There’s nothing like seeing couples at their very lowest point to teach you a little something about the value of a healthy relationship—and how not to screw it up. Just as a plumber has awesome advice on how to prevent sabotaging your toilet and shower drain, a divorce lawyer (who sees failed relationships every day) knows the kind of crap that ruins relationships.
To find out what sage relationship advice divorce lawyers have taken away from making a career of helping clients make a break from their partners, we talked to eight lady divorce lawyers.
Here’s what they’ve learned about building a strong, lasting relationship.
There's a Right Way And A Wrong Way To Argue
“Relationships are not only about communication but about negotiation. I’ve learned how to negotiate better in my own relationships, choose my battles wisely, give a little to get a little, and value reciprocity. It has made me a better listener and communicator. I’ve learned how important it is to have difficult, conversations in the living room now to avoid having them in the courtroom later.” —Lauren Lake, presiding judge on Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court and author of Girl! Let Me Tell You
A Happy Marriage Takes Work
“I deal with divorcing couples every day, mostly mediating their disputes for them as a family lawyer-mediator. Here’s what I know for sure: Divorce is hard! Like ‘My world is crumbling’ hard. It forces people to realize that (most times) they’re choosing it or their actions have played a part in causing it. I come home every day and try to be thankful for the happiness I do have in my marriage and to continue to work at my marriage so it stays happy.” —Julia M. Purchase, attorney and mediator practicing in Colorado
Honesty Is The Best Policy—Legally And In Love
“My job has taught me the importance of being honest about everything. Be honest about your past and the weight of the baggage you bring to the relationship. Things like debt, child support, unresolved legal issues, paternity issues, medical conditions, parental responsibility all need to be dealt with in the open. Be honest about money and have a concrete system for how finances will be handled in the relationship, preferably before you get married. Be honest about other relationships by setting mutual boundaries concerning same-sex friendships, social media, and relationships with exes.” —Judge Lake
Don't Let Little Problems Fester
“Dealing with divorce and custody cases all day has definitely shown me that positive communication is the key to having a healthy relationship. I come home and make sure to talk to my husband about my day and ask about his day, and I always make sure to tell him if there is something on my mind regarding our relationship. Letting problems sit in the back of your brain will only make that problem seem bigger and all-consuming, leading to poor communication and ultimately fights, disagreements, and negative communication. I have definitely learned to speak my mind and let my husband know immediately when I am upset about something.” —Jana L. Ponczak, Esq., practicing in Baltimore, MD
We asked men and women what they think of farting in relationships. Learn what they had to say:
Let The Little Stuff Go
“I have been married for over 10 years. I certainly think that I have come to appreciate my own husband more as a partner, a friend, and a father to our three-month-old daughter after having learned of some of the horrendous experiences that many of our clients have dealt with in their marriages. I believe it has made me a more tolerant wife in that I am more willing to look beyond the faults of my husband (which of course, we all have), be more forgiving and accepting, and focus on the big picture of marriage and the life we’ve built together.” —Laura Marks O’Brien, Esq., attorney practicing in Fairfax, VA
The Grass Really Isn't Greener
“I’ve seen so many give up on marriage because things feel flat. Many of my clients think there is something better on the other side of marriage. And I often see the disillusionment that results when they realize the grass just isn’t as green on the other side as it looked like it was from a distance. Seeing this pattern has helped me focus on the value of pushing through the mundane moments in marriage and being intentional about focusing on all that is positive about my spouse and my marriage.” —Shel Harrington, family practitioner and adjunct professor
You Want To Be Happy Or Right?
“When I’m irritated or starting to get upset about what my husband did or did not do (again!?), I ask myself if I’d rather be right or if I’d rather be happy. As I’m picking up that sock of his for the hundred millionth time, I remind myself that if I wasn’t picking up that sock it would mean that he was gone. I’d much prefer he stay here in this crazy household we share, socks and all. ” —Anita Savage, Esq., attorney practicing at GB Family Law