Advice from a family lawyer: how to stay together

|January 22, 2020 | Firm News

Any divorce lawyer can tell you how to end a marriage, but this lawyer advised on how to keep a marriage strong. James J. Sexton, a divorce lawyer with decades of experience and a divorcee himself, recently published a relationship advice book, “If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together.”

Why would a divorce lawyer want to give relationship advice? Because he’s been there, he says. If you’re struggling in your marriage, his advice may be useful in sparking conversations with your spouse.

What does it take to stay together?

Most problems in a marriage, Sexton discusses, stem from miscommunication because we never learned how to argue. He breaks down communication as a big picture and in the littlest detail. The following are ideas that stem from his book about how to approach communication inside a marriage:

  1. Talk about how you want to talk. What is your plan as a couple for how you want to talk about things that bother you? What can your partner do to show they listened?
  2. Figure out the point of it all. What is your goal, your intent for being married? Are you looking for connection, for strength through partnership? Are you looking to be happy or find the perfect “soul mate”?
  3. Share what you need. You two are people, and while you may be a good partner, neither of you are mind readers. Sometimes you don’t even know what you want. How can you discover that together?
  4. Marriage, like divorce, is often equitable. In some things, the two of you are equal. In other areas, a partnership works because you are accomplishing the same goal by doing different things that play to your individual strengths.
  5. Happy marriages don’t need Facebook. Social media is geared to benefit the individual user’s needs. It is often a carefully crafted highlight reel, visible to employers and friends alike. A better way to express what you value in your partner is to write a letter to give to them.
  6. Arguments are not for winning. In arguments, there are winners and losers. In marriage, there are lifelong partners. Combining the two means that one of you walks away feeling small.
  7. Text like teenagers. Instant messaging, when used responsibly, can help avoid a pileup of small misunderstandings. It’s a great way to show your spouse in real-time that you’re thinking about them.

A marriage is a legal entity made up of two people. By being strong as an individual and thinking about how you communicate, you can give your marriage your best shot.


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