When I was in primary school, my class had 24 children in it. It was the local school down the road in a low-income area of London. 2/3 of the children were white British and 1/3 were of other ethnicities. Of those of other ethnicities, there were second generation Chinese, Vietnamese, Nigerian, Jamaican children. Two of us were mixed race. It was truly a melting pot in that corner of South East London.
One day I had a conversation with one of the girls in my class who said that she would be “going to her dad’s for the weekend.” I was confused, because I didn’t understand why she would have to go to her dad’s if her parents lived in her house, with her. Of course, she explained that her parents didn’t live together. That they live separately and she spends every second weekend with her dad.
She wasn’t phased by it at all, in fact she seemed to really enjoy that fact. Which made me wonder how many of the other kids had a similar situation. Unsurprisingly, it turned out that 50% of the kids in my class had parents who were divorced.
I imagine in the years since, that percentage has only risen. My own parents followed the pattern eventually, filing for their own divorce only a few years later when I was 13. This left me wondering, how do I not end up like them?
I became enamoured with this question in my teenage years and into adulthood. Now that I’m married, it’s still equally as important to me.
Here is some of what I learned:
- You need to actively learn about marriage
I took a proactive approach to learning about marriage and relationships. I recognised that I had not witnessed the execution of a successful marriage and I had no in-house example to learn from.
What did I do instead? I sought it out. I asked people who I respected what made their marriage work, what their most valuable pieces of advice were and I picked up some real gems.
“Never speak badly about your wife, if she is in the room or not.”
2. Statistically, the odds are stacked against you
Marrying as a person who has divorced parents does put you at a disadvantage. At least, that’s what the research suggests. What does this mean?
Well, it means that recognising this and learning to be a better partner to your spouse is even more important. You will likely subconsciously carry some of the poor behaviours you’ve seen from your parents with you. Recognise what these are and be open to constructive feedback. If they are particularly bad, don’t shy away from seeking professional help.
3. Your perception of marriage may have been shaped negatively
Of course, if you have seen a marriage break down in front of your own eyes then you’ll be less likely to see the validity in it. Of my close friends who have divorced parents, they are far more dismissive of the idea.
This is why it is important to seek out real-life examples of people you can trust who can show you the goodness that is on offer. The fact is, that there are millions of happily married people all over the world. They aren’t glamorised by the mainstream media, because scandal sells far better. Know they are out there and have a deep, abundant happiness that you too can experience.
4. Set out ground rules early in your relationship
When I first met my wife, we lived in two different cities. We fell in love very quickly and loved to talk. Some of our views were different and I’d say things that upset her from time to time. I was immature and 95% of the time it was my fault.
One of the ground rules we established was that no matter either of our frustrations, we would not hang up the phone on each-other out of respect. We would talk it out. There would be no running and no ghosting.
Doing so established a precedent for our life together that we would always communicate, no matter the situation. It made our bond stronger and has meant we will never run away from a conversation.
5. Commit to staying married
It may seem obvious, but committing to staying married is essential. Before tying the knot, make sure you really understand that maintaining a relationship that is mutually fulfilling will take conscientious effort. In a non-romantic way you need to be committed to doing whatever it takes to get the job done, even when things get rocky. You need to understand there is no out.
Practice forgiveness and do so frequently. Work through arguments.
You are in it together, not against each other.
More importantly, quickly step back from any decision that would jeopardise your marriage — in any way.
If two people who are committed to making one another happy and act accordingly in all aspects, there is no reason why your marriage should end in divorce.
Thank you for reading my first article!
This is the first step of my writing journey, I’m excited to share more in future.