“Learning by experience often is painful – and the more it hurts, the more you learn.” – Ralph Banks
“… Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again …” – Bible
George and Janna were planning on getting married soon – again; this was a second marriage for both of them. Recognizing that the blame-game is never successful, they were willing to admit personal accountability for previous failures, and they did some soul-searching to see where personal changes were needed to help them succeed this time around.
Columnist Elizabeth Bernstein wrote an article based on research done by Terri Orbuch, a psychologist, research professor, and author of the book “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship.” Following are some of the lessons learned.
First of all, most divorcees recognized that they should have been more affirming to their previous spouse.
“By expressing love and caring you build trust,” Dr. Orbuch said.
Four components are important to affirmation: the frequency of affirmation in general, the frequency of affirmation that made them feel good about themselves, the frequency of affirmation about their own ideas and ways of doing things and the feeling that their spouse enjoyed being with them and made life exciting and interesting.
The study revealed that affirmation is more important to the male than the female.
The husband needs respect, and what better way to show respect than to affirm.
The wife, on the other hand, is more interested in longer lasting connection and commitment that frequent affirmations, although affirmation is still important.
Divorcees felt they should have talked more about money. Money is usually cited as the No. 1 cause of dissension in any marriage.
Spending styles differ; one income is usually more than the other, leading to jealousy or questions of fairness and who pays the bills; lying about spending may occur just to “keep the peace.”
Goals and boundaries regarding finances should be established early in the marriage, maybe even before the marriage.
Will all expenditures be discussed mutually or will there be individual spending limits? Who will keep track of the finances? Will all accounts be joint?
A third component to a successful marriage is to get over the past.
In any marriage the past can have significant influence, and with divorcees this is especially important. It may be left-over feelings of love or bitter anger and unforgiveness. With God’s help (forgiveness is vital here), these influences must be minimized.
We can’t forget past significant events, but we can expose them to the light and remove the darkness surrounding them. This may be done to the current spouse or maybe to a trusted friend or counselor. But don’t try to bury the pain; it will fester and eventually explode. Which leads to a fourth component.
Blame the previous relationship, not the individuals. In other words, don’t point your finger at your previous spouse and say it was all their fault. And don’t accept all the blame yourself. How do you blame in a healthy way?
According to Bernstein’s article, say “we,” not “you” or “I.” Say, “We are both so tired lately,” not “You are so crabby.” When you remove blame, it’s easier to come up with a solution.
You recognize you aren’t getting along. Don’t be afraid to ask your spouse for their perspective. Be honest and don’t attack or be defensive. Work mutually toward a solution.
Finally, divorcees say they should reveal more about themselves.
Intimacy doesn’t mean just physically; it means mentally and emotionally. Practice talking as well as listening. Some people have the gift of words but are hard of hearing. Others are the strong silent type; they speak only when spoken to and then only in very short and pithy phrases.
The essence of the all the lessons learned is more communication, seeking to understand as well as to be understood.
“You need to tell each other about your lives and see what makes you each tick,” Dr. Orbuch said.
The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, 640-4689, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.aikenfamco.com.