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Top 5 Regrets of Divorced Couples

Research by Dr. Terri Orbuch shows that many divorced people have the same top five regrets-basically there are certain behaviors that they believe contributed to the end of their marriage. The good news from this study though, is that most people said they learned from their mistakes, and will make sure to change those behaviors in their next marriage. "Divorced individuals who step back and say, ‘This is what I've done wrong and this is what I will change,' have something powerful to teach others", says Terri Orbuch, a psychologist, research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and author of the new book "Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship." "This is marriage advice learned the hard way," she says.

Not giving enough "affective affirmation".
Dr. Orbuch explains affective affirmation by citing examples such as: compliments, cuddling and kissing, hand-holding, saying "I love you," and emotional support. "By expressing love and caring you build trust," Dr. Orbuch says. She also says there are four components of displays of affection that divorced people said were important: How often the spouse showed love; how often the spouse made them feel good about the kind of person they are; how often the spouse made them feel good about having their own ideas and ways of doing things; and how often the spouse made life interesting or exciting.

Spouses need affective affirmation daily, according to Dr. Orbuch, but they don't have to be big things - it's often the little things that matter. Saying "I love you," or "You're a great parent", making the coffee in the morning, giving a hug or warming up the car are great examples.

Avoiding tough discussions about money.
It's no surprise that money was the #1 point of conflict in the majority of marriages that Dr. Orbuch studied. 49% of divorced people from her study said they fought so much over money with their spouse that they anticipate money will be a problem in their next relationship, too. Unfortunately, there's no single fix for couples who have conflict in their marriage over money. Each couple needs to examine their approach to money, individual money styles, and devise a plan that they both can live with.

Dr. Orbuch says "Talk money more often-not just when it's tax time, when you have high debt, when bills come along. Set ground rules and expectations and stick to them."

Not letting go of the past.
According to Dr. Orbuch, to engage in a healthy way with your partner, you need to let go of the past. Not surprisingly, this is important not only during a marriage, but for those who are already divorced as well. Her study showed that divorced individuals who held on to strong emotions for their ex-spouse-whether love or hate-were less healthy than those people who had moved on emotionally.

So, to change this behavior, it's important for people to get over: jealousy of your spouse's past relationships, irritation at how your mother-in-law treats you, something from your own childhood that makes it hard for you to trust, and a spat you had with your spouse six months ago.

For those having a hard time letting go of the past, Dr. Orbuch suggests journaling and exercising as positive activities that can help.

Blaming their spouse.
As you probably already know, blaming someone else for issues and problems can be a very unhealthy activity. Many of the divorced people in the study who had blamed ex-spouses had more anxiety, depression and sleep disorders than individuals who blamed the way that they and their partners interacted. Those who held on to anger were less likely to move on, build a strong new relationship and address future problems in a positive, proactive manner.

Blaming the other person in the relationship is also a very common behavior, especially among women. In the study, 65% of divorced individuals blamed their ex-spouses. Specifically, 80% of women blamed their ex-husband and 47% of men blamed their ex-wife.

So how do you avoid blaming? 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. Also, ask your partner for his or her view of a problem. For exampe, say "Why do you think we aren't getting along?" Dr. Orbuch says "By getting your partner's perspective, and marrying it with your perspective, you get the relationship perspective."

Not communicating needs and desires.
Communication style is actually the #1 thing the individuals in the study said they would change in the next relationship. To communicate well, partners need to reveal more about themselves, not just do "maintenance communication."

Says Dr. Orbuch, "It doesn't have to be emotional, but it should be about issues where you learn about what makes each other tick." Dr. Orbuch suggests a 10-minute rule: Every day, for 10 minutes the couple should talk alone about something other than work, the children or the household. Don't talk about problems, scheduling, or logistics. She suggests talking to each other about your lives and what makes you each tick.

Many of these problem behaviors are probably not a surprise to you, but sometimes the best marriage advice comes from divorced individuals — those who have been there, done it, and know what to change next time.

(Source: Divorcé's Guide to Marriage: Study Reveals Five Common Themes Underlie Most Divorces)

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