Like every other woman walking down the aisle, I was convinced my marriage would last forever. I couldn’t conceive of a situation or series of events that would lead us to divorce court, much less into years of guerrilla warfare that in fact followed.
But I’m a fortunate woman. I have two healthy sons from my marriage, a good man with whom I’m in love, and I’ve had many years (and experiences) that have taught me what makes relationships work, why couples break apart, and tools that could divorce-proof our unions – at least to some extent – if utilized both before and during marriage.
Care to hear my 10 ways to divorce-proof your marriage or remarriage?
1. The “C” Word: Character
Are you dating by checklist? More focused on externals than the person inside?
Often, we’re so intent on finding a hunk, a provider, a father for our children or even a playmate (in every sense of the word), that we overlook issues that are fundamental. Once you’re past the honeymoon stage, trust me – you want a man of character.
- Is the person you’re seeing honorable?
- Does he or she exhibit integrity with friends and family?
- What about keeping his word, even when the going gets tough?
- If he has children, what kind of father is he?
Find a partner you can count on and trust. A partner of character.
2. Shared Values
Just because you belong to the same religious affiliation, that doesn’t mean you share values.
Just because you agree on how to raise children (before you have them), that doesn’t mean that differing views on education, discipline, or money won’t drive a wedge between you once you’re parents. Just because his parents have never divorced, don’t assume he’ll fight through the rough patches with you and therefore, fight for the marriage.
- Make sure you really know who you’re with!
- Watch closely. Take time. Observe your potential partner or existing mate – how he treats others, personally and professionally.
- Do you laugh together and share a sense of humor? Does he try to restrict what you say or think?
- Pay attention to inconsistencies between what he says and what he does.
Talk about your values, and include your political opinions in the discussion as well. Politics can be extremely revealing of underlying belief systems that may bring you closer or split you apart.
3. Communication is Key: Talking, Listening
How well do you communicate with your partner? Does he really listen when you’re talking about something close to your heart? For that matter, is he listening when you ask him to pick up his dirty socks?
What about you? Can you listen?
- Are you able to open up honestly in discussing expectations and attitudes?
- Can you express both positive and negative feelings in ways that are clear?
- Can you negotiate a compromise, which we know is vital during the marriage?
If you aren’t especially good at expressing yourself, you can improve. The same goes for listening – and without interrupting. But if it’s hard for you, then tell him that, too. You may also consider writing down your thoughts and sharing that way – not as a replacement for talking and listening, but it can pave the way and enhance the process.
4. Touch – the Sexy Kind
Sex? You bet! Let’s not pretend that attraction isn’t incredibly important. And that doesn’t mean melting when you hear your partner’s voice or a rise in temperature at the thought of his hand on your thigh. It’s about more than passion and positions!
Not only is sex glue to some individuals more than others, but sharing a similar libido is vital. In other words, if he wants it once a week and you want it every day, you might need to negotiate but at least you’re in the same sexual town!
- If you’re eager for an encounter every day and he’s content with once a month, trust me – you’re in for trouble.
- Likewise, if he’s ready to rock ‘n roll every morning and night, and once a month has you covered, you’re bound for problems as time goes on.
5. Sexual Attitudes
Attitudes toward sexuality matter, too. They change over time as some of us grow more conservative with age, and others, more curious and playful. Do keep in mind that if you’re under stress, ill, or up all night with kids, you may not be in the mood for full-on “action.”
- Can you be sexually generous and creative in those circumstances? What about him?
- Can you share your fantasies? Can you talk about sex?
Sex talk is good talk. If you can talk about sex, that’s a good sign.
6. Touch – the Affectionate Kind
Women often complain that they want more cuddle time, or simply to have their partner hold their hand. But if they approach their boyfriends or husbands, any touch at all becomes a red flag to a bull, and they’d better get ready for the sexual charge!
I get it… I’ve known men like that. But don’t make assumptions and don’t “not touch.”
Men enjoy hugs, kisses, cuddles, caresses… with or without a main event. It’s another item to talk about – openly.
While some of us might consider this in the “communication” category, I believe it warrants serious attention on its own. I’m talking about conflict, which is unavoidable, though many of us (and I’m one of those) struggle with confronting issues that could hurt the one we love, or potentially impact how we’re perceived in the relationship. So we don’t fight at all – and then we blow up!
Or, we may have a tendency to get carried away with every little thing, to nag or harp, or hurl remarks in an accusatory fashion.
I could have listed this under values, but that would be too simplistic! For some of us, family is everything – and we bring our family problems as well as support into any relationship – especially marriage.
Don’t forget that when you marry an individual unless they’re permanently estranged from family, you’re part of something bigger – and so is he.
While the stereotypical interfering in-law may not be an issue, obligations and priorities involving blood ties may well be. So know what you’re getting into. Pay attention to the dynamics – especially if you plan to bring children into the picture – in any configuration.
Money is a major issue between partners as time goes on – how you spend it, how you view it, the extent to which you teach your children about it.
- What about private school for the gifted child?
- What about elder care for his father, though it’s putting your joint savings at risk?
While this also falls into the “values” category to a large extent, it’s such a constant source of stress in couples that it’s worth discussing often and openly – as time goes on and priorities evolve.
9. Time and Luck and Yes, Love…
Think luck doesn’t count?
Listen. Much as we’d like to think so, there’s no way to create a fail-safe, sure-fire, divorce-proofing protection plan.
People get sick, lose jobs, accidents happen. Children may have special needs that we simply cannot see eye-to-eye on.
Some couples weather terrible storms and come out much closer. Others – good people – simply do not, which is all the more reason for taking your time to really get to know someone before you marry. And I might add, managing expectations when you do.
We are none of us perfect, and most of us, willing to do better.
As for love, yes, of course, it counts. I love love! But we all define it in various ways, and love alone isn’t enough.