Restoring Your Faith in Love: The Seven Steps to a Successful Relationship

“My marriage is quite the opposite of my parents’ marriage. My husband treats me with respect, trust, and consideration – and loves me for me. We have a bond just like I wanted for myself.”
– Catherine, age 39

As a daughter of divorce, the single most important task ahead is restoring your faith in love. You might desperately want love and life-long commitment, but fear losing it. It’s only natural to dread reencountering the same fate as your parents. As an adult, you may have come to the sudden realization that the relationship patterns you experience in your life mirror those of your parents. In the realm of romantic relationships, there is a lot to learn. The problem is that when parents divorce, they don’t provide their children with healthy relationship templates to follow. But with courage and persistence, you can reject the models you were raised with and create a happy intimate relationship that endures the test of time.

Studies show that as a daughter of divorce, it’s likely that you have a strong desire to succeed in your romantic relationships, even though the odds are stacked against you. As we discussed earlier, there is growing consensus among researchers that marriages in which either the husband or the wife hails from a divorced family are almost twice as likely to fail as compared to marriages in which neither spouse experienced parental divorce. Further, marriages between two people from divorced families are over three times as likely to fail compared to those containing no children of divorce. All these statistics don’t mean you’re doomed to fail, but developing a mindset that makes self-awareness, insight, and learning interpersonal skills a priority is a crucial step to achieving lasting intimate relationships.

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.”

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.”


Vulnerability: Discovering the Key to Long-Lasting Love

“I still feel like I have to take care of me. I feel like I never want to depend on anyone because that’s what my mom did, and look what happened to her.”
– Rachel, age 28

Growing up in a divorced home, a girl is forced to face life’s realities far younger than many of her peers. But on the flip side, the divorce experience arms her with great strengths. The vast majority of women from divided homes describe themselves as independent, steadfast, loyal, and conscientious adults. They are hard-working, trustworthy, and self-reliant – and pride themselves on these traits. Divorce caused them to grow up fast, and as a result, they have become responsible and resourceful women, able to handle the blows life gives them, regardless of how painful they may be. They may be self-assured and autonomous – confident they can take care of themselves while others can’t. The truth is that self-reliance is a double edged sword. While it has many virtues, it can rob women of true intimacy and the type of partnerships they desire.

Self-reliance must not be confused with self-confidence. There are many self-reliant women from divorced homes who work hard, have successful careers, and competently raise their children, but their self-esteem remains low. Many women from disrupted homes are self-reliant to a fault, putting far too much pressure on themselves. They bring self-reliance to a new level because they are unable to rely on anyone, when in fact reliance on others can be healthy and affirming. But many daughters raised in divorced homes feel that all they had was themselves growing up, so they may have become overly independent to compensate for what their environments lacked.

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.”


Learn To Trust Yourself and Others

“I think at first I trust someone until I fear them leaving…and then I lose trust for no reason at all.”
– Haley, age 25

Many women who grew up in divorced homes wonder why they continually seem to pick the wrong guys. Even if they find themselves in a reasonably healthy relationship, daughters of divorce still may be unable to completely trust their partners. Sometimes, their partners are simply untrustworthy based on their past actions, so they have reason to feel leery. Other times, the initial breakdown in childhood has caused women to lack trust in their romantic partners.


When women mistrust their partners, they are not simply distressed at the thought of becoming victims of infidelity. Mistrustful women hold the fundamental belief that their partner does not have their best interest at heart. Daughters of divorce may doubt their partners truly love them. They may believe the person they fell in love with will waiver in their devotion. They may think that he will change, and they’ll be left wondering what happened to the man they fell in love with. Most of all, women who mistrust their partners are filled with fear of abandonment.

Mistrust comes in many forms, from suspecting partners of infidelity to fearing that they’ll abandon you emotionally or physically. Some women become “relationship junkies,” looking for men to salve their wounds. Others avoid the option of finding love entirely for fear of being hurt. Trust is an act of courage, but it is the most crucial step to building a satisfying and lasting relationship. It’s also important to keep in mind that trust is a skill that can be learned.

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.”

Building Self-Esteem: Let Go of Your Childhood Hang-ups

“Inexperience can so often be our ondoing. I accepted bad behavior too often in my past relationships, and stayed too long. Now, when I see a red flag, I confront it.”
– Theresa, age 25

For daughters of divorce, childhood experiences run the gamut. Perhaps you grew up in a chaotic household with substance abuse or other addictive behavior. Perhaps domestic violence or infidelity tainted your childhood. Maybe a new stepfamily forever changed your life and the way you see the world. Or perhaps you experienced an inner conflict living between two worlds if your parents had joint custody. No matter your experience, you undoubtedly endured some degree of dysfunction, even if your parents coparented as well as they could. Regardless of the circumstances, one truth remains: The way you feel about the woman you are today is a direct result of how you felt about yourself as a child.

Your relationships, and the responses you receive from others, have helped create your self-esteem. This started very early on, within your family. Your divorce experience forever altered your sense of self-worth. As an adult, when you attempt to create romantic relationships of your own, you acquire a different sense of self-worth. In the Psychology of Romantic Love Nathaniel Branden indicates that you experience who you are in the context of your relationships. “When we encounter a new human being our personality contains, among other things, the consequences of many past encounters, many experiences, the internalization of many responses and instances of feedback from others,” he writes. Negative experiences in relationships can change who you are as an individual. They can change what you expect from the world and what you expect from your romantic partners.

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.”

Longing for Dear Old Dad: Overcome a Broken (or Missing) Relationship with Your Father

“I don’t blame my dad for leaving and I don’t blame myself. I think that it’s better not to blame either of my parents. My therapist helped me to see that.”
—Liza, age 27

The quality of the father-daughter relationship—good, damaged, or otherwise—profoundly impacts daughters in multiple ways. A girl stands a better chance of becoming a self-confident woman if she has a close relationship with her father. A dad’s presence (or lack of presence) in his daughter’s life will affect how she relates to all romantic partners who come after him.

Studies show that if a girl grows up with a damaged relationship with her father, her self-esteem will be lower than one who does not. In fact, she may seek out partners who confirm her low opinion of herself. Women who have a wound in the father-daughter relationship may gravitate to mates who treat them poorly because they are unaware of the root of their issue. However, when it is brought to their attention, they can reverse this pattern and pick partners who honor and respect them.

Many of the women we’ve interviewed talked about being attracted to or marrying someone like their father. Sandra, a software engineer, age twenty-six, reflects: “I’ve had several partners who were like my dad. I guess I felt that the way my dad treated my mom was the way I deserved to be treated. I’ve been in many bad relationships where there was physical and emotional abuse.”

According to author Peggy Drexler, PhD, awareness of the father-daughter wound and willingness to accept responsibility for changing is key to healing any damage. She writes: “Likewise, even the most troubled, overwrought, baggage-laden relationship is not without hope—if not of reconciliation, then at least of the daughter finding a new way of seeing her father that might help her make sense of the forces and motivations that shaped him and his actions.”

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.”

Face Your Ghosts from the Past

“I have a lot of issues that I feel stem from or were exacerbated by my parents’ divorce. I really didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship with a man. I either pick the wrong one to fall for or push the good ones away out of fear of rejection. I never got to see or observe my parents getting along with each other or another partner. What goes on in a household with two parents who are partners? How do they interact daily and solve problems together?
– Emily, age 32

When I (Terry) first began the research for this book, I embarked upon a journey which took me somewhere I never intended to go – into the hearts and minds of women who are a lot like me. Since I carried around baggage from my parents’ divorce for decades, I became passionate about helping other women overcome the legacy of divorce. I believe it’s never too late to mend from the past and enjoy healthier intimate relationships, and I want to show you how to do this. At first, my goal was to understand the epidemic of divorce and to figure out how to help women get past the pain of their parents’ breakup. What I didn’t realize until recently, was that in the process of growing up and trying to survive, I build a wall around myself. Competent-at-a-cost, I took pride in my ability to adjust to new situations, but also lived with self-doubt, fractured trust, pessimism about love, and broken-hearted self-reliance. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t hide from my past.

Only recently am I coming to terms with the fact that, at age twenty-three, I married too young and picked a partner who was utterly wrong for me. My first husband gave me financial security but was unable to give me the intimacy I craved and needed to survive in the marriage. For reasons that are clearer to me now, I fully participated in a relationship that was doomed from the start. Like many daughters of divorce, I found it easier to ignore my feelings of uneasiness and red flags because I desperately wanted love and was unconsciously hoping that my ex-husband would help me to resolve my ghosts from the past.

I’ve come to learn that sweeping things under the rug and hoping nobody will discover them never works. Yet it wasn’t until I cracked through the surface of my own past that I realized my view of life and particularly my concepts of love and marriage were forever altered by my parents’ divorce some fifty years ago.

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.”