As a divorce lawyer, Celeste Kirk Liversidge ’89 saw women at one of the worst times of their lives, and many expressed regrets that they married young. When she discovered that a good friend heard the same recurring theme in her practice as a therapist, the two women began to talk. Could encouraging women to wed at a later age help save marriages?
Drawing on their professional experiences and conducting research through focus groups and surveys, Celeste and Shanon Fox co-wrote “Last One Down the Aisle Wins: 10 Keys to a Fabulous Single Life Now and an Even Better Marriage Later.” The book argues that women who spend their 20s developing 10 areas of their lives will have happier, healthier marriages. Statistics support their thesis: women who marry later have a lower rate of divorce.
“We’ve both seen up close how awful divorce is and what a horrible effect it has on kids,” Celeste says. “We want to help women avoid it.”
Coining the term “aisle envy,” the authors warn against an obsession with marriage that leads women to wed for the wrong reasons, such as wanting someone to take care of them or feeling a need to have children. They advise women to become independent financially, emotionally and physically. “Living on their own and making decisions for themselves builds confidence, especially for those with helicopter parents hovering over their lives,” Celeste says. Becoming savvy about money and recognizing and correcting negative financial patterns is essential. So is getting an education, building a career and discovering their passions. “Even women who want to stay home and raise children need a sense of themselves and should prepare for an unexpected need to support their families.” Celeste says Christians tend to see unmarried twenty-somethings as people simply waiting for marriage. “But single people in their 20s have opportunities to do many things that enrich their lives: travel, pursue adventure, develop deep friendships.”
The authors are Christians, but they wrote the book for a broad audience, so discussing sexuality posed a challenge. They urge women to respect their bodies and report that 97 percent of women say they regret having casual sex. “We point out that unattached sex and promiscuity don’t empower women,” Celeste says. “Women bond emotionally during sex, and their sexual relationships during their single years will affect their married lives.”
Celeste has practiced what she preaches. She broke off an engagement in her mid-20s because she hadn’t yet become the person she wanted to be. She taught at inner-city secondary schools for three years before enrolling at Pepperdine Law School. “Many of my students had suffered too much damage to benefit fully from education,” she says, which is one reason she chose to practice family law. “Divorce brings out the worst in people. Children are in pain, and I’ve found many opportunities to help and minister to them.”
Celeste met her husband, Sam, in law school, and they got married when she was 31. They have three children, who are 8, 6 and 5.
Today, Celeste focuses on adoption law as a partner in a small firm. “It takes a lot of courage and self-sacrifice for young women to give up their babies,” she says. “Not all of them have that in them or have a support system. Even women who aren’t Christians choose adoption because they think abortion is wrong and they want to protect the life in them.”