by Vicki SheminVicki Shemin, professional family mediator

In our everyday disposable world, it is far too easy to toss away a marriage.
Even if you have been long feeling that your marriage is a hopeless and lost cause, there are several worthwhile options to explore before throwing in the towel.

#1 – MEDIATION TO STAY MARRIED

“Mediation to Stay Married” is a fantastic, albeit underused, option for those at the crossroads of remaining married/getting divorced. The process involves engaging the services of a skilled neutral to identify each spouse’s goals and to drill down and explore “what it would take” for you and your wife to recommit to the relationship.
 
While you may complain that “she is a control freak” or she may grumble that “he is not interested in romance anymore,” the job of the mediator is to assist both of you in moving away from these trigger phrases and amorphous descriptions in order to operationalize with precision and accountability what each spouse could commit to in order to meet the other person’s needs and to get his/her own desires met.
So, if she is a control freak, maybe you will get the freedom you yearn for by having your own private checking/savings account and by getting a hall pass to go out with the guys every Thursday night; if you are not as romantic as she would like, perhaps you would be willing to commit to every Saturday night being a date night that you would take responsibility for planning. I cannot commend highly enough how effective and worthwhile this process is for many couples. Moreover, isn’t it worth a small investment of time and money to see if sparks could be rekindled before extinguishing marital fire forever?

#2 – POSTNUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

husband's apologyWhile many are familiar with the term Prenuptial Agreement (a contract entered into prior to a marriage that sets forth specific terms that will govern the relationship in the event of divorce and/or death), the less commonly known Postnuptial Agreement contract (which may not be recognized in your particular state) is another mechanism for attempting to resolve some of the conflicts that have led to the breakdown of the marriage.
 
Some of the life events that may occasion couples to turn to this option include the disposition of a family inheritance, a windfall from a business or lawsuit, or a change in family circumstances whereby your spouse will conditionally agree to be the full-time homemaker but she wants certain “guarantees” that she will not be prejudiced for leaving a well-paying job and forfeiting her future career options. If you opt to go this route, be sure to consult with a family law attorney well-schooled in, and experienced with, drafting these types of documents—as well as perhaps building a team of supportive professionals who can help address what can become very emotional and charged negotiations.

#3 – TRIAL SEPARATIONS

Just like no one could really have prepared you for the realities of marriage or having your first child, so nothing can really give you a preview as to what is in store should you and your spouse move forward with divorce. In my practice and experience, I have found that couples who opt for a trial separation learn a great deal about themselves and each other and are given the opportunity to examine in more realistic detail whether this is what they truly want as a next step in their futures.
 
In fairness to those situations where it may be one spouse (but not the other) who is seeking the divorce, I recommend couples attempt to come to very specific terms about the length of the trial separation; the economics that will govern; and all other practical aspects that must be taken into consideration.

#4 – EXIT COUNSELING

“Exit Counseling” can best be described as couples counseling devoted to preparing to end the marriage. It is a respectful process that gives couples time and space to work through the myriad of details attendant to moving from the status of marriage to the state of separation; it provides a safe place to say good-bye to—and start to grieve the loss of—the relationship; and it provides a template for how couples can begin to interact in the coming weeks and months ahead.
So, before you opt for the permanence of “I Don’t,” consider that to which you can say “I Do.” If you have children, this is all the more the case as they will inevitably ask you one day if you did all you could have done to try to keep the marriage together.

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Vicki L. Shemin, JD, LICSW, ACSW, a partner at Fields and Dennis LLP with degrees in law and in clinical social work, has been consistently recognized on a national and state level for showing dedication, compassion, leadership and excellence in family dispute resolution.

This article was originally published on the Moving Past Divorce website.

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