How Will My Parents’ Divorce Affect My Marriage?

By: Jon Henshaw, M.A.

A question silently asked among many premarital couples who come from divorced families is, "How will my parents' divorce affect my marriage?" As with most people, the influences of parental divorce on future relationships play out differently for everyone. Some couples experience difficulty staying in committed marriages, while others don't.

However, a recent study in the Journal of Marriage and Family suggests that parental divorce does affect the commitment and other relationship characteristics in premarital couples. They found that when compared with women from intact families, women from divorced families reported less trust and satisfaction, but more ambivalence and conflict.1 Another study reported that adult children of divorced parents are more likely to get divorced than those who come from intact families.2

So what does this mean to adult children whose parents are divorced? It certainly doesn't mean that there isn't hope. As a counselor, I encourage couples to look at their parents' failed marriages as life lessons. It's important for couples to understand the reasons why their parents got divorced, so they can be better prepared in their marriage to deal with similar issues.

For example, if their parents came from a relationship with high conflict, that couple may need to learn how to better resolve conflict. If their parents had trouble being intimate with each other, the couple may need to practice being vulnerable.

It's always a good idea for couples interested in getting married to seek out premarital counseling. Premarital counseling can help couples find harmful and beneficial patterns within their families. It can also help couples come up with tools that will increase their chances of a long and rewarding marriage.

1Jacquet, S. E., & Surra, C. A. (2001). Parental Divorce and Premarital Couples: Commitment and Other Relationship Characteristics. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63, 627-638.
Greenberg, E. F., & Nay, W. R. (1982). The intergenerational transmission of marital instability reconsidered. Journal of Marriage and Family, 44, 335-347.

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