Parting Ways

Ending a marriage is tough. Two women tell us why they got divorced young, and what they learnt about love and marriage in the process.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Caroline *, 31

dated her ex-husband for eight years before getting married at 28. They divorced two years later.

“I met Jason* through a mutual hobby. I fell for him because he was very open and emotionally expressive. It was a refreshing change, as I had come from a family that operated on tough love.

However, his expressiveness swung both ways – he would also get aggressive when angry. And while we were a loving couple, our relationship was a rollercoaster ride as we had many differences. For a long time, I was unsure if he was the right one for me, but we continuously tried to make the relationship work. I accepted his proposal after I saw the amount of effort he put into curbing his temper.

There wasn’t a particular fight or incident that caused our marriage to break down. It happened because the issues just kept building up. Besides a clash of personalities (I’m straightforward and easygoing while Jason is sensitive and emotionally-charged), he had many expectations of me. Plus, he had anger management issues and would verbally abuse me whenever we fought. He’d also engage in violent behaviour and smash objects or punch the wall. Although he never hit me, there were occasions when I was manhandled.

It didn’t help that he was insecure, so my frequent travels and networking opportunities were always a cause of concern to him. He’d also try to assert himself over my choices. For example, he once told me he’d leave me if I became a flight attendant as he couldn’t accept a partner who’d be constantly away from home. Another time, he was so angry when I failed to text him when I was overseas that he threatened a divorce. He even went to my parents’ house to tell them that.

Jason was also unappreciative of my support. He was making poor investment decisions and struggling at his sales job, so I lent him a huge portion of my savings to buy a secondhand car without having to take a loan. The idea was for him to become a part-time ridesharing driver to supplement his income. But not only did he fail to return me the agreed sum every month, he also got irritable when I asked him about it nicely.

In short, the relationship was mentally and emotionally draining. I never knew when the next fight would take place or if my innocent words or actions would set off yet another landmine. When we weren’t fighting, he was loving, sweet and kind. But the moment something upset him, I would be criticised, and emotionally blackmailed and abused.

I felt like I had to constantly care for his emotional well-being and found it so tiring. I really tried to make things work, but at the end of the day, it was just too difficult to reach any agreement without lots of frustration and anger. The last straw was a string of ridiculous fights. During our last fight, he actually ranted at me for an hour. I knew he would go absolutely bonkers if I were to leave, so I put up with him shouting and hurling vulgarities at me. He also locked me out of our bedroom that night… only to demand an apology the next morning.

It was at that point I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked out on him with no intention of resolving the conflict, something I’d never done before. I moved out immediately and went back to my parents’ place.

It took me two to three weeks to think things through and Jason tried to woo me back during that time. But I felt like I had seen through all of his broken promises and empty words. I knew he couldn’t be the husband I’d love, respect and admire. I just didn’t want to make it work anymore – I couldn’t see myself stuck in the same situation for another five years. I also went to see a therapist, which helped me come to terms with my feelings about our marriage.

My main worry was how our parents were going to take the news. I felt I was letting them down by choosing to leave the marriage. I still feel a lot of guilt towards his family as they treated me very well. My parents were disappointed but over the past year, they have accepted that my marriage had ended.

I don’t have any regrets about ending our marriage. My only regret is how blind I was to our incompatibility. I ignored the warning signs that were there before we got married and was naïve to think he could change. I’m currently seeing someone new and am much happier now. I’ve learnt that when you’re with someone who’s on the same page as you emotionally and intellectually, being together doesn’t require much effort. I’ve also learnt not to let a man’s best behaviour excuse his worst.

My relationship with my ex is fairly amicable now. We have to be on talking terms because of the paperwork that has yet to be resolved. He’s also dating someone new, and I’ll admit I’m not completely at peace with how our relationship ended and I feel a little bitter that he seems to be treating his new partner better. I guess it’s normal to feel this way.

The support of friends and family is super important during a divorce. My closest friends were constantly there for me, and while my parents weren’t immediately accepting of my decision, they let me move back home without a single word of complaint.

My advice to those with a friend going through a divorce? Just be there for them and remember that nothing is ever as it seems on the outside.”

 Images Text Complied By Adora Wong. *Name has been changed.
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Angie had actually been divorced twice by the time she was 30.
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Reese met Ryan Phillipe on the set of Cruel Intentions. They divorced after seven years.
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Kim Kardashian

Kim married Damon Thomas at 19. They divorced three years later, with Kim citing domestic violence in the court records.

Three other things Caroline learnt about love and marriage through her divorce

Love yourself first

“One of my greatest mistakes was not setting the right boundaries from the start. Because Jason was my first boyfriend, I tried very hard to please him even when I wasn’t happy.”

You’re not responsible for his emotions

“I became so used to being blamed for his unhappiness that I didn’t realise that every person is solely responsible for their own emotional health.”

Know your deal-breakers
“No matter how wonderful my husband could be, I just couldn’t accept his bad temper and verbal abuse. Ask yourself if you’d be OK with this sort of behaviour if you were dating someone new. If the answer is ‘no’, you’re simply putting up with bad behaviour you shouldn’t actually accept.” 
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Lynn*, 32

dated her ex-husband for six months before getting married at 18. They divorced two-and-a-half years later.

“I met Alex* on social media. We went on many typical dinner and movie dates at the start. Soon after, I got pregnant and my parents insisted that we get married even though it wasn’t what I wanted. He was 23 then and they felt that marriage would make him a more responsible person.

However, it didn’t change him one bit. He wasn’t keen to be a part of the marriage and pregnancy, and we frequently quarrelled over how he wasn’t doing his job as a husband and father. All he could think about was himself and his love for cars. He always acted selfishly.

Also, we weren’t living together. I would only stay over at his place on weekends. Over time, I felt that it didn’t make a difference whether I was with or without him, so I proposed a divorce. He didn’t reject the idea and we didn’t fight about it. We just stopped talking and he hasn’t seen our daughter since.

My main worry then was that our daughter wouldn’t be able to have a good childhood, especially since I’d just started a job as a cook and was working long hours. Thankfully, my mum was willing to take care of her whenever I couldn’t be at home. I’m forever grateful to my parents for their support. My daughter turns 14 this year and I’m proud to say that we have a close relationship. People do pass judgment sometimes but I’m not bothered by their views. It’s my life.

In my opinion, marriage isn’t like how it was back in the old days. I feel that people used to be committed to solving problems, but [in this era] of social media, we avoid having to put in effort to work on issues and simply move on to the next person. To me, love has become more conditional and less straightforward. I wouldn’t say I regret my divorce and it’s definitely made me do a lot more thinking. But I feel that I shouldn’t have gotten married and should have just been a single mum. Being a mum makes me happy – my daughter is the best thing that’s happened to me.

I’ve been in a few relationships since the divorce but am currently single. I would say I’m not that affected by my previous marriage and it has in fact helped me to figure out the kind of man I’m looking for – someone who’s ready to settle down and who knows what he wants in life.

My advice to those contemplating a divorce? Try your best to resolve issues and think about why you chose to get married in the first place. Give it your best shot. If your marriage still fails, at least you know you’ve tried and won’t have any regrets.”

“We avoid having to put in effort to work on issues and simply move on to the next person. To me, love has become more conditional and less straightforward.”