I'm not the only woman I know who's done this, but I really wish none of us had.
The first time I confessed to a friend that I knew I was making a mistake the minute before I walked down the aisle, she looked at me in disbelief. I thought she was surprised by my confession, but she wasn't.
"I felt the same way right before I got married," she said. "I always thought it was just me."
The more divorced women my age that I've talked to, the more I've discovered that I wasn't the only one who knew she was making a mistake.
Last week, I got together for dinner with a some of my closest friends in high school. We hadn't seen each other in nearly ten years. I brought up the issue again because I had to make sure I remembered
"So, did we all know we were making a mistake the first time?"
The answer was pretty much "yes."
But we did it anyway.
I have a theory.
In the late '70's, if you didn't move away to go to college, that's just what we did. In fact, five of my six bridesmaids and I all married within three years of graduating from high-school. Now all of us are divorced from our first husbands, some from their second.
I can't speak for them, but here's my story.
When I came home and told my parents that my boyfriend proposed, I'd figured they'd say "No, you're too young.
You've got to finish school." And I'd pretend to be all mad but really I'd be relieved because I knew deep down I wasn't ready.
Instead, my mom and dad said "Congratulations and start saving because we're not made of money. We're not paying for the whole thing." Or something like that.
So, I put school on hold for awhile, got a full-time job, and got married. After I got married, I started going to school at night, pursuing my B.A. in English of all things (marrying young wasn't the only mistake I made), and I graduated nine years later.
Here's what I wish I would have done instead:
I should have told my boyfriend the truth--"I'm too young, and frankly, so are you to make this kind of decision. Neither of us even knows who we are ourselves, much less what we want in a life partner," except I would have talked more like I did in 1979, using words and phrases like "bummer," "no jive" and "catchya later." I would have saved both of us a lot of heartache, and I would have saved myself a lot of guilt that I carry to this day.
As it was, I lived with my parents until I got married. I walked down the aisle, knowing I was making a mistake. And when I got divorced at 31, I had never spent the night alone. I'd never made a mortgage payment or balanced a checkbook in my life. I knew nothing about being an independent adult. NOTHING. It was hard. It was worse than hard. It was horrible. Being alone and not knowing how to do it. And having no one to ask how to do it because, oh, by the way, among other things I wish I could change, I wish my mom hadn't died when I was 24.
OK, I'd better stop or my friend Russ will have to say "Another bummer post."
So, that's a pretty big "do-over"--I wish I hadn't married my first husband.
The only thing that makes me feel slightly better is that I'm sure he wished he hadn't married me either.
Crap. Now I can't find a way to tie this all up neatly.
But that's life. Life is all about making mistakes and not being able to tie things up neatly.
And yet, we go on. We pick ourselves up, and we go on.
If you're lucky, you get a chance to say you're sorry. If you're lucky, you get an apology in return. My ex-husband and I exchanged sincere "I'm sorry's" at his grandmother's funeral about twenty years ago. From me, it was sincere. It felt sincere from him. We were apologizing for different things, but no matter. We were both sorry. We'd made mistakes. We'd moved on.
But I still wish none of that would have happened.
My last do-over post was about standing up for myself. This one is about standing up and admitting that I made a mistake. My ex-husband? He didn't make a mistake. It was me. All me. I made a BIG mistake. Two big mistakes. The result? I ended up hurting a really decent, stand-up good guy who did nothing wrong.
What happened? I let someone else turn my head and make me wonder. I let someone else make me think I could be happier.
I left my marriage for someone else who turned out to be an even bigger mistake.
So, yeah. Big, gigantic, embarrassing, shameful do-over. Those are the worst.
P.S. Sorry, Russ. Bummer, I know. They can't always be someone else's fault. Sometimes, they're my own.