WASHINGTON – Divorced people willing to be self-reflective about their failed marriages instead of just angry are more likely to get things right the second time around.
“Divorced people who say, ‘This is what I’ve done wrong, and this is what I will change,’ have something powerful to teach others,” says psychologist and researcher Terri Orbuch in her new book “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship.”
Orbuch says most divorced people identify the same top five regrets or behaviors they believe contributed to their marital problems.
Here’s what they’ll do better next time:
Boost their spouse’s mood
“Affective affirmation” or a little handholding, saying “I love you” and other ways of showing emotional support help a spouse feel loved and appreciated.
Talk more about money
Speaking up about spending and saving styles, goals, and expectations helps a couple avoid suprises. Orbuch tells The Wall Street Journal have these discussions often — not just at tax time or when debt is piling up.
Get over the past
Holding onto past disappointments and hurts makes it harder to engage in a healthy way with a spouse. For someone having a hard time letting go, Orbuch suggests keeping a journal, exercising or talking to a friend (but not endlessly) about it.
Blame the relationship
Fingerpointing doesn’t help, says Orbuch. Divorced individuals need to accept what role they played in their marital problems. They need to focus on “we” instead of “you” and ask their spouses’ opinions about problems and possible solutions.
Reveal more about yourself
Communicating better is on a lot of spouses’ ‘next time I’ll do better’ lists. Orbuch calls it “active listening,” where a spouse repeats what the other spouse says and asks whether he’s hearing correctly.