(NEW YORK) — When most couples tie the knot, they expect to buck the statistics of getting divorced.
But sometimes — nearly half the time, according to some data — couples who enter into wedded bliss end up separating.
The reasons for untying the knot are plentiful, from a lack of commitment, to complacency, to bad communication, to long-term incompatibility.
But some of the best relationship advice may come from those who have been down the aisle before.
Natalia Juarez, a breakup/divorce coach and dating strategist, is the owner and founder of Lovistics and helps men and women recover from breakups and get back into the modern dating world. She’s seen a lot in her position, and here, she navigates advice for couples on how to prevent their relationships from ending in divorce — and, if they do, how they can live “amicably divorced.”
Below are her tips of what you and your partner should discuss before even thinking of saying “I do” — and some to consider if your relationship does end in divorce:
1. Don’t ignore the yellow or the red
Infatuation may cause us to overlook a partner’s questionable behaviors. But Juarez warns not to become blind to warnings that divorced couples says were obvious signs of trouble.
First, recognize relationship “yellow” flags, which she says can potentially be fixed. These could include a lack of arguments, a partner speaking negatively or posting negative commentary about an ex on social media, or your parents not liking your significant other. Given time and talking things out, these areas can be worked through.
But red flags, she warns, are toxic behaviors that could continuously threaten the relationship, such as playing “the blame game,” anger and commitment issues.
“Absolutely address red flags — even yellow flags — because you deserve to have a healthy, fulfilling relationship,” she says. “Early prevention is the key to having and maintaining a healthy relationship. If it’s not going to work now, it’s most likely not going to work later.”
2. Talk about the hard things life will throw at you
Your life when you get married could look very different a few years into the future.
For example, you could change jobs. You may decide you want children — and your in-laws become a part of your child care. And your money situation could drastically change.
Discussing these subjects with your partner ahead of committing will help you discover if you’re on the same page. And, Juarez says, it can help prepare you for these and other future challenges and train you and your partner to come up with win-win solutions whenever you face a disagreement.
“Couples need to commit to communicating in an effective way about anything and everything,” she says. “If you think you’re not a good communicator, guess what? A lot of people aren’t. That’s no excuse. However, the great news is that effective communication is a life-long skill that can be developed and it’s like a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger you get.”
3. Seek couples counseling early and often
Juarez says couples should rethink the idea that counseling is a last resort for relationships before ultimately ending things with a divorce.
“The fact is that the majority of couples don’t tend to seek help until they’re in hot water,” she says. “And in many cases, it can be very difficult to course correct once things are too far gone.”
She says that all relationships, especially intimate ones, require essentials such as self-awareness, emotional intelligence and communication skills. Utilizing counseling as a space for learning those can help keep relationships strong and allow both parties to put in the work to keep theirs healthy.
4. Marry someone you could imagine being “amicably divorced” from
Could “amicably divorced” be the new conscious uncoupling?
While it may sound like an out-of-the-box idea, Juarez says being honest about divorce statistics could be an early litmus test for your relationship.
“In addition to the character of the person you are marrying, the circumstances of a potential divorce matter,” she says. “For example, if you divorce someone to be with the person you’ve been having an affair with, you might see a very different side of your ex-spouse come out.”
Make sure you trust and respect the person you’re marrying, she adds.
“The ‘[marry your] best friend’ aspect makes sense to me because friendship is based on trust, respect and compassion,” Juarez says.
“Despite what a lot of people think, I believe it is absolutely possible to have an amicable divorce. That said, it’s neither simple nor easy,” she continues. “It can take a lot of time, as well as a lot of emotional work to get to a good place. However, if both parties are committed to having an amicable outcome, it is possible.”
5. Recognize relationships are complex … and that they can change
Juarez notes an unlikely source as a potential road-map for your romantic relationship.
“I highly encourage people to treat their primary relationships the way they treat their careers,” she says. “In the same way that we are encouraged to always be professionally developing, we should also be investing in our relationships skill set. Whether it’s a book, a coach or therapist, there are a number of ways to skill-up in our relationships.”
Juarez also advises answering the question of whether you and your significant other operate as true partners or adversaries in your relationship.
“In addition to having a strong mutual love, they need to trust and respect one another, be wholeheartedly committed to the relationship, effectively and frequently communicate, and they need to be realistic about whether or not they are compatible,” she adds. “This includes their personalities, life goals, sexually, etc. I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s what it takes to make a relationship not only last but be fulfilling.”
Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.