Did You Marry the Wrong Guy?
Thirty percent of now-divorced women say they knew it was wrong from the start.
By Kimberly Goad
As Amanda Clark, 33, a caterer from Boston, walked down the aisle toward her fiancé, wearing a $15,000 gown and a 7-carat ring, she felt nothing but dread. I don't want to go through with this, she thought, with each step toward the altar.
Just two hours before the ceremony, Clark had gone for a dip in the ocean with her two sisters. When it was time to get ready, Clark wouldn't budge. "I couldn't get out of the water," she says. "It was like knowing you have a work meeting but you don't want to go."
Clark had dated a handsome businessman for four years before they got engaged, and although he didn't make her heart race, she still loved him. "We were best friends, and I thought he'd make a great husband and father, even though I wasn't 'in love,'" she says. "I walked down the aisle thinking, What the hell? During my vows, I wasn't making eye contact with my fiancé."
Five years and two kids later, their sex life nonexistent, Clark wanted out. "I'd often wish he would cheat," she says. Finally, her husband, sensing her unhappiness, ended it.
Clark is hardly the first woman to say "I do" when her heart wasn't in it. According to recent research conducted by Jennifer Gauvain, a therapist in Denver, 30 percent of now-divorced women say they knew in their gut they were making a mistake as they walked down the aisle — and kept walking anyway. Only a handful backed out. The obvious question: If you know you're marrying the wrong guy, why do it?
For starters, blame Cinderella. "Women are raised with an unrealistic impression of what love is supposed to look like," says Gauvain. "Girls read fairy tales where the woman gets saved by the prince, and when they're older, the same message is enforced through romantic comedies where love always prevails, despite impossible scenarios. So women learn that love can always work, even when it's unhealthy."
Then there's the usual suspect: the biological clock. Clark's was ticking and she was ready to start a family. "The number 30 reads like an expiration date for unmarried women," says Gauvain. Not only are your baby-making years racing by, but you're leaving behind your 20s — a decade of experimentation, one-night stands, and making mistakes, professionally and personally. In the next decade, you're seen as an adult and can't do those things."
And the unspoken bum's rush to the altar makes things worse. "Although women won't say it aloud, there's often a huge sigh of relief once they get their ring," says Gauvain. "Getting engaged can be a triumph, and if he's the wrong guy, the high from the attention of the engagement can minimize that fact."