Watch Out or You WILL Have Your Parents' Marriage


If your parents had a great marriage, then maybe you don't mind the idea that you're doomed to repeat it, but for those of us whose parents had complicated, strange, or downright bad marriages, the idea that we might not be able to escape repeating it is not exactly thrilling. But I, for one, think you can avoid it.

A recent study of 86 couples looked at whether infidelity is an inherited trait. What they found is that for men, seeing their father cheat was a strong warning sign that they themselves might cheat, but nothing is ever set in stone, and people ultimately make their own decisions. In other words, you can't blame your parents for your bad marriage even if theirs ended in divorce. You may be twice as likely to divorce, but that doesn't mean you have to.

Marriage is hard and it's especially hard when you didn't see a good model of it, but that is no excuse to stop working.

Sometimes I think I know more about marriage than any of the family marriages I saw in my parents' generation. Only one uncle and his husband seemed to have the kind of marriage/long-term relationship I wanted to emulate. I like to think I have, though.

It helps that my spouse is a loyal man who was taught how to be a loyal man by a loyal father. But that is not all it takes. With a little trust, perseverance, and commitment to making it work, anyone can beat out their parents' legacy. But they have to see the problems.

If a man whose father cheated can't see why the cheating was wrong, then yes, it's a giant red flag. If you marry him and he cheats, then you're partially to blame. Sometimes people whose parents cheated know better than anyone why no one else should.

It's always possible to be smarter than our parents, to not hit like they did, not yell like they did, not make the same career mistakes they did. So why on Earth would we assume that we're doomed to repeat their relationship mistakes?

Having happily married parents who make it to their 50th is no more a guarantee than having two crazy parents who fought for years and divorced before you were 10. We make our own marriages.

Do you worry about having your parents' marriage?



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Allison Priest Leonard

I do because though my parents are still married, they have had a rocky marriage. I grew up around almost daily yelling and fighting (not physical) and when I got married, it definitely translated into my marriage. My husband grew up with parents who have an awesome marriage and never yelled or fought in front of their kids, so it was all new to him. We've been married for 2 1/2 years and I am doing a lot better at expressing myself without yelling. It takes work, but you can do it.

Courtney Paige Neale

Your article just scared me a bit. Until I read the part about it being a red flag if the son doesn't see his fathers cheating as wrong. My boyfriend is 24 and over a year ago we started to suspect his father of cheating on his mother. We found out, unfortunately, that we were right. He has never done so in there 20 some years of marriage and we really think it has a lot to do with his many, many failed businesses in this terrible economy(mostly construction) and his inability to communicate his feelings and we think he feels like a failure. But, my boyfriend finds it absolutely appauling that his father did this and could not stand him for a while. He doesn't like his dad much but he loves him. I don't think he is anything like his father either, which makes me feel much better as well. I really think each individual relationship is about the people in the relationship and how  they have chosen to react to the examples they have been given by their parents.

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