As a domestic attorney, I hear many different stories as to why individuals make their way to my office and, eventually, end up pursuing a divorce. From family to family, the details differ, but I have reached the conclusion that most divorcing people have experienced a disconnect with their spouse in at least one of four main areas (in no particular order): how to manage money, how to raise their children, how to interact with their respective extended families, and their intimate relationship. At this time of year, when many are thinking about how to improve during the new year, this seems to be an important observation. If more couples acknowledged that these four areas were potential areas of discord and made a conscious effort to be proactive with regard to them, I am almost certain that I would be out of a job.
I have to admit that, even after years of being a domestic attorney, it still surprises me when a potential client who has been married for a number of years tells me that he or she has a fundamentally different philosophy with regard to one of these issues than his or her spouse and that this is why they need to be divorced. For instance, a few days ago, during an initial consult, a female potential client told me that she could not stay married to her husband because he did not want any children and she very much did. During the consult, I wondered to myself: “Why didn’t you and your then-fiancé talk about this before you married?” It seems to me that, if she was determined to have children and her soon-to-be husband clearly did not want them, this difference of opinion would be a deal breaker. But, many either do not think, or chose not, to have these conversations in advance of getting married. And sometimes people do have these conversations before the wedding, realizing that there may be divergent opinions, but, for various reasons, still proceed with the wedding.
In the end, I think the message is clear: a successful couple will have these conversations before they marry and will make sure they are on the same page; then, they will continue to revisit these issues periodically throughout their marriage to stay that way. However, this is not to say that it is too late for those who are already married. If my years as a divorce attorney have taught me anything it is that open communication is the key to any relationship. I truly believe that many issues can be overcome if they are identified as issues early on, and if a couple then makes an honest commitment to work through them.