Viewers share 'What I learned from my divorce'

Published On: Apr 09 2013 10:56:22 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 09 2013 10:56:38 PM EDT
Love Lessons

If you want the secret to love that lasts, you might think happily married couples are the ones to ask. 

But well-known relationship expert Dr. Terri Orbuch from the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research found the best advice may come from people who've been through a divorce. 

Related: Love lessons from divorce

Local 4 asked people to share what they learned from their divorce and what they would do differently the second time around. 

Here are their words of wisdom.

Jennifer writes:
"I think the biggest lesson I learned, the second time around, is to find someone who had more of the qualities that are important to me, like being generous of spirit and being concerned about others not just themselves. 

I was young when I got together with my first husband and didn't really pay attention to the important things.  So, unfortunately we ended up growing apart.  Some people get lucky and grow together but that didn't happen with us.  I sort of knew we weren't right for each other from the start but I ignored the warning signs and then once you start having kids it's kind of late.   You let things go, as far as the relationship, and concentrate on the kids.  So once they were grown, we found we didn't have as much in common anymore. 

My message for young couples would be to find someone who has the same core values as you and a compatible personality.  That's so important.  I don't think a couple has to be exactly alike.  It's okay to have differences because then you can balance each other.  But you need to think alike on the basic things."

Cameron writes:
"People show who they are - trust that.  For example, if they lie, cheat, hide things, etc., then say they are sorry won't happen again --- it most likely will.  It's also important to respect each other - no matter how mad you are in a fight always show respect, once you disrespect that person in words or actions (for example, hang up the phone while they are talking or belittle them in your words), it is hard to move on.   What I did different the second time - made sure the next man in my life had friends.  My ex had no friends, and that should have been a sign he couldn't keep any long term relationships."

Tom writes:
"If you don't care for your spouse, someone else will.  Don't take each other for granted.  My ex-wife was and is a great mom, very devoted to our children, but she barely seemed to notice if I was in the room.  I didn't take care of her as I should have either and after a while, we were just too distant from each other to change things back to the way they were.  I haven't found The One yet, but when I do, I won't make the same mistake again."

Amy writes:
"Facing divorce at twenty-seven after marrying at 23 was not what I had planned when seeing my then husband off on his first deployment six months previously. We had been together since my freshman year of college and without any other adult relationship to compare it to, I thought everything was fine. Clearly, I was mistaken. There were definite reasons that came to light as to why the marriage needed to be over. I was definitely devastated but quickly started to feel free. Free to truly be myself, free to live where I wanted to live, travel where I wanted to travel. I took a long hard look at our relationship and myself and saw how absolutely incompatible we were and how I had shoved aside many of my own interests and plans in life for this other person.

I was able to experience my early and mid twenties over again in my late twenties. My divorce was simplified by not having kids and living in a no fault state where it was an even split of assets. I have walked away with some definite lessons after the experience.

The first lesson, which I have passed on to my twenty-two and twenty-four year old nieces is to really take your time with relationships at that age and think long and hard before making a permanent commitment. Something you find annoying or distressing at twenty-two in a boyfriend does not magically change when you marry that person. Unless you see clear and sustained evidence of change, walk away. It is also so easy to grow apart with someone between your early twenties and your late twenties. There is just such a difference in life between those ages and though there are definitely those that make it, it is easy to see why so many young marriages will fail.

The second lesson was that it truly benefited me to take the high road as much as I could and avoid being vindictive and nasty about things. I could have had my ex court martialed but I didn't. I chose to move forward with my own life not turn around and trash his. As a result, I was able to leave with many friendships intact and watch as his own actions caused many of his friends and fellow soldiers to choose my side without my ever asking them to do so.

The third lesson was that my own happiness was really going to be my best revenge. I ended up meeting the absolute love of my life who treats me how any woman would dream to be treated and with him we have created our own family and have had twin daughters. Being in this relationship which has so much equality and shared sacrifice and deep love shows me how shallow my former marriage was. Having had that first experience helps me appreciate my husband now and I make sure to tell him that often.  It is also now so easy when I am deeply and truly happy to see how not ok things really were in my first marriage but I just shrugged off those feelings of doubt because of not knowing better.

I was not without fault in the status of my first marriage. I was not the one to stray so it is very easy to excuse myself and place all the blame on another. However looking back, I can see that in that relationship I was probably too bossy or controlling. It was very important for me to be "right" and not back down and very hard for me to say I was sorry or admit when I had made a mistake. Instead of realizing I had married the wrong person for me, I kept trying to force change at a fundamental level at which my ex was not capable of changing. I could not take someone who had difficulty making decisions, taking initiative and having ambition and try to push him into doing those things. From what I hear, these are all still issues for him and it has been eleven years since we divorced.  I think even when a divorce happens for what seems like a clear cut reason, such as infidelity, you need to look below the surface for the root causes for the cracks in the foundation of that marriage in the first place."

Dave writes:
"Don't get married too young and don't allow yourself to be pressured into proposing.  People change a lot in their 20s and not everyone is ready to be married so young.  If your boyfriend won't propose, there may be a good reason why.  I convinced myself that I was ready to get married because my girlfriend was anxious to get engaged, and I didn't want to lose her.  Big mistake!   Just two years into our marriage, my wife told me she didn't love me anymore and wanted out.  She quickly got remarried to a friend of ours.  They are now divorced too. 

I really believe if I had not been so young, I would never have married her and could have avoided a lot of heartache.  I tell my nieces and nephews not to rush into marriage.  If it's the right person, they will wait until you are sure."