• Nobody gets married in anticipation of one day getting divorced—but the truth is this is often how the story ends.
  • That said, while we often view divorce as a negative, there are positive outcomes of divorce such as the lessons we learn that benefit our future relationships.
  • For example, divorce can show us how important respect is: we should respect ourselves, our partner, and our relationship.
  • Additionally, divorce can shed a light on the role of communication—we must communicate our wants and needs clearly to our romantic partners.
  • Also, divorce can teach us what a successful relationship requires: we might tune into superficial characteristics first, but what really matters is the functionality of the relationship.
  • Finally, divorce can help us realize that checking in on our relationship regularly is important, and counseling can assist us in doing so.

None of us anticipate divorcing the person we vowed to spend the rest of our lives with. We make this promise because we want to stand next to this person—and don’t expect, can’t imagine, this will ever change. But, as we all know, this can and does sometimes change. What results is the mess of divorce. Here’s the thing: we hear and talk a lot about the downside of divorce. What we don’t hear or talk a lot about is how divorce can result in positive outcomes. That changes now. We’ve talked to a few people who have gone through divorce and learned a lot in the process. They’re here to explain what divorce taught them about marriage and cultivating healthy relationships moving forward. Here’s what they learned:

1. Treating each other and the relationship with respect is vital.

Tom Menhennitt—a spiritual leader, author, and inspirational speaker—says he learned the key that is respect: “I know now that I didn’t respect the importance of what a relationship is. I thought I did. Maybe I was going through the motions. I didn’t understand what love really meant either. I assumed my ex loved me, and that was enough. We did exactly what we were brought up to do. Get engaged, find careers, buy a home, get married, and then have children. Again, going through the motions. I tried so hard to maintain what society viewed as marriage, that I didn’t value what a relationship truly meant. Today, remarried, I respect our relationship. I’m not a solo player trying to run a marriage. We are a team. We cry together, we laugh together and make choices together. Most importantly, we love each other.”

2. Communication can make or break you.

Andrew Clark, a marketing strategist with Duckpin, realized that effective communication need always be prioritized. “I realized that I needed to communicate my needs, concerns, and wants to my partner more clearly and proactively,” he says. “Being a guy who avoids conflict like the plague, I saw what the cost of sweeping big things under the rug could mean. An example being me withholding my significant student loan debt until a year into my marriage. Furthermore, my divorce revealed that I wanted to be with someone who loved me as me, not what I might be or what they wanted me to be.”

3. A successful relationship is rooted in love, compassion, and understanding.

Leigh Ann Newman, a writer and blogger, learned that the superficial things aren’t what matter: love, compassion, and understanding are what matter. “I was fairly young when I got married, directly out of college. My parents are still married (50 years this year) so I had an ‘ideal’ concept of what I thought a successful marriage/relationship should look like,” she explains. “I married my first husband because he met all the criteria of that image: young, educated, career driven, adventurous and handsome. What I found out was those are all fairly superficial characteristics that did very little to nurture our relationship. What a successful relationship really needs is mutual compassion, empathy, understanding, compromise, and self-reflection.”

4. Relationship check-ups are important, and counseling can help.

Monicha Wimbley, an entrepreneur and mom of three, says she realized how important it is to check up on your relationship consistently—and that there is no shame in asking for help. “Divorce taught me to be more transparent as far as my needs and wants and also to be more proactive versus reactive. I know it’s not sexy but having ‘relationship check-ups’ to see how both people are doing and feeling and not being afraid to reach out for help in the form of counseling if they aren’t is something I’ll definitely consider in the future,” she says.