It may surprise many people that the close quarantine requirements of 2020 have not resulted in an increase in divorces, and in fact, divorce rates may have declined. An even bigger surprise might be that the same rules for marriage to succeed also apply to successful divorces.
It may seem counterintuitive, but successful relationships include divorces. People may not be able to live together in a committed relationship, but they are still in a relationship regardless of their legal status.
Consider following these 10 general rules for marriage regardless of whether you are getting married or getting divorced.
10 Rules for Marriage (and Divorce)
1. Be Kind
Kindness is a character trait that cannot be over-emphasized, whether you are talking about how you interact with yourself or with others. It is what most people are looking for in another person. You do not have to beat yourself up or others to get your point across. Even more importantly, being kind releases serotonin and oxytocin in your brain and reduces anxiety. While you are staying on good terms with your ex, you may even live longer.
2. Be an Adult:
Being an adult and having emotional maturity are the basis of a successful life. Controlling your emotions and taking responsibility reduces stress and anxiety. Emotionally mature people care about others and try to support them. When you act in an emotionally mature way, you raise the confidence level of your ex-partner that you aren’t going to do something to intentionally harm them.
3. Don’t Criticize
The fundamental rule for life and divorce is “it is better to be happy than right.” Criticizing your (ex) partner is all about being right. There are lots of reasons relationships change, and most of them do not involve blaming the other person. Making the other person wrong won’t make you feel any better, either. Criticism oftentimes is a projection of guilt. If you are spending a lot of time criticizing your ex, you have a lot of guilt to deal with. Let that go.
4. Love Never Changes
When I was a divorce lawyer, I would always ask my clients why they married their spouses. Usually, they would say “love”. Then I would ask them what happened to the “love”. Generally, they would say that their partner didn’t act as they wanted. Sometimes my client didn’t act as their partner wanted. They could never directly answer my question “what happened to the love?” The truth is love got pushed aside by more negative emotions and they didn’t know how to manage that. Getting divorced doesn’t mean you don’t love them. You get to remember that detail if you want a successful divorce (or marriage).
5. Feeling Worthy
Many relationships fail because one or both people don’t feel “good enough.” They constantly demand that their partner make them happy when that is not their job. When their partner can’t make them happy, the relationship suffers. It is up to each of us to take responsibility for our own happiness.
6. Avoid Codependence
The definition of codependence is sacrificing your needs to fulfill the needs of your partner, especially when it concerns happiness. You can’t be happy unless your partner is happy, and vice versa. Codependency usually involves an unhealthy one-sided relationship where one person controls the other by manipulation of their emotions. The only way to have a healthy relationship, either married or divorced, is to be in control of your own emotions. You have no responsibility for their emotions, as they have no responsibility for yours.
7. Be Honest
Relationships fail because of a lack of communication due to a lack of honesty. We either hide how we are feeling or we don’t want to rock the boat. The same is true for divorces and we don’t want our ex to know what we are doing. Open lines of communication are fundamental requirements for good marriages and divorces. If you have children, it is critical to communicate regarding the children. If you don’t say what you want, you won’t get it.
8. No Gaslighting
Gaslighting is an abusive technique people use to make their partner think they are crazy. People question their partner’s memory, refuse to communicate, trivialize their feelings, divert the conversation by questioning their partner’s motives, or stereotype. It is important to know when someone is gaslighting you because it is such an insidious, invasive form of abuse. Keep records, talk to trusted friends, and do not assume any person gaslighting you is well-meaning.
9. No Gossip
Gossip has a nasty way of proving karma exists. In other words, what you say may come back to haunt you. The best rule of thumb is to only say positive things about your ex-partner or spouse. It is important to remember the cardinal rule of happiness: “What other people think about me is none of my business.” The same holds true about what others think of your ex-partner. Nothing good comes from playing the blame game.
10. Keep Records
Whether or not you are headed towards divorce, make sure you have a complete set of your financial records. Among other things, this includes bank statements, insurance policies, investment-related documents, deeds, vehicle titles, and a list of all major assets and liabilities. It is only fair that each partner knows what their community and separate property is from the marriage. Keeping a journal is a very good idea to record both the happy times and the unhappy times. You want to focus on the happy times, but having a record of the unhappy times may serve you in the divorce.
These are certainly not all of the rules which apply to relationships, whether marriages or divorces. However, if you follow these rules for marriage you will find that both kinds of relationships will be much more productive.