5 Rules for a Happy Marriage – Advice from the Divorced, Part 1

We found this article last week on the Wall Street Journal site, called “A Divorcee’s Guide to Marriage” and we were so impressed by it that we’ve decided to make a three-part series of it. The reason we feel this is topic is important enough for a series is summed up very well in the article.

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.”

stop divorce - lessons from the divorced

Dr. Orbuch has been conducting a study of 373 couples since 1986. Over the study’s 25 years, 46% of the couples divorced. Dr. Orbuch followed many of the divorced men and women into their new relationships and asked 210 of them what they had learned from their mistakes. The WSJ article shares their hard-earned advice. We want to spend three posts on the 5 things they felt were most important and offer some tips on how to use that advice to build a stronger, happier marriage.

#1 Boost your spouse’s mood.

15% of the individuals participating said they would mosst their spouse’s morale more with what Dr. Orbach calls “affective affirmation.” This can be holding hands, cuddling or giving your spouse compliments.

Dr. Orbach explains that there are four components of displays of affection that divorced people said were important:

a.  How often the spouse showed love.
b.  How often the spouse made them feel good about the kind of person they are.
c.  How often the spouse made them feel good about having their own ideas and ways of doing things
d.  How often the spouse made life interesting or exciting.

The way you express affection doesn’t necessarily have to be physical and it doesn’t have to be something big.

Dr. Orbuch says,

It can be as small as saying, “I love you,” or “You’re a great parent.” It can be an action rather than words. Turn on the coffee pot in the morning. Bring in the paper. Warm up the car. Make a favorite dessert. Give a hug.”

Ed often displays affection by running a bath for me while I’m clearing up after dinner. He says he feels loved and affirmed when I brag about his latest home improvement project. We all have many different ways of feeling valued and appreciated. Our job as spouses is to identify what makes our partners feel loved and supported and do at least one of them each day.

In the next post, we’ll have more advice from Dr. Orbuch and the divorced couples who were willing to let us learn from their mistakes.

One Response to 5 Rules for a Happy Marriage – Advice from the Divorced, Part 1

  1. Cathy Lorient August 8, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    What do you think about the lessons from the divorced people? Do you find it useful? Don’t hesitate to leave your comments below.

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