There’s no rule book that guarantees a lasting marriage; if there was, divorce would be the equivalent of a unicorn… non-existent. Fortunately, there’s a ton of advice out there from couples who have been married for over 50 years, your therapist and of course your mother… but this piece of advice takes it from a different perspective: a divorce lawyer… someone who has seen it all and has had the opportunity to learn from it:
Accept that your spouse or partner will not change.
Many of my clients were aware of the issue that caused the dissolution of their marriage — their spouse’s behavior “flaw” or their relationship disconnect — prior to getting married. About 95 percent of the time, they believed that their partner would change.
Your spouse will not change. In fact, those little imperfections will only wear on you more acutely over time. Realize early what they are and determine if you can live with them forever before you tie the knot.
Choose someone who shares your financial views.
Money issues is the most common cause of divorce. People have diverse philosophies about how to handle their finances and get married without addressing how to harmonize their different value systems. They start out in love, and small disconnects go unnoticed. Later, when they are comfortable, they overlook larger disconnects; later still, they discount them.
At some point, their differences become too great to ignore; they can’t make excuses anymore. Because the couple has never learned to address them, the financial issues have caused rifts in their abilities to communicate, to problem solve, and to grow together.
Go to some sort of relationship/marriage counselor early and often.
Seeing a counselor should not be viewed as an admission of failure; it’s more like signing up for guitar lessons or learning tae kwon do. If you can’t think of a good reason to go, I can: go to work on your communication, problem-solving, or co-parenting skills.
Share a hobby.
You don’t have to share all of the same hobbies, but it is important to share most of them considering that our hobbies consume much of what little free time we enjoy. Run races. Play golf. Watch movies. Play music together. My husband insists on running the weekend errands with me instead of splitting up to get them done in twice the time. (I brag about this all the time, even though he first made this declaration 22 years ago!)
Whatever interests you share, engage in those things together. And if you don’t share them, then one of you must change your interest. My husband took up golf; I had no interest. But he was spending six hours every week out on a golf course somewhere so I took it up too.
Never stop having sex.
Even if you and your spouse are best friends, you’re also more than that. You are partners whose relationship initially grew, in part, due to your chemistry and sexual intimacy. Sex is a basic biological need. As a married couple, you depend on each other to meet this need. Even if you’re tired, not in the mood, or not even attracted to your spouse in that moment, make sex a regular part of your relationship.
Vow to make love at least once a week. If you get to the end of a week without having done so, do whatever it takes to be intimate before the clock strikes midnight on the seventh day. I think this also adds an element of fun to the relationship.
Remind yourself that the grass isn’t greener.
While it may be tempting to explore a new, exciting, attractive, and interesting person, remember that that person comes with his or her own set of flaws. The turmoil that an affair brings is not worth the excitement. People don’t end up any happier once the dust settles. Be happy with the one you have and actively work together to remember why you chose each other.