As a divorce lawyer, I am very curious about general psychological aspects of people getting together and coming apart. Divorce rates are very high. Now, there is even an idea that dissolution of marriage may be contagious. (Yes, really. If you are interested in the study that had produced that conclusion, please visit the Pew Research Center.) So I am asking myself, wouldn’t it make sense to rationally explore a (hopefully) life-long commitment, such as marriage, prior to making it?

Yes, I am talking prenuptial agreements, which I draft as a part of my family law practice. But I am also talking honest communication in setting ground rules. In the very beginning, a marriage is about the white dress, the wedding cake, about feelings, feelings, feelings; about “we will live happily ever after and will die on the same day.” But then the feelings subside (and they do and they will). The last thing we want to discover at that point is this: the commitment is now being forced between two people who have very little in common.

Defining the rules upfront is the key. This is my view only, based on talking to many, many people going through a separation. As they say, take what you like and leave the rest. Upfront rules make clear the expectations of each other and of the relationship. Upfront rules also help with stability and predictability in a home in certain ways, which helps a lot in our generally unstable world.

This is an interesting article that addresses setting ground rules prior to making a commitment. That is about the psychology of it. But there is also a legal part, which is what I do.

The moral of the story:

High divorce rates are an unfortunate reality. “Living together” unmarried relationships are also not immune from the possibility of ending. Better have clear expectations now than stressful and expensive divorce or separation negotiations later. I have done these; they are not fun to go through for people who are coming apart. So, as far as the legal part of a committed relationship is concerned, come see me and we will talk about how we should define these upfront ground rules in the eyes of the law.