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When we were boys, my pal, Jerry, and I built a motorcycle one night. Somehow Jerry had gotten his hands on a motorcycle.  But it was in pieces scattered on the floor of his room. There were no instructions. Only a frame, a motor, gears, cables and hundreds of nuts and bolts. We had screwdrivers and wrenches. And we were young and insane with the possibilities of where that motorcycle could take us if we got it working.

We worked all night on that machine. We built it wrong, tore it down, bolt by bolt, and started over many times that night. We probably built a dozen motorcycles before we got it right.

By morning, we had a motorcycle. It didn’t look like much, but to us it was worth its weight in gold. We took it out for a test drive. That’s when we discovered a major design flaw. At the first stop sign, you had to disengage the clutch with one foot, and press the brake with the other foot at the same time, so there was no foot to put on the ground and hold the contraption upright.

That motorcycle taught me a lot about problem solving.  You have to keep working on it, all night long, if necessary.  This requires patience and persistence, focus and concentration.  You may have to tear down the solution and rebuild it several times to get it right.  Even then you may have to go back to the drawing board in the morning.  I’ve lost many night’s sleep solving chemical engineering problems, briefing cases in law school, and studying tax law. And now I’m solving problems in marriages, divorces and separations.  It’s as complicated as building a motorcycle.

Scientists at the University of Georgia have discovered the secret to a long and happy marriage. They surveyed 468 married people and asked questions about finance, communication and expressions of gratitude by their spouses.

“We found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last,” said Ted Futris, co-author of the study.

They also found that spousal gratitude can solve negative problems in other areas of the relationship as well, such a money problems or arguments.

The most consistent significant predictor of marital quality in the study turned out to be spousal expression of gratitude, that is saying thank you. “It goes to show the power of ‘thank you,’” Allen Barton, lead author, said. “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”

The secret of a long and happy marriage? Thank your spouse at every opportunity.

In a survey of 1,000 married women, the Daily Mail found that half of them have a “fall-back” partner in case their marriage doesn’t work out.

Backups included ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands, colleagues and friends from the gym. Ten percent said the backup already confessed their love and twenty percent said the backup would drop everything if required. The most common backup was a man the wife had known for around seven years.

No word on whether married men should have a backup wife.

You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married)

by

Dana Adam Shapiro

 

“You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married)”

by Dana Adam Shapiro

When two people enter into a business deal, they usually negotiate and put their agreement in writing so there will be no misunderstandings. Not so, says divorce attorney, Larry Frolick, in the case of a marriage. Frolick describes the unspoken terms and conditions that Mary and Joe think they have in their marriage contract. Perhaps not surprisingly, their terms and conditions are different.

Mary: I’ll love you (and sleep with you and nobody else, listen to your problems and try to help [as long as they are not too overwhelming and especially if they don’t remind me of my alcoholic father’s problems] and keep you company on most weekends [unless the business I intend to start in 36 months takes off and gets me out of town, and unless my sisters call for a family emergency that will take precedence over any situation here, except your heart attack or other life threatening disease]), and I’ll continue to work at my (boring) job to pay for our (first) house (but only for two years after which I expect [based on what you bragged about when we were drinking orange juice and champagne with the Fergusons], that you will start earning $100,000 by then), when we will move to a house (at least as good as my parents’ and in a comparable neighborhood) and have a baby (who had better not remind me, as she grows up, of your mother, whom you’d better stop defending pretty quickly) who will be like me (but who will not be forced into things by her family, like having to escape because they are so demanding and unreasonable) etc., etc.

Joe: I chose to marry you, Mary, because you’re calmer and more deliberate than my mother, so don’t you dare ever do anything that reminds me of her, and especially when I go fishing every spring like my dad, and don’t freak out like she did, about leaving her alone on weekends É etc., etc.

Side Deals.  Then there are the unspoken side deals with third parties: “This marriage doesn’t mean, Mom, that I won’t come home every Thanksgiving for the rest of my life, and sleep in my room and overlook Dad’s fooling around with Mrs. Carter in our little family game we know so well, and I’ll continue to be your little girl/boy, etc.”

Eva Mendes says the number one reason for divorce is sweatpants.  That got a lot of pushback on social media but I think I know what she meant.  Sweatpants is just a symbol for a way of life.

In the sixties, some men grew their hair long.  Others objected to that.  But it wasn’t really the long hair they were objecting to.  They were really objecting to the hippie lifestyle and liberal belief system that long hair represented.

Think of a complicated set of beliefs as a suitcase.  Then use another word as a handle to carry that suitcase around.  For example, lawyers use the handle res ipsa loquitur meaning “the thing speaks for itself”.  This is a presumption that helps prove something by circumstantial evidence.  An example is if you see a broken flower pot on the sidewalk and a ledge above with flower pots, you can presume the flower pot fell off the ledge even though you didn’t see it happen.  But that’s too complicated to explain to the judge every time, so a lawyer might just say “res ipsa” and the judge knows what the lawyer means.

I think that Ms. Mendes was using sweatpants as a shortcut to say that you have to work at a marriage.  She meant you can’t just have an I-don’t-care sweatpants attitude about your relationship.  You have to bring a yoga pants attitude to your marriage.  That means you need to care about your spouse and your marriage.   And that means doing things like saying “I love you”, showing affection, talking, and being interested in their life.

John Gottman says there are just four prescriptions for a happy marriage:

  1. Turn toward your partner (both physically and psychologically).
  2. Say positive things.
  3. Celebrate the hard times you’ve been through.
  4. Look at the Goldfinch (look if your partner says there’s a Goldfinch in the backyard).

The good thing is that these simple steps are within your control.  They are not hard to define like a “spark” or “that special something.”

Maryland does not favor annulments and the courts believe that marriages should be preserved whenever possible.  However, certain marriages are defective from the beginning.

Void marriages include bigamous marriages and those between close relatives.

Voidable marriages are those that fail under contract law but can be made valid by the court.  For example, marriage to a minor is not legal, but the marriage might be ratified by the court when the minor reaches the age of majority.

Tipper Gore and Al Gore announced in an email to friends that they are separating after 40 years of marriage.  They said they labored over the decision for a long time and reached a mutual agreement to live separately.  The reason given was that they had grown apart.

My wife and I have different pursuits.  She stays home with our children.  She is the president of the PTA.  She is working on a local political campaign.

I manage a busy law office and spend most days puzzling out how to untangle complex financial relationships between divorcing spouses.  Sometimes, while I am in the middle of a million dollar deal, and trying hard to concentrate on some troublesome aspect, my wife will call me.  The fish died, my son made the swim team, what was in that salad we had last week, and oh by the way we need milk.

Do I stop what I’m doing, take a deep breath and redirect my mind to her world?  You bet.

We are different, but we respect the differences, sometimes even finding humor in them.   We have different worlds but they intersect at home, family and raising our children.  We interact, communicate and participate.  Growing apart is a decision you make.  The opposite decision is staying together.