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Sometimes the marriage deal-breaker is clear: Someone had an affair, or gambled away an entire life's savings. But other times, a separation creeps up over years — a tally of fights and disaffection that add up to divorce.
"Divorcing couples are usually in an exponentially increasing ball of isolation, misperceptions, and mistakes, all feeding off of and into the others," says Casey Greenfield, a matrimonial and family lawyer in New York. "Why? It's hard to find a single most-common reason people get divorced. Bad feelings, like loneliness, can lead to lapses in judgment, like running up debts. And that works the other way around — a mistake or a bad act can result in emotional chaos."
But you can prevent yourself from heading for divorce and maintain a happy marriage with tips from the people who know more about divorce than anyone — divorce attorneys!
Gather a support group.
"Surround yourself with people who support your marriage," says Elizabeth Green Lindsey, attorney at Davis, Matthews and Quigley P.C. "A bad work, extended family or social environment can sabotage relationships."
Put in the time.
"A lasting marriage is one in which both people make time for themselves as individuals and time for the marriage relationship itself," says Greenfield. "You might not want to roll your eyes at the idea of scheduling sex, for example. The marriage needs tending — so do you, and so does your spouse."
Focus on the positive.
"Think of five positive things about your spouse every time you think of one negative thing," suggests Lindsey. "If you focus on the negative, you will only see the negative. Some people have unrealistic expectations for their spouses — expectations that they do not have for their friends. Be at least as forgiving of your spouse as you are with your friends."
Talk it out before you tie the knot.
"I believe in talking about all the important issues — roles and responsibilities, how many children you want and can have, how you deal with money, how important are date nights and intimacy — before you get married is important," says Vikki Ziegler, celebrity divorce attorney, author of The Premarital Planner, and host of Untying the Knot. "Be emotionally and financially honest with each other, and get all the skeletons out of the closet."
Don't keep score.
"In a healthy marriage, both parties will give what they have to give," says Lindsey. "If you keep score, you will only see what you are doing and resentment will build — and remember, the other person may think they are doing all the giving. When you feel like you are doing it all, think of how the other person may perceive the situation. Resentment is the poison that ruins a relationship beyond repair."
Get intimate, often.
"I think intimacy is a huge part of a healthy marriage, and I don't just mean sex," says Zeigler. "I mean touching, kissing, holding hands, lying in bed together looking in each other's eyes and not using your cell phone to communicate. It's more than setting aside a date night — it's making sure that you dedicate time together, that you put away technology, you go on vacations, you put love note in each other's bags, and you continue to make the other person feel good physically and emotionally."
Don't bring up the "D" word.
"Never talk about divorce in anger," says Lindsey. "Once the word has been spoken, you may set something in motion that you can't stop. This advice goes for other statements, such as, 'no one else will ever love you,' or 'no one else would want you."' The receiver might take those words as a challenge and will seek to prove you wrong."