When I was a sophomore in college, I started seeing a counselor (re: my daddy issues). Up until that first appointment, I'd been making it a point to only get involved with guys who made it easy for me to control the situation, so that they wouldn't leave me the way my dad left my mom and I when they got divorced.
I thought, "If my own father can hurt me, you will, too." At the time, this thought kept me from forming healthy relationships, which may sound familiar to other adults whose parents are no longer together.
A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology provides insight into the important role that our relationships with our parents play in our adult relationships.
A group of scientists at the National Institute for Health and Welfare at Finland's University of Helsinki conducted a 16-year study of 1,471 people, checking in with them at ages 16 and 32, and found that children with divorced parents were more likely to get separated or divorced, while young women whose parents had divorced were less likely to have been married.
The study also reported that divorce had a major effect on the relationship young women have with their mothers. Typically, the divorce undermined that relationship, but if a young woman and her mother were able to maintain a positive relationship despite the circumstances, this resulted in better self-esteem and "satisfaction with social support in young adulthood, which contributed to better intimate relationships."
The key takeaway from this is how important it is for divorced parents to continue strengthening their relationships with their children.
Robert Hughes, Jr., who covered this study for The Huffington Post, writes, "The mere finding that these children may be more at-risk of difficulties should no longer occupy so much of our attention. The important work is understanding the factors within relationships and family process that contribute to these outcomes, and identifying opportunities to buffer the negative effects while building on the positive factors."
I couldn't agree more.