Marriage Lessons from Divorced People

By Terri Orbuch, PhD

Relationships after divorceAfter the messy divorce, the custody and support hearings, and the grieving, is it really possible to clean one’s slate and start out fresh, with a positive mindset, and open up one’s heart to someone new? Can one really find love again in relationships after divorce?

The answer is a resounding YES! In fact, divorced people are especially well equipped to have a healthy and successful second marriage. The reason? Because they’ve learned difficult lessons about long-term relationships—and about themselves—the hard way, and they have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned. So if you want to know the secrets of a successful marriage, ask a divorced person!

It turns out that divorced singles who successfully enter into new, serious relationships handle key issues, including money, very differently than they did in their previous marriage.

In my longitudinal study of marriage, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health and has been ongoing since 1986, I followed the same 373 married couples over the years—through the early years of marriage and, for 46 percent of them, through divorce. Now my team and I have followed many of these divorced individuals into new relationships. We asked 210 of them what they had learned from their mistakes.

Their answers were fascinating. Most of these divorced people now handle money very differently with their new partner. For instance, almost 6 out of 10 divorced singles (57%) who are now in healthy new relationships don’t share living expenses with their partner.

Communication was another change. When divorced men and women from my study find a new partner, I ask what they’ve done differently (or have changed) in their new relationship. The number one response they give is: “I changed how I communicate with my partner.”

In addition, divorced singles who consciously set about to change one significant behavior (such as quitting smoking, working fewer hours, or getting regular exercise) were not only more likely to find a new partner, but also described themselves as very happy and hopeful in their new relationships.Finding Love Again 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship by Terrri Orbuch

From letting go of the past and not blaming their ex, to giving more daily attention to their new partner, the lessons learned from divorced people in my study amount to excellent marriage advice.

Yes, you can find love again, no matter how old you are or how terrible your previous marriage was. You can change your attitude and unhelpful habits, untangle your biases and unrealistic expectations, reconnect with your priorities and values, and take a big step out into the dating scene.

Learn more about how to have a successful second marriage and discover the marriage lessons learned from divorced people in my new book, Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship (Sourcebooks, 2012).

Terri Orbuch PhDAbout the author

Terri Orbuch PhD is a professor at University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and director of the longest running study of marriage and divorce in the US. A popular love advisor on TV, radio, print, and online, she is the author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship (Sourcebooks, 2012), which translates her study findings into fresh strategies and advice for divorced singles who are seeking a healthy, happy relationship—but aren’t sure how to go about it or how to avoid the mistakes from their previous partnership.

Her previous bestseller was 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. Learn about Dr. Orbuch’s research, blogs, media presence, and more at

More Articles on Divorce

Top 5 Questions to Ask After Divorce, Before Dating

Breaking the News to Your Family that Your Marriage is in Trouble

How Recession Affects Divorce