I was on the way to the gymwhen my older sister called me from New York to discuss my upcoming 30th birthday. It was six months away, but with such a big milestone, she wanted to start planning way in advance. Did I want a huge party or a small dinner? Casual dress or cocktail attire? Whom would I invite? Did I want to go somewhere? Vegas? Miami? Or did I want to stay in L.A.?
As I pondered these options, one definitive thought struck me: Regardless of what city I was in, what I was wearing or what I had planned, I didn’t want Dan on the guest list. I didn’t want Dan to be anywhere near me on my 30th birthday. I wanted my 30th to be free of status quo mediocrity.
This thought was both overwhelming and freeing, and struck me with such force that I burst into tears. I quickly got off the phone with my sister, citing bad reception, pulled into the gym parking lot and sobbed. Dan was my husband. And as I cried for the first time about the state of my marriage, I knew I would be divorced by 30.
There are countless paths to getting divorced by 30, and this is a guide to the most common ones — 15 simple steps to guide you on your way to ending your starter marriage. But if you are a traditionalist, storybook romantic or just lazy and don’t want to get divorced by 30, then read this article and do the opposite of what my friends and I did.
Yes, five of my closest friends all got married around 27 years old, and all got divorced by 30. To protect the innocent, I will call them Michelle, Aaron, Alise, Robert and Liz.
My parents, who have been together for more than 35 years, also believe in getting the first one over with. My mother’s first husband was a charming, philandering cad, and my father had so little to say to his first wife, he avoided being alone with her even on their honeymoon. Because their second choices seemed to go so well, they are big believers in the get-divorced-by-30 philosophy.
Dan and I met six years earlier, when we both worked at the world-famous Hollywood Improv on Melrose. I was a writer/cocktail waitress. He was an actor/bartender. It was a romance made in L.A. heaven. I had only weeks before broken up with my live-in boyfriend when Dan and I had our first date.
I had met my previous boyfriend at a Seder when I was in college. He was 10 years older than I, had just returned from a Peace Corps stint building villages in Africa, and was about to finish his veterinary schooling. I believed he was much smarter than I was, and because I felt intellectually inferior, I allowed him to bully me constantly. At first, his condescending antagonism was exciting and challenged me to become a well-rounded person. I read nonfiction. Figured out where Chad was on a map. And even went camping. But my admiration of his intelligence soon turned into resentment, and we couldn’t get through a day without screaming at each other. He relentlessly corrected and nitpicked at me. The last straw came at a Peruvian restaurant three years into our relationship. A girl walked in wearing a purple pea coat. I said, “I like her pea coat.” He said, “Well, technically, it has to be navy blue to be a pea coat.”
So weeks later, when I got to know superchill, pot-smoking, laid-back, friendly, smart-yet-not-hostile Dan, I thought: This is the guy for me! And that is the first step to getting divorced by 30.
STEP ONE: Jump from your horrible early-20s relationship right into a mid-20s relationship without learning or growing or pondering what you really want out of a mate — then marry that person.
By your late 20s, you’ll realize you were merely over-correcting the first person’s flaws and that the one you married is just as wrong for you as the one you didn’t, but in very different ways.
STEP TWO: Marry an actor.
When I mentioned to family friend Buck Henry that I was marrying Dan, he said one of two things would happen: Dan would never succeed as an actor, and I would resent his constant struggles and feelings of inadequacy and leave him. Or he would succeed and leave me for someone younger and skinnier. Either way, it would not end well. Buck, as always, was right.
STEP THREE: Believe that opposites attract.
From day one, I knew Dan and I had major conflicts. I liked to go out. He didn’t. He liked to smoke pot. I didn’t. He was a meat-and-potatoes-eating, plaid-shirt-wearing, baseball-obsessed Chicago guy. I was a turkey-burger-and-salad-eating, pointy-boots-wearing, reality-show-obsessed Miami Beach girl. But we pushed all those inherent differences aside and were determined to make it work. For a time, we enjoyed doing things the other enjoyed. I went to a few Cubs games. He went to a few dance clubs. But as time passed, we became comfortable enough with the relationship to stop doing things the other person enjoyed, and only did the things we enjoyed. So, although we had happy times curled up in bed, we didn’t spend any time together out in the world.