So you’re getting married! Congratulations!
According to the latest research, if you are under the age of 30, there is a 58% chance that you are entering your marriage as a child of divorce. Do you fall into this category?
If you’re wondering what on earth that has to do with the fact that you are getting married, you need to know this: adult children of divorce are much more likely to get divorced than are those who grew up in traditional families. Generally, people whose parents divorced are less optimistic about their own chances for marital bliss, and find it more difficult to fully trust their spouse.
Wait! Before you click over to a more cheerful article, let me assure you that I am not trying to rain on your parade! As a child of divorce myself, I can testify that you can have an incredible marriage, regardless of what the stats say. But you do need to be aware that you are starting at a disadvantage if you have not seen a model of a successful marriage.
At one time I had a very pessimistic view of my own chances for a good marriage. I have so much of both my parents in me, and I feared I was doomed to repeat their mistakes. I learned, though, that history does not have to repeat itself. You can be the one to stop the cycle of divorce and begin a new legacy in your family: one of happiness and harmony. Here are a few ideas to help you in the process.
- Make peace with the past
When I first became engaged to my wife, I was not on good terms with my father. In fact, we hadn’t spoken in over six months. I didn’t feel I could get married until I had closed the door on my childhood by restoring my relationship with him. Marriage is difficult enough without bringing those kinds of problems with us. Some relationships may require much deeper healing, its worth the effort to make peace with the past. It’s so much easier to make a fresh start with your new spouse.
- Remember: we are not our parents!
I mentioned that I worried about repeating the mistakes of my parents. I was well aware of the cycle of divorce, and sometimes it seemed almost inevitable that I would someday succumb to it. But I learned a very valuable lesson: I am not my parents! Sure, we share many of the same strengths and weaknesses, but I have the power to make different decisions.
- Remember: your spouse is not your parents, either!
On the flip side, it is also very easy to begin to equate our new spouse with our parents. We keep one eye on them at all times, expecting them to commit our parents’ mistakes at any moment. Just like the previous point, this is rooted in our disbelief that a happy marriage is possible. If it’s not me that will mess it up, it will be my spouse! This is not a good foundation for a successful marriage. One essential building block of a happy marriage is trust. Just as you are not doomed to repeat your parents’ failures, neither is your spouse.
- Learn from the past
It’s been said that those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. You can look for good role models. Is there someone you know who has the kind of marriage that you want to have? Maybe it’s your spouse’s parents, a friend or another relative. Observe how they interact, and ask them what their secret is. Perhaps they could mentor you. It is always a good idea to draw on the wisdom of others.
- Build a better future
Our past shouldn’t dictate who we are, but it can impact who we become. When dealing with past hurts there are two temptations: to wallow in them or to bury them. In the first case, we get stuck in the past and find ourselves unable to move on. In the latter, we deny the events ever happened and miss out on the learning experience. The Bible (a book of wisdom) tells us, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us” (Rom. 5:3-4). There is no doubt that divorce has caused you to suffer. Perseverance, character, and hope are an excellent foundation start a brighter future and a blissful marriage!
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