What they’re not notable for: divorce.
Marriage dissolution is uncommon among millennials, given that this generation also has a tendency to delay marriage. A 2014 Gallup poll — the most recent data Gallup has on millennials and marriage — found that just 27 percent of millennials were married, while two percent were separated and three percent were divorced.
Divorce can be an isolating and traumatic experience, especially for women in their 20s and early 30s, who sometimes feel a particular shame and stigma at a time when many of their peers are newly married or have never been married.
So we asked our readers: What challenges do young, divorced women face?
Six women from different walks of life bravely submitted their stories. Their collective hope is that another woman going through this process will know that she’s not alone.
Tasha Doornink of Sundance, Wyo. Married at 24, divorced at 28
“He basically decided he had stopped loving me and didn’t want to be married anymore.”
Jessica Lawrence of Canton, N.Y. Married at 25, divorced at 33
“I felt like a failure and that I was ruining my 5-year-old daughter’s life.”
Simmone Taitt of Brooklyn, N.Y. Married at 28, divorced at 34
“We were together for 12 years, married for five years.”
Caitlin Fillmore of Salinas, Calif. Married at 22, divorced at 28
“I asked my husband what he wanted for breakfast on a sunny day in October and he said, ‘A divorce.’ ”
Elizabeth Powers of Cleveland, Ohio Married at 23, divorced at 26
“Had my marriage lasted, [Dec. 29] would have been my 10th wedding anniversary.”
Hannah J. of San Diego, Calif. Married at 18, divorced at 25
“The short version is that I wanted to try and make it work, but due to his own mental health issues (depression and PTSD), he wanted out.”
TD: “We tried to keep it civil and actually talked the first 1.5 months after the separation. Then he got a girlfriend and shut down communication. He dragged out our divorce longer than necessary by simply not responding to his lawyer for far too long. Once I finally signed the papers, I cried both happy and sad tears. I still cared about him but I am so much better off without him.”
JL: “I lost so many friends in my divorce. I had a huge group of friends, and it was just a bad falling out. That’s something no one understands about divorce: the effect it has outside of your marriage.”
EP: “At the time, I felt alone and ashamed. I didn’t have the resources available … and felt overwhelmed by the legal aspect of ending my marriage. Most of my friends weren’t even in committed relationships at the time, let alone trying to figure out if they should separate from their partner. No one in my immediate family had ever gotten divorced, either.”
HJ: “Thankfully, my relationship with my ex has been very cordial and we still talk and help each other where we can, there’s no raging anger or messy fights to make the matter even harder than it already is. I have found it challenging to start over … I felt 18 all over again because that’s the last time I could remember without him in my life. When you’re married and divorced young, it seems like you have already lived an entire lifetime in the time it took your friends to graduate college. I felt wise beyond my years, but so behind at the same time.”
TD: “Everyone’s first response seems to be ‘I’m sorry.’ I think because they don’t know what else to say. Then they ask how I am, if I have started dating or if I have spoken to him. It always feels awkward but yet empowering when I have to tell them because I know I am a better person now than I was with him and I am proud of myself for moving forward. I try to steer any conversation away from him and more toward what I have been doing and plan to be doing.”
JL: “It varies. A lot of older people judge me and say, ‘Must be you weren’t married long’ and ‘marriage just isn’t what it used to be.’ You see dads out there with their kids, solo, and people think it’s so cute. It doesn’t work the same way with women. It’s a double standard, which isn’t okay.”
ST: “Today, I don’t have to share the saga of my divorce. When I share that I’m divorced, I always say, ‘I am 50 percent of a failed marriage, and we were happy until we were not.’”
HJ: “Because of my age, people tend to minimize the divorce. While they may think that saying, ‘You have plenty of life ahead of you to find someone new’ is nice, it can also feel hurtful. While it is true that being divorced young means you do still have a lot of years ahead of you to find love again — and you probably will — that doesn’t make the current loss any less hard or devastating.”
CF: “One of the important, unexpected lessons from this process was confronting how ill equipped most people are with handling uncomfortable conversations. … I have been asked, ‘Well, what’s wrong with you?’ when I mention that I’m young and divorced. I have been asked if I feel like a failure. Divorce and resilience are synonymous.”
ST: “I’m keeping my married name until I get married again.”
CF: “I have not yet changed my name legally, so I currently straddle three names: my maiden name, my married name and my chosen name [Fillmore]. I knew I couldn’t go back to my maiden name after my divorce, because I wasn’t that girl anymore. I chose my last name because it represents the place my parents live, and I needed something that felt like home.”
EP: “After we separated, I started a new job, and since my email address had to be my legal name, I had to go by my married name until the divorce was final. It felt like another unwanted reminder, every day, of this difficult thing I was going through.”
TD: “I am recently divorced and I have considered dating again, but I want to spend some time figuring out who I am now before I get involved with anyone else.”
JL: “Dating again was so odd. I’m at that weird age where not many guys my age are single, and you’re immediately stigmatized for being divorced or having a child with that age demographic. Now, I’m dating someone 20 years older. We met through Tinder, actually.”
ST: “I found it hard to consider dating, although my ex had fully moved on. I was conflicted for a long time because — through my lens — I was still married. Although my ex had gotten another woman pregnant and moved on before we even started divorce proceedings, I was committed to staying true to our vows.”
CF: “As a small town girl growing up and attending college in the rural Midwest, I had never dated before my divorce at 28. I married a guy I had known since I was 14. I was convinced I was going to be murdered on every date, or worse, they would be dull. … My experience is still evolving as a young professional, new to the West Coast, recently divorced and slaying Tinder dragons.”
EP: “One of the scariest things was the prospect of telling potential partners in the future. When do you tell a date you’re divorced?”
HJ: “The dating scene is drastically different than when I was 18. Even though I am young, it has been a very interesting journey learning how to meet and date people again. (Swipe right or left? Seriously?)”
TD: “One good thing would be the complete freedom of my time. An example would be that I love to watch quirky sci-fi shows that make me laugh and now I have no one else saying, ‘Isn’t there something more productive you could do?’ One not-so-good thing would be having to get used to being alone again. For example, I still struggle when I have an off-day at work and wish I had someone at home to rehash my day and vent to. But I would rather be alone than with him.”
JL: “Good thing: having control over my life. Bad thing: The typical male tasks such as fixing household items seem impossible without a husband.”
ST: “There is a lifetime ahead for love and life. I truly believe that there is a better match for me. I know myself better than I did before. … I’m doing things my former partner would never encourage. Lows: My ex-husband managed all of our finances. When he decided to leave, he was in control of my entire financial future and he took that with him too. … I didn’t realize how transactional our relationship had been and in hindsight it was toxic.”
CF: “My life was a monument to achieved expectations: I went to college, got a career, married, bought a house. Divorce shattered all of those expectations and I lost everything I had worked so hard for, before reaching 30.”
EP: “While getting divorced was a terrible time for me, it also made me a hell of a lot stronger as a person. It let me develop the backbone I needed to live the life that I wanted to live, rather than the one I thought I was supposed to. Honestly, it helped shape me into the person I am today — a person I happen to really like.”
Illustrations by Helena Pallarés for The Lily • Art direction by Amy Cavenaile