Making Smart Decisions about Love and Marriage

“You focus on your children and one day you wake up and you’re not committed. You’ve fallen out of love: especially with your busy lives and three kids. I want my marriage to succeed with my whole heart.”
– Maura, age 37

In our research, we discovered that many daughters of divorce can’t picture their wedding day. The concept of a wedding, or even a successful marriage, seems alien to them, since they didn’t have a model for a happy marriage. For a lot of them, this is a source of sadness. Our society tends to view marriage as the ultimate sign of satisfaction and fulfillment in a woman’s life. To have a successful marriage and family is proof to the outside world that a woman has “got it together.” She has created some semblance of stability and healthiness in her personal life, so she must be OK. Women, and especially daughters of divorce, can put undue pressure on themselves to find the right partner, marry, and develop a happy home life. But if they possess this goal, it can present many problems. Most women from disrupted homes don’t have a healthy template to follow when it comes to nurturing and sustaining a committed relationship, making it difficult for them to know where to start. Perhaps the first step for daughters of divorce is to reevaluate their view of relationships and adjust their expectations.

Even in the twenty-first century, when ideas about the nature of modern families have changed, many notions about marriage remain the same. Women raised in divorced homes can be especially hard on themselves when it comes to making their relationships work. They tend to feel if their relationships end, there is something wrong with them. The reality is that with time people grow and change. This doesn’t mean love has failed. Simply because love doesn’t last forever doesn’t mean there was something wrong with it. Relationships, whether they last three months or three decades, can provide their participants with the love, understanding, and intimacy they need at the time. Often, the courage to end a relationship that is no longer meeting both partners’ needs shows the greatest strength.

While commitment can make us feel safe and secure, it’s crucial to determine what we want from a relationship before we make a commitment. For instance, some women, like Elizabeth, desire children and believe in being married beforehand. She also values mutual trust and companionship even though she didn’t observe her parents get along or spend much time together. Maura craves financial security and chose a partner partially based on his income, career, and earning potential. On the other hand, a woman who hasn’t taken the time to evaluate what she wants from a relationship may find herself confused or chronically unhappy.

I’d love to read your comments on this page. Be sure to order our new book “Daughters of Divorce: Overcome The Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship.”