It may seem a bit crazy for a divorce lawyer and mediator to write about ways to save a marriage. I got the idea from an owner of an auto body shop who would speak at business networking groups about how to avoid motor vehicle accidents.
A bad divorce is like a car crash. Much harm and expense can result from both, except if a car crash does not result in serious physical injury, it may be better than a divorce. Why? Because there is usually insurance to pay much of the expenses, whereas there is no insurance to defray the cost of a divorce. The auto body guy and I are both idealistic and very consumer-oriented. We both know the world would be a better place if there were fewer car accidents and more saved marriages. Those are worthwhile goals even if it means that we both make less money.
The best way for most people to save a troubled marriage is to go to what I call “a damn good marriage counselor.” Go to the best marriage counselor you can find, and do not worry about whether your health insurance will cover the cost. This is an important investment in your future well-being – don’t be cheap.
If I have a client who is open to saving the marriage, I will refer him/her to one of the excellent marriage counselors that I know. Good marriage counselors come with a variety of credentials: marriage and family therapist, clinical psychologist, or social worker. I have had a divorce and mediation practice for over 40 years in White Plains, NY, and I know the best marriage counselors in Westchester County.
Why do I like to refer clients to marriage counselors to save their marriage instead of being retained to handle the divorce? Let’s say it is a paradox or a mystery. Maybe it’s because of the idealism I experienced at Columbia College in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Maybe it’s because I am an Elder in the Presbyterian Church. Maybe it’s because I have been fortunate to have been married to the same woman for over 40 years.
A real estate broker colleague of mine who has been divorced, jokingly told me: “Arnold, what is wrong with you, you do not believe in your own product!”
Because I have seen the pain and stress that divorce causes, I have been willing to work on my marriage. And, it helps that I regard my wife as the best human being I have ever known.
Logistics may be important. The couple is more likely to hang in there and participate in the necessary number of counseling sessions if the counselor is relatively nearby. I like to give my client the names and the locations of at least two marriage counselors and then the couple can pick the one that works best for them.
Another way to save your marriage is to educate yourself as best you can about relationships. Any book by John Gottman, whose advice is based on years of research, is an excellent resource. Personally, I found the book “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus” by John Gray to be extremely helpful. There are many other books that are worth their weight in gold to help save marriages.
Another great idea to save a marriage: really listen! I learned this because collaborative divorce lawyers and professionals are trained in active listening. Active listening occurs when you listen carefully to your spouse when he/she is speaking, and then you repeat back by paraphrasing what was said, also reflecting the emotions expressed, and then ask: “do I have that right?” or words to that effect. Active listening is simple but can be hard to do when one is in the middle of an emotional whirlwind. I refer you to John Gottman’s books for advice on strategies for calming yourself so that you can utilize active listening in your marriage.
I will be sharing other ideas on how to save marriages in my future E-Newsletters and Blogs.
© Arnold D. Cribari 2019