Tips to help you, and me, in the next one.
Divorce court is the ultimate in people-watching.
It’s rapid-fire, with each couple standing in front of the judge for 5 minutes at a time.
It starts when they let a mob of us into this giant, formal courtroom. You walk in. You find a seat. There’s a low hum of whispering.
All around you are former couples. Most of them are sitting with each other. The body language is fascinating.
With about half the couples, it’s clear they’re on good terms. The other half — not. They’re often leaning away from each other, looking down or straight ahead, devoid of emotion. Some even bring a friend to sit between them.
As you gaze around, you can’t help but wonder, “How’d they get here? Was it a slow burn? Did someone get caught with the babysitter?”
It takes a lot to get to that room: prolonged friction, diverging lifestyles, repeating fights, addiction.
You have to fill out lots of paperwork and stand in long lines. At each touchpoint, you have to continually reaffirm, “Yes — I want to get divorced.”
I hope not to repeat that process. But I will say — being married and then divorced changed me more than any other experience in my life — for the better.
Here are my best tips — from the other side of the wall.
Keep skeletons in a shared closet
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I was sitting outside of a restaurant with my sister as my parents went inside to try and get a table.
I can remember sitting on a concrete ledge, swinging my legs. Then — the doors flew open and a family stormed out.
It was a husband, wife, and two young daughters.
As they walked out, the husband turned around in anger and said something in a very loud, grated whisper to his wife. He was gritting his teeth. His fury was palpable. Then his wife shouted at him. They continued walking along the sidewalk as the parents argued.
It was a rather sad scene. How could a family dinner turn so sour?
I felt bad for the two girls who had to see their parents in such an act of terrible theatre. I don’t know what became of that relationship, but my prediction is pretty grim.
Letting your disputes play out in a public venue (including social media) is one of the quickest ways to tank your marriage. It carries a level of disrespect that isn’t befitting of two people who love each other.
It also dishonors the other person and the vows you took for them.
A quick tip: let’s say you’ve just lost your temper with your partner in front of a few friends or family. One of the quickest ways to do damage control is to apologize right then and there — publicly, letting everyone know you were in the wrong.
It helps resolve it and allows your partner to save face. Otherwise, you’ll pay in a pound of flesh later.
But even better, don’t argue in public. And when you do fight, fight fair. Apologies can’t wash over everything.
The path to divorce is paved no’s
Two people can get along fine and still manage to ruin their marriage. How? By living two completely separate lives. It happens all the time.
“You go ahead without me.”
“Nah, that’s not really my thing.”
“No thanks. But you have fun.”
Sitting back watching TV, playing games, hanging with the guys, instead of actually doing things together, is bearing witness to the slow destruction of the marriage — often without even knowing it. This was one of my own downfalls.
Doing small things together, cleaning, chores, walking the dog, can seem so janitorial but they are the infrastructure of a healthy partnership.
One of the biggest changes I’ve made, post-divorce, is to adopt a “yes mentality” with my relationship. I try to keep an open mind and just give things a shot. I also try to mind my attitude while doing things outside of my comfort zone.
If you groan and moan every step of the way, you don’t get full points.
The big idea here is that you want to convey to your partner, through actions, that you actually enjoy spending time with her. If you don’t, she’ll catch on — and it won’t make either of your lives any better in the short term.
Dating and marriage are the same but not-the-same.
One of the most common questions I got asked in the lead up to the wedding was, “Are you ready?”
Literally a hundred times.
I used to sit back and think, “We’ve already lived together for years, nothing will change.”
But it does.
There’s a feeling of officiality with being married, an extra umpf to how you see things. Some of it is the shared family structure, the shared name.
When you suddenly describe yourself as married, as having a wife or husband, the questions quickly shift to a very “life plan” centric model. This brings pressure to meet certain milestones and fall into step.
In a bitter twist of irony, marriage can be very, very unromantic. Everything suddenly gets more formal and strict. You begin holding each other a bit too accountable.
What’s gets lost in the mix is the drive to actually date. The playful spirit of the relationship is exorcised. The teasing and goofiness are gone.
I would encourage you to still have fun and find time to go on dinner dates, which isn’t the same as “going to dinner together”. Call it a date.
Also, a date is not a time to talk about your budget or your issues or “the past”. It’s a time to enjoy each other’s company and laugh and flirt and say inappropriate things, just like you did when the relationship was new.
If you aren’t dating and having fun, you are roommates.
Also, sleep in the same bed.
Keep your damn money separate.
You can split expenses and share the burden in whatever way you both see fit.
Do not share a bank account.
(Do not share a bank account.)²
I’ve seen this idealistic pipedream mutate into Category 5 shit storm 100 times over.
“Oh, I see you stopped at Wal-Mart? What did you get?”
“Look how much you are spending on <insert basically anything>?”
“Why did you stop at the gas station at 11 PM?”
Most money fights are about the priority of spending rather than salary discrepancies. Looking up with each other’s fiscal skirt will only exacerbate those fights. There are ways to manage your money, to block off discretionary spending, that doesn’t involve invading each other’s space.
My parents have a shared retirement account with all their investments. But they’ve been married for 40 years and still have separate bank accounts.
Recognize the different frequencies of love
I know a guy who isn’t the most affectionate type. He’s very masculine, a tough guy.
He doesn’t write poems or say “I love you” a hundred times a day or have a cute pet name for his wife like “muffin”.
But he would walk through fire for that woman.
He helps her out at every turn, doing the difficult chores, repairing things, grocery shopping, laundry. He’s reliable and listens.
He’s not the most emotionally exuberant fellow — but she knows he loves her in a big way.
We get so caught in how a couple is “supposed” to act when they love each other that we forget what love actually looks like. These romance movies are warping people’s minds.
Love has a lot of beautiful forms that aren’t hacked from a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Be receptive to the different frequencies that someone’s affection arrives in.
Guys aren’t always great at doing the corny things you like. But we can show up when it counts.
If you aren’t ready to get married — don’t.
Seeing a man down on his knee, holding a diamond, asking the question — I’m sure it’s quite intoxicating to a young woman.
Conversely, there are a lot of men who feel pressured to get married when they aren’t quite ready.
Remember — anybody can get married. It’s super easy.
Staying married is the rabid, hungry Kraken that you’ll have to tame. So if you have kinks or faultlines that you are worried about, don’t expect your big magical wedding to cast a healing spell over them.
As I write this, I know several married couples who are wasting their life with partners they shouldn’t have married. They went into it for the wrong reasons: before they were ready, before they’d lived together, before they knew the person.
Now — they are neck-deep in marital concrete.
I’d argue that picking a spouse is the most consequential decision you’ll ever make. Nothing affects people’s happiness, longevity, finances, family, or career more than that decision.
There are a stunning number of unhappy marriages in this world. You will join them if you aren’t careful. Choose wisely.
Source : Medium