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My parents' divorce put me off marriage

'Divorce Day' is apparently a thing in January...

Writer wishes to remain anonymous

According to some lawyers, this week is one of the worst for love - with the first working Monday of January becoming known as "Divorce Day".

Here one writer explores the emotional impact her parents' divorce had on her.

When I tell people I don't want to get married, their immediate reaction is always: "Oh, you'll change your mind". But I know I won’t. I’m 24 and I think marriage is pointless – and have done my whole life. It’s just an excuse to have a really expensive party.

Growing up, I was more interested in drawing or reading adventure books than playing with dolls. I never had the whole 'big white dress’ fantasy. In fact, I remember finding it really weird at primary school when girls would pretend to get married in the playground. The idea of becoming a writer excited me way more than having a wedding one day.

This probably had a lot to do with the fact my parents divorced when I was two years old. Of course, I was too young to remember the separation happening, but some of my earliest memories are of my mum dropping me off at my dad's every weekend (and driving off as quickly as possible), and my dad being snappy if her new partner was in the car. 

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The nail in the no-marriage coffin, perhaps, was when my mum jokingly told me when I was about 12: "Don't bother getting married when you’re older, it's not worth the hassle." So when friends talked about their future wedding or husband, I always thought they were being a bit ridiculous.

Once I started thinking seriously about my future, such as what I wanted to study at uni and what career I might choose, I became even more anti-marriage. By that point, divorce had caused so many problems in my family – my mum’s mum was furious with her for leaving my dad, and they didn’t speak for years. I associated marriage with separation and pain. My view was that it seemed to cause more problems than it was worth.

That didn’t mean I was against relationships. I fell head-over-heels in love when I was 18. Occasionally, my boyfriend would joke about us getting married, and I started to wonder whether he might actually change my mind one day. Looking back, however, I think it was just those first giddy-in-love feelings.

When he broke up with me, after three years together, I was devastated. It reconfirmed my doubts about marriage and, even when the heartbreak faded, I felt even more strongly that we're not necessarily meant to stay with the same person forever. I realised that maybe we’re meant to experience several long-term relationships. 

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In England and Wales, 42% of marriages don’t last and I know older women, including my mum, who’ve gone through a separation, and then fallen in love again later on in life. Which makes me think how strange and outdated it is to take the vow “till death do us part”. That's not how life works out for so many people, especially in today's world where we are living longer and have more opportunities to meet different people and find love than ever before. And I know I'm not alone – the number of young people getting married in England and Wales has hit a record low, following a gradual long-term decline since the early 1970s.

I’ve been with my current boyfriend for about three months, and he feels exactly the same as me. His parents split up when he was 14, and he doesn’t see the point in marriage when it so often ends in divorce. It was a huge relief to find that out when the subject naturally came up in conversation. I don’t think I could be with someone who wasn’t on the same no-marriage page as me.

His brother got married this summer, and the whole wedding planning process looks like a nightmare. In a way, it’s like hosting a barbecue – the person doing the actual barbecuing always has the least fun. The bride-to-be is getting stressed out about which guest is allowed to bring a plus one, and worrying whether people will get too drunk and ruin her day. I find it such a waste of time – there are more important things to focus on, like making sure your relationship is genuinely happy and healthy – regardless of how much money you throw at a wedding.

And, they’re so ridiculously expensive – the average cost of a wedding in the UK is is £27,000. I’d rather put that money towards a house deposit.

A lot of people in my life, including my best friend and some of my colleagues, are set on meeting that ‘perfect’ person and having a ‘perfect’ wedding. But fantasising about your wedding like that just feels old-fashioned – I thought people would be over that in 2018. Women today have so many options on how to live our lives beyond marriage. Plus, the fact we still have traditions such as the bride being 'given away' and taking the groom’s surname feels so dated to me.

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I might sound rather cynical, but I am actually a romantic at heart. I bawl my eyes out whenever I watch romcoms like The Notebook – I just don’t see why marriage has to be part of it. To put it simply: love is a real feeling, it's a chemical process in the brain, whereas marriage is a social constraint. You don’t need a piece of paper – a certificate – to commit to someone. That shouldn’t make a difference to your relationship.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that people are starting to talk about alternatives, such as civil ceremonies for heterosexual couples. There should be options that don’t involve spending money you don’t have, or that aren’t rooted in religion or antiquated traditions.

As for me, my priorities right now are getting ahead in my career and buying my own place. And I don’t see that changing for a very long time.

As told to Jessica Bateman

This article was originally published on 21 May 2018.

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