Spouse School: Finding Marriage Role Models

Adults from intact families have two other advantages over those raised in divorced families. They had a sense of continuity with their families. They felt that they were part of an important tradition with a history that they had a responsibility to their parents and children to maintain this continuity. This sense of being part of a family tradition gave them a perspective that helped to stabilize their relationship and influenced their desire to have children.

They also had a realistic sense that marriages change over time. They did not expect their twenty-five-year-old brides to look and act the same at age thirty-five. They knew that having children would alter their lives. They were aware that the road ahead would be sometimes rocky and sometimes smooth. They didn't expect or even want serenity or perfection. They did expect that their relationship with each other would influence them as individuals. Finally, they were open to change from the day they embarked on marriage.

Gary surprised me when he explained that one of the many things that attracted him to Sara is that she's from a very close-knit family. I didn't expect that people would give a hoot about the marital status of the parents of the person they fall in love with. I was wrong. A number of people from intact families said that they took a good look at prospective in-laws before getting too involved. Some claimed that they could always tell on a date if their partner came from a divorced family-the women were edgy and too eager to please, the men confided their history too quickly. I doubt that this perception affects the numbers of people willing to marry children of divorce, and I don't know of any engagements broken because of it. Nevertheless, many young people admitted that the pedigree of coming from a happy intact family is reassuring. They boasted, "My husband comes from a large family with no divorce. He's got no demons." Their attitudes reflect the general anxiety in our society about the fragility of marriage and the fear that children of divorce may have less of a commitment to marriage.

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