Hilary Browne Wilkinson and Janet Clegg have seen it all in their role as divorce lawyers to the rich and famous in the UK.
They’ve helped hundreds of people deal with the messy end of relationships – the deep emotional impact, the profound sense of loss and the financial turmoil.
But they’ve also picked up more than a few tips on where things went wrong, and the steps these unfortunate couples could have taken to keep the romance alive.
In many cases, divorce occurs not because of some great rift, but because relationships drift into bad habits, get taken for granted or become boring.
Here then are just a few gems they’ve bundled together in their new book Happily Ever After…? An Essential Guide to Successful Relationships, out now.
Whether you’re taking the walk down the aisle for the first time this summer, or feel you may be on the brink of joining the one in three Aussie marriages that end in divorce, there’s a little something here for everyone.
1. It’s vital to say sorry
No matter how deep our feelings are for each other, it’s inevitable that we’ll hurt our partners at some stage, whether deliberately or through thoughtlessness. Saying sorry can prevent that hurt from becoming corrosive resentment.
2. Be considerate
It may sound trite, but a simple ‘thank you’ and a hug for doing the shopping, listening to work problems or just bringing a cup of tea in bed, really does oil the creaking wheels of a long-term relationship.
3. Try to be on time
Lateness needn’t be a deal-breaker, but don’t passively give in to it, either. Find practical ways to reduce the irritation. For example, leaving tickets at the box office, or travelling separately to the airport or restaurant can relieve stress for the punctual partner.
4. Don’t be a messy slob
We heard of one couple who drew an invisible line down the middle of the bedroom – one half was perfectly ordered while, in the other, chaos reigned.
Both agreed not to comment on the other’s side nor encroach on it. Extreme, perhaps, but co-operation is key.
5. It’s okay to have different hobbies
A willingness to tolerate each other’s traits will help. But be grown-up about it. Don’t expect a partner to give up a hobby, but do expect them to cut back if it’s getting out of hand.
6. Learn to deal with conflict
Conflict isn’t always a bad thing. But think about your style of resolving disagreements. Remember, openly humiliating a partner can be as painful and damaging as a physical blow.
7. Be kind to each other
If you aren’t kind to your partner and you don’t respect them, it’s more than likely your sex life will suffer or even be non-existent. There is nothing like contempt or resentment to kill desire.
8. Don’t assume love will conquer all
None of us really knows what we might do until we’re faced with the situation [of cheating], but one thing is for sure: on learning that our partner has been unfaithful, most of us will question every aspect of our life; and trust will be hard to regain. Be in no doubt that infidelity will change the nature of most relationships – and is quite likely to cause its complete breakdown.