The divorce epidemic reached its peak in the late 1970’s. Since then, the divorce rate has remained high – over 45% of first marriages end in divorce and more than 60% of second marriages. These statistics have impacted many adults willingness or interest in making a commitment to a romantic partner or to tie the knot.
In the twenty-first century, many people see divorce as a viable option to the inevitable hard times of marriage. Stable and healthy marriages seem to be in short supply. If you lacked healthy role models for a successful marriage, you may view marriage as disposable and not as essential to your life goals. Further, our culture has become increasingly individualistic and we seek personal happiness and focus on our own needs more so that the needs of a group or family members, as we did prior to the 2oth century. This has contributed to a trend towards individuals delaying commitment and marriage.
According to relationship expert, Scott Carroll, MD, having divorced parents often makes people either cynical about marriage or excessively cautious, but they sometimes throw caution to the wind and fall head-over-heals for someone they have intense chemistry with. Then this strong chemistry can lead to explosive arguments and an eventual break-up. This is especially true for individuals who have a non-secure attachment style. However, awareness is the first step in breaking this self-defeating cycle,
If you are an adult children of divorce, it’s important to keep partnerships in perspective. The truth is that all relationships end, either through breakup or death. But many people raised in divorced homes are preoccupied with the fear of a relationship ending. They fear that no matter what they do, their marriage will suffer the same fate as their parents did. Even if they do decide to marry, they may go into marriage with a lingering thought in the back of their heads that tells them it won’t work out.
This skeptical attitude can contribute to the high divorce rate. Don’t let fear stop you from achieving the true intimacy that comes with commitment. Many people hedge their bets against failure and avoid making a full commitment to a romantic partner. By doing this, they miss out on the level of intimacy that comes with making a complete commitment to their partner.
Whether your parents divorced or stayed together in an unhappy marriage, examining your attitudes about love and commitment can help you to explore options that are right for you. As you let go of fears of your relationship failing, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to love fully and make a long-term commitment.
For instance, Tessa’s parents stayed together but she has a tendency to fear abandonment because her she has an non-secure personality style. Because her parents argued a lot and were rarely home, she experienced a lot of loneliness as an only child. As a result, she clings to relationships even when her needs aren’t being met. Tessa blamed herself when Keith was distant and unwilling to work on their marriage, saying, “Is there something wrong with me?” She wonders out loud, “Am I flawed in some way – not woman enough, sexy enough?”
Tessa is an attractive, intelligent woman, but her adult intimate relationships have been unpredictable and disappointing. Her craving for a failsafe relationship will always be unsatisfied, because such a relationship doesn’t exist. In addition, she has a tendency to pick partners who are emotionally withdrawn and a poor fit for her since she needs a lot of reassurance and an opportunity to build trust and confidence in herself.
If you have fear of commitment, think about this reality: even people from intact or happy homes are faced with this reality – relationships, even marriages, provide no guarantees.
Examining your attitudes about love and commitment can help you to explore options that are right for you. As you let go of fears of your relationship failing, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to love fully and make a long-term commitment.
The task then, is to learn from your parents’ failed or unhappy marriage and your own past – creating loving relationships that are healthy and lasting. The following tips may help you on your journey for love and moving toward commitment:
- Go slowly with a new partner and allow your relationship to develop over time. Avoid making a long-term commitment before the age of twenty-five. You’ll enhance your chances of finding lasting love if you know yourself and have established a solid identity and are more financially secure.
- Strive to pick a partner with a similar background and interests if you are single. Couples who have vast differences in these two areas have an increased risk of divorce.
- Work on making yourself a better person rather than focusing on your partner’s flaws. If one person’s attitude and behavior becomes more positive, this will have a good impact on the relationship.
- Improve communication with your partner. Make a goal to listen to your partner more than you speak and express empathy when he or she is having a tough day. When you have a complaint express it as a need such as “I would appreciate it if you could be on time or call when you are late, rather than “You are so selfish and never think about me.”
- Seek couples counseling if you go through a difficult patch in your relationship. Most marriages dissolve in the first ten years – especially the first five years. Hang in there unless your partner is abusive and seek counseling to improve communication.
With greater insight and determination, you can enhance the probability of experiencing long-lasting love. If you are in a relationship do your best to give your partner the benefit of the doubt and stop and examine your part in a disagreement, rather that automatically assuming that they’re to blame or are intentionally trying to deceive or hurt you.
Keep in mind that a good marriage or relationship is a two-way street. It’s key to check-in with your partner weekly and set short-term and long-term goals toward your vision as a couple. By doing this, you will make your marriage more important than your individual needs and goals and achieve a sustainable relationship.
Do you find yourself repeating patterns from the past? If so, share your experience or ask me a question. I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order my book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”