My ex and I had a very small nontraditional wedding, too embarrassed and cool to say words like "love," "forever" and "'til death do us part." We thought by laughing in the face of tradition we were being original, when really we were just setting ourselves up for divorce. I bought my own engagement ring and walked down the makeshift aisle to Joe Jackson's "Is She Really Going Out With Him," and, at our reception in a friend's back yard, the best man's toast was "to the best five years of your life." He was off by two-and-a-half. While I was planning my 30th birthday party, I realized I didn't want my husband on the guest list. I wanted to start this new decade of my life single and free. I was way too young to be stuck in nuptial mediocrity, and getting divorced would be better than spending the next 50 years in a hell of my own making. I now see that divorce isn't an evil at all.
My definition of a starter marriage is one that lasts less than five years and in which there are no children. But based on my experience, I coined the term "learner marriage"—the kind that helps keep you from making the same mistakes the second time around. It's true that second marriages have an even higher divorce rate than first marriages, but that's because many people don't investigate why things went wrong and instead repeat the same self-destructive patterns.
I wasn't emotionally available in my twenties, but instead of confronting that, I married a man who was even less emotionally available. I tried to hide my own issues behind his. Once married, I realized that keeping the knot tied is a lot of daily work, which only just begins with "I do." I made the mistake, as do many women, of focusing on getting married rather than on the actual marriage. It wasn't until it fell apart that I forced myself to look inward, went to therapy, spoke honestly with friends about my fears and feelings. I also decided that instead of being bitter and baggage-laden, it was time to be a more independent, wiser, and all-around happier person. In a radio interview about my book, a DJ said I sounded cheery for a divorced lady. I replied, "Divorce shouldn't make you depressed; it's being unhappily married that does that." Marrying Mr. Wrong