WSJ: Five Common Themes Found in Many Divorces

by Norris Law Group on May 28, 2014

WSJ: Five Common Themes Found in Many DivorcesElizabeth Bernstein of the Wall Street Journal suggests that the best people to ask about what makes a successful marriage may be divorced people, as studies reveal five common regrets underlie a great deal of divorces.

Bernstein highlights research by Dr. Terri Orbuch, research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship. Dr. Orbuch says that her work has revealed that a majority of divorced people say that they regret the same five behaviors that they feel contributed to ending their marriages. Dr. Orbuch says, “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…This is marriage advice learned the hard way.”

Dr. Orbuch collected this data throughout an ongoing longitudinal study of 373 same-race married couples started in 1986 and funded by the National Institutes of Health. Over the study’s first 25 years, 46% of the couples had divorced (in keeping with the CDC’s estimation that the divorce rate in the US is around 50%).

The five behaviors that respondents to Dr. Orbuch’s study would exhibit if they had a second chance at their marriage include:

  1. Boost your spouse’s mood: Dr. Orbuch says that 15% of respondents said they would give their spouse more “affective affirmation” including kissing, compliments, cuddling, hand-holding, saying “I love you” often and emotional support: “By expressing love and caring you build trust.
  2. Talk more about money: Money caused more conflict in the marriages of the study participants than any other issue. Nearly half (49%) of respondents said that money was a “sore subject” in their marriage—so bad, in fact that they feared that money would be a problem in their next relationship as well.
  3. Let go of the past: Dr. Orbuch reports that respondents who held on to strong positive or negative emotions for their ex-spouse were less emotionally healthy than those who “moved on.” She suggests a number of strategies for helping one to get over a divorce, including journaling, exercise, and talking about the experience with supportive friends or family.
  4. Blame the relationship: Respondents who blame themselves or their ex-spouses reported that they felt more depression and anxiety after a divorce, as well as sleep disorders. But those who blamed the relationship itself for the breakup—meaning the ways in which the spouses interacted with one another—were able to move on more quickly and completely. Holding on to anger made moving forward positively and building solid new relationships far less likely.
  5. Reveal more about yourself: Communication was cited by the respondents as the “number one” aspect of their marriages that they would have liked to improve. Dr. Orbuch suggests in order to improve communication in a marriage, spouses should speak to one another in a calm, caring tone, engage in “active listening” (meaning listening to understand rather than to just respond, repeating back what your spouse has said, and confirming whether you are understanding him or her correctly), and to set aside 10 minutes each day to just talk about yourselves and how you are feeling, avoiding problems at work, kids, and the “logistics” of day-to-day life.

Attorney Graham Norris and his associates at the Norris Law Group serve the residents of Utah County and throughout Utah in the area of divorce and family law. Contact them today at 801-932-1238 or online for a free consultation.



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