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3 New Year's resolutions couples should make together so they don't end up in my office, from a divorce attorney

Jen Glantz   

3 New Year's resolutions couples should make together so they don't end up in my office, from a divorce attorney
  • Nicole Sodoma is a divorce attorney who has seen many couples at the end of their marriages.
  • Divorced and remarried herself, she suggests couples set resolutions together for the new year.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Nicole Sodoma, a 48-year-old divorce attorney and author in Charlotte, North Carolina. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I've been a family-law and divorce attorney for over 23 years. Hundreds of people have entered my office after their marriages have already fallen apart and they want to get out. While my job is to help my clients get divorced, and I'm divorced myself, it doesn't mean that my view of love is tarnished.

I describe myself as a marriage-loving divorce attorney because, despite my experiences in my life and legal practice, I believe marriage can triumph. When two people choose each other and do it well prepared and with intention and meaning, they can build a partnership and life together.

After my divorce, I recalibrated who I had become and worked harder on figuring out how I got to the point of dissolution. I remarried three years later with a clearer understanding of what I missed the first time and what I needed to work on to have a solid partnership. Both people have to focus on these things, and as the year gets busy, couples often put their relationships last.

The start of a year is the perfect time to make resolutions with your husband or wife. Here are the best ones to make together if you want a strong and happy marriage in the new year.

Be on the same page financially

Disputes over finances are a common reason people get divorced, but often, when clients walk into my office and I ask them to share details of their finances, one is in the dark. I was guilty of this, too.

In marriage, sometimes one person is in charge of the finances and the other doesn't have the full picture. Financial transparency is important for a marriage to work. Both people should know how much money they have, how their investments and retirement funds look, and their money goals for the year ahead.

Sit down together and audit your finances. Understand what your savings and spending looked like in the previous year, identify financial goals for the upcoming year, and talk through any challenges you anticipate, whether it's planning to pay off debt or finding ways to afford a big-ticket item. If you want to take a trip to Europe in November, start talking through how much money you'll save every month and what other aspects of your spending might have to change to afford this.

Working together on a financial goal requires strategy, intention, and open communication about expenses. Hopefully, whatever hurdles you must jump through to achieve your financial goal will yield a collective reward for your relationship.

I also recommend putting family meetings on the calendar at least once a month so you and your partner can review your financial balance sheet and work through any pain points you might have.

Hard conversations are hard for a reason. Learning how to have them can bring you closer. If that seems impossible to you, it may indicate larger communication issues.

Invest time in communication and connection

A strong marriage needs to have a balance of communication and connection. Many marriages end because one person doesn't match what the other person brings to the relationship. Checking in with the other person during the day, such as discussing groceries or carpooling, or what work deadlines are looming, is communication, not connection.

Are you sharing vulnerabilities, emotions, intimacy, and closeness? The answer I hear is almost always no. It's never too late to learn how to have conversations and manage disagreements with your partner. That's where connection happens.

Connection holds relationships together. Without it, resentment often builds between couples and they land in my office. At the start of this new year, find ways to make the day-to-day check-ins fade and replace them with more meaningful topics.

If one of the biggest stressors in your marriage is getting on the same page and planning for the week, start by creating a joint online calendar where both people can access all the events, activities, and appointments. It takes out the back-and-forth conversations around what's happening and when.

Nurture the marriage if it feels like it's breaking

Spouses should feel like they've tried everything to fix the relationship before opting for divorce. If you or your partner feel things aren't going well in your marriage, don't put off going to a counselor or getting help.

Warning signs that your marriage is fracturing are lack of intimacy, escalating arguments, secrecy around passwords on phones or accounts, and a feeling that the other person is being distant. Listen to your intuition.

If you wait too long, it could be too late to revive your marriage. If your partner suggests therapy, go. If you can't afford it, find a third party you both trust, such as a friend, family member, or spiritual advisor, whom you can confide in.

If you're starting the year off feeling like divorce or separation is imminent, recognize that giving yourself grace and compassion is OK. Know that there's going to be a roller coaster of grief and freedom ahead but that you'll survive. The experience can and will change you, but it doesn't have to define you.

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