So you’re getting married! Congratulations!
According to the latest research, if you are under the age of 30, there is a 58% chance that you are entering your marriage as a child of divorce. Do you fall into this category?
If you’re wondering what on earth that has to do with the fact that you are getting married, you need to know this: adult children of divorce are much more likely to get divorced themselves than are those who grew up in traditional families. Generally, people whose parents divorced are less optimistic about their own chances for marital bliss, and find it more difficult to fully trust their spouse.
Wait! Before you click over to a more cheerful article, let me assure you that I am not trying to rain on your parade! As a child of divorce myself, I can testify that you can have an incredible marriage, regardless of what the stats say. But you do need to be aware that you are starting at a disadvantage if you have not seen a model of a successful marriage.
At one time I had a very pessimistic view of my own chances for a good marriage. I have so much of both my parents in me, and I feared I was doomed to repeat their mistakes. I learned, though, that history does not have to repeat itself. You can be the one to stop the cycle of divorce and begin a new legacy in your family: one of happiness and harmony. Here are a few ideas to help you in the process.
1. Make peace with your past. When I first became engaged to my wife, I was not on good terms with my father. In fact, we hadn’t spoken in over six months. I didn’t feel I could get married until I had closed the door on my childhood by restoring my relationship with him. Marriage is difficult enough without bringing those kinds of problems in with you.
Some of your relationships may require a much deeper healing than my problems with my dad. We were able to be reconciled, and we now enjoy a vastly improved relationship. Whether or not this is possible for you, make the effort to make peace with your past. Then you will truly be able to make a fresh start with your new spouse.
2. Remember: You are not your parents! I mentioned that I worried about repeating the mistakes of my parents. I was well aware of the cycle of divorce, and sometimes it seemed almost inevitable that I would someday succumb to it. But I learned a very valuable lesson: I am not my parents! Sure, we share many of the same strengths and weaknesses, but I have the power to make different decisions.
The real turning point came when I gave my life to Jesus Christ. I now have His power transforming my character, enabling me to make good decisions, and helping me to love my wife. He has brought me through my past and into a much brighter future.
3. Remember: Your spouse is not your parents, either! On the flip side, it is also very easy to begin to equate our new spouse with our parents. We keep one eye on them at all times, expecting them to commit our parents’ mistakes at any moment. Just like the previous point, this is rooted in our disbelief that a happy marriage is possible. If it’s not me that will mess it up, it will be my spouse!
This is not a good foundation for a successful marriage. One of the essential building blocks of a happy marriage is trust. Just as you are not doomed to repeat your parents’ failures, neither is your spouse. Rather than worrying about what the future holds, pray that God will make you both the kind of spouses that He wants you to be.
4. Learn from your past. It’s been said that those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. If you don’t want to repeat the mistakes of your parents, learn from them! Where did they go wrong? What decisions, behaviors and beliefs led them down the path of divorce? What protections can you build into your marriage to ensure that you don’t go down that road?
You can also look for good role models. Is there someone you know who has the kind of marriage that you want to have? Maybe it’s your spouse’s parents, a friend or another relative. Observe how they interact, and ask them what their secret is. It is always a good idea to draw on the wisdom of others.
5. Build a better future. Your past shouldn’t dictate who you are, but it should impact who you become. When dealing with past hurts there are two temptations: to wallow in them, or to bury them. In the first case, we get stuck in the past and find ourselves unable to move on. In the latter, we deny the events ever happened and miss out on the learning experience.
The Bible tells us, “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us” (Rom. 5:3-4). There is no doubt that your parents’ divorce has caused you to suffer. The key is to allow God to use that suffering to shape your character and to give you hope: hope for a brighter future and a blissful marriage!
You can do this by giving God control over your life and marriage. Pray this prayer and allow God to transform your hurts into hope.
Dear God, thank You for being with me as I went through my parents’ divorce. And thank You for Your promise that You will use this experience to bring about good in my life. I give You control of my life and I pray that You will cause me to grow into the person and the spouse that You want me to be. Help us to break the cycle of divorce and start a new legacy of hope for our family. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Used by permission of FamilyLife Canada. Copyright 2003.