Not every marriage is worth saving, and that’s a personal choice a couple in a struggling relationship must make together. There is no one size fits all rule when it comes to whether or not a couple should end their marriage, but there is solid advice available for those hoping to salvage theirs and restrengthen their bond. While divorce numbers have decreased in the country since the global pandemic hit, for many couples whose relationship was already in trouble, the tensions of the last year has served as a breaking point.
Natalia Wilson, managing partner of Ain & Bank, is one of the top attorneys in Washington, D.C. and one of the leading divorce lawyers in the country. Ain & Bank, a national family law firm, oversees separations, divorces, custody agreements and other family matters for some of the country’s top executives, celebrities, athletes and politicians. Wilson spends a good deal of her time consulting with clients and potential clients, helping to mend broken relationships, sorting out custody issues and consulting and writing prenuptial agreements. She’s seen firsthand how seemingly healthy marriages suddenly break down, but she also knows a lot about how to save them too.
“If couples were just more thoughtful about their actions, words and decisions, there would be many more happy marriages, and fewer divorces, and I would be doing a lot more prenuptial agreements,” said Wilson.
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Here, Wilson shares her best advice for couples looking to make it work and avoid divorce.
Your personal matters should not be handled in a courtoom.
Stop threating divorce in the heat of an argument. It may start as a flippant comment, and then leads to the way you argue. Eliminate the word “divorce” from your vocabulary when arguing.
You cannot have a strong relationship if you’re never there. As life intervenes in day-to-day activities, be sure to set aside time to just connect with each other. If schedules are crazy, try to have a set date night and stick to it, and make sure to turn your gadget off.
Be emotionally and physically invested in the marriage.
Work as a team.
Some people resent having someone else weigh in on their decisions. If you want to have a happy marriage, you have to include your partner in any life changing decisions—big purchases, employment changes, moves, having more children, changing kids’ schools, even getting a pet. Working as a team also means that you have to be willing and ready to compromise.
Children aren’t an excuse
Differences in parenting approaches should not interfere with your ability to connect with your spouse, but they do. Be mindful of that. Do your best to find middle ground on parenting decisions and give validation to the other parent’s viewpoint, even if you believe your position is best. Don’t make important decisions without at least understanding the other parent’s perspective, if practical. Valuing the other parent’s experience and relationship with the children may increase the chance of romance thriving and the problems surrounding the challenges of rearing children may have less of an impact on the marriage.
Talk about it.
Really lean in to talking about everything. So many relationships go under from things they never talked about. For example, money is routinely not discussed at all. Communicating about money is just as important as other subjects. Many relationships fail from money issues that were not communicated. And, don’t just communicate when there are problems. Communicate when things are going well too; and discuss any potential future issues when there are no problems. It’s much easier to communicate with someone during happy times, when you’re both in a good place and can discuss and plan for any future “what ifs.”
Think before discussing money
Stop and think about what day of the month it is before discussing household finances. Try your best not to broach the topic when the household bills have just been paid. No matter how constructive you believe the conversation could be, if one person is covering everything or covering most financial obligations, one party will feel under-appreciated and the other will feel that the other does not recognize their nonmonetary contributions. Emotions are raw at the first of the month.
Stop talking to your neighbor about their divorce.
Wilson says that many people come to her with a number of misconceptions about divorce because they have been talking to their neighbors/cousins/friends about what divorce is like. No two divorces are the same.
Just be kind.
Constantly running someone down doesn’t bode well for a happy marriage. If you feel you must criticize, be thoughtful and sensitive. Be sure to communicate with your partner when things are going well and he/she has done something exceptional. Find ways to elevate the marriage with random acts of kindness. Always keep in mind those things that attracted you to your partner to begin with and how you felt at the beginning of relationship. If your feelings shift, go back to that mindset and the feeling of being head over heels.
Consider pre- and post-nuptial agreements.
This can be a jump start to broaching topics you should be talking about. When negotiating a prenuptial and postnuptial agreement you share financial information and it can eliminate some of the unknown and misconceptions about divorce because together you outline a roadmap in the event of divorce or separation. It’s better to negotiate with someone who is in love with you when things are good.