Today is February 14th,Valentine's Day, a largely manufactured holiday leading to massive financial benefits for the card, flower, candy, and restaurant industries. Every man and woman in a relationship, or most, feel the pressures of making sure gifts and sentiments of love are exchanged. Attorneys are no different. We have all heard countless lawyer jokes such as, "What do you call 50 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? A good start." These jokes likely flow from the perception that attorneys are cold, cut throat, heartless people. Some are. However, some of us still have hearts. Though our blog is generally devoted to legal issues revolving around custody or divorce in Denver, I will devote this posting to Valentine's Day, with the call to all readers to stay together, if you can.
Over the years, I have seen countless people who come to the Denver family law attorneys at Plog & Stein at the end of their relationships. I often ponder why those relationships are ending? I also often ponder gathering statistical data on the subject for purposes of determining just what leads people to divorce. In reality, I am too busy to undertake such an endeavor. From a non-scientific standpoint, I have resolved that beyond cheating, financial issues, selfishness, or the the more tragic reasons such as domestic or substance abuse, most people split up because they just simply grow apart.
Going back to Valentine's Day, the manufactured holiday is all based on love. Every card or box of candy has a heart on it, the universal symbol of love and affection. Though it may sound sappy or romantic, I have deduced that the love once known in a relationship slips away, and the rest flows from there. Practicing Colorado divorce law takes a certain stomach. All day, an attorney is faced with sad stories of break-ups, financial strife, and people just plain treating each other badly. One benefit that flows from these observations is that I have learned what-not-to-do in a relationshp. By this I mean that I see all kinds of examples of behaviors that can lead to divorce. I then strive to do the opposite.
By all means, if there is infidelity, domestic violence, cruelty, child abuse, insurmountable substance abuse, or intentional/foolish financial mismanagement to the point of ruin for your children, there is no reason to stay together. Absent those things, there is always the opportunity to try. The institution of marriage is not just some light agreement entered into by two people for convenience, or based on a whim. Marriage is a commitment and the cliche vow goes, "til death do us part." People seem to have forgotten this ending. When things get a little rough, or something else catches their eye, too many people view divorce as the first option. We are not in junior high, changing boyfriends or girlfriends every other week. Marriage is supposed to be for life. I believe that each of us, internally, has the strength and fortitude to try. It may not be easy. The road may get rough. But in the end, if you make that commitment to your marriage, you won't have to come see us.
It is very easy in this day and age for two people to be forced into the roles of provider, parent, housekeeper, activity coordinator, and more. There are only so many hours in a day and it seems as though there is never enough time. After years of fulfilling those roles and going through the motions of being a good citizen and good parent, I think couples wake up one day and find themselves being just excellent roommates. As a society we place such value on all these roles, as well as on status and money. We put all our efforts into these things, yet neglect the one thing that got us where we are, our marriages.
You often hear people say that marriage takes work. It does, just like anything else worthwhile in life. One of the best things is planning. Plan a date night. Take a weekend away without the kids. They'll still be there when you get back. Even just set aside a couple of hours a week to talk. My wife and I try to have a date night at least once a month. We have even pondered a quarterly weekend getaway. Realistically, this has turned into a semi-annual event. Your children may protest and complain. They'll be alright. In the end they will see mommy and daddy happy, which in turn makes them happy. In this horrible economy, there may not be money for baby sitters or fancy dinners. That's why we invented DVD players. They get their movie. You watch yours. It you can plan that alone time, and stick to it, you create an opportunity to re-discover why you are together in the first place.
I could go on and on, but will not. Here are a few rules I have discovered over the years for keeping a marriage in-tact and on track:
1. Don't cheat
2. Don't lie
3. Discuss, don't yell
4. Talk often and don't let problems fester
5. Say "I love you" once a day
6. Don't place your career above your family
7. Find alone time
8. Don't become selfish
9. Devote more time to your spouse than your friends or hobbies
10. Compliments go a long way
11. Re-find your common interests
12. Don't go to bed angry
13. Try to keep up your appearance (vain, but true)
14. Be partners and help out (sometimes without asking)
15. Recognize that your children can go without every minute of your attention
16. Value your spouse and marriage above everything else (and equally with your kids)
We have seen countless people come to our office contemplating divorce. We see people take the steps to start the divorce process, even getting a case filed, only to reconcile a few weeks later. We have even seen people file a case, dismiss it, and reconcile multiple times. Sadly, the majority ultimately come back, or ultimately divorce. At least they gave it a shot. We have had people not want to come in for a consultation on Valentine's Day. I have had people ask specifically that their final divorce hearing not be on February 14th. These things lead me to believe that even near the end, people are holding out hope that their marriages will last. Perhaps they think it's just bad karma to talk divorce on this most sacred of days devoted to love?
On this day of love, go home tonight. Give your husband or wife an extra big kiss. Get the kids to bed early. Find that time to be alone. If you're too tired, drink a Red Bull or cup of coffee. Watch a movie. Talk. Do what you can to get back to that place you once were in your relationship. Remember, your family, your marriage, and your children all likely flow from that moment, or moments in time, when it was just you and your signficant other, madly in love. If you can help it, don't let that slip away.
If this blog posting can prevent just one divorce in Denver, it has done its job. Just don't give up so easily. You owe that to yourself and your children. Divorce and custody battles are ugly. Avoid them if you can. In the end, if after all your efforts, the love is gone, come see us to discuss your Denver divorce.