August 5, 2015
Thinking About Divorce?
Somehow, that struck me as wrong.
Sure, if you must get divorced, a good attorney can help you come to a fair financial settlement, work out custody arrangements, and process the paperwork.
But if you are just thinking about divorce, it is probably better to look for the right advice in other places. Although most relationship problems can be solved, couples in distress often perceive the situation as hopeless. Perhaps a thoughtful family law attorney might try to talk you out of an unnecessary divorce; sometimes this happens. But the lawyer's real job is to help you do what you say you want to do, and if you say you want a divorce, chances are that you will get one.
If your marriage has become difficult, contentious, distant, frustrating, or just plain boring, and you have begun to think that divorce may be the only way to get relief, think again. Rather than turning to someone whose job is to help you discard your marriage, try someone whose mission is to repair it.
Self-help books. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the thousands of available books offering relationship advice. It can also be difficult to know which books are truly useful, which are mediocre, and which are potentially damaging. As a general rule, if a book seems crazy and destructive, it probably is.
Look for books by reputable professionals whose ideas are founded on serious research. John Gottman, Sue Johnson, and Susan Heitler are some of the most trusted marriage experts writing today. Remember that even the best advice will not work unless you actually follow it.
Online inspiration and advice. There are hundreds of blogs about love, marriage and family. Most of the bloggers are well-meaning people who feel they have something to share. It is important to understand who the blogger is and what the real purpose of the blog is. Many bloggers are selling books or counseling services. There is nothing wrong with that! However, I would avoid blogs that appear to be nothing but one big sales pitch, especially those that promise instant results or who disparage others while aggressively touting themselves as the only true solution to marriage problems. Watch out for newlyweds whose honeymoon-stage happiness makes them think they are now relationship experts.
One of my favorite blogs is Patty Newbold's Assume Love. Patty describes how to "have a happier marriage without waiting for your spouse to change." Some other blogs worth looking at are The Gottman Blog, Speaking of Marriage, Becoming a Better Man, and #staymarried. A more extensive blog list is available here.
Couples counseling. A well-trained, neutral third party can bring a fresh perspective to your relationship. A good therapist will help you make sense of your problems and find ways to deal with them as you rebuild a loving, satisfying relationship. Unfortunately, not all marriage therapies (or therapists) are created equal. A referral from friends whose marriage was helped by counseling might be ideal, but since most people are shy about revealing that they have used (or need) marriage counseling, you will probably need to do your own search.
An article on Lifehacker provides some general information on choosing a marriage counselor. Both the Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) have excellent success rates. A growing number of therapists use a combination of both methods. Try the Gottman Referral Network, or the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy for referrals to qualified professionals. Marriage Friendly Therapists is another site that may be helpful.