5 Tips to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

Marriage is a tough job, but it can also be one of life's most rewarding experiences. If you don't want to be among the 43 percent of couples that end their marriage in separation or divorce within 15 years, then you should consider the preventative measures suggested by Lorna Jorgenson Wendt, the founder and president of Equality in Marriage, a nonprofit organization that provides information and support to men and women, so they can strive to maintain an equal partnership. Wendt defines a 50-50 marriage as one in which both husband and wife feel valued.

Equality in Marriage was born when Wendt's husband of 32 years, former General Electric Capital CEO Gary Wendt, filed for divorce. She believed that she was an equal partner in the relationship and subsequently decided to fight back when offered only 10 percent of the couple's assets. She won a greater, undisclosed sum of money, and her headline-grabbing victory was a coup for women everywhere. Now, Wendt has made it her life's job to advise other couples and to help them learn from her mistakes -- long before divorce court is even an option. Here, she offers five ways to keep your marriage intact:

1. Know thyself. Every woman needs to spend some quality time with herself. You need to know your interests, goals and dreams in every area; this includes your financial portfolio. "Women need to be able to say, 'I could be alone in this world and that would be okay,'" says Wendt. Even if you are already married, you are not ready to truly be part of a pair unless you are independent and can take care of yourself. You also need to know what you want, so you can communicate that to your husband.

2. Never take each other for granted. People need to feel needed. Your husband wants to know that he plays an important role in your marriage and you need to feel the same way about yourself. You should both tell -- and show -- each other how you feel and what you need. It should be that simple, says Wendt. A passionate kiss for no reason at all or a sentimental love letter can go a long way to reheat a relationship.

3. Talk, talk, talk. One of Equality in Marriage's main objectives is to spark dialogue between couples, to get them to start discussing everything from having kids to maintaining a joint bank account, preferably before walking down the aisle. (In fact, 40 percent of the hits to the Equality in Marriage Web site are for the "before marriage" section.) But married couples benefit from all of this advice, too. It's never too late to improve communication. Wendt's number one piece of advice for all couples is to speak openly and honestly about all the day-to-day issues that will inevitably arise as you share your lives. How many kids do you want? Will one of you stay home to raise them? If so, who? What are your philosophies about money? Who will take out the garbage? And the list goes on.

4. Get a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. For those who say this is unromantic or pessimistic, Wendt disagrees. "You wouldn't put a new roof on your house without a contract, would you?" she asks. She argues that getting a prenuptial agreement before you are married or postnuptial agreement afterward protects your marriage and gives your relationship a better chance of surviving. Educating yourself about the legal system is a necessity for today's married couples, says Wendt. According to a recent Equality in Marriage survey, 70 percent of married people reported they had no knowledge of the laws regarding marriage and divorce in their state -- a fact that Wendt found appalling. Do the research while everyone is on friendly ground. You may need to rely on it later.

5. Keep the intimacy alive even after you become parents. Couples sometimes lose sight of each other when they start having kids. But Wendt says that's precisely when husbands and wives need to make an extra effort to find couple time. They need to continue to discuss the relationship, work on making it better and simply enjoy each other. In other words, go on dates, make out with each other and be sure to schedule fun. After all, this intimacy is the glue that keeps a husband and wife together.

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