You and your spouse are happy as can be, and that’s amazing. But, according to divorce attorney and author Renée Bauer, even for couples whose bond seems unbreakable, preparing for divorce could actually save your marriage in the long run. And yes, Bauer knows what you’re thinking: That is so pessimistic and dismal. Basically, she tells us, “Having hard conversations before things unravel can prevent resentment, miscommunication and misaligned values.” Here’s how to do it.
How Preparing for Divorce Could Actually Save Your Marriage
Meet the Expert
Renée Bauer is an award-winning divorce attorney, published author and founder of the family law firm Bauer Law Group. With almost two decades of experience, Bauer is committed to empowering all to redefine their sense of peace and purpose in their new life. She is the author of She Who Wins, a self-empowerment and motivational book.
How Can Preparing for Divorce Save Your Marriage?
No one goes into marriage thinking about divorce, but as we know, stuff happens. Bauer asks, what would happen if you spent just a little time preparing for the divorce that will hopefully never come to be before you took a trip down the aisle? “Well, you just might actually prevent the breakdown of your marriage.”
Pessimistic as that may sound, she says that divorce prep can actually set your marriage up for success, since hard conversations before things get bad can “prevent resentment, miscommunication and misaligned values.”
“Everyone believes they know their partner best, that is until they get married,” Bauer reveals. “Whether it be intentional or not, it’s not uncommon for people to hide important qualities about themselves that may be a deal-breaker if revealed early on in the relationship.” Once those qualities begin to surface after tying the knot, she tells us, couples might find themselves feeling like their partner lied to them.
And here’s the thing: Those little things that bother you about your partner likely aren’t going to get better after you get married. “So, make sure you address any major issues before you say, ‘I do,’ and focus more on what is going to happen once the last song is played at your wedding,” Bauer recommends. “What does regular life look like? Have conversations about that more than the flowers.”
OK, So How Do You Prepare for Divorce If You’re Not Actively Trying to Get Divorced?
In Bauer’s experience, the number-one cause of conflict in most relationships is money. “Because of this, couples tend to shy away from having difficult conversations that need to be had before and after marriage,” she tells us, adding that if you’re getting divorced, money is a key part of the negotiations, “so why not get ahead of it before you find yourselves sitting in a conference room with strangers in suits?”
So what do money conversations look like? Bauer explains, “Discuss who is a spender and who is a saver. Come up with a plan for how bills get paid, how discretionary expenses are decided on and what your retirement strategy looks like. Talk about your debts and work towards a budget that’s feasible for both parties.” In the event of divorce, she says, your partner’s debt can fall onto your shoulders, so you’ll want to make sure that their debt is something you’re willing to help them work towards paying off in marriage.
Note that this isn’t a one-time conversation: Couples “should have regular meetings about finances, too, just like a business owner has,” Bauer says. “Couples tend to wait until there’s a major issue to then address their finances which ends up being far too late. Being proactive is always the best financial strategy.” She adds that it’s crucial that both parties know what’s happening in their finances at all times. “It amazes me to hear how often one person doesn’t know anything because they said their spouse handled it. Then when there is a surprise that forces both parties to take a look at their finances, the partner least involved is left dumbfounded.”
If You *Are* Starting to Consider Divorce, Ask Yourself This One Question
During Bauer’s 20 years of practice as a divorce attorney, she says thousands of men and women have come into her office with the same question regarding divorce: How do you know? “I always have the same answer for them,” she says. “You already do.”
Even so, such a huge decision can come with a lot of what ifs, and people often turn to loved ones for advice and guidance. But there’s one question to ask yourself, Bauer says, that can help you come to a decision on your own: Imagine you just dropped your youngest child off to college. When you look at your spouse, what thought comes to mind? Is it, “It’s our time for adventure and fun?” or is it, “I have to spend time with him?” followed by churning in your stomach? “That’s your answer,” she says.
As with most things, preparation is key, folks.
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