When you and your spouse are both children of divorce, it’s as if you already have the odds stacked against you. Chances are you saw your parents at their very worst and have been gifted with all the insecurities that come with their relationships. It’s not an easy circumstance, but a successful marriage is possible. Though we aren’t relationship experts, the husband and I have picked up on a few things in the last eight years.
Because we didn’t have great relationship role models, we often feel that we are winging it. I truly have nothing to go by, as my parents split when I was two. As so many parents do, mine had custody disputes, petty disagreements, and spoke negatively about the other parent around me as far back as I can remember.
Matt saw his parents in a seemingly normal marriage until he was thirteen, only to find out later there was no communication. There was stuffing of emotions, walking on eggshells, and in the end a heck of a lot of distrust and slander.
When we met eight years ago, we were shaped by these experiences. Love blinded us to many of the intricate details of what makes a long-lasting marriage work as it does for most, but we knew the details of what we were working with.
As a child of divorce you take on your parent’s relationship issues, whether you want to or not. That’s why I beg everyone to be mindful of how they treat one another and keep the fighting fair and behind closed doors. The distrust, the manipulation, and the irrational expectations – they follow you. One of the best things you can do for your marriage is lay it all out on the table and own it. For example: “This is my tendency, as I was taught, and I’m promising to work on it. It won’t happen over night, but I’m aware and there will be progress or you can call me on it.”
With this humility in confessing your less than desirable traits also comes vulnerability. Do not take advantage of your partner’s vulnerability, even when you are fuming mad, and bring up the past or, gulp, their parents. Thank them for acknowledging the issue, state what you’re going to work on and move forward.
There are other dangers to a marriage with two children of divorce. For starters, don’t ever say the “d word.” Just don’t. Don’t talk about leaving your spouse or kicking them out. That does nothing but create frenzy inside the other and there will be a ripple effect. Marriage is hard, sometimes your partner won’t be your favorite, but watch your words.
Avoid comparing yourself to your parents. Realize that you are preprogrammed with your parent’s problems because you lived with them from such a young age, but you are not them. Also fight the codependency or failure to commit as many children of divorce fall victim to repeating these mistakes.
Most importantly, understand marriage is tough. Think of how flawless the person once was. Choose to love them in spite of their flaws and see the person you fell in love with; and if it’s meant to be, they will do the same. Things that help me are reading letters and cards from my groom when I want to break his neck, along with writing reasons I love him and replaying our love story in my head. And when you’re in a rut, go to therapy. There is nothing wrong with seeking help. It’s better than giving up, playing cool, or continuing the toxic cycle.