Marriage can be a beautiful thing. You probably look back on the day you said “I do” as the best day of your life – and for good reason, because a lifelong commitment can bring stability when times are tough, a partner to lean on when you feel nothing is on your side, and a constant friend you can always count on.
However, maintaining wedded bliss isn’t all that simple. Anyone who believes you can reap all the benefits of marriage without putting in a little hard work is looking through rose-colored glasses. And nobody knows that better than the divorce attorneys who watch marriage after marriage fall apart.
But with experience comes knowledge, and after seeing countless marriages dissolve, these divorce attorneys are speaking out to reveal what it really takes to keep a couple together. Read their advice and try it out in your own marriage.
Attorney Lea Noelke of the Austin, Texas firm Noelke Maples St. Leger Bryant LLP explains in a company blog post that the old adage of “couples that play together, stay together” isn’t just a cute saying. According to Noelke, spending quality time together is crucial for a healthy marriage.
There are two important reasons for this. First, the act of taking interest in your spouse’s hobbies and activities shows care and commitment. Second, the shared enjoyment that comes from one-on-one recreation is a powerful tool for building meaningful bonds in your marriage.
“We see a lot of divorcing couples who vacation separately, go to parties alone, and essentially lead separate lives.” Noelke writes. “They’ve quit doing things together that they both enjoy, as they focus on things other than their relationship.”
Don’t Try to Change Your Spouse
How many times have you watched this familiar story play out? Girl meets boy and the two hit it off, but there’s just one little problem… he has a few habits she isn’t thrilled with. Unphased, the relationship continues for months until she realizes that the man she met at the beginning hasn’t changed one bit.
There’s an important lesson to be learned here that many people fail to understand. You can’t start a relationship with the intention of shaping the other person into the mate you truly desire. You either love them – warts and all – or you need to move on to the next potential mate.
Alyssa Eisner of the New York City firm Sager Gellerman Eisner explained this perfectly in an article with Forbes.
“Be true to yourself. If deep-down you really want kids, don’t tell yourself it will be enough to be a stepmom. You will ultimately resent your spouse, and it will come out in passive-aggressive ways,” Eisner says. “If you really want someone who won’t come home until 10 p.m. because he’s out hustling and making a lot of money — don’t marry a blue-collar guy, because you won’t be happy. Don’t think you can change the other person. You can’t.”
Discuss Money Regularly
Of all the things couples could argue about, Sean Kelly of Kelly Byrnes & Danker said in an article with Washingtonian that money is undoubtedly one of the most common. How a person manages their finances speaks volumes about their personality, and if financial values go undiscussed, they can be fertile ground for sizable marital disputes to grow.
Your best solution is to be as transparent about money as possible right when your marriage begins. If you can’t do that, then simply start now.
“Part of a good marriage should be open finances from the get-go,” Kelly says.
It’s natural for couples to fight. In fact, some say it’s more concerning if couples don’t fight than if they do. However, Nanda Davis of The Davis Law Practice says it’s the way couples handle their disputes that dictates how healthy their relationship will be.
There are many ways to react when your spouse has hurt you, made a mistake, or initiated an argument. But the worst possible thing you can do is seek retaliation.
“Practicing the “eye for an eye” method of settling disputes is counterproductive for any relationship,” Davis says. “When one partner makes a mistake, the other person should never react by adding insult to injury. Not only is this a juvenile behavior, but it exacerbates the situation and puts both people at fault. In a marriage, each spouse deserves the freedom to openly address when he/she feels wronged without the fear of being lashed out at in anger.”
Nurture Physical Intimacy
Younger and newer couples may take it for granted, but maintaining a healthy physical relationship is the cornerstone of any healthy marriage. But like other common sources of marital strife, sex is incredibly difficult to communicate about openly and honestly.
Nevertheless, Keith Maples says couples need to push through the awkward, uncomfortable feelings they may have when talking about sex for the greater good of their marriage.
“Sex in a marriage is like a canary in a coal mine,” Maples writes. “If the canary doesn’t come out alive, there are no survivors. In other words, if you and your spouse are not having sex, your marriage will not survive. Physical intimacy goes hand in hand with emotional intimacy, the lack of one almost always signifies the lack of the other…Unfortunately, the damage caused by the break in physical intimacy, and the resulting break in emotional intimacy, is often irrevocable.”
Have you found any of these words of advice to be true in your own marriage? If not, do you have any advice of your own?