If you’re worried this story is going to end badly, you’re right — it definitely is. This isn’t a comedy where girl meets boy, they fall in love and live happily ever after. This is real life, and it’s more like a Shakespearean tragedy: girl meets boy, they fall in love, and the protagonist’s tragic flaw leads to a major downfall.

I’d been in relationships before, and all of them ended quite tragically (for them, anyway). Meeting Mr. Right was a joke to me, even as a hopeless romantic. I never believed I would find true love and I never thought I wanted to get married at all. I was perfectly happy living in my own selfish world, shamelessly flirting with boys with no intention of a long-term commitment. Once the one year mark came rolling around in a relationship, I would run. So when I was 21 and met a guy who I thought I could spend the rest of my life with, I naively joined the Future Wives Club three weeks into my new relationship.

Yes, you read that right — we got engaged only a few short weeks after we started dating. That was the first red flag I missed in our yearlong venture. The second red flag should have been when I bought my own engagement ring — or rather, put my name on the loan which I’m still paying off to this day. But it was fine, because we were getting married and we both contributed financially, so he would never screw me over on payments, right?

The reasons not to get married greatly outweighed the reasons to go through with it, but we were blinded by our love. Well, he was in love. I, on the other hand, was only in love with myself. Still stuck in my selfish ways, I saw marriage as a way to continue to manipulate people into helping me get what I wanted. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is what it is. I was 21 and stupid. I may only be 23 now, but I’m much smarter than I was back then.

Seven months into our engagement, the day for our small ceremony arrived. I spent most of my day trying to calm my nerves. Cold feet happen to everyone, right? I mean, most brides have a meltdown on their wedding day, don’t they? Was it normal that I suddenly felt suffocated and wanted to bail on my own wedding? This was the third and most alarming red flag, and yet I still walked down the aisle and literally signed my (old) life away.

Nothing felt right after that. At first I thought the pressure of being someone’s wife was what changed things, but then the realization struck that I married the wrong guy. It took a few months before I fully admitted it to myself, but the longer I tried to convince myself I was happy with him, the more I started to resent him. Three months after our wedding, we agreed a divorce would be best.

Even though only two years of my life were devoted to him — one year together, one year legally married but separated — I learned a lot from our short-lived marriage:

Take your time.

Falling in love can happen fast, but don’t rush into things. There isn’t a standard pace — every relationship is different. Just make sure to move at a speed that’s comfortable for both of you, whether it’s saying “I love you,” moving in together, or getting married. Good things take time.

Do it for the right reasons.

By that I mean, don’t get married unless you truly love him. Don’t get married because you’re afraid to be alone. Don’t get married because you need the extra income. Do it because you want to spend your lives together. Do it because you love each other unconditionally.

Listen to your gut.

If you have to ask yourself how you feel, you probably already know the answer. Your intuition is right most of the time. Trust it. If you have any feelings of uneasiness, don’t write them off so quickly.

Marriage isn’t 50/50 — it’s 100/100.

You have to be willing to be completely selfless if you want it to work. You can’t give half and expect him to give half — you both have to give yourselves entirely to one another.

Don’t ignore red flags.

Pay attention to the details. If something seems wrong, it probably is. Know when to step away from a relationship before it’s too late.

It’s been almost a year since we separated, and he finally filed the papers last week. Thinking about it is kind of sad, not because I miss him, but because he deserved better than the person he married. I can’t say I regret the choices I’ve made, because I don’t. I’ll be divorced before I turn 24, but I’ve moved on to a better life on my own. As for him? From what I hear, he’s doing pretty well too.

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