Why should we take marriage advice from divorced people? They know better than anybody, that’s why.
University of Michigan psychologist Dr. Terri Orbuch collected data from 373 couples (46 percent of whom later got divorced) during their first year of marriage. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, she found that most divorced people shared the same five regrets about their marriages. Here is the advice she gathered, based on the post-divorce experience of 210 of the subjects, of whom 44 percent remarried.
1. Show your partner you love and care for them in any way you can. Small gestures like complimenting your partner, saying “I love you” or holding hands go a long way. The most important ways to display affection are showing love, showing support, making your partner feel good about themselves and keeping things interesting in the relationship.
2. Money matters, discuss it. Money is the number-one source of conflict in most marriages. “Talk money more often—not just when it’s tax time, when you have high debt, when bills come along,” Dr. Orbuch says.
3. Leave the past behind you. Dr. Orbuch believes that to engage in a healthy way with your partner, you need to let go of the past. “This includes getting over jealousy of your partner’s past relationships, irritation at how your mother-in-law treats you, something from your own childhood that makes it hard for you to trust, a spat you had with your spouse six months ago,” according to the article. Write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal, talk to a friend or seek out a professional.
4. Don’t play the blame game. Ask your partner for their view of a problem. “There are multiple ways of seeing a problem,” says Dr. Orbuch. “By getting your partner’s perspective, and marrying it with your perspective, you get the relationship perspective.”
5. Communication is key. Forty-one percent of respondents cited communication as the number-one factor they would change in their next relationship. Dr. Orbuch believes in practicing “active listening:” “where they try to hear what the other person is saying, repeating back what they just heard and asking if they understood correctly.” She also says partners need to reveal more about themselves in order to maintain communication.