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'I feel like I was brainwashed.' 3 women on divorcing in their early 20s.

We all know someone who has experienced divorce.

Lately, conversations about separation feel like they're at an all-time high. Even celebs like Em Rata and Miley Cyrus have been opening up about ending their marriages while still young and the impact it's had.

"So it seems that a lot of ladies are getting divorced before they turn 30. Being in your 20s is the trenches," Rata said recently.

"Having tried that married fantasy and realising that it's maybe not all it's cracked up to be, you've got your whole life still ahead of you. So for all the people who are feeling stressed about that, about being divorced, it's good. Congratulations."

It's a sentiment lots of women can relate to.

Mamamia spoke with three women about what led them to marry and divorce in their early 20s - and what they want other people to know about rushing into marriage. 


Growing up, Megan Luscombe, who uses pronouns they/her, had always envisioned marriage for herself - the white wedding, a husband, marrying young. 

"Most of my family members had married by the time they were 20 or 21, so I figured it would be the same for me," they tell Mamamia. "I had grown up in a Catholic family, and when I met him I was 18 and it just kept quickly progressing from there."

At 20 Megan was engaged. By 22 they were married. But by the age of 24, Megan was already divorced.

Reflecting on that time in her life, Megan knows there was a niggling doubt in the back of her mind even before the wedding. 

"I knew I was going to get divorced as I walked down the aisle. I was thinking to myself 'Why am I doing this, it's a terrible idea'. I definitely felt the pressure."

Despite her hesitations, Megan kept it mostly to herself. But looking back on it, there were signs they weren't 100 per cent keen on the marriage - and that likely showed. They now wonder why loved ones didn't say anything.

"Nobody checked in with me or asked me if this is what I wanted to do. Even broaching a conversation like 'Hey what's making you want to get married right now?' Nobody did anything. I just think the rest of my family didn't say anything to me because they had all been married at the same age, so it wasn't in their front of mind to critically think about the situation."

Megan today. Image: Supplied.

Although the wedding was beautiful, Megan said it was a really tense time between her and her husband. 

"Things were souring immediately after the wedding, and during the wedding actually. The week before the day we noticed our values were really starting to pull apart. Who I was becoming wasn't what he liked anymore. I was evolving into a different version of myself and it really didn't align who he was," they explain.

Essentially, Megan's husband was looking for a wife who was subservient and reflected traditional family values, such as being a housewife. But that wasn't who Megan wanted to be. 

Ultimately, the wedge between them grew too deep. By a year or two into the marriage, they had become completely different people with different values, interests and wishes for the future. 

It was Megan who made the final call, saying, "We had turned into two completely different people".

"We had to wait a year of course to be separated and for the paperwork to go through. Then a day or two before my 25th birthday is when I was officially divorced. Separating from him was the best. I feel like it was the first time I did something for me, because I wanted to do it. It was one of the first times in my life where I took control and acknowledged things weren't working."

Today Megan's life looks quite different from what it was that decade ago.

They're a certified coach who specialises in relationships, communication, boundaries and empowerment. And they're also remarried, now having a wife and a son.

"When I was 25, I started dating a woman. I had always been attracted to women as well, so that wasn't really a mind-altering experience, but for other people it probably was," they explain.

"My life just started to become a life that was on my own terms. Now my partner and I are completely aligned, and that's the huge difference. I'm actually in a marriage now where I knew who I was before I got into the relationship."

Getting married so young isn't something Megan regrets per se. But if they were in another young person's shoes who was thinking about getting married in their very early 20s, Megan would want them to know this. 

"Marriage is always going to be there if you want it. Waiting longer to see who you become and you grow into is pivotal. People rush into the marriage because the wedding is exciting and intoxicating. But if you feel this way about that person, those feelings should stay, even if you wait a few years to discover who you are and whether your values remain aligned," they tell Mamamia

As Megan notes, the prefrontal cortex of a young person's brain isn't fully developed until the age of 25 or so. It's this part of the brain that handles rationality. 

"I want people to know that there is nothing wrong with getting divorced, and there is nothing wrong with changing your mind. You can be engaged and change your mind. You can also get married and change your mind. 

"There's no right or wrong way. I just wish somebody had said to me 'It's okay to change your mind, and you will be loved and supported regardless of what decision you make."


At 21, Kristy Turnbull fell pregnant to her then-boyfriend. She was living away from her family, and although she had plenty of friends around her, none of them had babies.

Kristy was swimming in completely uncharted territory. 

"It was very scary. When I told him I was pregnant, he handled it pretty well. We were both worried about the future, but he was very supportive. But I knew I had to move back home from the city to the country where my family is. I needed to have those people around me," she tells Mamamia

Now back in her hometown, Kristy was progressing along with her pregnancy and getting the support she needed. But her boyfriend wasn't enjoying the country air.

"He didn't fit in with the country life. He really struggled being away from the city, and I think the resentment only grew from there."

The pair managed to hold it together though. At 22, Kristy now had a newborn daughter and she was engaged to be married. Soon afterwards they were married and riding the high of the wedding. Sadly, that happy bubble didn't last. 

"He had a different idea of what it meant to be monogamous to me... Once I found out he had been cheating on me, that was a complete deal breaker," she notes.

Kristy today. Image: Supplied.

The complications of divorcing while having a young infant were immediately felt. The mental load of having to find new places to live, how to co-parent, and also how to move on from the betrayal of the infidelity.

It was a particularly tough time for Kristy.

"By 25 I was a divorced single mum. I had moved out and had to find my own place, all while juggling my daughter, trying to figure out a stable income and dealing with the loss of the relationship. It was a lot to deal with, especially being so young as well."

Fortunately for the former couple, the divorce itself was quite simple as neither had a significant amount of assets to divvy up. Kristy feels grateful they hadn't yet purchased a home together - although they were in the process of looking - as that would have made things additionally messy.

But it wasn't like the pair could go their separate ways either, now they had a child together.

"The biggest problem over those next few years was navigating co-parenting and child support. I then had to find a job that was suitable for school hours, and I would study overnight at university. I was desperate to educate myself to the point where I didn't need to rely on a man for income. I ended up doing a master's degree, and finding that stability within myself was such a relief as a single parent."

Now Kristy's daughter is 19 and off to university. Kristy has also remarried and has two more children as well. In this new marriage, Kristy feels like an equal. 

"I've learned I am completely capable of looking after myself, my children and running a household, without relying on a man. I am quite resilient and capable, and that's something I only discovered about myself after the divorce. So if I was ever to be single again, I know I would be totally fine - I back myself."

Soon Kristy's daughter will be the same age Kristy was when she had her first child and married. It's resulted in a lot of reflection on Kristy's part.

"For young people, they need to know who they really are as a person before entering into a marriage or giving themselves wholly to someone else. Marriage can be so wonderful, I know that now. But without honest communication and respect, it can be heartbreaking."


At 20, Brooke Scobie, who uses the pronouns she/they, fell deeply in love.

She was in a long-distance relationship with James*, who lived in Indonesia, the two of them having first met when Brooke was 18 and he only a few years older.

"Soon after we met, we stopped being friends and became something more. It sounds sad to say, but he was probably the first man that was nice to me. So I figured that meant I should marry him," Brooke tells Mamamia.

By 21, Brooke was married. The wedding was quite the spectacle, and looking back on it, Brooke says it was "unnecessarily big". Perhaps too big that they felt as though they had to go through with it. Even if a small voice in the back of their minds was telling them otherwise.

"I came from a working-class family and my mum had just got a redundancy. She offered to use that money to give him and I our dream wedding. It was at Luna Park, and it was beautiful and big. I just wanted to be loved. I didn't want to let anyone down and ignored the second thoughts."

But once the wedding was done, the cracks began to widen.

Brooke on the wedding day taking pictures with their father, and then Brooke today. Image: Supplied.

"We started trying for a baby as that was really important for his family, but it wasn't successful. Even after fertility treatment and medication, it just wasn't working. That was the first challenge," Brooke explains.

Another source of difficulty was their cultural differences, with Brooke being an Indigenous Goorie person who isn't one for sticking to an 'institutionalised agenda'.

"Growing up, I feel like I was brainwashed in that Hollywood romantic sort of way of thinking - he still cared deeply about the institution of marriage, but for me, I wasn't tied to it. And I soon realised I wasn't tied to him either."

Brooke continues: "The more time that we spent together, the more I realised we were very, very different people. Things went south really quickly. I asked him, 'If we never got married would you still be friends with me?' And he said no. That immediately told me that he didn't like me for who I am."

So Brooke made the difficult decision and asked James for a divorce, much to his shock. She doesn't remember much about that overwhelming moment except for the fact that they split on the day of Prince William and Princess Kate's royal wedding day.

Now over a decade on, Brooke has a completely different view on marriage than their 21-year-old self did. Their life has also completely evolved - Brooke is a writer, podcaster, advocate and poet.

After their divorce, Brooke was diagnosed with autism and ADHD, learned more about non-monogamy and discovered sexuality wasn't what she once thought it was.

"Now I identify as queer, and that has led me to have a completely different take on relationships, marriage and everything," says Brooke.

"Don't get me wrong - I love a celebration of love. But the institution of marriage itself I'm no longer interested in, I don't need the government involved in my love," she notes. 

"I'm happy to close that chapter of my life - the chapter where so many of us blindly go into toxic monogamy. I want love. I just don't need the certificate."

Feature Image: Supplied.

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