SAN DIEGO, February 14, 2014 ― Other than Cupid, there’s no one better qualified to give advice on love and marriage than a divorce attorney. Especially one whose birthday happens to Valentine’s Day. Yes, that would be me.
Ten percent of all marriage proposals take place on Valentine’s Day, the single most popular day for proposals all year. Romantic, isn’t it?
But sadly, half of all first marriages ending in divorce, and an even higher percentage of second and third (and so on) marriages do not fulfill the “till death do us part” portion of the wedding vows. How can a couple guard against their marriage becoming just another unfortunate statistic?
After being involved in hundreds of divorce proceedings, I have learned that there are certain problems common to failed marriages that might not be obvious. Sure, there is infidelity, and there is abuse. But many marriages end for reasons that are preventable.
So just in time for Valentine’s Day, when we are all thinking about love and romance, let me offer you Lawyer Myra’s seven tips for a lasting, happy marriage.
1. Put your spouse first
My own mother gave me this advice before I got married. Your spouse comes first, before your kids, before your job, before your in-laws, before your pasttimes. If you put him or her at the top of your priorities list, everything else will be supported by the strength of the marriage and will fall into place. It’s true, and it’s worked for me.
2. Trust is a must; but come clean when you’ve done something wrong
Without trust, no marriage will last for long. But everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes really big mistakes. It’s the failure to own up to them that does the real, lasting damage. It was bad enough when Arnold Schwarzenegger had a child out of wedlock while married to Maria Shriver. But he made it far worse when he kept it a secret for seven years, and enlisted other people to help him keep that secret. What hurt the marriage in the long run was the lying. Coming clean quickly at least gives you a chance to start fixing things before any more damage is done.
3. Get in sync about money
The numbers don’t lie here. More marriages break up because of money than any other single reason. It isn’t generally because there isn’t enough money to go around. It’s because spouses don’t agree on how to spend (or save) what they have. Money is an emotional subject. It is critical to talk about it and get on the same page before you get married so expectations are clear.
4. Take care of your relationship every day, not just on special days
You can’t make the big show of affection or come up with flowers on Valentine’s Day, birthdays, and anniversaries and think your relationship is “taken care of” until same time next year. When couples forget to make each other feel important the other 362 days of the year, the relationship is in big trouble.
5. A little respect
Along with love goes honoring and cherishing. You can have respect without love, but love cannot live without respect. This means not undermining your spouse in front of your children (see #1). This means no going outside the marriage to carp when there are problems. This means no public criticism, no “ball and chain” comments, and no flirting with co-workers. Besides, if you’re critical of your spouse, look in the mirror. You picked him or her.
6.Share the credit when things go right, forget the blame when things go wrong
Forget whether you’re right or wrong. The question is: Is what you’re doing working, or not working? Harry S. Truman said this about politics, but it’s true about marriage too: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” A married couple is a team, so act like one.
7. Marriage isn’t 50/50
Haven’t you always heard that a marriage is an equal partnership? Forget this. Some days you will wake up and may have to give 90 percent when your spouse is having a bad day, and can only give 10 percent. Other days you may wake up and give 25 percent, and need your spouse to come through with the other three-quarters. If you step up when called for, each person feels supported, is willing to give back when the time comes, and everyone comes out with what he or she needs at the end.
And if someone accepts your proposal of marriage on Thursday, or you receive one and say yes, congratulations and mazel tov to you!
Myra Chack Fleischer serves as Lead Counsel for Fleischer & Ravreby in Carlsbad, California with a focus on divorce, property, custody and support, settlement agreements, mediation, asset division and family law appeals. Read more Legally Speaking in Communities Digital News. Follow Myra on Twitter: @LawyerMyra.
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