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Coupling

Am I doomed to divorce?

With breakups running rampant in my family, I’m afraid to tie the knot.

(Illustration by Kim Rosen)

When are you and Alex getting married?”

The question seems unavoidable these days. I’m 26. I’ve been with the same guy for four years and living with him for three. But as the years pass faster and faster, marriage has been the farthest thing from my mind.

That is, until my stepmom, Mary Kay, who’s been in my life since I was 9, called to say she was divorcing my dad.

At first, I couldn’t believe it. I drove to New Jersey, where they live, to try to figure out what had happened. Mary Kay implied that my dad had been having an affair. Privately and relentlessly, he swore he hadn’t. Confused, angry, and heartbroken, I retreated to Boston intent on staying out of it.

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In my family, lasting marriages are the outlier. In fact, I can’t think of one relative older than 30 who hasn’t been divorced. My grandparents on both sides are. My parents are, and every one of their siblings has been – at least once. Heck, my brother was divorced and remarried before he even hit 30. And last Easter, my mom proudly announced to my cousins and me over appetizers: “Your great-grandmother was a revolutionarily strong female. She divorced her abusive husband when women were expected to obey their husbands – abuse or not.”

“We’re all doomed!” I gasped to my cousins in horror.

I’ve heard that divorce is hereditary. In fact, according to Nicholas Wolfinger’s Understanding the Divorce Cycle, if your parents divorced, you’re at least 40 percent more likely to follow suit than if they stayed together, and if your parents remarried others, you’re 91 percent more likely to end your marriage. That last bit makes no sense to me. Because both my parents are remarried, I would have less than a 10 percent chance of making my own marriage work?

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It’s the first part that really worries me, though. With the divorce rate for first marriages hovering at 41 percent, paired with the notion that as a product of divorce I’m predisposed to it, my chances of happily ever after seem pretty slim.

I’m no psychiatrist, but it makes sense that you’re likely to act out the behaviors you witnessed as a child in your adult life. For me, this means bickering, screaming, and more than enough crying. These constants I grew to despise but could not seem to prevent from creeping into my own relationships. Sometimes I hear myself and think: Who is that needy person crying for affection?

I fight these personality flaws with the same vigor that I grapple with the notion of marriage. I don’t feel mature enough to partner up for life. My wants and needs change weekly. How could I possibly commit to an eternity with anyone when I’m not even sure who I am – who I’m going to be?

When I think of my last breakup and the year of sleeping and wine guzzling that ensued, it’s hard for me to believe I could go through a similar emotional breakdown with kids or lawyers to answer to. How did my mother drag herself out of bed and take her two kids on a sunny shopping trip the day after my father left her? How did she force a smile and tell us everything was going to be OK ?

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As more of my friends get engaged, married, and pop out babies, I can’t help thinking: idiots. I wonder whether I’m being too cynical. I’m clinging to the notion that if I wait long enough before tying the knot, I’m less likely to suffer the fate of those who came before me. Statistical evidence seems to support my theory: 81 percent of divorced women and 73 percent of all divorced men had gotten married before they turned 30, according to Divorcerate.org. Only 8.5 percent of divorced women got married between the ages of 30 and 34, and an even lower 5.1 percent of divorcees got married between 35 and 39.

Statistics aside, it’s safe to say I’m not getting married any time soon. When those troubled faces look at me with disbelief after I tell them Alex and I are not planning a wedding, I’ll kindly direct them to my father. And the rest of my family, for that matter.


Lindsay Tucker is a writer who lives in Boston. Send comments to coupling@globe.com.