How to divorce-proof your marriage: Top lawyer says having your own money, spicing up your sex life and accepting people do change can stop acrimonious – and expensive – splits
- Catherine Thomas revealed common marital mistakes that can lead to divorce
- London-based lawyer urges being able to relate to your partner’s stresses
- She says communication is vital for reigniting a stale sex life
- Catherine also revealed why it’s important to be open to your partner changing
Mundane arguments about everyday issues, letting your sex life slip and not having control of your own money are some of the red flags that can suggest a marriage is heading for divorce, according to a top lawyer.
Catherine Thomas, a partner at JMW Solicitors’ in London office, is one of the UK’s most successful divorce lawyers and has dealt with hundreds of warring couples.
As a result, she’s come to know the key flash-points that mark the difference between a happily-ever-after and an acrimonious end to wedded bliss.
While infidelity might seem like the biggest deal-breaker, often it’s less obvious markers that show cracks are forming in a relationship.
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Break-up: Catherine Thomas, a partner at JMW Solicitors’ London office, reveals the common relationship mistakes that can build-up to break down a marriage (file image)
Here, Catherine lists the key relationship mistakes she sees all too often:
DON’T LET YOUR PARTNER CONTROL THE MONEY
I frequently meet women who have had no sight of the family’s finances, simply leaving it to their husband to deal with. It’s a common occurrence, but often does neither party any favours. For women, it can breed huge distrust, while, for men, it can be distressing to be accused of hiding something.
Even if one person earns most or all the money, open discussions about finances can be hugely important to maintaining trust.
As with division of labour, handling finances should be a team effort.
DON’T COMPROMISE TOO MUCH
We’ve all heard the advice that compromise is the key to a happy relationship, but do it too often and for too long and you risk losing your sense of self. Too many times clients have told me that they realised one day, often after a major life event, that they are living a life that doesn’t make them happy, and it’s too late to fix it.
Over the course of years, their partner has become the dominant force and they kept quiet for an easy life, not realising it would lead to an unhappy one. In your relationship, don’t lose who you are and what is important to you, and keep reassessing that.
BE WARY OF TAKING ON SET ROLES
For many couples, it makes sense financially and practically for one to be the main breadwinner and the other to bear most of the domestic responsibilities. Countless families have been set up like this for generations. It can, however, spell disaster if that division becomes so rigid that the breadwinner does nothing domestically and vice versa.
Catherine (pictured) believes dividing responsibilities such as domestic chores can spell disaster if the boundaries are too rigid
It can become difficult to relate to the stresses of the others’ daily responsibilities when you aren’t exposed to them. The person at work doesn’t understand why the children have been allowed to cause such chaos in the house, whereas the one chasing the children around all day thinks it sounds pretty easy to sit in meetings drinking entire cups of (still hot!) coffee. Divisions of labour, if not kept in check, can cause divisions in your relationship.
You have to be able to relate to the stresses and challenges in your partner’s day.
KEEP YOUR SEX LIFE ALIVE
Life can sometimes feel like a procession of chores = a long day at work followed by laundry, housework and life admin. When all is done and its finally time to relax, whether to lounge on the sofa, reading a good book, or simply sink into those crisp sheets, you’re not alone if the only thing on your mind is closing your eyes.
The truth is, no matter what rom-coms portray, an immediate transition from laundry and chores to sex goddess is just too much of a jump to make. A lacking or absent sex life is one of the primary complaints I hear from both men and women during the divorce process.
It’s important that men understand that most women don’t have an ‘on’ switch and wives often complain to me that they need affection and cuddles to transition from mother to lover, but their other half takes offence when they are not immediately in the mood.
The divorce lawyer advises couples to speak to each other to take pressure off their sex life and avoid building up resentment (file image)
This can build up resentment between them, which makes sex less likely and the situation spirals out of control.
Tell your other half what you need to get you in the right frame of mind. It takes the pressure off both of you.
DON’T MORPH INTO BUSINESS PARTNERS
If you’ve been in a long-term relationship or are married, you’ll appreciate the danger of allowing things to become transactional – from collecting children from their various social commitments and dividing household chores through to managing finances, over time many couples find that, at some point, usually without them realising, where the was once a spark is now just logistics.
Their relationship as lovers has morphed into business partners with a joint endeavor and a giant to do list. Many couples function like this for years, not really quarrelling, but not being particularly close either.
Countless times clients have told me this happened to their relationship but they didn’t realise until their children grew up and moved out. With the distraction of children gone there was no longer any hiding the lack of much else in their relationship and they divorce.
Catherine urges discussing the future before getting married, including how children will be raised and where is best to live (file image)
Give yourself the luxury of being a bit self-involved; think about what really makes you happy and talk to your partner about what you can do together to get more of that in your life. Ask them to do the same and spend some time focusing on each other. The to-do list might not get done, but you’ll be working on something more substantial.
NEVER ASSUME YOUR MARRIAGE WON’T FAIL
If there was ever anything in need of some good PR, it’s pre-nups – while they’re usually associated with flighty celebrities, considered unromantic, and perhaps representative of a lack of faith in the ability of a marriage to go the distance, in reality a pre-nuptial agreement could save so much heartache.
When discussing issues that have led to marriage breakdowns, I’m frequently astonished by the lack of communication – the number of couples that get married without having important conversations about their future is really surprising.
Simple things like the right time to start the family you both say you want, whether those children will be privately educated, or whether you’ll remain living in the city, are often not discussed in advance.
Catherine recommends having an open discussion about finances to maintain trust in relationships (file image)
These pre-marital conversations are essential as the wrong assumption can lead to an unhappy future. The process of drawing up a pre-nuptial agreement forces those conversations to take place, weeding out any issues around your vision for how your lives will unfold, and any divergence in your respective hopes, dreams and goals. Never assume that you want the same things long-term.
APPRECIATE PEOPLE CHANGE
How many times have we heard our girlfriends bemoaning the state of their relationships, uttering the words, “he’s changed”? I’m willing to bet more than once. Unfortunately, it’s something I hear frequently from husbands, too; most often expressing astonishment at the change in their wives since starting a family.
The most successful relationships are those in which both parties appreciate the possibility of change in themselves and each other – we do change as we grow older, wiser and understand ourselves and our own needs better.
The person we were in our mid twenties will almost certainly be gone by the time we reach our mid thirties. It’s difficult, but try to appreciate how much you – and your partner – may change in the future and don’t resent those changes, but try to embrace them.
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