In a famously stubborn move, I decided I wanted to get married when I was twenty. It made sense to me- I’d been living away from my parents since I was sixteen, I was done with college, headed to a prestigious graduate school and I wanted to settle down. I think my mother thought I was joking, but two years later, I was exchanging vows at City Hall with one of my oldest friends as the sole witness. My then-husband was a close friend and lover from college, my first love and one of the few people who knew the dark places in me and didn’t flinch from them. He was eight years older than me and, after moving to NYC and picking out an adorable apartment in Bed-Stuy, we separated seven months later. The months following our separation shocked me- mostly the reactions from friends and family, who had a whole slew of emotions ranging from anger to indifference. However, some of the more hurtful responses slash assumptions stuck in my head a bit and I’d like to share a few of them:
1. I shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place.
Oh, this one was just lovely. See, I was identifying as bisexual when I got married, which a lot of my friends didn’t know until after we separated. Now, part of the reason for our separation was that I came out as queer and did not want to date men (it’s a little inconvenient when you’re married to one), but what blew my mind were the number of friends who flat out said to me “Why did you bother getting married if you knew you were bi?”
I’m sorry, even after all this time, I still don’t have a reply that guys can hear without conjuring a mental image of me drop-kicking them in the face. When people started acting like I’d hidden it from my husband and ‘tricked’ him into marrying me, I nearly lost my damn mind. Now add that to folks implying I was at fault for daring to enter the institution of marriage as abisexual!!!! How horrible of me! Didn’t I know that bisexuals shouldn’t get married because they’d always insatiably want the opposite gender they’re married to? I felt painted as the irresponsible bisexual who left her man to chase poontang…even though our decision to separate was mutual and included other factors.
2. My marriage ‘doesn’t count’ and/or ‘wasn’t real’.
I really believe that if the duration of my marriage had been longer, people would have been a lot more compassionate and respectful when I had to go through losing it. I also believe that if it had ended for reasons other than my coming out as queer, the same would apply. When a marriage is short and you’re young, it becomes a lot easier for people to dismiss it and trivialize its impact on you. Personally, my marriage meant the world to me, and I was utterly devastated when it didn’t work out. To hear people brush it aside like it wasn’t a big deal just made things worse.
The fact that I came out at the same time also had people reacting as if my newly revealed identity canceled out the effects of separating. I had a lot of friends challenging my orientation and debating it with me, while in the back of my head, I was wondering where was the compassion for someone who just lost a marriage. I’d received more kindness from the same people when my crushes rejected me in college! Only one person’s first reaction was “I’m so sorry this is happening to you”, and that was because I didn’t come out to them. On the other end, I felt like some of the queer community assumed that I was in a loveless straight-thus-irrelevant arrangement and I wouldn’t mind being ‘freed’ from it. I got the impression that since I was out as loving women, my marriage to a man didn’t count…sigh.
3.I didn’t do enough to try and save it.
First of all, I want to make it clear that I get what a big deal marriage is to some people, how they think it’s meant to be forever and how divorce is an option they just don’t want. I get it because it was a bloody big deal to me too and I did not happily skip and dance my way into my separation and divorce. Hence, I wanted to shake people who came up to me and started making suggestions like- “Maybe you should stick it out and see if how you feel changes?” or some other obvious thing they felt would’ve saved my marriage. I wondered if they really really thought that all these options hadn’t already been considered by my husband and I. It was so frustrating- as if I’d just prance away from my marriage without going through every single possibility that might have saved it and us from the subsequent pain and heartbreak.
4.I should regret getting married.
Quite seriously, I had a close friend insinuate that I was jaded and damaged from my marriage, and that I didn’t believe in commitment anymore. My reaction was “word?” That was odd to me, because getting married was what gave me faith in true love and all that romantic jazz, what taught me how to communicate lovingly and openly, what showed me how wonderful it can be when you never lie to your partner and live in trust, and what love looks like even when a marriage is ending. It’s also what got me hooked on commitment. I love commitment. I Stan for committment. I just don’t understand why I’m supposed to regret all of that.
Someone once warned me against getting married on the“You don’t want to be divorced at 25!” tip. I ended up divorced at 24. And so? Just because my marriage didn’t work out is no reason for me to run around regretting it. That period of my life changed me in awesome ways, taught me things I cherish, put me on a new life and career path that makes me happy. The blessings it gave me far outweigh the pain of losing it, and frankly, I’m even grateful for the divorce. I found out that my mother (after her initial upset) was the only person in my life who actually understood what I was going through, from first-hand experience, and that deepened the bond between us.
5. People have any right to judge my marriage.
I mean, this is what it all boils down to, isn’t it? Let’s be honest, when two people are in a relationship, they are only people who know what’s going on in their relationship. I don’t care how many details she gives her best friend or how much she writes about it online, I don’t care how much he processes with the other people in his life, the relationship is solely between the two of them. It follows that they are in the best position to make decisions about their own relationship (this is so obvious, I can’t believe it’s been necessary to point it out). As an outsider, you can give advice and opinions, you can respectfully ask questions and you can even feel like you know what’s best for the person in question, but please know your place and understand that you simply don’t have the right to pass judgement on a relationship you were not a part of!
Clutchettes, spill the beans! Have you had a marriage or other relationship not work out? How did your loved ones react?