Want great marriage advice? Ask a divorced person.
Research shows that most divorced people identify the same top five regrets—behaviors they believe contributed to their marriage's demise and that they resolve to change next time. "Divorced individuals who step back and say, 'This is what I've done wrong and this is what I will change,' have something powerful to teach others," says Terri Orbuch, a psychologist, research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and author of the new book "Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship." "This is marriage advice learned the hard way," she says.
Dr. Orbuch has been conducting a longitudinal study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, collecting data periodically from 373 same-race couples who were between the ages of 25 and 37 and in their first year of marriage in 1986, the year the study began. Dr. Orbuch followed many of the divorced individuals into new relationships and asked 210 of them what they had learned from their mistakes. (Of these 210, 71% found new partners, including 44% who remarried.) This is their hard-earned advice:
Boost your spouse's mood
Of the divorced people, 15% said they would give their spouse more of what Dr. Orbuch calls "affective affirmation," including compliments, cuddling and kissing, hand-holding, saying "I love you," and emotional support. "By expressing love and caring you build trust," Dr. Orbuch says.
Blame the relationship
The divorced individuals in the study who blamed ex-spouses, or even themselves, had more anxiety, depression and sleep disorders than individuals who blamed the way that they and their partners interacted. Those who held on to anger were less likely to move on, build a strong new relationship and address future problems in a positive, proactive manner.
Reveal more of yourself
Communication style is the No. 1 thing the study's divorced individuals said they would change in the next relationship (41% said they would communicate differently).
Spouses need to speak in a calm and caring voice. They should learn to argue in a way that produces a solution, not just more anger.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2012