Relationship Advice from a Divorce Attorney: Part One
There’s a saying in legal circles: “Criminal law deals with bad people at their best, and family law deals with good people at their worst.” As you can imagine, divorce attorneys work with people who are in the midst of one of the most stressful or volatile periods of their lives. It’s our job to help our clients navigate these troubled waters and ensure they come out of the divorce with the best possible outcome.
What I’ve learned from doing this work for over a decade goes beyond drafting settlement agreements or overseeing difficult custody trials. I’ve also gained valuable insight into the type of factors that lead many clients to divorce in the first place. The following suggestions are for anyone who is currently in a relationship – married or otherwise – or thinking of getting into a committed relationship in the near future. I hope you enjoy Part One of my 3-part series!
Commit to seeing a relationship counselor periodically. Between jobs, kids and the hectic pace of life, relationships often tend to fall to the wayside. By having an occasional “check in” with a counselor, you are demonstrating a commitment to making your relationship or marriage a priority. Many people see marriage counseling as a “last resort” when they are already contemplating divorce. Once you are at that point, a lot of damage has already been done and no counselor can fix that. Instead, invest the time and money to work with a professional to help when there are early issues. You don’t hesitate to seek out professionals to help in certain areas of life (i.e. tax preparers, athletic trainers, hairdressers, etc.), so you shouldn’t hesitate or feel guilty in putting the same time and professional efforts into helping your relationship.
Make your expectations clear. This can mean expectations about what you expect your spouse to be doing around the house, what you expect him or her to contribute monetarily, in raising children – or it can be as simple as what your expectations are for the other person to handle when you host an event at your home. Most people are not in relationships with mind-readers, and you can’t expect your significant other to meet your expectations (or even try to!) if they don’t even know what your expectations are!
Don’t lose your own identity. I’ll be honest. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. While marriage means two become one, it drives me crazy when friends abandon their individual email addresses and social media accounts upon getting married. When I have a newly married friend that asks me to use BabsANDLarry@aol.com, it takes a method of interpersonal communication designed for two individuals and forces a three-way conversation. If I want to communicate with you and your spouse, I will add him or her to the email.
It takes two, baby. It takes both of you to make a good marriage and both partners need to work to make your marriage a priority. Maintain your relationship in ways big and small – a simple “I love you” note or volunteering to get up early with the kids on the weekend – there are many ways you can show you appreciate your spouse on a day-to-day basis.
Don’t be so hard on yourself! Marriage is a work in progress and each marriage is different. Stop comparing your marriage to those of your friends. Focus on what works for you and your spouse instead of trying to make your marriage “match up” to those around you. You’ll have good years and not-so-good years. It’s not about how great your marriage is all the time – it’s how well you are able to handle the bumps in the road and move forward.
Honesty. You probably knew this one would make the list, but aside from the obvious “don’t have an affair and lie to your spouse” or harping on financial transparency, it is important to be honest about the little things. If you don’t, you establish a mistrust and lack of openness which will eventually grow into bigger issues.