The Starter Husband
My own parents' bitter divorce — many, many years in the making — played out
right around the time of my engagement. I knew all too well what the seamy
underbelly of marriage looked like, and it had made me incredibly cautious
about commitment — it took me seven years of dating my husband before I could
consider the concept of "forever."
Still, it's a legacy that cuts deep. "We were both like, We're going to
do this right! Divorce is for losers," Elisa says of her and her ex's
attitude toward their own parents' divorces. But she knew in the back of her
mind that there was a plan B, that marriage was not necessarily a binding
contract. And when she realized that she didn't even have a clue what a good
marriage looked like, let alone what one felt like, she didn't hesitate to
produce her Get Out of Jail Free card. "It was a constantly pitched,
keyed-up hell," she says. Their downstairs neighbors left a note on their
door: "I don't know what the hell is wrong with you people, but you need to
stop screaming at each other."
Pulling the trigger was easy; dealing with the fallout was not. "Every
time I ran into somebody I knew, I wanted to die," Elisa says. She briefly
moved back to her childhood home in L.A. to regroup. "Even if they were
nice, I just felt this pity from them, like, 'Oh, my God, you messed up big.
Wow, that sucks.'" Looking for guidance, she joined a divorce support group
out in the Valley. It was an eye-opener. "It was full of women in their 50s
with kids and mortgages," Elisa remembers. "They knew their marriages
were doomed straight out of the gate but stayed shackled to them for 20
Confronted with that alternative, Elisa's confidence in her decision was
restored. Today, three years later, she considers her first husband the perfect
warm-up for the real deal. "I could not be more grateful for that
experience," she says. "I'm in a really good relationship right now,
knock on wood, and I would never have been capable of that without my first
marriage — learning how relationships work."