Divorce is one word you never want to even think about, let alone mention, when you’re in a committed relationship. While the rate of divorce in the U.S. has been on a refreshing decline since the 1980s, it’s still pretty high—at around 39 percent. That’s good news for newly-married couples, but it’s still a reminder that marriage is a fragile union that, like any relationship, requires constant work (and helpful marriage survival tips!) in order to keep it stable and healthy.
According to Penelope Hefner, principal and family law attorney at Sodoma Law Union, one of the most popular topics that cause couples to divorce has to do with a lack of transparency in regards to finances. “In many of the successful marriages I see, although certainly not all, the couple has joint accounts, both parties have access to all accounts, and although one person may handle the payment of bills, both parties are aware of the family’s financial standing,” she says. “In addition, successful marriages usually involve both parties working together to get things done, i.e. getting kids to and from school, helping with homework, etc.”
But there are many more elements that mark a successful marriage. Here, divorce lawyers share the marriage survival tips they’ve gleaned from their clients.
Be aware of each other’s finances.
Even if you hate numbers, it’s vital that you’re aware of your joint income and debts. “Even if your spouse is the one in charge of banking, paying the bills or the stocks, bonds and investments you own, it is important that you both know where the money is and both have access to it,” says Amy LeBlanc, a family lawyer in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “Otherwise there can be an unequal power distribution, if one is only given an allowance from their spouse.”
According to LeBlanc, communication is a key difference between couples who stay together or get divorced. One of her top marriage survival tips is that couples regularly set aside time to talk without the interruption of kids, friends or family so that they can reconnect and be alone—even if just for a limited time. “How well you can communicate your feelings to your spouse is also important,” she notes. “Some people do not have very good open lines of communication with their spouse and they are the ones who are most likely to suffer cracks and breaks in the marriage and seek divorce.”
Have frequent sex.
A complaint Hefner hears over and over again among the divorcing couples she works with is that there is a lack of intimacy in the marriage. “I would never tell someone how often to be intimate with their partner, but make sure the two of you are on the same page about it and that you are meeting each other’s needs,” she says.
Give up your single ways of living.
As a married couple, your priority should now be your spouse, which means you will no longer have many of the freedoms you once had as a singleton. “In addition to being expected to come home each night, you should be mindful of what you post on social media,” says LeBlanc. “It could cause jealousy or uneasiness in the marriage if you are posting pictures or videos with a friend at bars and clubs and send the wrong impression to your spouse.”
Have children when you’re ready.
“If your marriage is already rocky, you need to think very hard about what it will be like to face those same relationship challenges with a baby added to the mix,” says Andrea Vacca, collaborative divorce lawyer at Vacca Family Law Group in New York City. “You may think having a child in common will put things in perspective and relationship issues will go away, but that’s not often the case.” Consider getting help from a couples therapist or use a marriage counseling app like Lasting to better align yourselves to be ready to take the next step in your relationship.
Know that you will both change throughout the years.
One of the most common reasons Vacca sees people get divorced is that they simply “grew apart.” We all grow through the years and decades we spend together, but it’s the couple who allows each other to grow and change that stay together. “They say women marrying men expecting that they’ll change, and men marry women expecting that they won’t,” says Vacca. “If you go into a marriage with either of those expectations, you’re guaranteed to be disappointed.”
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