Marriage Advice From Divorcees
10 Surprising Relationship Tips Divorce Lawyers Wish You Knew
You're the type of woman who makes and completes to-do lists, creates goals and actually makes them happen. It might seem natural to have that same 'let's work hard and make this absolutely perfect' attitude toward your marriage, but Florida-based lawyer and author Joryn Jenkins says that's a bad idea. "Being married is not a state of being, but it's always a work in progress," she says. "It's a good idea to start your marriage with the idea that you will both work on being married every single day." She adds that most couples find themselves getting bored or frustrated when things don't feel exactly how they did when they first got married. To battle those feelings, she suggests taking a little time to think about at least one reason why you love that man and why you're spending your life with him. It might be harder on some days and easier on others, but just like your marriage, it's a commitment you choose to make your relationship stronger.
A lot of huge, life-altering things happen in those first few years of marriage. It's awesome, but also important to maintain your relationship during that time. According to one study, the third year of marriage is the happiest year, but things quickly go down from there. That's why Jenkins suggests counseling, even if things feel like they're going great. "Seeing a counselor should not feel like an admission of failure—it should be like signing up for guitar lessons or taking a yoga class," Jenkins says. "If you don't have a particular reason to go, go to work on your communication skills or ability to solve problems together. The key is that you go together."
"I can't tell you how many clients attribute sex problems as the prime reason they want to end their marriage," Lisa Helfend Meyer, founding partner of Los Angeles-based Meyer, Olson, Lowy & Meyers, says. "Rather than accept that routine and boring sex is inevitable the longer you're married, decide the opposite. It could save your marriage." To banish boredom in the bedroom, Meyer says try new techniques, locations, and positions once a month. Or, if you're really not feeling it, then at the very least, commit to cuddling. Jenkins says that spending an hour or two together in bed, without any agenda will help keep your connection...even if you have to set the alarm an hour earlier to have time to do that.
You love his mom, but she can annoy you at times, too. It's a normal and natural part of marriage. California-based family law attorney Debra Opri says how you handle in-laws are one of the most important topics you can decide together as a married couple. "You need to have a comprehensive discussion about how in-laws are welcome in your marital home and relationship," Opri says. "Without talking about it, 'in-law events' will start to control the relationship, and are a surefire way to be forced to take sides." A nice way to start setting boundaries is to talk about the new family that you created together, instead of the one that you came from, Opri says. "You have to remember that you're the most important people in one another's life now," Opri says. Once you figure out how you'll spend holidays, handle unsolicited advice, and how often they're welcome to visit, you can reiterate that to your families and remain firm together. Remember: You already have one person on your side—your husband. Just make sure you're on his side, too.
Megan Freed, co-founding attorney at Hartford, Connecticut-based Freed Marcroft, LLC, says two words create the most arguments at her practice: 'always' and 'never.' "Many people will say that their spouse 'never' listens to them," she says. "That statement practically insists that their spouse will immediately fire back with: 'I'm stuck listening to you right now, aren't I?'" She says that by taking those words out of heated discussions or day-to-day bickering, you lower the risk that it'll turn into a big, blowout argument. "Those words don't accomplish the intended goal of your spouse understanding how you feel about something," she says. Instead of saying "you never compliment me how you used to—are you still attracted to me?" Freed says, put yourself into the situation instead. You can say, "Remember that time we went to the food market and walked around downtown? You made me feel so beautiful that day."
Venting is a necessary part of anyone's life and those annoyed emojis make it even more fun to express your frustrations with your best gal pal. You might need to get some things off your chest about your husband, but Freed says having your partner's back will help you more than complaining. "Think about how your spouse would feel if he was listening," she says. "You and your spouse are the most important team in your life and undermining your partner, even if he can't hear or read what you said, weakens your relationship because it fuels your anger instead of resolving it." The next time you want to text, "He's getting all over my nerves today!" remove yourself from the situation. Talk to him about it or go do something else outside of the house that'll calm your nerves.
"The longer you know your spouse, the more important it is to remember how you felt when you first met." Freed says. "Tell him what you love about him, frequently and sincerely." It's easy to get caught up in finishing your basement, and figuring out how to pay off your grad school loans together, but before anything else, lift up your partner and make sure he knows how much you not only love him, but believe in him as well. It can be as simple as: "You did an amazing job handling that a-s hole bartender. Thanks for standing up to him." A little affirmation goes a long way.
When you're saving for a house, trying to plan around your breastfeeding schedule, or just working hard to make ends meet, the thought of a vacation together might seem more stressful than sexy. But Freed says the happiest couples are the ones who make a commitment to reconnect and release themselves from any distractions, if only for a weekend. "Getting away together forces you to reconnect without checking your iPhone, responding to emails, running errands, or logging onto Facebook," she says. Freed says getting out of your routine and watching your partner navigate a new place will help you remember all of those reasons you fell in love with him.
Todd Spodek, managing partner at Spodek Law Group in New York City, says targeting yours and your husband's strengths will keep you both happy because you're doing what you love. "You cannot do everything, and if you don't particularly like doing something your husband does, let him handle it," he says. If your husband enjoys managing a budget and you purposefully only took one math class in college, let him tackle it. Or maybe he enjoys cooking and you'd rather clean, split dinner time that way. Whatever you're doing, let each other excel, instead of arguing over who does what, Spodek says.
"Marriage is two people committed to the same goals. When you stop treating your spouse like your partner, your 'business' will fall apart," says San Filippo. Just like you set quarterly goals for yourself at work and (hopefully) get rewarded for meeting them, set goals for your marriage every season. Maybe this winter you're going to work on communication or having better and more frequent sex. Whatever it is, San Fillippo says discussing these goals will help you both focus your efforts on the part of your marriage that needs the most work. And hey, if you both meet them, give your marriage a raise and take a weekend to celebrate.
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