After years of playing the field, it’s a pretty big deal when a player opts out of the game and places his jersey up in the rafters. So there’s no bigger decision a man can make than saying goodbye to the single life and choosing who he wants to be his life partner.
It’s not only a matter of just finding “The One”; there’s a host of behind-the-scenes work that goes into making that forever-ever work. But for as many #CoupleGoals examples in our social feeds, there’s a fair amount of folks whose marital bliss fades away as quickly as the latest trending topic.
Putting a ring on it comes with a lot of pressure and responsibility, but the problem is a lot of folks are more focused on the wedding than the marriage. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, 72 percent of couples said they didn't fully understand the commitment involved in marriage before tying the knot.
“The pressure to marry and have kids will make you jump into something with the wrong person.”
While the reasons for calling it quits can vary, the outcome is the same. One or both of the people who vowed to have and to hold the other from this day forward had a change of heart. According to the CDC, approximately 689,308 people filed for divorce in 2021. While that number is down from the almost 1 million total divorces and annulments in 2000, that’s still a lot of former No. 1 draft picks putting themselves back on the free agency market.
To get insight on how “I do” evolves into “I’m done,” LEVEL reached out to several brothers for their honest perspective on what it was like going through a divorce or separation. Here’s what they had to say about how the better got worse.
Can’t Buy My Love
“After five years of marriage, my ex-wife asked for a divorce. I had committed financial infidelity and let my debt get out of hand without her knowing. As a result, she no longer respected me, which led to her no longer being in love with me. We just grew in different directions. The silver lining of being out of the marriage is that I don't have to feel judged or ‘less than’ because I was not up-to-par with my then-mate. While I’m open to the idea of being in a lifelong committed relationship, I will never get married through the state again. I would not want the governance of any state that I reside in to dictate what I can and can't retain because of its laws.” —Chris*, 40, divorced three years (after five years of marriage)
Love Me or Leave Me Alone
“I’ve been married three times but my last one ended when my ex told me she was planning to leave. She had expressed becoming unhappy a few months earlier, but I assumed that she wanted to work toward a solution to continue the relationship. In hindsight, I believe she'd come to the conclusion that she no longer wanted to be married more than a year prior but delayed acting on it due to the passing of her father and the Covid pandemic. I've learned valuable lessons from each of my marriages that have contributed to my personal growth, and even though my most recent divorce was not what I expected or desired, I’m glad that she was resolute about her choice. I'd rather be divorced/single than married to a person who does not want to be married.” —Roger*, 63, third marriage, divorced two years (after five years of marriage)
“I'd rather be divorced/single than married to a person who does not want to be married.”
Once a Good Girl Goes Bad…
“We had a great relationship but marriage changed our dynamic. The biggest strain was living separately for our first year of marriage due to a new career opportunity I pursued out of state. Things were never the same after that and we eventually separated. That’s when I started to notice strange patterns in her behavior. When I confronted her about it she confessed to infidelity, which led me to file for divorce. When I got back on the dating scene, connecting with other women wasn’t an issue but trusting them was. It took about three years after being divorced to get over that. Now I’m in a healthy, mature, and loving relationship. Sometimes people are in your life for seasons and others are removed from your life to open up new chapters of happiness.” —Allen*, 43, divorced five years (after 2.5 years of marriage)
Love on the Rocks
“My ex-wife and I had only dated a short while before I proposed. My mother was dying of cancer and she was scared I wouldn't find real love before she passed because I'm transgender. I didn't want her to die worried, so I found a wife. That’s not to say that I didn't genuinely love my ex-wife because I did, but if I wasn't so vulnerable with my mother's impending death I wouldn't have rushed into marriage. After a few years of trying we just didn't align anymore. When she asked for a separation, I was happy to be single again. It gave me an opportunity to be alone for a bit. I liked being a husband. Being married gives you real space to imagine a future together that isn't just fantasy. But the person you marry is not the person you divorce.” —Mark*, 42, divorced two years (after five years of marriage)
“Divorce forced me to grow up and focus on being a great dad for my sons and healing the childhood wounds that negatively impacted my marriage and me.”
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
“My wife and I had an immediate connection when we met, but we had a rocky start because I just came out of a relationship so I was still doing my thing. Although things got serious and we eventually got married, we never took the time or space to heal, which put us in a stressful mental state. Over our 20-year marriage, distance kept growing to the point where we both needed to focus on finding the best version of ourselves. Since I asked for the separation, we’ve both grown and are now able to have a positive relationship. But it’s hard not having the person who has been by my side for over half my life. I don’t see myself ever getting married again. An open and honest relationship is all I’m looking for.” —Paul*, 50, separated 2.5 years (after 20 years of marriage)
“We were together for about 10 years, but only married for three and had two amazing sons. The divorce happened when the kids were relatively young. I was dealing with my ‘mommy and daddy’ issues and sought attention from places outside of the relationship. She did as well. It got to the point where we lost trust in each other—mostly due to my immaturity at the time. The hardest part was not being with my sons every day and getting into a toxic relationship after the divorce. I stayed in that situation longer than I should have because I felt like I needed to make it work after failing as a partner in my marriage. Divorce forced me to grow up and focus on being a great dad for my sons and healing the childhood wounds that negatively impacted my marriage and me.” —Dre*, 46, divorced 10 years (after three years of marriage)
“When I got back on the dating scene, connecting with other women wasn’t an issue but trusting them was. It took about three years after being divorced to get over that.”
What About the Kids?
“We had talked about having kids, but at some point she changed her mind. That was a deal breaker because having children was important to me. When I realized that we weren't aligned on that anymore I had to decide if it was worth staying in it with a woman who doesn't want to have children. In the end, it wasn’t and I asked for a divorce. I don’t have any regrets as the experience made me realize marriage isn’t just about finding someone to be happy with. It made me pay attention to women in the early stages of dating. The pressure to marry and have kids will make you jump into something with the wrong person.” —Taj*, 49, divorced nine years (after three years of marriage)
*Name changed at subject’s request