Marriage counselors will tell you how to keep your marriage together. If you want to know what destroys a marriage, the experts you want to consult do not necessarily have psychology degrees. Rather, they went to law school.
Divorce lawyers see relationships at the bitter end. They see couples at their worst. So it makes sense to me that they must have a clear sense of what not to do if you want to keep your relationship happy. I asked family lawyer Lisa Helfend Meyer, who happens to also be a happily married parent of a special needs child, if she’d be willing to share what, in her opinion, are the top eight things that land couples in divorce court. This is what she told me.
Destroy Your Marriage Tip #1:
Be secretive. Pretend you’re both in the CIA.
“It’s so easy these days to avoid a real conversation with your partner,” says Meyer. After all, after a long day of work, diapers and traffic, sometimes the last thing you want is to actually talk with your mouth. Leaving cute emoticons as comments on Facebook or binge-watching Modern Family reruns seems so much more enjoyable, right?
“The other scenario I’ve started seeing: Couples who take snipes at each other via text and email rather than face to face. Either way, almost all my clients attribute the failure of their marriage in large part to a failure to communicate,” says Meyer. “I had a client whose husband lost his job, and he pretended to my client that he was still working until she got the bill from a local restaurant that showed he spent a majority of his days there. Now they are fighting over who should be responsible for those charges at the restaurant. Just remember this: The energy it takes to have an honest conversation is nominal compared to the energy and expense it takes to get a divorce.”
Destroy Your Marriage Tip #2:
Continue to debate the toothpaste cap and the toilet seat as if winning the argument means you get to live 10 years longer.
“This is a sure-fire way to guarantee your partner will tune out when you face real items of concern,” says Meyer. “If you recognize yourself criticizing every little thing your partner does, chances are you are harboring deep resentment about larger issues that you may find difficult to confront. Get in touch with your true feelings, start working on the major issues with your spouse, and learn how to let go of the minor irritations.”
Destroy Your Marriage Tip #3:
Always play the role of the Saint.
“A pattern I’ve observed often is one person becoming the responsible party in the marriage paying the bills and disciplining the kids — and discounting his or her spouse’s contributions,” Meyer says. “A marriage requires teamwork and for the partners to take on and to value their different roles.”
Destroy Your Marriage Tip #4:
Put work before family.
All work and no play doesn’t just make Jack a dull boy: It destroys the family, says Meyer. “I have clients who complain that their spouses refused to put down their phones or iPads — even when putting their children to bed. You wouldn’t be on your phone or iPad during an important business meeting with a client or your boss, right? All you need to do is show the same commitment to your family as you do to your job,” she says. “Don’t have dinner as a family and don’t invest any time or effort in family activities, then your only activities will revolve around child custody agreements and division of assets.”
Destroy Your Marriage Tip #5:
Put kids before marriage.
“As women, we’re programmed to be caregivers and that often translates into putting our kids’ needs before our own and those of our spouse,” Meyer says. “When your marriage hits a rough patch, you may fall into a cycle of giving your all to your children and deriving all of your emotional sustenance from them. This will drive a wedge between you and your partner.”
Destroy Your Marriage Tip #6:
Don’t let anyone else watch your kids. After all they might screw your precious spawn up for life.
If you never hire a babysitter, you’ll never have the opportunity to date each other. And if you don’t hire babysitters, go on vacations together, go to Victoria’s Secret, go golfing together or share other interests, you’ll grow apart. “You’ll lose yourselves and what made you want to marry in the first place,” says Meyer. “I really believe that the lack of special, shared time is what starts couples down the slippery slope of taking each other for granted and lapsing into the boredom that ruins so many marriages. Establishing a date night is an excellent start to rediscovering the things about each other that brought you together. But you have to make it a once-a-week, mandatory, non-negotiable evening that revolves around just the two of you. The money you spend for a babysitter or an intimate dinner is one of the best investments you will ever make.”
Destroy Your Marriage Tip #7:
Reserve your bed for sleeping. After all, that’s what the mattress was designed for, right?
“I think we can all agree that having a fun and satisfying intimate life strengthens a marriage,” says Meyer. “But it’s easy for intimacy to take a backseat when you’re working hard, taking care of the kids, and coping with all the other stresses of modern life. Rather than accept routine and boring bedroom life as inevitable the longer you’re married, my advice is to spice things up by introducing toys and games to the bedroom, dressing up and role playing, or coming up with a new location for your romantic rendezvous. Trying new techniques may make you feel a little nervous and self-conscious at first — similar to the way you felt when you first became intimate with your partner. It’s exactly that newness and excitement that you’re looking to recapture.”
Destroy Your Marriage Tip #8:
Nurse buyer’s remorse for as long as you can.
Remember, the grass is not always greener, even if you think it is. It’s greener where you water it. “Try a little gardening before you leave your spouse,” says Meyer. “There are things you can do to work on your marriage and resolve your differences, like seeing a marriage counselor or parenting coach. Maybe even a weekend away can breathe life into your marriage. But, you have to be committed to the process. Anything less than a good faith effort will only reaffirm the decision to get a divorce.”
Read more of Alisa’s writing at ProjectHappilyEverAfter.com.