Surprising Relationship Advice from Divorce Lawyers
By Emma Johnson, Contributor
Who better to offer marriage advice than those who contend with the end of it, every singe day? Read on for relationship wisdom bombs from 15 divorce professionals who collectively share hundreds of years of experience helping couples end their marriages. Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!
“Be true to yourself. If deep-down you really want kids, don’t tell yourself it will be enough to be a stepmom. You will ultimately resent your spouse, and it will come out in passive-aggressive ways. If you really want someone who won’t come home until 10 p.m. because he’s out hustling and making a lot of money — don’t marry a blue-collar guy, because you won’t be happy. Don’t think you can change the other person. You can’t.” — Alyssa Eisner, Sager Gellerman Eisner, New York City.
“Be judicious with social media. Healthy relationships require spending time together in real life, and social media can be a hazardous distraction. Broadcasting the details (good or bad) of your relationship is a recipe for disaster.” —Zephyr Hill, Goldberg Jones in San Diego, CA CA +0.79%
“Synchronize. Avoid most arguments by making it more difficult, if not impossible, to forget things by using synchronized lists, calendaring apps, and the like. Synchronize financial information so spouses can keep track of combined income and expenses, avoid bouncing checks from joint accounts, and hopefully eliminate financial ‘surprises’ that can create marital conflict.” – Mark Baer, Pasadena, Calif.
“Sex and intimacy are key parts of your marriage that can get lost – especially once you have kids. Put the sweat pants down and the lip stick on, because you need to make the effort for your spouse, even if you don’t always feel like it.” – Morghan Richardson, Richardson Legal, New York City
“If you get involved with someone who is divorced, seek out a copy of the complaint and answer in the divorce (not the Final Judgment of Divorce) so you can see the allegations against the individual, i.e. domestic violence, adultery or maybe just irreconcilable differences. You will have a better understanding of the type of person you are dating. –Francine Gargano, Somerville, N.J.
“ Maintain some mystery in your relationship, but not where your values about money are concerned. One very sure way to doom your relationship is to ignore your respective financial habits and goals. You’ll fight and you’ll quickly cede power, become resentful, or both. And make sure you have an emergency plan — like a credit card of your own — because you never know when you’ll have to use it.” -- Casey Greenfield, Greenfield Labby, New York City
“Sign a prenup. While people feel jaded about prenups, and hesitate to even mention divorce, ignoring the reality of divorce doesn’t mean it can’t happen. A failure to plan just means you have to live with your state’s default divorce laws. Why, if marriage looks so different than it did 20 years ago, would you want to live with laws which were (largely) fashioned in the 1970s?” – Michael Boulette, Lindquist & Vennum, Minneapolis
“While dating, pay attention to their friends. Disliking your significant other’s friends can be a red flag for your relationship. Most people choose friends because they have similar personalities and traits. If you don’t like your significant other’s friends, but think your boyfriend/girlfriend is impeccable, you might be ‘blinded by love’ and overlooking some serious
personality flaws.” —Ken Alan, Goldberg Jones, Seattle, Wash.
“Don’t underestimate the power of household chores to trigger marital blowups. A dirty shirt on the back of a chair or unloaded dishwasher can be the thing that sets off a battle. Before committing, discuss how you will share these tasks– but also identify your triggers, as well as your spouse’s, and decide what you can live with. Because people don’t often change their habits.” – Daniel Clement, Law Offices of Daniel Clement, New York City
“Date your spouse. The expense of a regular babysitter and date nights pales in comparison to the financial and emotional costs of a divorce. Make sure that you make ‘couple time’ a priority at least once a week.” – Wendy Jaffe, former divorce lawyer and author of The Divorce Lawyers’ Guide to Staying Married
“Be honest with yourself about what you bring to the relationship. Virtually every day I see relationships fail (or fail to thrive) because a party doesn’t properly value what he or she is bringing to the relationship. Are you bringing just a bank account, good looks, sexual prowess, witty repartee, etc. to the coupling? And are you giving yourself too much or too little credit for the role these things play in the relationship?” – Jason Weis, Curran Moher Weis, Fairfax, Va.
“My advice comes from being a divorce attorney, as well as someone who is divorced and happily remarried: You have to simply DECIDE you are going to be happily married. In the real world this means you make a deliberate choice every day in every moment that your marriage takes priority over everything and everyone else in your life. Schedule time for yourselves. Also, make sure you consider everything you do in the context of how will it impact your marriage.” – Rebecca Zung, Zung Clough, Naples, Fla.
“Get a Financial Plan. Most couples do not have the same ‘money blueprint’ and rarely talk about the most important questions of their lives. Retirement, college and who’s going to take care of you when you’re old. The No. 1 reason for getting a divorce in this country is for financial reasons. Clients tell me if they had spent as much time talking about their finances during their marriage as much as they during divorce, they might not be getting a divorce.” – Keith Powell, certified divorce financial analyst, Austin, Texas
“Communicate with each other about your core financial values – particularly at the beginning of the
relationship. The reality is that most people do not sit down to have a real conversation about major decisions and questions that will undoubtedly affect their future: Do we each REALLY want children? If so, will one of us be the primary caretaker? Is either of us willing to sacrifice career or education to be a caretaker for children? Can we afford to have children, when, and how many? What style of parenting do we believe in? Will one or both of us handle the family finances? Are we each spenders, savers, or are either of us coming into the marriage with financial baggage? What are our common financial goals
and can we get on the same page about them? Many couples find themselves down the road, whether 2, 10, or 40 years later, in a marriage with “the wrong person.” – Tina Lewert, Lewert Law, Boca Raton, Fla.
“Assume a foundation of teammates. Act like you are on the same team and assume your partner is on your side. And dream — join your partner in being a visionary about the relationship’s future and make room for both parties’ dreams to happen.” -- Bruce Provda, Provda Law Firm, New York City