Breaking the Cycle: Using Autoethnography to Reframe the Narrative of Parental Divorce and Romantic Relationships—Reversing the Curse

—Taylor Harper (Mentor: Barbara Jago)
Taylor Harper Author Photo

Humans are innate storytellers, and the way we interpret and tell stories about our experiences provides the framework for perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. For me, experiencing my parent’s high-conflict divorce throughout my adolescence and young adulthood constructed a negative perception of marriage and romantic relationships, one that I wanted to abandon as I began to build a relationship with my own romantic partner as an adult. In spring 2022, I was presented with an opportunity in a communication arts capstone course to explore my experience through autoethnography, a methodical approach to research and writing through personal reflections and observations (Ellis, 2004; Holman Jones, 2005). I explore the effects of high-conflict parental divorces on their children’s narrative of romantic relationships as adults, in a personal and cultural context. I also explore the therapeutic process of autoethnographic research techniques including introspective inquiry, self-examination, and recalling past events, or “mining memories” (Poulos, 2021). All of this allows for narrative reframing, or the reinterpretation of stories from my past in a different, more positive narrative (Ricks et al., 2014). In this article, I communicate the important benefits of autoethnographic research and narrative reframing in recognizing the cultural and social contexts from which I framed my narrative of marriage and divorce and reframing the experience from a negative to a positive perspective.

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