Coping With Divorce When You're In Your 20s

21/01/2016 2:40 PM AEDT | Updated February 3, 2016 16:50
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Disinterested couple sitting on sofa

You're in your 20s. You have your whole life ahead of you. Better yet, you've found the person you want to spend it with. How lucky are you? Cue the proposal, the planning, the big white wedding, and married life.

Except... things don't go to plan. You grow apart or someone cheats or you realise you've rushed into something you're not prepared for. One (or both) of you don't want to be in this marriage anymore, and you're facing the reality that you -- someone who had been so lucky in love -- is going to be a divorcee in your 20s.

How the hell did you get here, and how you do move forward? And what's with all the judgment?

"One of the first things that occurred to me [with this topic] is that we know people don’t reach emotional maturity until they are beyond their 20s," Bill Hewlett of Relationships Australia told The Huffington Post Australia.

"So in the case when two people are getting divorced while they are still in their 20s, you have to remember they got married when they weren't entirely mature, and then got divorced when they weren't entirely mature. I think 26 is the age when girls start to reach emotional maturity -- and even then there is a lot of maturing still to go -- and for men it's not until 34.

"I guess being thought about in a [judgmental] way that suggests you made a poor decision is a bit harsh because you were young at the time."

jessica simpson nick lachey

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey divorced after three years, when Simpson was 25.

Instead of viewing the process or the relationship as a failure, Hewlett says you should look at it as a seized opportunity, not a mistake.

"Life gives you opportunities every now and again to make a bold and brave decision with your life," Hewlett said. "It's those times where we can grab the moment, and be brave and bold.

"I would advise someone to look at it from the perspective of 'that's what I tried to do. I saw this person at that moment as the love of my life -- why would I let that chance go?' Good on you for giving it a go.

"In terms of relationships, every relationship we have until the right relationship is a learning relationship, where we are finding things about each other and the things we need.

"A failed marriage at a young age is just an expensive and slightly painful lesson."

ryan reynolds scarlett johansson

Scarlett Johansson was 26 when she split from her then-husband, Ryan Reynolds, in 2010.

Of course, it might not seem as simple to someone actually involved, but Hewlett says it's also a typical of people in their 20s to view situations in "a catastrophic way".

"That's the other problem with being young. It's an egocentric time of your life and there can be this attitude of 'my life is over, I'll never find anyone. This thing has happened to me and it’s going to mark me for the rest of my life and I’ll never recover from it and all is lost.' But there is an argument to suggest it's not such a terrible thing," Hewlett said.

"I'd would suggest people look at it with a sense of proportion, saying, 'ok, I gave it a good try and it didn’t work out. Moving forward, I'm going to make sure all our time isn't spent arguing about money or beating each other up.'

"Ask yourself, 'in the overall scheme of things is it so terrible? In the overall scheme of things, is it wiser to split up or to stay together?'

"I would argue it's worse for people to stay in relationship they are not happy with, and end up with children who are raised by unhappy parents. In fact, in my opinion, it's far worse grow up with unhappy parents together rather than happy parents separated."

katy perry russell brand

Katy Perry split from Russell Brand in her 20s.

In terms of how to handle the situation in your social circle, Hewlett says now is the time when emotional maturity can come into play.

"Often with divorce, there's the idea of the leaver and the left. Because very typically, one person decides to leave the relationship before the other person," Hewlett said. "But this brings into play the concept of a good guy and a bad guy, which often isn't accurate or fair.

"One person might take action by telling your social group, 'I’m the good one and they're the bad one' but most likely, that's not being true and fair to what the relationship was. Most likely, both were unhappy but one person took action.

"My advice would be to avoid breaking it down into good guys and bad guys. Talk to your social group, tell them that you still like and respect each other and would like it if your friends, while supporting you, would not to put the other person down. There is nothing to be gained from one person being blacklisted from the group.

"It's a hard thing to do, obviously, but it's the truest and kindest thing to do."

Moving forward, Hewlett suggests to try and learn from the marriage rather than regret it or block it out.

"Good on you for giving it a go, you threw your heart and soul into it and I would commend someone for trying that. It's much better than sitting in a room and having nothing to do with anyone because no one is good enough.

"There is nothing wrong with wanting to grab onto life's opportunities, but maybe next time, slow down a bit.

"That attitude of 'I have seen this thing and I have to have it now' is very 20s. Use your experience to be able to slow down. Certainly, be open to a new relationship happening, but know that you've done this before, and that this time, you might want to approach it differently.

"See it as a learning opportunity."

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