It goes without saying that getting a divorce is one of the biggest and most consequential decisions a couple can make both on an individual level and for their families. Not only will it significantly alter the course of your lives, but the fallout may also have far-reaching echoes down the line if your marriage has produced children. Before seriously considering dissolving your marriage, it may be worth following these five tips that we’ve learned over the years from being a family law attorney-mediator.
Tip #1 – Have an open, honest discussion with your spouse
It may sound elementary, it might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how few couples getting divorced are incapable of having an open, honest, and level-headed conversation. This last point is very important – honesty about deeply held resentments and problems often can come tumbling out as an argument that turns into a screaming match, but that isn’t helpful to either party’s happiness or the health of the marriage.
Another common tactic is trying to indirectly correct issues by getting family and friends involved. While a support network is a wonderful thing to have, venting your marital issues onto your relations along with your opinions in hopes that they’ll get back to your partner is a poor method of communication. Not only will your message get diluted, but your partner also may not react well to secrets being exposed to people outside the relationship.
If you are unhappy with your relationship and your partner, you need to tell them directly, calmly, and honestly. You owe this to your partner and the relationship – they can’t very well fix something they don’t know is wrong, and the relationship shouldn’t just be tossed aside without attempting a change.
Tip #2 – Problem Solve
Determining what your major pain points are in the relationship is the first step in finding solutions for them. Working together with your partner and finding specific actions that your spouse can take is the most effective way to begin taking steps to rectify the damage in your relationship.
For example, let’s say you’re a woman in a marriage with children. Over the years, your role has shifted completely from a sexy and appreciated woman to being a caretaker and mother. You miss the way you used to be treated and resent that the way your partner acts around you has changed.
Once you’ve identified the problem, begin finding actions that your partner could take that will make you feel like they still see you as you see yourself. Don’t just tell them the problem and then let them figure out how to solve the problem for themselves – chances are, they won’t know what the right steps to take are and the problem may worsen.
Tip #3 – Incorporate a Date Night
This step is one of those items many couples don’t enjoy considering incorporating into their routine before they try it out. The thought of scheduling date nights often feels like an inorganic and unromantic method of spending time with the person they love.
The fact is, it’s very, very easy to get swept up in the chaos of life – especially when children become involved. With shifting schedules and the needs of the hour, it’s easy to put off alone time with one another, saying that it will happen next week.
What tends to happen is next week becomes next month, which then becomes next year, until finally, you find your relationship having been lost somewhere in the mix. Without a scheduled time for you and your partner to be alone with one another, it’s easy to go months on end with the only contact between you being the 5 minutes before you’re both asleep in bed.
Schedule date nights consistently and plan them with what works best for both of your schedules. This lowers the chances of something popping up and getting in the way of your time together.
Furthermore, it doesn’t need to be expensive or extravagant. Date nights range from a walk on the beach to a few hours sitting in the local park just enjoying the time away together to an expensive night on the town. Vary your dates to ensure you don’t delay or take them for granted based on cost and time.
Tip #4 – Work with a marriage/family therapist
If the previous steps aren’t working, it may be time to start looking for a marriage or family therapist that specializes in couples’ reconciliation. While therapy is seen by many as somewhat taboo, a good therapist can work some genuine miracles for a relationship on the rocks.
The key is properly vetting the therapist before you settle on using their services. Just picking a name off a list provided by your insurance is a sure-fire way to make sure you’ll never want to go back to therapy again.
Meet with a number of different therapists and see which ones you and your spouse connect with. Make sure that the decision is a good fit for both of you – don’t settle for a therapist that you like while your spouse is iffy or one that your spouse loves and you feel deeply uncomfortable with.
Tip #5 – The Marriage Contract
This is a unique item specific to a phenomenon that we noticed during our years of practice. Every so often a couple has come in that clearly still wanted the marriage to work and still clearly loved one another, but just had no idea how to get off the hamster wheel they have found themselves on and make it work. Often it was apparent that they actually could save their marriage and should not let it end.
These are the primary candidates for what McNamee Mediations has termed the ‘marriage contract’. The marriage contract is a last-ditch attempt to save a marriage that involves working with a divorce mediation expert to identify the root causes of your marital problems and then negotiating the terms of a written joint contract that addresses the agreed changes that need to be made by each party. This is a time-bound contract, which means that after an agreed span of time, you’ll reevaluate whether the contract is working great as is, it needs to be modified in some manner, or the marriage just still isn’t working and it’s time to complete the divorce filings.