Relationship expert shares love lessons from divorced couples

What couples would change the second time around

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DETROIT - Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce, and while the reasons vary, researchers say there's a lot we can learn from couples who've split.

Dr. Terri Orbuch is a research professor at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research and author of the book "Finding Love Again."

Read: Viewers share 'What I learned from my divorce'

In 1986, Orbuch began studying 373 couples in a project funded by the National Institutes of Health.

"We were interested in what keeps people together and what breaks people up in the early years of marriage," said Orbuch.  "Forty-six percent of those married couples divorced over time.  And one of the questions we asked these divorced singles was, 'If you had to do it all over again, what would you change?'"

Topping the list -- communication.  Forty-one percent reported they would have changed how they communicated with their spouse.

"The divorced singles said when they were married, they were talking to one another but they were talking about who would pick up the kids or do the laundry," said Orbuch.

Orbuch calls that "maintenance talk," but says it won't help maintain your marriage.

"What they wished is that they would have revealed more about themselves, and they would have asked their spouse more about them," said Orbuch.  "They would have shared their goals, their dreams, their ideas, their stressors, what keeps them up at night or what makes them tick."

To avoid the "maintenance talk trap," Orbuch recommends something she calls the "10 Minute Rule."

"Every single day, talking to your partner for at least ten minutes about something other than work, family, who's going to do what around the house or your relationship," said Orbuch.

Another major stumbling block for couples -- money.  Orbuch said it's the No. 1 source of conflict in the early years of marriage.

"If they had to do it all over again, they would talk money more, and they would really try to figure out how not to have so many disagreements about money," said Orbuch.

Many of the divorced singles said they were not planning to merge finances in their next relationship, because money had created so much conflict in their marriages.

Showing affection was also critical.  Orbuch's study found men in particular craved more affection from their wives, and not necessarily in the bedroom.

"Even though I think sexuality is an essential part of a happy relationship, what I found is that men crave that attention.  That affirmation, that validation.  They want to be noticed," said Orbuch.

She advises couples to show each other affection often in words and actions.

"It's just simple actions like turning on the coffee pot in the morning because your spouse needs caffeine, bringing in the newspaper, sending a greeting card or even making his favorite dessert," said Orbuch.

When it comes to moving on after a divorce, Orbuch found sharing the blame is key.

"When divorced singles made what I call a 'relationship blame statement' -- we were too young, we were incompatible, we were too different from one another, so those 'we' statements -- again they were much more likely to emotionally separate and move forward."

Orbuch said those who were positive and optimistic about love were also more likely to find it again.

"Seventy-one percent of the divorced singles were able to move forward and find new love again, and I think that's very hopeful and optimistic for all divorced singles out there."

To visit Orbuch's website, click here.

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