useful tips for people who are open minded enough to try or listen QJ
Strategies for a Better Marriage
Robert Stephan Cohen, Esq.
Cohen Lans LLP n my 30 years as a matrimonial lawyer, I have listened to countless men and women tell me why their marriages failed. Disagreements over money and lifestyle, and, of course, infidelity, lead all kinds of couples to divorce court. Divorce is so common nowadays -- expected, even -- that couples start thinking about it at the first sign of trouble.
I have seen enough divorce battles up close to have a good handle on the marital mistakes couples make. Many issues can be worked out -- if there's a real desire on both sides. Here are the most common problems that endanger marriages and strategies to deal with them...
Parallel lives. A couple might live in the same house and share the same bed, but their communication may be perfunctory. They could go for days without really talking.
Both spouses are so busy with their "own" lives that they more or less forget they're married. Whether because of busy careers, child rearing or even time-consuming hobbies, they never make time for each other.
Strategy: Carve out time for each other by picking one night a week to go on a "date." That means time together -- no phone calls or kids. Also, don't let a day go by without having a conversation, even if it is by phone.
I recall one professional couple who had little free time for each other. They decided to share part of every day by walking their dog together. This simple change helped get their marriage back on track.
Infidelity. Cheating spouses who want to save their marriages need to stop cheating and -- assuming that they haven't been discovered -- keep their mouths shut.
Strategy: That's right -- don't tell. Telling a spouse about a one-night stand or an affair that has ended may make you feel less burdened and more virtuous, but you'll have created an enormous obstacle that the marriage may never overcome. Marriages fail not because of an affair, but because of the aftermath.
Warning: If the cat is out of the bag, don't try to fix things alone. Couples who successfully get past a known affair almost always do so with the help of a neutral party, such as a member of the clergy or a therapist.
Sexual incompatibility. Most people who have been married for a while have sex less frequently than they once did. Some people are fine with that. For others, a lack of sex colors their view of the entire marriage.
How powerful is the sexual aspect of a marriage? In three decades, I have never had anyone come into my office wanting a divorce even though sex at home was great.
Strategy: Couples must discuss their sexual needs and wants. The increasing popularity of sexual topics in mainstream media may make it easier to broach the subject. One spouse could refer the other to a relevant article, for example, or they could go to a therapist together.
Problem children. I have seen a number of marriages collapse over differences in how to deal with troublesome children. In the cases I have dealt with, the children were heavy drug users or had serious mental illness, but even minor problems with children can damage a marital relationship.
If spouses already are leading parallel lives, they begin to line up in separate camps with their children. For instance, one spouse might hide a child's misconduct from the other. Then when the misconduct becomes impossible to ignore, the parents take opposite positions. In my experience, mothers frequently think that love and affection will alter their children's behavior, while fathers are more likely to take a tough stance. The fierce arguments that follow can destroy a marriage.
Stepparents have a particularly tough time. The children often try to undermine the new marriage because they see it as a threat to their own relationships with their parents and they still hope that their parents will get back together.
Strategy: Enlist the help of a neutral authoritative third party. When doctors or therapists take over much of the decision making in terms of the child's treatment, the husband and wife can address marital issues and comfort each other, which often brings them closer together.
Money matters. Financial disagreements can cause serious trouble for any couple, no matter how well-off they are. Historically, wives often have been in the dark about a couple's finances -- and this is true even today.
Whether the husband insists on handling the money alone or the wife is willfully ignorant, the result often is heated arguments about finances that spiral into personal attacks on each other's values, common sense and honesty. It undermines a marriage when, for instance, one spouse simply tells the other that the couple can't afford a trip this year.
Strategy: For the best chance of marital success, both spouses should be familiar with the household's finances and have a say in spending and investing. Then the couple's expectations will be similar and, in many cases, more realistic.
Some people think a prenuptial agreement is unromantic, but I'm a big fan of them -- and the lessons I've learned through using prenups can be applied at any time during a marriage.I recommend that engaged, newlywed or even long-married couples talk to an accountant, financial planner or even a divorce lawyer to get a sense of how the economics of the marriage can work. Then they should keep talking about money so that things stay out in the open at home.