Very few people come to a divorce attorney seeking advice on preserving a marriage. Yet, when you think about it (and we think a lot about it), family law attorneys here in Virginia are actually experts at marriage. If anyone has a compendium of what not to do in a marriage, it is a divorce attorney.


Which is more important: the long-term success of two people struggling through life together, or the momentary victory of being “right?” Be willing to apologize, even when the very words, “I’m sorry,” stick in your craw like a Whitner’s Barbeque chicken bone in your throat.

Better than merely apologizing, be first with the apology. This is especially true for Virginia men, since women tend to use apologetic words more often:

  • “I’m sorry, but could you not pass gas during our favorite television show?”
  • “Oh, dear, did I do that? I am so sorry for being in your way when you weren’t looking where you were going.”
  • “Excuse me, could you please get your muddy shoes off my carpet?”

A man’s apology needs to meet a few criteria. It must be sincere. None of this backhanded snark: “Wow, honey, I am so sorry I was actually taking some ‘me’ time after a hard day’s work by tipping a few with the guys at Sloppy Seconds Bar & Grill.”

Here are some steps to the well-delivered apology:

  1. Express remorse — “I’m sorry I went to Sloppy Seconds after work without letting you know.”
  2. Admit responsibility — “I can see how that was selfish. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
  3. Make amends — “I’d like to take you to dinner Friday night to make up for my thoughtlessness, unless you have something else you’d prefer.”
  4. Promise it will not recur — “I will check with you from now on to make sure we don’t have plans for right after work.”

Marriages Rise and Fall with the Economy

Not super-sexy, we know, but a reality. We see a lot more divorce proceedings when couples are pinched for pennies, when a marriage has a dirth of dollars. If you both know your marriage will take a hit when the economy turns south, you can weather the adversity, together.

If you assume your marriage is rock solid, unable to be influenced by forces beyond your control, you do not understand how marriage, or people, work. Your marriage will ebb and flow, and finances are always stressors.

One remedy: a prenuptial agreement that paves the way for gravy. Here’s how:

  • You and she sign a prenup and then take out of the marriage whatever you went into it with
  • Anything beyond that — real estate, personal property, savings, vehicles — are by definition the gravy garnishing your marriage

You and she worked hard to build something, and a prenup can highlight for you what the two of you achieve. You did not start the marriage with a vacation cabin, RV, two ATVs, and a 90-inch TV, did you? No, your marriage built all that. Good for you!

Love in the Active Voice

We have seen this advice around, most recently at Inc. magazine, in various guises:

  • Love is a verb
  • Love in the active voice
  • Love is a lot of little things, all the time

Movie scripts enjoy Big Moments, but real life is a series of preciously tiny moments of one person doing wondrous, small things for another. Love is active, constant, and (believe us) a lot of work.

You both will change. She may no longer be the 20-year-old hottie, but then, neither are you. So? She helped you find that laser place to blast off the regrettable tattoo. You held her hair while she endured morning sickness in front of the toilet. These are not dramatic, cinematic, ecstatic moments; they are real life.

Open jars and doors. Let her rub your feet. Leave Post-It love notes (10 words, no more!). Warm her towel in the dryer while she’s in the shower. Ask her to help you pick out a nice suit. Telegraph, broadcast, murmur and show her you love her all day, every day.

Avoid Threats of Divorce

Divorce is not a punishment. It is, perhaps, an all-too-common and sad reality, but it is not a psychological torture device.

Avoid threatening divorce when you and she are angry with each other. You may think it is a safety valve, but it undermines the trust you are both actively building, every day, in your marriage. Only mention divorce if you mean it.

For heartfelt marriage advice, come to The Firm For Men. Contact us online or telephone our Virginia Beach office at 757-383-9184. We have seen, heard and experienced it all: separation, prenups, divorce, custody battles, spousal support, parenting time conflicts — the works. We can offer insight into success in a marriage.