Obviously as a divorce mediator, I’ve seen a lot of divorces. A mediator tries to help couples come to agreements about property division and custody and/or visitation of their children so that they may maintain a little more control over their lives than if a judge makes the decision for them. I believe my marriage stays stronger because I see what to avoid. I won’t lie, I also occasionally come home terrified that my own marital demise is just around the corner, mainly because so many couples come in and husband or wife had no idea there were any major problems, while the other spouse had been plotting divorce in their mind for months, sometimes even years. Below are the most common culprits causing marital ruin.
1) No communication. Here’s where the partner arrives to the divorce mediation clueless about why this divorce is taking place because their spouse never communicated with them that they were unhappy. This can go either way, but the main issue I see is women expecting their husbands to read their minds. Neither spouse can correct problematic behaviors if they have no idea there is a issue. Talk about it. Talk about the good, talk about the bad. Talk like you did when you were dating, not at each other, not critically. Just talk.
2) Putting the children before your spouse. When a parent comes to mediation acting as if they are their child’s only parent, I know where some of the problem lies. Don’t forget you and your spouse are on the same team, not you and little Johnny against Mom or against Dad. If you don’t agree with your spouse on how to parent, talk it out after Johnny goes to bed, but never in front of him. No matter how good little Johnny is, if he knows he can get his way by pitting you against one another, he will. The other parent ends up feeling disrespected and unloved, which leads to disastrous results, especially if it becomes routine behavior.
3) Immaturity Some people come into a divorce fighting over an Xbox. For real. Obviously, that’s not the real crux of the problem, but what is a problem is the ‘Me, Me, Me Generation’. Are you fighting over petty things? Don’t fight over who didn’t wash the dishes. Again, you are on the same team. If you are consistently putting the other person first, your arguments are saved for the things that matter and truly need to be discussed. When you argue, ask yourself if what you’re fighting for is worth possibly damaging your marriage.
4) Financial issues Get on the same page financially. When I meet a couple who has completely separate finances, a lot of the time they have never truly trusted each other. A budget can help squash arguments about where the money is going. Usually if you can conquer #3 and make mature decisions that will include financial issues.
5) Couple quits dating. Wife, remember when you’d get all dressed up and you’d show up at his work with those cookies you made him? Husband, you’d compliment her and tell her she was the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen? Yeah, that. Oh, wait, you were just dating then… Don’t quit dating. That’s how you won each other over and that’s how you keep each other wanting to come home to you.
6) The extended family interferes. When a thirty year old man shows up to his divorce mediation with his mother, sometimes that’s been the case the whole marriage. I’m all about family support but when a person marries, their spouse should be number one. Momma shouldn’t be making any decisions for the couple or worse yet, couples should never make comparisons between their spouse and their parent. No marriage ever became stronger by wifey saying, ‘Well, my Daddy always…(blah, blah, blah)…why can’t you?’
The Take Away – If you are old enough to get married, you’re old enough to act like a grown up. Ladies, men respond to feeling respected. Men, ladies respond to feeling loved. If Wife gets her feelings hurt and reacts negatively to Husband, Husband feels disrespected, so he retaliates and a cycle begins. (Or vice versa). Be mature enough to step up and break the cycle, be on the same team and put each other first. Most of all, go love your person, you chose them for a reason.