Have to look at your relationship through the lens of divorce

Jeannie Sook Gersen.

Harvard Law Professor and professional mediator. Specialist in family and marriage law.

My mentor once told me that you should marry your second husband right away. That doesn't mean that Mr. Perfect is magically waiting for you behind door number two. It's just that to figure out how marriage works, you need to understand how and why it ends.

Divorce demonstrates the unspoken rules of marriage. You need to know them to build a strong relationship from the beginning. By the way, if you are still looking for a strong relationship, christian dating apps free will help you with it.

 It doesn't sound very romantic, but sometimes what we do out of love puts that very love at risk.

I'm a professor of family law. I've taught students, worked as a lawyer and mediator, and I've also been through a divorce. I am now happily married to my second husband. And I believe that everyone needs to talk ahead of time about the painful topics that those going through a divorce have to discuss. If you do this well in advance, you have a better chance of having a strong marriage.

Here are three issues I suggest we discuss.

  1. What are we willing to sacrifice for each other

Marriage is an exchange of sacrifices, and it has to be fair. Otherwise, problems begin to arise. If you are ready to get married and looking for your partner you can check here.

Consider the example of Lisa and Andy. At the beginning of their marriage, Lisa decides to go to medical school and Andy decides to provide for their family. So he works night shifts and turns down a good offer in another city. He does it out of love, but also realizes that Lisa's degree will benefit them both.

After a few years, Andy develops feelings of abandonment and dissatisfaction and begins to drink a lot. Lisa looks at her life and his and doubts she signed up for it. After a few more years, she graduates and files for divorce.

In an ideal world, they should have talked to a relationship counselor or mediator before Lisa even went to school. He would have asked:

How fair is your exchange?

What are you willing to give and what are you willing to owe each other?

After the divorce, Lisa would likely have to support Andy financially for several years. But no amount of financial support will make him feel like he was compensated for what he gave up.

If they had thought ahead about what they were willing to sacrifice and what they were not, the marriage might have worked out differently. Maybe Lisa would have decided to take out a student loan or a part-time job so that Andy wouldn't have to provide for them entirely. And he probably would have taken a job in another city to keep his career on track and feel better about himself.

  1. What do we think about child care?

Let's look at another couple, Emily and Deb. They live and work in a big city and have two children. Then Emily gets a job in a small town and the couple decides to move. Deb quits her job to take care of the children and leaves behind family, friends, and the business she loves. She faces isolation and loneliness in her new place, and 10 years later has an affair on the side - and the marriage falls apart.

If the couple had talked to a mediator before the move, he would have asked them:

How will your decisions about childcare affect your commitment to each other?

How will they affect your relationship?

Do you understand that childcare is not a given?

If they had thought about these issues at the time, maybe they would have looked for other solutions so Deb wouldn't have to stay in isolation. And Emily would have thought about what it costs to take care of children and what a loved one is owed for taking care of them around the clock.

  1. What we have in common and what we have in common is personal.

Back to Lisa and Andy. Before they married, Lisa received an inheritance from her grandmother. After they got married, they bought a house, and that inheritance went toward the down payment. Since Andy was working, he took care of the mortgage payments. Eventually, their estate was consolidated and Lisa's inheritance became joint marital property. In a divorce, they would have to sell the house and split the proceeds, or one would have to buy out the other's share.

The mediator would ask them:

Which property do you want to keep as personal property and which property do you want to make jointly?

How would your choice affect the preservation of the marriage?

Because what was "mine" will become "ours" after the marriage unless you consciously take some steps to prevent it.

If they had thought about marriage in terms of divorce beforehand, they might have made different decisions. Perhaps Lisa would have left an inheritance for a rainy day. Maybe they would have bought a smaller house and Andy wouldn't have had to work as hard to pay the mortgage. Perhaps he wouldn't have felt so miserable in the end.

In marriage, we often make sacrifices and demand them from our partner without considering their "cost." Be wiser, and calculate the cost of the decisions you make. This is what divorce law teaches us, and it will help keep a marriage strong.