As a matrimonial and family lawyer, I spend a lot of time counseling clients how to exit their marriages fairly and with as little acrimony as possible. Often by the time my clients reach me, they have resigned to ending their unions. Sometimes I wonder, though, could any of these marriages have been saved? Or has divorce become as common an as marriage that it is now a next logical step instead of the last resort when couples hit a rough patch?
No two individuals are more familiar to rough patches these days than Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. This year alone, the celebrity couple’s marriage has survived Kanye’s alleged infidelity, a Paris robbery, and now Kanye’s recent hospitalization on November 21 for exhaustion, though other theories abound as to its cause. Not to mention that because of their celeb status, Kim and Kanye must deal with their problems in a fish bowl.
Despite periodic rumors of an impending split, the couple continues to, by most accounts, remain committed to one another and keeping their marriage and family intact. Which has me wondering: have Kim and Kanye become the gold standard for demonstrating the hard work it takes to build a healthy, successful marriage? Or is this couple foolish in their efforts to see each other through yet another crisis?
In my book, The Pre-Marital Planner: Your Complete Guide to a Perfect Marriage, I discuss my Rules for a Happy Marriage, one of the most important of which is to practice unconditional acceptance. During the dating phase, too often people believe – erroneously – that they can change another person to fit their needs and satisfy their checklist. Of course, through trial and error, we eventually learn that we cannot change anyone, only ourselves. When you marry, if you genuinely accept the person who will be your life partner, that acceptance must be unconditional.
Based on the year’s events, it is apparent that Kim and Kanye continue to accept each other and that their loyalty is not one-sided. Their behavior is not only commendable but also exemplary. While Kim worked through her reported anxiety and stress as a result of the robbery, Kanye remained supportive. Now, as Kanye continues to recover after his recent hospitalization, we are seeing Kim stand by her man.
Of course, there must always be a delineating line between when spouses stay and when they go, especially when there are allegations of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse. In such instances, the only loyalty should be to oneself and to children who are otherwise incapable of protecting and advocating for themselves.
Assuming that this is not the situation here, if Kim and Kanye or the two of them together showed up at my office looking for advice as to whether or not they should divorce, I would ask them this: have you been listening to each other all along?
In addition to practicing unconditional acceptance, my “Rules for a Happy Marriage” also instruct couples to be and stay friends, preserve mutual love and respect, practice forgiveness, and trust each other. However, the only way a couple will be successful at implementing these rules is if they are good listeners. After almost two decades listening to my clients, I realize how to listen is not an intuitive skill.
To be an effective listener, you need to truly listen to your partner, meaning that you can’t listen and speak simultaneously. Next, don’t plan your rebuttal while you’re actively listening. If you do that, you’re not processing your partner’s words. When your partner is finished speaking, afford him or her the same courtesy you would expect to receive when you’re speaking. Be present and listen to, not just hear, your partner. Finally, turn off all distractions and focus 100 percent on your spouse. No cell phone or TV allowed.
As I follow, Kim and Kanye, I feel encouraged. Not every rocky marriage must end, and I have guided many couples back to a place of stability in their marriages, as well as couples who are remarrying. Though it’s easy to say, “I do” to the better, it’s equally as important to prepare for and deal with the worse. Or else divorce will do you part.