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Dr. Jane Greer Headshot

A Change of Will: Might Divorce Run in the Royal Family?

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By most people's standards it was the perfect wedding -- the best possible start to beginning a life together, what everyone dreams about. Prince William and Kate Middleton became husband and wife as the world was watching and cheering them on. It was a day to rival only the last royal union: that of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, Will's parents. We all know how that marriage ended and, ironically, it is that legacy of divorce that brings down the chances that Will and Kate will live happily ever after. Can divorce actually run in a family? And what can the newest royal couple, and everyone else, do to divorce-proof their marriage?

Years ago, when I was a guest expert on "Oprah", her show posed this very question. The short answer is yes, if one partner in a marriage comes from a divorced family it is less likely that that couple will stay married than when both partners come from intact families. Researcher Nicholas Wolfinger's decade-long study found that if one partner has divorced parents, that marriage is 50 percent more likely to end, if both partners come from divorced families then their marriage is 200 percent more likely to end than a marriage with partners whose parents stayed together.

So are Will and Kate doomed? And are you if your parents got divorced? I would say no, and Will and Kate are a good example of what can be done to change the odds in their favor. While many children of divorce may be afraid to commit, and oftentimes are thought of as being commitment phobic, I think that not jumping in too fast can often be a good thing. Will and Kate dated for eight years before announcing their engagement, in sharp contrast to Charles and Diana's quick and impersonal courtship. It may very well have appeared that Will had cold feet. But what seems like uncertainty might really be pure caution and care, taking the necessary time to get to know the other person, making sure they are compatible and sorting through any possible issues to ensure they have what it takes to stay married, even during the rough spots. Keep in mind also that having grown up with parents who were unhappy in their marriage, Will might have needed that extra time to learn the skills to problem solve and resolve conflicts, instead of rushing in hastily before he was ready.

Something else that Will and Kate did along the way was break up. I see that as a positive for them because it gave them a chance to take the space they needed, reevaluate what was and was not working and enable them to bring new energy into their relationship. The romantic in me would also like to think that what they discovered during that time was that they didn't want to live without each other.

Finally, what they seemed to do, and what everyone entering a marriage should do, is take stock of the tools they have to get them through any difficult times, most important having and using a sense of humor. This is because the ability to laugh during rough times is the elixir that keeps a marriage going; it is the tendon that allows the emotional muscle to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Will demonstrated his use of wit when he cracked the joke at the altar saying they were supposed to have just a small family affair. He was able to remain loose and make it fun, instead of having a stiff upper lip like his dad had done, during a very important time. No matter how hard a marriage might get at times, if as a couple you are able to take inventory of your strengths, remember what brought you together in the first place and do your best to remain lighthearted you just might have a chance to be in that other half of the equation that do stay together.

So if love is a battlefield, Diana and Charles lost their war. But hopefully, and from what I have seen so far I think it might be true, Will and Kate are determined to learn from those public and private battles that came before them, and win their own fight - and hopefully they'll have a lot of fun and some happily ever after along the way.

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