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The Marriage We Should Have Made

Divorce is pretty common. The reasons for divorce vary. I get asked a lot about why couples get divorced. It’s interesting to think about it in numbers. It’s also interesting to look back now and advise young or newly married couples on perhaps what their marriage vows should be. I’m sure you can think of some other vows but here’s the list I have so far:

  1. Fight Fair-This means knowing when to walk away and give it a rest. It also means no yelling, name calling, belittling, eye rolling, or physical abuse. If you didn’t learn this from your parents then figure it out at the very beginning so you don’t repeat the same pattern your parents did.
  2. Raise the kids as a team-The high conflict custody cases always involve two parents with different parenting styles. They never committed to raising their kids as a team. They both have different philosophies and neither one respects the other parent’s point of view. You must compromise on this issue. Children sense when their parents disagree and they play off of their parent’s disagreements. If Dad says no then Mom will surely say yes. Tell each parent what they want to hear. You get the picture. All could have been avoided.
  3. I will respect your family-I have a fair number of cases that come in where one spouse after marriage forbids the other from spending time with extended family. Sometimes there are even disputes with the mother-n-law or father-n-law. You may not like your mother-n-law but she is your husband’s mother and you can’t change that. A simple I will respect your family no matter what would have saved this marriage.
  4. You are my new family-I also have a fair number of younger divorce cases where the husband’s or wife’s parents are making all of the decisions. Some couples are still taking money from their parents when they get married. Some speak with their parents and confide more in them than in their spouse. Decisions are not made by spouses together but by one spouse and his or her parent. I have clients that still maintain checking accounts with their parents. This is all a big no no if you want to stay married. This is a marriage of two; not three.
  5. I will get help when I need it-Yes, a large number of divorces are caused by addiction to drugs, alcohol, or sex. Others are caused by traumatic events that occurred before the couple even married but one spouse has yet to deal fully with those traumatic events. You have to commit to getting help when you need it and your spouse has to commit to going to counseling with you in order to fix these problems. If you were sexually, physically or emotionally abused as a child this will affect your marriage and you have to get help. Your spouse also has to commit to helping you get help.
  6. We’ll keep trying to talk it out—All high conflict divorce cases have one thing in common. The spouses do not communicate. No matter what keep trying to talk it out. If you can’t talk anymore then you are most definitely headed down divorce alley.
  7. No secrets about spending-This one is also a major bone of contention. You can’t hide your credit card, your spending, your debt, or your inheritance from your spouse. Get a joint checking account, figure out a budget together and stick to it.
  8. We’ll keep going on dates-I do have some long-term marriages that turned into partnerships of raising the kids but very little else. No romance or shared experiences to do together after the kids are grown also equals divorce.
  9. I promise to be a good parent to our children. I have a fair number of cases where it just didn’t occur to the Wife to inquire or think about her spouse’s desire to be a father and what that would look like once they had children. If he won’t make a good father, then don’t marry him if you want children.
  10. Sometimes I just won’t say it-There are some things that can be said or were said in a marriage that you should have just not said. You don’t need to tell your spouse every hateful thing you are thinking about them and every reason why you are mad at them. That person does have feelings and they don’t forget. Keep it to yourself because those words cannot ever be taken back.