lasting marriage

5 Ways to Have a Lasting Marriage When Your Parents Didn’t

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We know kids from broken homes are more likely to divorce. Research tells us when parents split, it shapes your life as a kid, and how you will relate to your future spouse. Maybe you didn’t see commitment modeled well in your home, so you’ve learned to leave as soon as things get heated.

I don’t know what you’ve seen related to relationships, but I’m working hard to change my family’s trajectory related to divorce. I want my kids to see a strong marriage so they hopefully grow up and value it. Here are 5 ways to have a lasting marriage when your parents didn’t.

1. Accept the past.

Accepting the past means seeking healing from things that hurt you while you were growing up. In some ways, we all carry baggage from our upbringings. You’ve seen what doesn’t work. Take what you’ve learned and commit to doing things differently in your marriage. You find healing over time by replacing negative experiences with positive ones. If you’ve seen infidelity, part of accepting the past is considering what unhealthy patterns led to it. You can then work to avoid those issues so you aren’t doomed to repeat them. Over time, you can get healthier for your marriage, and show your kids a better picture.

If you ignore marriage problems, you’ll wound your kids the same way your parents’ marriage wounded you.

2. Deal with difficulties.

Be honest in your marriage—with yourself and your wife—and confront problems as they arise instead of letting them fester. The difficulties could include not knowing what to do since you didn’t have a proper model or having a distorted view of marriage based on what you’ve witnessed in your parents’ marriage. The goal is to deal with the problems you’ve experienced instead of ignoring them. If you ignore your marriage problems, you’ll only wound your kids in the same way your parents’ marriage may have wounded you.

3. Be aware of your temptations.

Whatever your parents did wrong is something you can fail at too. Guard against thinking, “Oh, I’ll never do that. I’ve seen the other side of the struggle; I’ll never do what he did.” Most of us grow up to act like our parents. The key is to know where your parents fell short and watch out for the same things in yourself. We often repeat the same mistakes our parents made. So we need to be on the lookout for them.

4. Replace the bad with good.

It’s not enough to omit mistakes. You must work to replace the bad things with better things. If you saw your dad be passive about his marriage, take initiative and give everything you can to your marriage. Plan marriage retreats and date nights with your wife. Read and learn more about how to be a great husband. Sure, you’ll make your own mistakes, but if you’re committed to giving your all, at least you won’t repeat the same cycle you’ve experienced.

5. Learn from strong couples.

Healthy marriages exist. Maybe you have friends or mentor couples who model love, sacrifice, and strength in their marriages. Do all you can to be around those couples. You need to see strong couples so you’re always learning. Also, your kids need to see all kinds of healthy marriages as they grow up. The better the examples they see, the more likely they are to repeat the good things. You’re breaking cycles in your marriage, your kids are seeing it, and they will be more likely to start from a better place than you did.

Sound off: What’s your secret to a lasting marriage? 

Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What’s one thing you think we’ve done well in our marriage?”