Saving Your Marriage

Divorce: the only topic that can dampen the mood at just about any party.

It’s not fun to talk about, and it’s certainly not fun to go through. But that’s why I’ve taken it upon myself to find an expert on the subject. A divorce mediator in Orange County, whom we will call Jill Harding for the confidentiality of her clients, met with me for coffee this last Thursday. My main question? How to avoid needing her services at all.

“It’s a good question, and not often one I get to answer,” Jill admitted. “Usually people come to me with a decision in their minds, a decision they are not open to changing. It’s understandable, but I wish I had more people asking if there is anything they could do to improve their relationship before they look for a divorce lawyer. Just because I’ve seen so many patterns, it’s information you want to to share with the world.”

I asked what kind of patterns, as this was the crux of my main question.

“Well, I like to be solutions-focused rather than focusing on the problem. It’s worked for me in conflict mediation and especially conflict prevention. I certainly don’t want people to avoid their problems for the sake of peace in the household, but so many issues simmer when they could have been nipped in the bud.

I asked what kind of issues, but then I remembered her philosophy. I rephrased my question, asking which four habits couples should practice in order to keep the love alive.

“Do something every day that will serve the other person,” she answered. “Not a kiss on the cheek, not an extra-long hug…although there is nothing wrong with those things. Doing an act for someone else that poses absolutely no benefit to yourself, and doing that act daily, is essential. It not only makes the other person feel loved selflessly, but it will foster the feelings that many marriages struggle to maintain.”

“I would also suggest going to couples’ therapy regularly, even if you don’t have any ‘problems’ at the moment. I’ve never seen a more applicable situation for couple’s therapy than family law. People often times think divorce when family law is brought up, but it is also very helpful in avoiding problems in the first place. Although this isn’t the reason behind my suggestion, I know that Kristen Bell and Dax Sheppard go to couple’s therapy regularly. Their reason behind this habit is this: “You don’t take your car to the shop when the engine is dead.” And I love that comparison. The sooner you learn how to communicate with someone you love, the better.

“Avoid ‘always’ and ‘never’ statements, since they are usually untrue. They are exaggerations in order to make a point but not helpful in the context of a relationship. Instead of saying, “you never wash the dishes’, using ‘I feel’ statements will be a lot more productive. For example, you could say “I feel under appreciated when I do the dishes and you don’t offer to do them’.”

“As for the fourth thing, check in. Just check in with your partner. Ask how are you and mean it. Ask how your relationship is. And don’t only do this when you are upset with your partner — doing it in the high times of your relationship will give “check-in”s a positive connotation.”

And there you have it — four simple ways to ensure connection and communication in a marital relationship. How many of these strategies have you tried?

If you are in the Orange County are and are looking for a good mediator, be sure to check out:

McNamee Mediations

4590 MacArthur Blvd Suite 500, Newport Beach, CA 92660

(949) 223-3836