I take a deep breath. The music starts. And I begin walking down the aisle towards my soon to be husband.
Next minute, we’re in Bunnings fighting about a light fitting.
That’s marriage… right?!
The best moments of your life, interspersed with a partner who hogs the blankets, can’t decide if they’re hungry or not (let alone what they want to eat) and with whom you share hundreds of silly “fights” that you’ll undoubtedly laugh about the next day.
But then one day, for almost 50% of married Australian couples, the good times become more scarce, they stop laughing, and they decide that “till death do us part” sounds like a long time.
So, what can you do to help your marriage age gracefully like a fine wine?
My husband and I run a divorce law firm. Over the past 5 years, we’ve met hundreds of married people and helped them navigate one of the hardest times in their lives – divorce. And over this time, we’ve collected some of the best pieces of marriage advice from these people. Advice that we believe has been pivotal in helping to keep our relationship strong and healthy. So I wanted to share them with you too…
TIP ONE: Align Your Goals and Ambitions
This one might seem obvious, but it’s tip number one for a great reason. Misaligned life goals account for a majority portion of all Australian divorces. Inconsistent views on career goals, family goals and financial goals can cause a huge strain on a marriage.
So how can you align with your partner?
By having a dedicated conversation to uncover each other’s goals and life ambitions (yes, this is a meaty subject so be sure to do it before you open that second bottle of red!).
An aligned goal might be:
We want a nice house, and the ability to travel internationally at least 2 weeks per year, so we each need to put in XXX amount of time at work and save XXX amount of money to achieve that.
Our clients suggest that if you’re both on the same page with goals like this, you won’t end up resenting your partner for putting in some extra hours at work. It’s also easier to determine what you’re willing to spend day-to-day, and what you want to save.
TIP TWO: Identify and Understand Your Spending Habits
Speaking of day-to-day spending…
Most of our clients are often shocked to hear that keeping your finances separate while in a relationship doesn’t make a difference when dividing your assets during a divorce. Either way, it all goes into one big pot.
We hear from our clients all the time, that placing stress on their relationship by keeping their finances separate (and perhaps, secretive) just wasn’t worth it.
Instead, it’s important to set guidelines that both people agree on that will help you achieve your goals and ambitions identified above.
There’s just one issue with that… like many of our clients, you may have identified that you have a “spender” and a “saver” in your relationship.
And it’s the same with us. We both love to live life to its fullest and enjoy a little luxury here and there, but when it comes to saving for one of our big goals, my husband is a little more passionate about keeping us in line.
We find the best way to overcome the spender vs the saver situation is to come to a mutual arrangement by discussing our spending habits openly and putting boundaries around them that we both agree to.
TIP THREE: Practice Honest Communication
A lack of communication is one of the most common causes of divorce. When asking our clients what they’d do differently in their marriage they unanimously said they would have discussed big life topics earlier on in their relationship.
And when they say early, they mean within the first few months of dating. There’s no point waiting until you’re pregnant to talk about whether or not you want children!
A few of the conversations to have well before marriage are…
- Work (how important is work to you?)
- Children (do you want them? If so, how do you want to raise them?)
- Family (are you close to yours, how often do you expect to see them?)
- Culture (does your ethnicity play a part in the relationship?)
- Religion (does your religion play a part in the relationship and practically what does that mean?)
- Sex (how important is this in your relationship?)
- Money (refer to the previous tip!)
TIP FOUR: Make Sure You ‘Get A Life’
One of our clients summed it up perfectly…
“A relationship should be an addition, not a substitution.”
We all know ‘that couple’ who spends WAY too much time together. While on the outside it might look like they have a close, picture perfect relationship, our clients tell us that it can often lead to a toxic reliance on each other, extreme boredom in the relationship, and resentment of missed opportunities.
Having your own friends, hobbies and interests allows you to have more exciting and dynamic conversations. Your partner should be someone who you learn and grow from, not someone who lives in your pocket.
A lot of our clients mention they didn’t really have their own hobbies or “me time” as their marriage progressed, particularly when kids entered their lives.
It’s important to always keep up hobbies and interests separate to each other; like dirt bikes for him and handbags for her in our case ; -)
Marriage is a long and sometimes bumpy road. We hope you have learned a few things from our insight into some marriages that didn’t quite make the distance. The ones that set people on a new path with a whole new tool belt of information.
We live by these tips, and we wanted to share them with you too.
Wishing you all the best,