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Making Up Is Hard to Do

A postscript on family structure: One thing children lose when their parents divorce, break up, or fester in an unhappy marriage is the opportunity to learn how fighting leads to reconciliation and forgiveness.

Kids in an intact marriage learn that serious disagreements, temper outbursts, and character flaws aren’t insoluble. We learn how to apologize and adapt by watching our parents, and we can bring those skills into later relationships, both marriage and friendship. People from disrupted families and those from intact marriages where little visible effort was made on either side to improve things have, from what I can see, a much harder time struggling to hope and trust when relationships are stressed and the other person is acting badly.

Diane Sollee cites “University of Chicago research on marital happiness, analyzing data from more than 5,000 couples interviewed in the 1980s and again in the ’90s. Among couples who called their marriages unhappy in the first round but stayed together, two out of three said their marriages were happy five years later.” But if you haven’t seen that happen, it’s much harder to imagine.

about the author

Eve Tushnet is a writer in Washington, DC. She blogs at Patheos and has written for Commonweal, USA Today, and the Weekly Standard, among other publications. She is working on a book on vocation for gay Catholics. Her email is [email protected] and she can be found on Twitter at @evetushnet.

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