Overall, the divorce rate in the U.S. has gone down by almost 20% for people aged 15-24 since 1990. When you’re young and thinking about getting married, that can be an encouraging statistic.
But, it’s just that – a statistic. A piece of data that doesn’t necessarily define what you might be going through in your 20s. Because, despite those encouraging numbers, there’s still a 1-in-4 chance your marriage will end up in divorce. When you’re in your early 20s, getting married and divorced so quickly can feel overwhelming.
It’s easy to feel defeated by divorce in your early 20s. Not only can it throw your emotions for a loop, but you might have some unique challenges to face as you move forward. What are some of those challenges? What can you do to move on to the next chapter of your life after divorce in your early 20s, and are there actually any benefits you might experience?
Let’s cover a few things that can help you through this experience.
How to Navigate Through Divorce in Your Early 20s
Fix Your Finances
Financial issues are common with divorce no matter your age. But, when you’re going through divorce in your early 20s, they can be especially difficult to deal with. For starters, Gen Z and younger millennials (18-24) have an average of $22,000 in debt. Most of that comes from student loans and other collegiate expenses.
But, if you bought a home with your former spouse or shared other expenses, you might have additional debt to worry about with a split. You may have even been the one managing your money or helping your spouse through a tough financial situation.
Unfortunately, if your spouse had bad credit, it could impact you. For example, if you applied for a home loan on your own once you were married because your spouse had poor credit, it might have seemed fine at the time. But, in a divorce, the brunt of that mortgage debt will fall on you. The judge is unlikely to make your ex-spouse pay for anything when yours is the only name on the deed. The same goes for car payments or other personal loans. Your spouse may not get to “use” those things anymore, but you’ll be left paying for them.
You can work out financial obligations during your divorce case in court. You may be able to “split” things if both parties agree.
From a personal standpoint, however, your focus should be eliminating your debt and finding financial stability. Some tips to help you along the way include:
- Making a budget
- Cutting things out that you don’t use anymore
- Downsizing/selling your marital home
- Paying off your largest debts first
The truth is, your financial situation might sting for a while. But, you’ll get back on your feet after the divorce is finalized and you’re ready to move ahead.
Find Your Support System
Going through a divorce is hard. When you’re in your 20s, it can be even harder. It’s easy to feel like you’ve failed or you’ve been rejected. Unfortunately, many of your friends might just be starting their marriage journeys. So, you’ll still get invited to wedding and baby showers, ceremonies, and more.
Those things, as lovely as they might be, often make your own situation hurt that much more.
Understand that it’s okay to grieve after going through a divorce in your 20s. It’s a loss, in more ways than one. If you’ve never had to go through the stages of grief before, they are:
Grief can look different for everyone. But, you’ll likely experience some level of these stages throughout and after your divorce.
It’s important to make sure you’re not going through them alone. Even if you know getting a divorce was the right thing to do, or you were tired of being in an unhappy relationship, it’s still a difficult time. Lean on friends and family for support. Reach out to groups online or in-person of people who are going through the same thing. If you’re really struggling, you might even consider going to a therapist or counselor.
When you’re in your 20s, people can quickly make the common misconception that you’ll “bounce back” right away. While you do have a lot of life left to live, that doesn’t mean the pain you’re feeling now isn’t real. Finding support to work through that pain is crucial for your mental health.
Focus On Your Future
One “benefit” about being a young divorcee is the time you still have. You haven’t given 20+ years of your life to someone who makes you unhappy. You can learn a lot about yourself and what you truly want. And, you might even be able to live with fewer regrets than someone who stayed married for years as some kind of badge of honor. Even if you have a child with your former spouse, you can make it work.
Some people stay in miserable marriages until their kids get older to make things easier. But, if you’re willing to work with your ex-spouse to create a co-parenting calendar, you can put your child first and co-parent effectively so your child is raised in two loving, stable environments.
It’s okay to be excited about your future. Once you’ve reached “acceptance” in the grieving process, the next step is moving forward. It may take some time to take your life by the reins and feel like you’re in control again. The good news? You have plenty of time to figure it out and start writing the next chapter.