too
I used to apologise for the things that made me happy. Sorry for buying a dress with the money I earned – sorry for wanting to see my friends once a fortnight – sorry for spending a day baking a banging birthday cake. When these things were hardly inconveniencing anyone else, I don’t know why I apologised for wanting to experience them.
I don’t spoil myself to excess, but since I got divorced I don’t apologise for doing the little things that keep me happy, either.
I was almost as bad at communicating as I was at compromising, but this is something I’ve also worked a lot on in the last 4 years. Even in my no-commitment dating situations, being able to communicate my wants and needs has made such a difference to relationships. Not being afraid to tell someone how I feel seems liberating, and if someone I’m dating isn’t able to reciprocate by communicating their feelings too it just doesn’t seem to work. TALKING ROCKS!
Feel lucky to have love
I will never ever take the chance to love and feel loved for granted. Love isn’t, as I once thought, a right and a rite of passage… it’s a privilege, a gift. Love is something to be earned, cherished and respected, and if I am lucky enough to find it again (please? I am a really nice person) I will appreciate it as long as it is mine.