First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes…Divorce
In August of 2011, Gordon Deming married the love of his life on her grandmother’s farm. Though storm clouds loomed in the distance, the rain held off for their ceremony and reception under the stars.
The storm, it seemed, held off until after the honeymoon.
Gordon had a big night planned for the first Valentine’s Day with his first love, Lauren. Gordon found himself regularly going out of his way to do nice things for her just to make her smile. She did the same for him.
Instead of treating her to the slightly-less-than-five-star meal he had promised at Red Lobster, he transformed his room into their own private dining experience, complete with twinkling lights, full menu and personal wait staff. (Gordon had good roommates.) Around that time, Gordon knew Lauren was the girl he was going to marry.
Lauren and Gordon had been friends, but it wasn’t until the two went on a mission trip together in the summer of 2010 that Gordon decided they could be something more.
“She was sarcastic and witty,” he said. “She was really loving and it caught my eye.”
While Gordon spent time at a military ROTC training for that summer, the two exchanged letters. When school started in the fall, they officially became a couple.
Their senses of humor clicked. Their morals and intense devotion to their religion lined up. They could have deep, spiritual conversations and then tease each other lovingly. They would sometimes disagree but didn’t argue. They had a connection.
By the time the spring rolled around, marriage was a topic of discussion. Gordon graduated in May; Lauren was going to be student teaching the next year. It seemed like the timing was good.
At a college baseball game, Gordon appeared on the big screen with Lauren by his side under the guise of being selected to play a game. When it came time for him to name that song, he proposed instead. She said yes.
Their engagement was quick, but they didn’t enter into marriage lightly. The soon-to-be Demings went through intensive pre-marriage counseling with their pastor, where they learned a lot about each other and the private struggles of marriage.
“We both felt like this was the right thing.”
After the wedding, the pair settled into their new life together. Lauren was student teaching; Gordon was working two jobs. In all the business of life, Lauren hadn’t found time to change her last name, something she had looked forward to doing before the wedding. She kept putting it off, and to Gordon, it was the first red flag.
“What is this hesitation?” he wondered.
The couple, who rarely argued, began having more substantial disagreements about values and ideals – about things like faith, children and the role their families played in their lives. “Everything stopped lining up,” Gordon said. Unhappy, Lauren began to question their match. Gordon knew their marriage was right, even though it wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t perfect. “I put my foot in my mouth at times.”
With more disagreements, the relationship grew bitter. Intimacy went out the window, and Gordon was at a loss for what to do. “I’ve never cried so much,” he said. He wanted to keep trying but was breaking down inside over the demise of his once-happy relationship.
Things continued downhill when Gordon found out he would be deployed in the next year. The couple moved in with Lauren’s parents so she would have a support system once he left, and though they shared the small space of a bedroom, his wife grew more distant.
Once, during an argument, Lauren hinted at divorce. It was the first time either had mentioned the idea (at least out loud), and after that, Gordon says it ate at her. He can’t be sure, but Gordon thinks she realized she wasn’t ready for marriage.
In July, Lauren came to him to say she was moving out and filed paperwork to end their marriage within a few months.
Gordon was devastated. Divorce was never a path he wanted to take. “I was raised around broken families,” he said. “I know what it does.”
When the papers came his way, he refused to sign them. He still wanted to work things out and thought she was acting out of haste. Even when he moved to a different town, he didn’t sign. Even when friends told him to let it go, he didn’t sign. He believed there was something worth saving.
He was being deployed early in 2013, and right before Christmas, it seemed there was hope for the marriage after all. The two reconnected and began talking. Lauren and her family came to see him off when he left for Jordan.
After he left the country, though, it was radio silence. It seemed their brief rekindling didn’t stick, and in time the divorce papers found him on the other side of the globe. With a lot of time to reflect, he realized the divorce was inevitable – Gordon returned the signed papers once he got back to the States. His forever had fallen flat.
Gordon had been processing (and resisting) the end of their relationship for almost a year by the time the divorce was final. “When I finally got the nerve to accept it, it helped me to move on,” he said.
Though his divorce was one of the most painful experiences of his life, Gordon said there is good to come out of the situation. In addition to strengthening his faith, Gordon learned to have a more open mind. Before his marriage, Gordon never considered adopting children, and now he wants to. Lauren taught him the importance of family and caring for grandparents. She helped him to stop being judgmental and accept others more willingly.
Maybe she wasn’t ready or maybe she was too young – Gordon doesn’t know – but he thinks a lot of people tend to glorify the idea of marriage. “You set yourself up for a fairytale, and it’s not,” Gordon said.
He believes there’s no perfect equation for marriage – how old you should be or how long you should date – but that you should work to know someone (and their flaws) inside and out, how they handle adversity and to accept that things won’t be perfect or easy. “They’re not always going to be nice,” he said. “Sometimes you’re not going to be easy to love, but you still need to love each other.”
The end of his marriage gave him a chance to start anew. After returning from overseas and finalizing his divorce, Gordon decided a continued career in finance wasn’t what he wanted. He returned to school in the hopes of becoming a physician’s assistant.
Gordon doesn’t regret his marriage. He doesn’t blame her or their age or the time frame; he just wishes they had known all of the little things better before committing to a lifetime.
Married and divorced by the age of 27, Gordon says he would get married again. The next time, though, he’ll approach it differently. “I’m not in a rush,” he said. He wants someone who not only takes the commitment as seriously as he does but that can also appreciate his flaws. He wants a relationship that acknowledges that things won’t always be easy. Being able to love someone fully includes imperfections, he said, and makes the relationship more beautiful.