“Love Lessons From My Divorced Parents”

Divorce doesn’t always spell disaster! Read on to find out how your parents’ romantic mistakes can help you successfully get into a healthy, happy long-term relationship of your own.

By Anne Roderique-Jones

ealing with a divorce — especially when the couple happens to be your own parents — can be tough. But if there’s an upside to the situation, it’s that learning from their mistakes can help you find your own path to happiness — especially when it comes to love and relationships.

Lesson #1: Do your own thing before making any long-term commitments
Jenny, 32, of New York, NY, had parents who married and became pregnant while they were both still young college students. From this, Jenny learned that she
All long-term marriages go through their ups and downs.
wanted to do all the things her mother didn’t get the chance to do herself before she delved into marriage and parenthood. Armed with a prestigious graduate degree, Jenny has traveled the world and now feels well-equipped for a more serious relationship of her own. Dr. Julie Orlov, psychotherapist and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery, believes that the mantra “You can have everything you want in life, but you may not be able to have them all at the same time” holds true. Dr. Orlov says that marriage requires making an investment of time, energy, and responsibility to another person, and suggests first being strategic about how you create your life when you’re single. “If a career is important for you to have established earlier rather than later in life, you might want to direct your attentions toward career-building now as opposed to finding a mate,” advises Dr. Orlov.

Lesson #2: The grass isn’t always greener, so try fixing any relationship issues first
Despite divorcing after eight years of marriage, 32-year-old Jay’s parents still remain friends and maintain a healthy relationship with each other today. His father — who later remarried and subsequently got divorced again — openly acknowledges that he should have stuck through the hard times with Jay’s mother and believes that they had all the tools necessary for a successful marriage, but at their young age, they simply didn’t know how to utilize them. Dr. Orlov says she always advises clients who are contemplating divorce not to make such a life-altering decision based on their fantasy or belief that someone better is out there, just waiting to be found. “Make your decision to stay in or leave your marriage purely on the basis of the quality of the relationship itself,” advises Dr. Orlov. “All long-term marriages go through their ups and downs.”

Lesson #3: Don’t let technology take over your life — especially in the bedroom
Alley, 43, says that her mom wasn’t one to give out unsolicited advice, but she did dole out one very simple piece of wisdom to her daughter while they were painting Alley’s new home. Her mother suggested that Alley never put a TV in her bedroom, because it’s the reason she and her ex-husband divorced after only four years of marriage. In fact, Alley’s parents received two color televisions as gifts, and soon, the couple started eating every meal in front of one and being lulled to sleep each night by the other. “We became addicted to Johnny Carson instead of each other,” Alley’s mother admits. Dr. Ian Kerner, founder of Good in Bed and author of DSI: Date Scene Investigation, says that technology is much more pervasive today than it was in previous generations. Couples now have cell phones, computers and social media in addition to the TV, which complicates the issue even further. Dr. Kerner believes that it’s important for couples to declare their bedroom a “gadget-free zone” in order to alleviate any distractions that can take the place of intimacy and bonding with their partner.

Lesson #4: When there’s a problem, say it, don’t scream it
Chris, 28, from Austin, TX, grew up in a household where yelling was an everyday occurrence. “Now, in my home, we don’t yell,” she says. Chris and her boyfriend made a policy to talk about their concerns before they can fester into serious
You can’t avoid conflict and angry or hurt feelings in relationships.
problems, and they never (really, never) yell at each other. “He marvels at my ability to ‘not escalate’ the situation. It’s not a superpower — I just know what the other side looks (and sounds and feels) like all too well, and I also know that it doesn’t work,” explains Chris. Dr. Orlov points out that while everyone’s entitled to their emotions — including anger — how you choose to express that anger is what really counts. She suggests taking as much time as you need to reduce the intensity of your emotional reaction and self-reflect on what happened, why it upset you, and what you need to communicate to your significant other first. “You can’t avoid conflict and angry or hurt feelings in relationships, but you can learn how to resolve conflicts and work through those feelings in a way that promotes understanding, acceptance and love,” says Dr. Orlov.

Lesson #5: Take the time to date around before you settle down
Domenica, 35, from Campbell, CA, says that her parents were high school sweethearts who got married at the tender age of 18. Sadly, they never had the chance to actually date before tying the knot. Her mom admits that her biggest regret was being a virgin on her wedding night and never having gotten the chance to date anyone else except Domenica’s father. This ultimately led to her mom’s desire to “date” other men during their marriage, which led to her cheating on Domenica’s father and divorcing him shortly thereafter. “I actually like dating — and while I do want to get married eventually, I hope to have plenty of ‘playing the field’ options before I finally settle down with the right person,” says Domenica. Dr. Orlov says that the best way to get to know what works best for you (and what doesn’t) in a partner is to first experience what it’s like to be in relationships with different people. “Dating different people is an important part of growing up and learning who you are and what kind of relationship works best for you — take advantage of this time and have fun,” advises Dr. Orlov.

Anne Roderique-Jones is a New York City-based freelanced writer whose work has appeared in such publications as Redbook, Woman’s Day, The Knot Magazine and other national publications.
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