At first mention, a divorce lawyer may seem like the last person you’d ever go for marriage advice. Comes with the territory. Of course, as their days are spent dealing with the intimate details of failed relationships, divorce lawyers have keen insight into what defeats a marriage. This also provides them with a unique vantage point to see what makes one thrive.
A family law attorney and Managing Principal & Founder of Law of SodomNicole Sodoma has helped thousands of couples through divorce proceedings. She also went through her own when her 13-year marriage ended. In her new book, Please Don’t Say You’re Sorry: An Empowering Perspective on Marriage, Separation, and Divorce from a Marriage-Loving Divorce AttorneySodoma offers, among other things, lessons learned fromn divorce proceedings and what makes a relationship last.
“A healthy relationship looks like a relationship where people effectively communicate, build trust and have a healthy balance between who they are individually and as a couple,” she says. Here, per Sodoma, are four major signs a marriage is in fine shape.
1. You Handle Change Well
If there’s any constant in life it’s change. Big ones. Small ones. How couples handle change and, importantly, that they know they can turn to one another for support, per Sodoma, is a big marker of marital success. “You’ve got all these changes that are outside of your control,” she says. “And how you handle those together as a team, versus individually, is really going to be a reflection on whether or not your relationship can stand the test of time.”
2. You Trust Each Other
Everyone will inherently say that they trust their partner, but there are levels of trust that can determine just how strong of a bond you and your partner share and how comfortable and confident you are in the strength of the relationship. “A lot of what I hear in 20 years of consults is that concern about loyalty and whether someone has made trusting decisions,” Sodoma says. “And some signs of that are things like, are devices password protected, and do you have access? Do you have access to all the credit cards, bank accounts, mobile phone records? If not, those are some signs where we might say that trust has become an issue.”
3. You Enjoy Each Other’s Company
It’s not just enough to be in the same space together. You have to want to connect, want to invest in each other and want to grow together. It’s important that couples engage in shared activities, and equally important that they’re mutually-enjoyable activities. For example, if you’re someone who loves going out to eat, but your partner prefers to stay home and cook, you need to make sure you’re striking a balance between the two. “The question is, how do you show love? How do you invest your time?” Sodoma says. “And being able to talk about that. Because, if they don’t match up, it’s likely to lead to unhealthy decisions and an unhealthy relationship. It seems obvious, but it’s really about knowing what makes your partner tick.”
4. You Support Each Other’s Goals
Even as you both grow older, you still may have dreams and aspirations, or new ideas of what you might like to try or become. It’s important that one person doesn’t get lost in the relationship in favor of the other person’s goals. You are both on the same journey together and, while there may be times when one person’s dreams or ambitions may be more of the focus, it’s vital to keep both of your goals in perspective. “It’s the ability to be vulnerable and transparent when talking about your values, dreams and aspirations,” says Sodoma. “When I got through my own divorce, I remember repeating the words, ‘mutual exchange of energy.’ What is our mutual exchange of energy? You have to be willing to talk about what your values are and know that those values may change over time.”