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What I Learned About Love (By Getting a Divorce)

What I Learned About Love (By Getting a Divorce)

love lessons from divorce

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.


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  • My dad always says that you learn more about a person when you are leaving a relationship than when you are in a relationship, and I think papa tMatM might be right, about the person and like you say, about yourself. Thanks for the post. (And glad to hear you sound so very content and happy).

  • Thanks for your post and it’s really wise. I feel self love needs constant work throughout the marriage, it has to be there at the start for the people getting 2gether but i have found it needs constant work – it needs to be topped up! For my valentine’s card to my hubby i’ve googled poems and quotes … one quote I liked was “Marriage is not 50-50. Divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got!”

  • I forgot how young the kids were when you split Alice! These are such good points, I’m very much still working on a lot of these myself (especially the compromise thing!!) I’ve learnt a lot about our relationship since having kids and that it’s something that needs working on almost constantly which was a surprise to me!

  • You write so well (I thought your last post was great and now feel like I’m repetitive). I was married at 22, separated by 24, to someone I met when I was 16. All of these points ring so true. And they set me up for the marriage I committed to ten years later. Albeit, the second has children, and some of your advice I think I’m living more like a journey (taking the wrong turning once in a while) than a lesson learned.

    • Thank you, Debbie!

      Your situation sounds so similar to mine. And like you I really hope this will have set me up for a long-term commitment for some time in the future :)

  • Yes to all of this! – great post, Alice. Currently in the throes of a divorce myself, we didn’t quite make it to 2 years but no children involved and luckily it’s all very painless.

    There is someone else in my life, someone who I am so glad to have met and we’re working through the things that we both felt let us down in previous relationships – whether that’s me feeling I compromised too much or him not communicating as much as he could. The future looks good and we both feel so hopeful about it.

  • You are a wise bird aren’t you? I really loved reading this and can see some of the ways that these things can easily slip and become taken for granted. Relationships of any kind require us giving of ourselves and also understanding ourselves and our own needs. You’ve nailed it here. Thanks for sharing Alice – I can’t imagine that you’ll not find love again – you are awesome. x

  • I am nodding along to all of this and it has taken me until my 30s to realise this. It is an awful cliche but I learnt how to be alone, and now truly value my independence and learnt how to love myself. I spent so much of my 20s thinking I had to be with someone, either friends or a relationship to do things I liked. Now I don’t care. If I want to go to the cinema and no one can come with me I will go alone.

    Of course, it also has helped that for the first time in my life I have met a great guy. It wasn’t until I got into this relationship that I realised how much time I spent in my last relationships trying to change myself. For the first time, I am completely and utterly myself in every aspect of my life!

  • Stumbled across your account via Instagram stories.

    I don’t usually reply to things like this but thought I would.

    My wife and I split last year, 12 months after becoming foster parents after years of unsuccessfully trying for a baby.

    I’m currently learning so much about myself and who I am. Yes I made mistakes in the marriage and maybe didn’t try as hard, and although I wasn’t the one to end it I don’t hold resentment anymore. At the age of 33 I’m finally being the person I want to be.

    A good friend of mine said that when she met her husband she didn’t actually know what she was looking for, but did not know what she wasn’t!

    The hardest thing for me is he “love yourself” aspect as my confidence has been knocked massively but I’m getting there! Doing things for me, that I enjoy is helping

    I’m now a single dad to a little boy who calls me dad after only 16 months of being with me! He’s with me until he’s an adult now, (not that I’d kick him out then though haha)

  • I stumbled across you on Instagram Alice (in awe of many of your beautiful lifestyle shots – Instagram is so great for escapism), and it has been throughly refreshing and enlightening reading many of your posts about your life experiences of divorce, single parent-hood, the life of a working mother etc. I am 33 years old, married at 25 and separated last november. Currently in the throes of a rather unpleasant divorce (we have a 3 and a half year old son). At times my situation feels completely dire, not to mention daunting, overwhelming and ultimately terrifying. I have taken great comfort in your writing, so much of what you say re-affirms my own beliefs and gives me confidence that the future can be bright!

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