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Relationships

What I Learned From My First Marriage, Then My Divorce

By Gina Florio·· 8 min read
what I learned from my first marriage then my divorce

I never thought in a million years I’d be married and divorced before I was 30.

And it’s certainly not something I’m proud of. But it forced me to grow up exponentially in a short period of time and rethink the entire way I thought about marriage in general. Today, I’m not ashamed of my first marriage and divorce, but I learned some serious lessons that I would genuinely like to pass down to young women so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. 

I Changed My Mind about Marriage More Than Once

When I was younger in my teenage years, I imagined getting married and having a big wedding. But as I found myself leaving college and graduate school, I went through a few years of despising the tradition of marriage (not coincidentally, this was the same period in my life where I adopted modern radical feminism) and insisting that I’d never get married. However, when I had a near-death experience in 2016 and was deported from the country where I had been living for a couple of years—a place I considered home—I hit rock bottom, and I was forced to reevaluate my life.

I watched my parents’ relationship—they had been together for 35 years and were genuinely happy.

I had to move back in with my parents. As painful and uncomfortable as that period of my life was, I watched my parents’ relationship with fresh eyes. They had been together for 35 years. They were genuinely happy, and they took care of each other. Yet I had been dating an emotionally unavailable man for the past four years who was 17 years my senior, putting myself through drama after drama. I thought to myself, “What if I got it all wrong? What if marriage really is the best goal when it comes to dating?”

To make a long story short, I took a deep dive into marriage. I started reading all the marriage books. I studied the data on how married people lived compared to non-married people. I also reconnected with a college ex-boyfriend who I had always kind of kept in the back of my mind as the “just in case” guy—and two months later we were married. 

Here are five things I learned from my first marriage and divorce.

Only Get Married When You’re in a Good Place with Yourself

When I reconnected with my ex, I was in a bad place—I was recovering from rock bottom. I was heartbroken from my deportation, and I was still recovering from 1st and 2nd degree burns all over my face and body after a fire that nearly burnt my house down. My eyebrows and eyelashes were gone, as were the first few inches of my hairline; my face and neck were blackened and charred to the point where strangers would recoil at the sight of me in public. I was overweight from eating a diet high in junk food and processed goods.

No matter how much we love our spouse, nobody can complete us or solve our issues. 

I was searching for something to get me out of my funk. This was paired with a strong desire for marriage because I was convinced that settling down with a husband was just the ticket I needed. However, a successful marriage is not possible unless both people are content and happy with themselves. Although there’s an array of benefits that come with marriage (more on that below), neither of you can access them if you’re not independently at peace. No matter how much we love our spouse, nobody can complete us or solve our issues. We’ll still have our own demons to fight at the end of the day—and we can’t expect our husband or wife to face them for us. 

Marriage Is Good and Necessary 

I remain a lifelong cheerleader for marriage! Married couples are generally happier and healthier. They live longer. They give back to their communities more often. Children from homes with married parents perform much better in school, land higher-paying jobs, have better social skills, and are healthier. A child who grows up without their father in the home is five times more likely to commit a crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.

No matter how you look at it, all the data points to the fact that married couples generally (of course there are exceptions, but those don’t disprove the rule) provide a well-balanced home for children, do good things for society, and are happy and content with their lives. The nuclear family is necessary for a strong, moral society. Reading all the marriage studies and marriage books is precisely what caused me to do a 180 on the issue.

The nuclear family is necessary for a strong, moral society.

In today’s climate, though, marriage is vilified as some sort of patriarchal structure that is oppressive toward women and children. There’s no data to back this up. The sooner we admit that marriage is good, the sooner we can see huge improvements in our culture. And even as someone who has gone through a divorce early on in her life, I still believe that marriage is a beautiful thing—as long as it’s entered into with the right person. 

It’s Important To Have the Same Views on Family 

My ex-husband and I didn’t really see eye-to-eye on family matters. My relationship with my parents was very different from his relationship with his. I wish I had seen him interact with his mother more often before we got married because you can tell a LOT about a man by the way he treats his mother. Is he respectful? Is he patient with her? Or does he roll his eyes, make snarky comments, and treat her like someone who is bothering him? 

To me, family is everything. But my ex-husband didn’t agree.

To me, family is everything. My mom is Korean, and my dad is Italian. Both of these cultures put a huge emphasis on family, including extended family. It was very difficult for my ex-husband to understand this and to fit into my family’s culture, which developed a wedge between us and made me seriously wonder what kind of home we were going to raise our children in.

There are some fundamentals that need to match when you marry someone—and one of those is family values. If you’re not on the same page about how to raise a family, how to treat your parents, how to interact with extended family members, you’re going to have a very difficult time reconciling your life together. 

Finances Really Do Matter

By no means am I saying you have to be rich to be happy. My parents went through some financial hardships in their early years of marriage that most Millennials today can’t even dream of. But you have to be in a healthy financial place with your husband or wife, a place where you can figure out finances together rather than having just one person taking care of it all. 

You and your spouse need to approach finances as a factor to figure out together.

I won’t go into too much detail to protect the privacy of my ex-husband, but I will say this: One of the most common reasons that marriages end is because of financial issues. He and I were not on the same page financially; I was killing myself working two jobs, while the same urgency wasn’t present from him. It drove us apart. Again, you don’t have to be rich to be happy. But you and your husband or wife do need to approach finances as a factor to figure out together.

Your Friends and Family Are Usually Right about Your Partner

I sure do wish that my friends and family had spoken up sooner about my first marriage. After we broke up, I had a few of my close friends tell me how they thought from the very beginning that we were wrong for each other. Where was this feedback in the beginning?! I can’t blame it all on my friends and family, though. I never asked them for their opinion when we were planning to get married.

Take the time to ask the people closest to you what they think about your partner. 

If you’re thinking about marrying your boyfriend or girlfriend, take the time to ask the people closest to you what they think about your partner. Do they see you together forever? Do they think you’re right for each other? You should never let your friends and family dictate your life, but many of them have a useful outside perspective and they only want the best for you. Take in their feedback and listen to your gut. 

Closing Thoughts 

Today, I’m married to the love of my life, and I couldn’t be happier. Marriage is not easy, and it never will be. But when you’re with the right person who has the same values and foundation as you do, you can choose to face all of life’s challenges together. I encourage all young women to understand the value of marriage and date to marry, rather than simply dating for fun or sex. This is a much more fulfilling path. Just be sure to pick the right man.

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