Marriage Tips from a Divorced Man

5 Marriage Tips from a Divorced Man

Things that have made me wiser. Marriage Tips from a Divorced Man.

by Sean Kernan

 

 

There’s a mob of people outside the courtroom. The door opens and everyone walks in.

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You find a seat. There’s a low hum of whispering and a feeling of anticipation. You are now in divorce court. You shall find no better people watching for the remainder of your life.

Around you are former couples. Most of them are sitting with each other. The body language is fascinating. Half the couples are on good terms. They are chatting and friendly. The other half — not.

 

They’re often leaning away from each other, looking down or straight ahead. Their faces are cold and lacking emotion. One couple is hissing angrily at each other — fighting until the bitter end. Another couple brought a friend to sit between them.

As you gaze around, you can’t help but wonder, “How’d they get here? Was it a slow burn? Did someone get caught with the babysitter?”

 

It takes a lot to get to that room: prolonged fights, diverging lifestyles, addiction, and lots of tears. You have to fill out tons of paperwork and stand in long lines. At each touchpoint, you have to continually reaffirm, “Yes. I want to get divorced.”

I hope not to repeat that process. But I will say — being married and then divorced changed me more than any other experience in my life — for the better. These are my best tips — from the other side.

 

Keep skeletons in a shared closet

When I was around 10 years old, I was sitting outside of an Italian restaurant with my sister. My parents had gone inside to try and get a table.

 

I remember sitting on a concrete ledge, swinging my legs. Suddenly, two doors flew open and a family stormed out. It was a husband, wife, and their two young daughters.

They walked a few paces and then the husband whirled around in anger and hissed something in a very loud, grated whisper to his wife. He was gritting his teeth. There was a vein on his forehead. His fury was palpable.

Then his wife screamed at him. They turned kept walking, with the two daughters silently following behind while looking at the ground. It was a terribly sad scene which is why it stuck with me. How could a family dinner turn so sour?

 

I felt bad for the two girls who had to see their parents like this. I don’t know what became of that relationship — but my guess is pretty grim.

Letting fights play out in a public venue (including social media) is one of the quickest ways to tank your marriage. It’s profoundly disrespectful and dishonors your spouse.

 

A quick tip;
If you’ve lost your temper with your partner in front of friends, the quickest way to do damage control is to apologize right then and there. Make it public, letting everyone know you were in the wrong.

It allows your partner to save face. You’ll feel less guilty and you won’t pay in a pound of flesh later that night. Even better, don’t argue in public.

 

The road to divorce is paved nos

Two people can get along great and still ruin their marriage. How? By living two completely separate lives. It happens all the time.

“Go ahead without me.”

“Nah, that isn’t really my thing.”

“No thanks. But you have fun.”

Watching TV, playing games, hanging with the guys — instead of actually doing things together — is how you engineer the destruction of your marriage without knowing it. Doing small things together, cleaning, eating, walking the dog, can feel janitorial. But they’re the infrastructure of a healthy partnership.

One of my biggest post-divorce changes is the adoption of a “yes mentality”. I try to keep an open mind and just more things a shot.

 

I learned, the hard way, if you groan and moan every step of the way, you don’t get full credit.

The big idea is to convey to your partner, through actions, that you actually enjoy spending time with her. If you don’t, she’ll catch on — and your relationship will approach its logical conclusion.

 

Dating and marriage are related

In the lead-up to the wedding ceremony, I was asked a hundred times, “Are you ready?”

I sat back and thought, “We’ve already lived together for years — nothing will change.”

 

Things do change.

There’s an officiality with marriage, an extra umpf to your shared identity. Your families are linked. You share a last name.

External pressure comes in. People start asking about your life plans and whether kids are on the way. You feel pressure to meet milestones and fall into step. Marriage can feel very unromantic.

 

You begin holding each other a bit too accountable. You can easily fall into the cliche of the jaded spouse. What’s gets lost in the mix is the drive to actually date. Never let the playful spirit of a relationship be exorcised.

Playful teasing is so important. Have fun. Plan dates. I’m going on one tonight with my lovely spouse.

 

It’s important to call it a date too. Don’t use that time to talk about the budget or other issues. Use that time to laugh and enjoy each other’s company, sliding in naughty jokes like you did when things were new.

If you aren’t dating and having fun, you are roommates.

 

Also, sleep in the same bed.

Keep your damn money separate.
Split expenses and share the burden in whatever way you see fit. However.

 

Do not share a bank account.

I’ve seen this idealistic pipedream mutate into Category 5 crap storm 100 times over.

 

“Oh, you stopped at Wal-Mart? What did you buy? That’s all you got for that much!?”

“Look how much you are spending on <insert literally anything>?”

 

Fights over money (and infidelity) are leading causes of divorce.

Most money fights are about the priority of spending rather than who makes the most money.

Looking up each other’s fiscal skirt will only exacerbate those fights. There are ways to manage your money, to block off discretionary spending, that don’t involve invading each other’s space.

 

My parents have a shared retirement account with all their investments. But they’ve been married for 40 years and still have separate bank accounts.

Appreciate the different frequencies of love
One of my guy friends isn’t the most affectionate or emotive type. He’s very masculine. He definitely qualifies as a “tough guy”, a former college wrestler with a thick neck and those funky cauliflower ears.

 

He doesn’t write his wife poems or say “I love you” a dozen times a day or use cute pet names for her. He’s stoic.

But he would run through fire for that woman. He helps her out all the time. He does tough chores, repairing things, fixing her car, picking up groceries. He has no qualms calling for a price check on tampons.

Where he falls short with words, he makes up with more in actions. Which I’d argue is what most women would prefer if forced to choose. She knows he loves her in a big way.

 

I say this because we get so caught in how a couple is “supposed” to act when they love each other. Romance movies warp people’s minds with these unrealistic idealizations.

Love comes in many unique, beautiful forms that aren’t hacked from a Nicholas Sparks novel. Guys aren’t always great at doing the corny things you like. But we can show up when it counts.

 

Lastly, if you aren’t ready to get married — don’t.

Seeing a man on his knee, holding a diamond, asking the question — I’m sure it’s intoxicating to a young woman.

Conversely, so many men feel pressured to marry when they aren’t quite ready.

Remember — anybody can get married.

Staying married is the rabid, hungry Kraken that you’ll keep in its cage. So if you have fault lines that you’re worried about, don’t expect your big magical wedding to cast a healing spell over them.

 

As I write this, I know several married couples who are wasting their life with partners they shouldn’t have dated, let alone marry. They went into it for the wrong reasons: before they were ready, before they’d lived together, before they knew the person well enough.

Now — they are neck-deep in marital concrete.

I’d argue that picking a spouse is the most consequential decision you’ll make in life. Nothing affects people’s happiness, longevity, finances, family, or career more than that decision.

 

There are a stunning number of unhappy marriages in this world.

You will join them if you aren’t careful. Choose wisely.

 


I’m a former financial analyst turned writer out of Tampa, Florida. I write story-driven content to help us live better and maximize our potential.

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