Bulletproof Your Relationship
(a divorce lawyer tells you how) Who better to get relationship advice from than those who deal with the worst end of relationship woes?
How best to avoid using the D word when you are in the darkest depths of relationship woe? Family law specialist, Cath Karlin, from Edinburgh law firm BTO, lifts the lid on the relationship advice you need to make your relationship rock solid. 1. COMMUNICATION IS THE KEY TO A SUCCESSFUL RELATIONSHIP “This sounds like an obvious point but often when dealing with warring couples it usually becomes apparent that so many issues could be cleared up with better communication. As part of the divorce proceedings we will sit down with our client’s spouse and it usually becomes obvious that many of the issues they are facing are based on assumptions or have been misinterpreted. Often at this point communication improves between the couple because it’s being facilitated by a third party.” 2. WORK TO EACH OTHER’S STRENGTHS “If you know your partner is hopeless at housework, don’t put yourself in line for a conflict by insisting they do it. Instead agree jobs that play to their strengths. It could be that they are responsible for certain jobs such as taking out the bins or emptying the dishwasher. Or possibly they can take the children swimming every Saturday to give you peace to do something you enjoy!” 3. TRY NOT TO LOSE YOUR IDENTITY “It’s important not to lose yourself. We often represent clients in their 50s or 60s who made the decision that the wife would stay at home and raise the children whilst the husband went to work. The wife dedicated her whole life to bringing up their kids putting her family’s needs before her own and now her children are grown up and flown the nest. She discovers that as she has concentrated all her efforts on her family, she doesn’t have hobbies or a even circle of friends. Over the years she has slowly lost her identity. Don’t lose sight of who you are and what you enjoy. Think about what you loved doing before your partner, make time for yourself, whether it’s a fitness class or a weekly dinner with friends. Remember, your partner fell in love with who you were at the start.” 4. IDENTIFY YOUR NO-GO AREAS “It’s crucial in a relationship to work out what are your no-go areas. We often see couples who are confronted with a situation that is simply a none negotiable for one person. It could be something like having step-children living with you, or elderly and infirm parents. Have those difficult conversations about what is acceptable and not acceptable so you both know where you stand.”
5. THE TRIGGERS = RELATIONSHIP TRIPWIRE “One piece of advice we give to couples is to avoid each other’s triggers. If you know your spouse loses the plot when you bring up an ex-partner because it makes him feel insecure, be aware of it. Any ‘light-hearted’ barbs that disguise a loaded taunt are only going to lead to a conflict.” 6. WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM LIFE? “We often see couple at loggerheads because they’ve never discussed life decisions. It could be one wants kids and the other doesn’t. Or wealth is important to one, however the other values quality of life. Be clear on what you want and who you want to be part of your life – do you want your parents to have a key to your house? Do you see elderly parents living with you?” 7. DON’T LET AMBITIONS FALL BY THE WAYSIDE “Another type of couple we see on a regular basis is ambitious college or university educated couples with young kids. Both husband and wife have had successful careers until the children came along and at that point they have agreed the husband will be the breadwinner, meanwhile the wife gives up her job to raise the children. On one hand we have the husband who thinks he’s doing the right thing – he works long hours to climb the career ladder and support his family, but on the downside he spends less and less time at home. On the other side we have the wife who parked her career ambitions to raise their children, she hardly sees her husband and feels like a single parent. Over time she may begin to resent the sacrifices she’s made which seem to go unnoticed. Because she’s effectively had to park her career progression, something she’s probably been working towards for years, she begins to lose confidence in her abilities. The 8. BE CAREFUL WHO YOU CONFIDE IN “When we speak to a client who wants a divorce we can usually identify up to six other people’s opinions when they speak. Choose your confidante carefully – avoid canvassing the opinions of groups of friends, or anyone who is prone to drama or likes a gossip. The people you should NOT confide in are your children and parents. Firstly, they are never going to be in a position to provide impartial advice, and secondly it will colour their opinion of your spouse forever, regardless of how things pan out. Select one person you think will be able to give you advice on an impartial level, or even consider seeing a counsellor.” 9. DON’T BE AFRAID OF COUNSELLING “There is a stigma attached to counselling, however we actually recommend divorcing couples embark on counselling sessions. Often, having an impartial mediator involved in the conversation helps to resolve conflict amicably.” thought of trying to re-enter the job market is now too daunting and overwhelming. It’s important couples have a conversation when it comes to childcare and re-visit their decision on a regular basis. Have an agreed plan in place with your partner. Will you go back to work? If so when? Often our occupations are linked to our identity – if your job is (or was) important to you then it’s important to work out a compromise.” 10. TAKE THE BLAME OUT OF IT “It’s important that you learn to air grievances (in a healthy way). You should both be able to talk about how feel. But remember not to make it a personal attack. We often meet a spouse that is nonplussed as to how their behaviour has made the other party feel. If you are having a disagreement, then agree at the outset that you will park the conversation if either side raises their voice. Communicating in anger is never going to lead to a peaceful resolution.” For more information on the services BTO provide visit www.bto.co.uk
“Any sort of lighthearted barbs that disguise a loaded taunt are only going to lead to a conflict.”