Marriage Tips From A Divorce Lawyer’s Experience
If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late is a book by James J. Sexton. As a divorce lawyer of over 20 years, he shares tips to make a marriage work.
Having collected experiences from couples from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds, he is able to identify the problem areas of most marriages.
This story first appeared on VOX, and we repackaged it in an easy-to-read format for you.
- Marriage Tips From A Divorce Lawyer’s Experience
- 1. The small things matter
- 2. Handle small issues decisively
- 3. Understand why you are getting married
- 4. Think of getting married as buying a car you can never change
- 5. Manage your expectations: marriage does not guarantee sex
- 6. Know what you are getting into; be aware of the legal implications of marriage
- 7. Use social media wisely
- 8. Break routines to keep your love alive
- 9. Marriage is work
- 10. Avoid blaming and see the bigger picture
- 11. Always acknowledge both parties have the same goals
- 12. Attempt other measures before contemplating divorce
- He Still Believes In Love
1. The small things matter
While people enter Mr Sexton’s office because of infidelity or financial mismanagement, he feels it is the consequence of small choices that turn a couple further away from each other.
“It’s always those tiny discourtesies—that annoyed look on your face, that time you ignored your partner when they needed you, all those times you couldn’t bother to give that person your full attention. These are the small things that become big things over time.”
2. Handle small issues decisively
He urges people to “hit send now”, which means to always address the small resentments without delay.
“If you don’t do that, if you let the resentments grow, those raindrops become a flood and it’s too late to put everything back together again.”
3. Understand why you are getting married
Many people get married because they are pressured by their families. They marry for others’ expectations and discover they don’t have the commitment or fuel within themselves to work through the issues of marriage.
Before taking the plunge, ask yourself, “What is the problem to which marriage is the solution for me?”
4. Think of getting married as buying a car you can never change
He feels that people think more about buying a car than about getting married.
One should ask, “Is this someone who makes sense for me at this chapter and may not in the future? Because the car you want in your 20s and the car you want in your 30s when you’ve got a couple of kids is very different.”
Something that seems fun and sexy (like a Lamborghini) in your 20s might no longer have appeal in your 30s and beyond.
At least you don’t have to renew your COE for your marriage.
5. Manage your expectations: marriage does not guarantee sex
Firstly, you don’t need to be married to have a lot of sex.
“Being married is no more of a guarantee of having lots of sex than living near a restaurant is a guarantee of being well fed,” he explains.
More Singaporeans are willing to talk about their sexless marriages these days. Tradition or religions that tell you to wait until marriage might create an impression that marriage is a title deed to consistent, hot sex. However, sex can be used as a bargaining chip in conflicts when reality sets in.
Assuming marriage is the solution to meeting your sexual desires can often create unrealistic expectations.
6. Know what you are getting into; be aware of the legal implications of marriage
Getting married is not just love and a beautiful wedding gown.
“Marriage is the most legally significant thing you will do, other than dying. It changes your property ownership rights. It changes your obligations when it comes to support. It changes all kinds of legal rights and you don’t even get a pamphlet when you get married that explains that to you.”
He cites Facebook as an “infidelity-generating machine.”
Facebook is where we post our best fronts and most exciting moments, making people feel their not-so-exciting relationship is unsatisfactory. Because of the ease of communication and frequent friend suggestions, conversations spark and affairs begin.
People tend to use Facebook out of boredom or when they feel vulnerable, not when they are having a blast with their spouses. As a result, they begin to communicate with people they should not be talking to.
8. Break routines to keep your love alive
When lovers get to know each other over time, they tend to stick to what they know.
“But it’s very hard to maintain excitement or novelty that way, and that can definitely create unhappiness.”
Learn to have fun again and embrace the discomfort of new experiences. Routine is great but as a human being, you will always crave novel experiences—ideally not with someone outside your marriage.
9. Marriage is work
“The world is antagonistic to marriages, and there are a million different things that limit your access to your spouse’s attention. And if you don’t do the work of constantly checking in, of keeping that connection, you will lose it.”
10. Avoid blaming and see the bigger picture
“I think that all of us, if you catch us at the right moment, can be good or bad. Most of us just want to stay connected, and we really do want to love people and be loved ourselves.”
11. Always acknowledge both parties have the same goals
“Everyone, when they get married, starts off with the same destination in mind. We want to live happily ever after. No one ever gets married with the intention of getting divorced.”
12. Attempt other measures before contemplating divorce
Even as a divorce lawyer, he tries to be ethical because he personally believes divorce is the worst solution in marriage conflicts.
“I suggest counseling or therapy and I’ll offer referrals. I try to make sure that they’ve exhausted all their options before making this final decision.”
He Still Believes In Love
Even after personally handling many divorces, Mr Sexton still believes in love.
“I really do believe our lives are richer when we open ourselves up to love, and I’m not cynical about love. My career has made me really realize how much people value love and how we’ll run into walls to try to get it. We’ll risk everything we have personally or financially to get it.”
Love happens fast, but falling out of love is a slow process. He thinks that if people are attentive to the minute things that happen along the way, they will never have to step foot in his office.
This post was first published on 7 January 2019 and last updated on 28 September 2023.