I didn't marry for love the first time around. Honestly, I just thought he was the best I could do. He preyed on my lack of self-esteem and turned out to be immature, abusive, narcissistic, unfaithful, and dishonest. I wish I could invent a time machine and warn myself that I was "settling." I found that out the hard way, though, and long after our wedding day. In my conversations with other women — both married and divorced — I've learned that lots of other women married a guy they settled for, too, and for many different reasons.
You see, so many things can cloud your judgment when you're staring marriage in the face. Low self-esteem, emotional abuse, and the dumpster fire that the dating game can sometimes cause your inner voice to say, "Well, I guess he's OK," or worse, "No one else will love me." It can be pretty hard to see these things from the inside of a bad relationship. Other women settle for stability, because they want to have kids (and believe that you have to get married to do so) or need the health insurance (which is just another reason we have got to fix the health care system in our country).
There is also a lot of misogynistic pressure on women to get married and have babies in our culture, which leads to a lot of us settling for less. We truly think we won't find someone better, or that we've reached a certain age that will make it impossible for someone of substance to love us. It really sucks. Fortunately, some of us were able to see the light or even dodge the marriage bullet entirely.
Read on for some proof that hindsight is 20/20 and settling for less doesn't always work out the way you planned:
"I was in love with the idea of him. I thought that my idea was real and would be close enough to reality. Eleven years and two wonderful children later, I don't hate or blame him for not being my idea, I'm just sad. The good news is that I think we have both now found better fits for our real selves."
"I didn't know I was settling. I thought that you grew up, met someone presumably appropriate, fell enough in love, despite their sometimes obvious shortcomings, and then get married. It never occurred to me that the things you chose to settle on couldn't be changed or overcome. No one deliberately didn't have a job, no one deliberately doesn't pull their own weight, no one really sabotages themselves, right? They just need more love and support and energy than someone who does have those things. Wrong.
We aren't taught to recognize the differences between not yet and never going to. What a roller coaster ride, and not the kind that's fun. I know now that when you settle you get what you settled for. Hopefully, that's enough cause it ain't gonna change, at least without a lot heartache and commitment on both sides. I ended up with three amazing children, but I know my life would have been very different if I'd followed my gut and bailed on getting married six weeks before when I asked myself, 'What am I getting out if this?' and realized I wasn't getting anything but a bag of moonshine. The question is, how do you figure out what is important enough to let the other things not matter? What are the consequences to yourself and your children when you pick the wrong things?"
"Security and it was the American thing to do — graduate, go to college, get married. I did it right."
"Stability. There’s a lot more to the story, but it all boils down to that one word."
"I married my husband mostly so we could adopt our baby. I never would have married him otherwise. He was just who I was with when the adoption came around. Not surprisingly, we are divorcing."
"I met my now ex-husband when I was 16 and he was 23. I was very young and naive. I was in foster care and wanted to get out. He was my first 'love.' He proposed when I was 17, and we got married a week after I turned 18.
He started getting very physically and emotionally abusive shortly after getting married. He had cut me off completely from everyone I knew and made sure I was dependent on him in every way possible. I finally got the courage and left after years of abuse and threats that he would kill me. Today, looking back at it, I know that he went for someone so young: because he knew it'd be easy to break me and control every aspect of me. I'm so glad I got out when I did, but I definitely settled out of ignorance and puppy love."
"My first marriage, I settled for my complete opposite in all the wrong ways, basically because I'm a serial monogamist and I wanted someone to love. It lasted 1.5 years."
"I was a single mom, unsure about how I was going to make things work. He offered to help, he wanted to be a dad, [and] the bump in income made me feel secure. We married when we did for insurance reasons. We are far from perfect, and sometimes I think we are just good roommates, but we are happy, over all."
"I married my (soon to be ex) husband knowing that I was settling. I met him online, and we got along amazingly well. He was a very nice guy with a good heart, stable job, excellent work ethic, and his own vehicle and residence. We were both looking for long-term relationships, ended up moving in together a year after we met, and getting married eight months after that. We did everything the 'right' way: moving in together, then getting married, then buying a house, and then having a child. We were both looking for the 'perfect and ideal' marriage/life. I was already 33, and I felt my time was very limited to get married and have kids and do everything that I wanted to do in the 'right' way.
I settled for him, even though I knew in my heart that it would not last forever. After having our daughter, I started to realize how big our differences really are. Things came to a head when my daughter was 11 months old when I found out some things that he had been hiding from me. That started the unraveling of our marriage, and we are now getting divorced."
"With my first husband, basically for visa reasons. I met him in Scotland when I was on a student visa, got a two year working visa and then he got a one year visa to Canada. I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t sure about marrying him but we’d hit a point where it was marriage or break up in terms of living in the same country as each other and so we went for it."
"I married my husband knowing he was an addict and could be verbally abusive, because I wanted the ring and the fancy wedding. We nearly got divorced two years ago but saved the marriage with couples therapy and individual counseling. We have two kids and try our best to make it work. I'm sorry to say I would have never married him if I could start over again."
"When we got married, we had been together for eight years. I was stepping down to part time and the process to put on my husband's insurance as a domestic partner was hard. I honestly married my husband for health insurance. It had nothing to do with love or till death do us part. The first three years of marriage were full of fights, hurt feelings, and poor communication. We almost divorced two years ago. We got it together, and are much stronger, as we approach our 5th anniversary.
"I settled because, although I've never been 'in love' with my husband, I was 37 years old, fed up with the dating scene, he adored me, and I knew he would make an excellent husband and father. Has none of the rage issues the men in my family have struggled with, and is the most peaceful guy I've ever met. We are best friends. It works."
"'Because la migra was onto me' doesn't seem very romantic. I married to get a permanent residency."
"I was a single mom to a special needs kid, and grew up in poverty. I wanted out. I was 22 when I met him, 26 when we married. I wanted financial security, and we had a baby together. I was also tired of being made to feel like trash, because I was single with two kids by two men."
"I was in a dark place, and he seemed like a light at the end of the tunnel. He helped me fight through my dark and gave me what I needed to help myself. The birth of our child brought out a lot of things he hid from me, as well as his selfishness. We waited for a child, he was planned, and yet I feel like now he's a stranger. I spent the last year more alone than I've ever been, and now that I'm in a good place it's almost like he's resentful that I no longer need him to be my emotional crutch. "
"I met my ex in college when I was 21. He liked me way more than I liked him, and in the beginning I agreed to be his girlfriend before we had even gone on more than one date. It was awkward, but he was really nice to me and a genuinely good person. I didn't want to turn him down. I had so many failed relationships at that point and just wanted something to work, even though I wasn't feeling the fireworks.
I ended up getting pregnant by accident, and decided to have the baby. When I told him, I said that I didn't expect him to be super involved and that it was OK. He was in the military and going to ship off to another country within the next few months, so I figured that would be it. His reaction surprised me, though. He was excited and supportive and wanted to become a family. I was so thrown off by his reaction that I kind of fell into this happy bubble of denial. We got married shortly after that and my life as a mom and wife started just before my 22nd birthday. I settled because I thought that was as good as it was going to get for me. How could I turn that down? I was so damaged from years of abuse that I didn't think I would ever be happy.
Looking back now, as a 32-year-old who is going through a divorce, I wish I had taken the time to find myself. I don't regret the two children that came out of my relationship with my ex, but I do regret the years wasted trying to be something that I wasn't."
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