Divorce Proof Your Marriage

It may sound a little odd to be getting marriage advice from a divorce attorney.  I have survived a high conflict divorce, been happily married for 10 years to my current husband, and have handled 100s of divorces as an attorney. It may be safe to say, I have learned a thing or two about what helps keep a marriage strong and what doesn’t.

Your happiness is your responsibility

Unfortunately, our society/culture sells the narrative that marriage is our ticket to happily ever after.  That we have a soulmate out there who will speak our “love language” and know exactly what to do to make us happy.  The truth is: the  most successful couples know that their personal happiness is their own responsibility, not up to their partner.  Marriage is an ongoing process. It is a lifelong journey of learning about our partner and ourselves and sharing in life together.

Most people end up filing for divorce because they are unhappy.  Unhealthy couples often fall into patterns of blaming their unhappiness on the perceived faults of their spouse.  Rather than taking responsibility for our own happiness. In an ideal world, we would only get married once we were fully healed from our past experiences and traumas. However when we often enter into marriage before we are totally ready. Consequently, our spouse triggers us in all the unhealed places, revealing where we need to grow.

Marriages that succeed – are the ones where both partners are willing to work on themselves and grow together. Ultimately ask yourself the question:  Do I want to be right? Or do I want to be married?

Friendship & laughter

I am convinced that the secret to the success of my second marriage is our friendship, sense of humor, and ability to laugh at life and ourselves.  Being friends with your spouse means that you genuinely enjoy each other’s company.  You have fun together.  You make time for each other and get each other’s senses of humor.  The ability to laugh together despite all the craziness of life can be the glue that holds you together when life gets really hard. 

Here are a few questions to think about:

  • What can you do to support the friendship between you and your spouse?
  • What shared activities and interests can you pursue together?
  • What can you do to keep things light hearted and fun?

Go to counseling before it gets bad

I am a big, big believer in marriage counseling! But the key is to go before things get really bad.  Invest in counseling while your marriage is relatively healthy. Just like our cars periodically need an oil change and a look under the hood – so do our marriages.  Going to marriage counseling, marriage retreats, or reading a book about marriage together are excellent ways to keep your relationship strong. Investing in your marriage arms you with the tools to get it back on track when times get tough.

Turn towards each other

According to the Gottman Institute – couples who have a habit of “turning towards” one another rather than turning away have a greater chance of staying happily married. One Gottman Institute study found that “In a newlywed study, newlyweds who were still married six years after their wedding had turned towards each other 86% of the time; while those who were divorced within six years only turned toward each other 33% of the time.”

While this might sound strange, it’s actually quite simple.  When your spouse makes “a bid” or an attempt to connect with you – don’t squander that opportunity to respond to them.  It can be as simple as putting your phone down when your spouse starts a conversation with you.  Or when your spouse comments on the beautiful sunset – you acknowledge it as well. Spouses who connect with each other regularly throughout the week – tend to avoid divorce. While those who routinely “turn away” from their spouse and instead reach for their phones, Netflix, alcohol, shopping, etc are the ones that ultimately end up in my office. To learn more about Gottman’s theory on “turning towards” each other, check out this resource.

Whether you are considering divorce or on the other side of divorce, I hope this was helpful. My hope is these four tips can help you in your current marriage or prepare you for your future marriage.