When I got divorced in my late twenties, I swore, loudly, and to anyone that would listen, that marriage was a mistake I wouldn’t be making again. My marriage had been short and troublesome, so although divorce brought some sadness, I mostly felt liberated. I was not yet 30 and I felt like I had everything I wanted at that moment: I was a mother to a boy and a girl who at that time were just a toddler and a baby, a career as a journalist which was thriving, and the necessary freedoms that career gave me of an income we could, just, live on and a chance to go interesting places and meet interesting people.
As I was divorcing, I’d got a column in the Sunday Telegraph, and when my decree absolute came through I took my wedding ring off, and bought myself a heavy, gold and silver necklace with a heart on it, to celebrate my new freedom. Most of all I loved the tight circle of three my little family made up.
The fact I had had children also gave me a special sort of freedom when it came to sex and relationships: I could date in the same way most men of my age were doing it, based on appetite and desire, rather than with the need for children and marriage as a driver. It was fun
It’s an irritating cliche, but you often get the thing you might need when you stop looking for it. When I got a Facebook message from someone I’d vaguely known at university, I thought little of it, apart from the fact it would be a pleasant diversion from an article I was struggling with. That was in January 2010, and it was snowing heavily that night; as I buttoned up my blue velvet coat, leaving the house with a slick of red lipstick on my mouth, I felt the night looked exciting.
The love affair that unfolded after that evening has delighted and excited me ever since. We’ve been together for eight years, and married for almost seven of those. We’ve had three more children, so my tight little unit of three is now a family of seven.
Still, there were some friends who were surprised by my decision to do it again. “Why do that to yourself a second time?” a girlfriend asked, because of course there are times when its challenging: family life, and all relationships, are.
A second marriage is like discovering a perfectly imperfect gold bracelet in a vintage shop. First time around, I wanted the perfect bracelet, all pretty and shiny with no links missing or dents in the gold. This time, I know there will be chips and cracks, and that’s exactly what make it so special.
Getting married for a second time brings with it the wisdom of time and experience, as well as the self-examination that divorce brings. My first marriage might have been painful, but it also taught me a lot, like the infinite value of letting go of anger and resentment in a relationship, and the fact that vacating the moral high ground in an argument is always the smartest place to be. It taught me that while it’s easy to blame, the place I’m interested in getting to doesn’t involve the easy route, and that’s OK. Understanding, too, that happiness never lies in someone else’s hands but is your own responsibility has been key, since marriage in itself isn’t going to make you happy, and neither is motherhood, unless you take responsibility for where you are going.
But second time around, I’m reminded that marriage is a long-term project, and that loving someone and being loved back an incredible privilege that should not be taken for granted. Like that beautifully imperfect gold bracelet, my second marriage feels like the most infinitely valuable gift, and one I want to care for and cherish for the rest of my life.
Clover Stroud is the author of The Wild Other: a memoir of love, adventure and how to be brave. She is writing a memoir of motherhood, due out in spring 2020 with Transworld. Follow her on Instagram at @clover.stroud