I have had the privilege and pleasure of representing some amazing people over the last 21 years who just could not make it work. Some really hardworking, big-hearted, intelligent, successful and beautiful people (inside and out) have been my clients. When you spend months and even years with people during a difficult time, there is a mutual admiration and friendship that sometimes lasts even after the divorce is over. I have a client who still brings doughnuts to my office 10 years later. I sometimes jokingly tell my clients that we have to approve of anyone they marry the next time around. Perhaps the strangest part of it all is that I have been asked several times to actually marry people. Seriously, your divorce lawyer? How is that ever a good idea?
Look, I am a big believer in love, in second chances and in the whole until the end of time thing. My husband has actually officiated at two unsuccessful unions in the name of the authority vested in him as a... notary public. Romantic, I know. I am a big believer in karma and have no real desire for repeat customers, so I have politely declined these thoughtful, yet curious requests to officiate at such a solemn occasion. However, I wondered what I would say if anyone really insisted they wanted to start over where they ended. So, in The Big Bang Theory inspired fashion, if I ever decide to get ordained in the Internet Church of Irony, I would inspire them with a few of my very own vows to insure their marriage would not result in anyone ending up in my office. I would clearly be conflicted out of representing either one of them anyway. My vows would be as follows:
1. You promise to love each other for poorer. I am pretty sure we could just skip the "for richer" part. I haven't seen too many marriages fall apart because people just got so rich they started to hate each other.
2. You promise not to compare your spouse. For the wife, you promise to not compare your husband to your best friend's husband, who always remembers to get her something really romantic every third Thursday. For the husband, you promise to not compare your wife (out loud) to the following: your mother, your ex, or anyone who appears on television, reality or otherwise.
3. You promise to choose each other for who each of you are at this very moment in time, not who you believe the other person should be or could be if they tried. Today's behavior is the best behavior anyone will be on, I promise you. So, if you don't like it, run toward the nearest illuminated EXIT sign, like you're in Julia Roberts' movie Runaway Bride.
4. You promise to recognize that having children will be significantly more difficult than anyone ever told you. It will not be like it is in the Pampers commercials. You will not keep tally of who does more or is a better parent. You will be a team with different strengths and weaknesses. You will not let your children divide and conquer. You will not put your children above your spouse. (I know it's hard when they are little and smell like cookies, but it will be easier when they are teenagers. Trust me on this one!) You will support each other, even when neither one of you has a clue. This will happen often.
5. You promise to lower your expectations of each other. You will give each other room to make mistakes. You will say generously, "I am sorry," "I screwed up," and "I forgive you."
6. You promise support each other. You will refrain from talking negatively about your spouse in front of them or behind their back. Not every stupid fight needs to be discussed outside your marriage. Say positive things. As my mother, and probably yours, used to say, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." This will really matter. Hang with couples who love each other in a positive way; it is contagious.
7. You promise to keep each other's secrets. True intimacy requires the disclosure to each other of things some don't want disclosed to anyone else; insecurities, fears, hopes, and dreams. Some will be silly, some sad, but you will be entrusted with them. Guard them as if they are precious, because they are.
8. You promise not to "threaten" divorce. You promise to make an effort not to say things you can't take back, to fight fairly, and to choose your battles carefully. You will recognize it is those very little things that will cause you to drift apart.
9. You promise to be communicative about finances. You will treat each other's credit score with care, pay bills on time, not buy things you don't need or can't afford. You will make financial decisions together. You will not use money to control each other. You will remember money isn't everything despite the opulence that likely surrounds you on this day.
10. You promise to make time for sex. You will prioritize it as if it was air, food or money. When there is not enough time, (how long does it take you people?) you will remember to hug. It takes only a second, even if you are exhausted. You will not use sex as a weapon or reward, and you won't withhold it to prove a point, but only as an expression of love and, hopefully, passion.
11. You promise to remember you love each other and will act accordingly. You will also remember you actually like each other too. You will treat each other at least as nicely as you treat your employer, coworkers, friends and the cashier at Starbucks.
12. You promise to love each other not just because of who you each are, but in spite of it. You promise to love each other not just when it is easy, but when you are both being unlovable, because that is what real love is.
You promise now before all these people here today, that you agree to all the aforementioned vows. If ever you decide this marriage is over, you will agree to an uncontested divorce without lawyers remembering this very moment of magic and love, and if that time comes, you are allowed and required to put your children first.