Learning how to have a better marriage from a divorce lawyer is like learning how to prevent a robbery from a police detective. Who better to learn from than a person who has been there several thousand times?
As a divorce lawyer, I have observed the hundreds of reasons marriages break down, and the various issues that divide couples. There are the big ones - cheating, drinking too much, and domestic violence. And, there are not so big ones – leaving clothes on the floor, not liking the in-laws, or shopping too much.
Instead of allowing these divorce battles to taint my view of marriage, I use them. Being in the middle of the divorce war zone provides me insights on how to keep my twenty-two year marriage going. Here are a few tips I have learned.
Make Time For Each Other
This is easier said than done, but is one of the most important tips. Remember when dating how much time you would spend together? After the marriage came separate careers, and children. Our week is consumed with carting the kids to/from their activities, working on their homework and projects, not to mention our own jobs and housework. We are so busy running in separate directions, by the end of the week my husband probably wouldn't notice if I grew a mustache!
You must make time to just sit and be with each other. Daily. Just like you have to show up to work to earn your paycheck, you have to show up to your spouse and earn your marriage. Weekly date nights are great, but even just going for coffee together would work. My husband and I like to go to breakfast together, just the two of us, and talk about what exciting things we are planning for our future together. The important thing is spending time together, uninterrupted by kids or work.
Keep Intimacy Alive
This does not necessarily mean having sex three times a day, every day, although some of you would like that! Couples usually have different needs for intimacy. One may be fulfilled by just holding hands walking through Walmart, while another may need frequent sex. Have honest conversations about your needs and listen to the other person, and come to a compromise that fulfills you both. A marriage without honesty and intimacy will often result in the unfulfilled spouse seeking it from someone else.
Count The Money
Financial issues are probably one of the highest ranked causes of divorce. This isn't just about having money, or not having money. It's about participating in the management of the money together. When both spouses do not actively participate together is when the problems arise. One spouse may feel they are being "controlled," another may feel their partner doesn't participate in the budgeting. Your money habits are typically learned from your parents, and you both were raised by different parents who probably had different money management expectations. Couples need to get on the same page and understand how much you make combined each month, how much your monthly expenses are, who is going to pay the bills, and how much is left over for discretionary expenses. Have discussions about finances. Discuss who the spender, who is the saver, future expenses, retirement goals, etc. Sit down together to work on budget and a process for paying the bills.
This seems like a no-brainer, but I'll bet you have seen spouses who treat perfect strangers nicer than they treat their spouse! This a person you chose to live your life with, and they are human, and make mistakes. Often. Sometimes very often. Be forgiving. Show compassion and understanding. And be as nice to them as you would to the clerk at the store. And when your spouse does something that offends you, please, do not post it on Facebook for all the world to see.
Have Your Own Interests
You are married, but it is natural to have interests outside of your spouse. Maintaining your own interests and own set of friends is healthy. If there is a trust issue and one of you gets jealous if the other does things alone, talk about this, and get it resolved. How can they miss you if you are always around?