“Mom, the meatloaf!”
Sorry, I had to. It’s from one of the greats, “The Wedding Crashers”.
Weddings relate to marriage, and marriage is one topic I don’t feel qualified to talk about. One, because people around me are just beginning this stage in adulthood, and two, I have zero experience (a.k.a I’m not married), nor know the ins and outs of marriage.
Personally, I believe the reasons for marriage and marriage itself has drastically changed over the last half century. When you add the rise of modern technology in the early 2000s, I believe it’s exponentially altered even more.
Time for some help. Fortunately for us, I’ve met just the right person.
I’d like everyone to meet Lena Nguyen! She’s a family law attorney and relationship guru in Houston, TX. We decided to link up and provide everyone with a Q&A on Marriage in America!
Q & A:
Q1.) What inspired you to begin a career in family law?
A: Ever since I was nine years old, I knew I wanted to become a lawyer. Prior to law school and during law school, my aspirations ranged from practicing entertainment law to personal injury law to family law. I, however, was always sure I wanted to have my own practice. When I first started my practice, I handled whatever came through the door, so I could pay my bills. Coincidentally, one of my first clients asked me to assist them with a family law matter. It was a termination-adoption case. The family wanted to terminate the biological father’s rights and have the stepfather become the adoptive father. At the conclusion of the case and after a positive outcome, the daughter asked her adoptive father to engrave the court date on a bracelet he had gifted her. It was this moment that made me realize what a profound and positive impact I can have on people’s lives. This moment gave my life meaning.
Unfortunately, the bulk of my caseload does not have such a storybook ending. As a family law attorney, 95 percent of my cases are divorces. People cringe at the word “divorce.” However, my life is equally fulfilled when I help my clients navigate the legal system in one of the most stressful times in their lives. There is satisfaction that comes from watching clients enter my office to embracing them on the courthouse steps after their divorce is finalized. Their transformation, courage, and growth inspire me to continue what I do every day.
Q2.) After five years of experience as a family law attorney, can you tell if couples have what it takes to make it through their marriages based on first impressions?
A: I cannot necessarily determine whether or not a marriage will last upon first impression. There are so many uncontrollable factors, like life itself, which dictates a successful marriage. These factors cannot be predicted nor placed on a graph. Nevertheless, there are certain considerations that will reveal struggles a couple will encounter in their marriage. Essentially, the best way to answer this question is to define what makes a strong marriage.
Without going into detail and tangents, a strong marriage is built upon two individuals that communicate well. The key words are “individuals” and “communicate.” Marriage works best when it is a union of two individuals. This means each person has a good sense of self and does not rely on another individual to feel complete or whole. They can function independently. The goal of a marriage is to share your life with another person. Though there is a fine line between sharing and becoming enmeshed.
Good communication is measured by a couple’s ability to come together to reach a solution during times of conflict. One-third of communication is what you say, one-third is how you listen, and one-third is how you respond. Everyone has his or her own way of communicating. If both parties in the marriage communicate differently, it is imperative that they understand this difference.
The great thing about the two strongest factors – individualism and communication – of a successful marriage, is that they can be developed. You can always work on yourself to become a stronger individual, and communication can always be improved. Nail these two aspects and you have a strong starting point to a solid marriage.
Q3.) What are the most noticeable differences between successful married couples and couples that end up divorced?
A: Unfortunately, couples with successful marriages very rarely enter my office. That might make it a little hard for me to compare the two. However, since I addressed this question a little bit in the preceding question, I will leave you with practical advice for a successful marriage. Service your marriage just like you do your vehicles. Do not wait until it is breaking down to go in for service. Every marriage has its struggles. There is nothing to be embarrassed about by seeking professional help and advice from wise counsel. Marriage is difficult. Seek all the assistance you can get!
Q4.) Marriage and divorce rates have been on a slow decline since the 1970s (see first graph in link). From your experience, why do you think this might be the case?
A: The chart presented data about both marriages and divorces. Correlation does not imply causation, so I will consider the two trends independently. In other words, a decline in the number of marriages is not the cause of a decline in divorce rates. Rather, I believe there are common variables between the two that leads to the trend we are seeing in the graph.
The economic shift and societal transformation of the American landscape are probably contributing factors to the decline in marriages and divorces. The institution of marriage was once a way to create family alliances when plots of land existed. The amount of land you owned, and your labor force determined your family’s power. The picturesque idea of a marriage consisted of men working and women at home, handling household chores and taking care of the kids. Marriage was a necessity for women. It was a means of support.
The economy has changed and so has society. Families are no longer farming. Women are no longer confined to domestic duties. Couples are cohabitating and having kids before marriage. Women are building their careers before they settle down. Today, the notion of marriage relies on romance, love, and companionship. Marriage has become a want, rather than a need. Gone are the days of unfulfilling marriages based on necessity that end in divorce. The decline in marriages can probably be attributed to the fact that there is less incentive to get married nowadays. Or rather, the purpose of marriage has changed. Similarly, divorce rates dropping could be that a marriage based on choice is the key to a lasting marriage.
Q5.) Any advice for couples struggling with their marriage and thinking about getting a divorce?
A: Have an exit plan. Have an exit plan even if you are holding onto hope that the marriage will not end. Have an exit plan because I guarantee you your spouse will have one. Why have an exit plan? Money. People start hiding and depleting assets. Create your own exit plan or consult with a lawyer. There are so many times I find myself telling my clients that I wish they had consulted with me sooner.
Q6.) Where can everyone find you?
A: I can be reached at www.lenanguyen.com.
Well there you have it! Hope you enjoyed this week’s Q & A on Marriage in America. If you’ve missed last week’s blog post, click here!
As always, don’t forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe!
“Do not get married, if you are not prepared to stay married.”
Book of the Month: “Discrimination and Disparities” by Thomas Sowell