There’s a wealth of marriage-mending knowledge out there from those whose job it is to help heal the fault lines that can appear in a relationship. Couple’s therapists. Psychologists. Priests. But there’s also a lot that can be learned from those who are called to the scene when a marriage crumbles: divorce lawyers.
As they’re constantly dealing with love gone south, divorce lawyers pick up on common trends that cause marriages to become another divorce statistic. Former divorce attorney Andrew Vaughn sure has. We asked him to distill some of the most common reasons couples set foot in his office so that you can avoid a trip to Splitsville.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Divorce and Kids
1. Not Seeking a Therapist for Anger Management or Depression
Refusing to seek help for a mental health issue was a common reason couples walked into Vaughan’s office — whether it’s anger management, depression, or anything in between. “I get people in the office, who, if they’d seen a therapist six months prior, their spouse would not have come to see me,” Vaughn says.
Men, he finds, often struggle because they’re too stubborn to seek help — a fact that confirms the very present stigma that still surrounds mental health. “Men tend to respond to physical issues. We don’t respond to mental stress because it’s ingrained in us that we need to tough it out,” he says.
2. Refusing to Get Help for Alcohol or Drug Addictions
Much like operating heavy machinery, being a good partner and parent does not mix well with alcohol or drugs. “We are frequently presented with people who tell us they still love their spouse, but his or her drinking has gotten out of control, and they can’t have him or her around the kids — or they can’t work on the marriage when they’re drinking,” says Vaughn. “If you or your partner are headed down that path, you need to get help now,” he says.
3. Frustration Over Money Problems
Having too little money is a problem in its own right, but it can escalate into the double-whammy of marital discord if it leads to mental health and substance abuse issues as well. “As men, whether because society puts it on us or we put it on ourselves, we have an expectation that we’ll be the provider for our family,” Vaughn says. “If we ever find ourselves as not the breadwinner, we do very poorly with it.” It’s a tough reality for many to accept. And when this festers, “everything can look like a fight over earnings.”
“Spouses drink, they do something stupid, and now it’s too late to unring that bell,” says Vaughan. “If you or your spouse is expecting a monogamous relationship and you can’t deliver that, then you need to have a serious discussion about whether this is for you,” Vaughn says. In short, if you’re supposed to be a one-woman man, that’s what you have to be. Cheating isn’t the answer.
5. Refusal to Go to Couple’s Therapy
“You’d be shocked by how successful couples therapy can be,” Vaughn says. Within the last month, he says he helped save a marriage of 25 years by urging the couple to see a counselor. “It’s not over until you’re willing to talk to experts and put in the work. Adding a third person in the room makes things that much easier to talk about.” The guy who deals with failed marriages should know.
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