The Top 5 Tips for Avoiding Divorce
Sure, I’m not the only one to ever create a list of tips when it comes to avoiding divorce.
In fact, a simple Google search will likely provide you with dozens of links to similar articles and blogs, all containing suggestions about how to create, preserve and rehabilitate a healthy and successful marriage.
For example, my search this morning produced…7 tips to avoid a disastrous divorce, 10 tips to avoid divorce and save your marriage, 20 tips for a happy marriage, and 16 ways I blew my marriage…just to name a few.
So, with the topic of divorce avoidance so thoroughly covered, you may be wondering why I felt the need to add to the already oversaturated conversation.
Well, for one thing, you can never have too much information when it comes to the subject of ensuring a successful marriage. I mean seriously… despite the fact that people have been getting married for thousands of years, nearly 50% of all marriages are still ending up in the dumpster. Alarming, I know.
What this tells me is that one of three things is likely happening, either:
1.) The advice about marriage has, to date, been pretty lousy; or
2.) The advice about marriage has been good, but nobody has been following it; or
3.) 50% of the population has never read a single thing about how to maintain a successful marriage.
Regardless of which of these three conclusions you agree with most, what we all cannot deny is that for some reason or another, the pandemic of divorce has not been cured.
So, I figured, what the hell, why not give the old marriage self-help advice thing a shot?
For another thing, none of the articles, blogs or columns that I came across had been written from the perspective of a practicing divorce attorney.
Why do I think this matters?
Well, as someone who deals with divorce on an occupational level, divorce attorneys have unfettered access to all of the problems and arguments that are taking place between married couples on a daily basis.
Sure, therapists and counselors also spend significant amounts of time with individuals and couples who are trying to work out their marital qualms. However, unlike divorce attorneys, these mental health providers are almost never on the front lines when it comes to witnessing the parties actually fight and argue over everything from parenting time days to the spare bedroom set.
Witnessing these battles is what gives the divorce attorney an inside vantage point into what actually causes a husband’s or wife’s blood to really boil.
Trust me, we hear everything!
The negatives…the positives…the history…the fights…the stories…the secrets and the scandals…we hear it all.
As a result, I think divorce attorneys are uniquely qualified when it comes to pinpointing the issues that are most likely responsible for marital collapse. Sure, there are some obvious issues that you don’t need to be in a courtroom everyday to be able to forecast. However, in my opinion, many of the problems that most people associate with marital failure are simply surface scars, which even if healed, would not resolve the underlying issue.
You see, although married couples fight over many things, they generally don’t get divorced because the husband left the toilet seat up or because the wife is too naggy. Issues like these certainly cause married couples to squabble, but get divorced? Not usually.
Rather, these behaviors are simply a manifestation of a much deeper and more systemic type of problem, which even with the most dedicated of efforts, may unfortunately never be able to be cured.
Why? Because, although people can change some things about their behavior and their personalities (like how not to critique our spouses in public), we cannot fundamentally change who we are and the principals by which we live.
So, instead of creating a large item list full of the surface solutions that everyone is already aware of when it comes to avoiding divorce (i.e. compliment your spouse, go on dates, say I love you, etc.), I’ve decided to create a short 5 item list that focuses on what I feel to be the most important non-negotiable things that I believe all successful marriages must contain.
Here goes nothing…
1.) SIMILAR FINANCIAL AND FAMILY GOALS:
Simply put, if you see yourself not being happy unless you are keeping up with the Jones’, but your spouse is perfectly content with your blue-collar lifestyle, you’re in trouble. Also, if you see yourself having three kids but your spouse doesn’t want any, problems will be a brewing.
Look, the truth is, people often meet and fall in love when they are young and fancy free. Meaning, they usually have not given a lot of consideration as to the where they want to be in the next 20, 30 or 40 years before they say their “I do’s”.
And, how could they?
How do they know whether their love of their job will outweigh its financial limitations until they work for a few years? How will they know whether they want to spend their extra money on luxury items or put it away for retirement until they’re faced with this option? How will they know how many kids they want until they realize just how much they will affect their daily routine and their net worth? It’s tough!
So, what do they do?
Well, what they should do is have these types of discussions with their significant other as early and as often as possible.
Look, it’s inevitable…people will change. The question is: will they change together, or will they change apart?
The good news is that generally speaking, people do not change much when it comes to their major financial and familial goals. So, if you can at least be on the same page when it comes to these issues before you get married, then you will be miles ahead of all the other couples who simply sweep these conversations under the rug, hoping they will not be an issue down the road.
Now, I’m not talking about the kind of respect that causes you to hold the door open for one another when you’re going into a restaurant (although you should always be doing this…guys). Instead, I’m talking about the professional and personal respect that we have for each other based on what that person was, is and is striving to be in the future.
For example, if you do not respect what your spouse does for a living, then you will simply grow to resent them. If you do not respect your spouse’s knowledge, intellect, opinions and observations, then you will likely start to patronize them. If you do not appreciate your spouse’s talents and appreciate how those talents add concrete value to your life, then you will never be able to be proud of them.
And, if you resent, patronize and have no earnest appreciation for what your spouse is or has accomplished as an individual, separate and apart from your marriage, you will always be at risk for future problems.
Because, you cannot love what you do not respect. And what you do not respect, you will not continue to treat fairly.
Sure, the princess and the pool boy make for nice story; in reality, however, these foundational relationships rarely ever make it.
3.) SIMILAR PARENTING PHILOSOPHY:
Obviously, this only applies to those couples who have survived #1 and mutually decided to have children. Unfortunately, agreeing to have children together does not get you out of the woods just yet.
In my opinion, the two most problematic things that married couples fight about are money and kids.
So, when it comes to maintaining a successful marriage, parties need to not only be on the same page when it comes to deciding how many kids they want, they also need to be on the same page regarding how they are going to raise their kids once they have them.
What are their philosophies when it comes to discipline, chores, rewards, extracurriculars, college funds, car payments, dating, etc., etc.
If you don’t know the answers to these questions or if you find you and your spouse on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, then trouble could be lurking.
4.) JOINT ACCOUNTS:
Look at that, I’m going on about money again.
In all seriousness though, most of the clients that walk through my door are in some sort of financial turmoil; not because their spouse spent all their money, but because divorce and stress are a bi-product of financial hardship. The worse a married couples’ finances are, the more they have to be stressed about. And, more stress results in higher tempers, which in turn, results in more fighting.
So, how do you avoid financial stress? Well, the truth is, you may never be able to completely eliminate financial stress in your marriage.
However, what you can do is minimize the stress by getting you and your spouse on the same page about your finances. What is the easiest way to do this? Put all your finances together and review them on a monthly basis. Putting your money in a joint account not only creates an element of trust, but it also gets the parties working together. Each knows exactly what the other is spending and on what. You begin to develop a team approach to solving problems as opposed to an individual approach, which has the potential of leaving both parties feeling overwhelmed.
Now I know, mixing all your money together with your spouse may not be the best idea if you’re trying to protect yourself from a divorce in the future. However, in my opinion, the importance of sharing financial accountability and responsibility during your marriage far outweighs its potential negative effects down the road, especially if your goal is to stay married.
I can’t tell you how many couples get into financial problems because the two spouses are completely unaware of where their mutual finances stand. Having a joint account is a great way to solve this very unnecessary and easily preventable problem. Also, if you and your spouse disagree about this issue, it will never go away, and the spouse wanting a joint account will always feel as if the other spouse is hiding something. This distrust is never a good thing.
5.) MAINTAIN YOUR FRIENDSHIP:
Couples that I see struggle most often are those that have absolutely nothing in common when it comes to having fun. If you and your spouse aren’t best “friends” and you do not enjoy doing the same things together, then I believe you are more at risk of seeing your marriage falter.
It’s simply impossible to maintain that romantic and flirty connection that you likely experienced during your first few months of dating. You remember, this is when everything the other person told you was funny, clever and interesting. It was when you got butterflies every time you held their hand or saw them smile.
Unfortunately, as we all know, these sensations do start to fade over time. It’s natural and there is not a whole lot anyone can do about it. It’s also not necessarily a bad thing.
Eventually, those nervous and excited feelings get replaced with confidence, comfort and a mutual understanding of who you are as a couple. This understanding allows people to become vulnerable and more trusting. Without this trust, it is impossible to build the roots that are necessary for establishing a strong relationship and a strong family.
So why is friendship so important?
Maintaining a close friendship with your spouse is crucial because when the butterflies and heart palpitations begin to fade away, you will need to find a different type of pleasure when it comes to spending time with your spouse. Friendship allows you to stay connected and involved with one another long after your initial attraction. Friendship allows you to take pleasure in the same activities and allows you to grow together as a couple. Without friendship, spouses run the risk of becoming roommates; people who live together but are individually separate.
Friendship, however, keeps a married couple whole; operating as one unit with the same passions and goals. Friendship is what makes you never want to live another day without your spouse. Friendship saves marriages.
So, if you and your spouse have completely different hobbies and enjoy none of the same things in life, then chances are, trouble will find you.