What being a divorce lawyer has taught be about marriage…
People are often surprised to learn that I’m married. Before I got married, many of my clients tried to talk me out of it. They told me I was making a huge mistake. Still today, people question whether I know what I got myself into.
The truth is, I’m a hopeless romantic. I truly believe that people can live happily ever after. That’s not to suggest that it’s easy, or that it’s for everyone. My day-to-day job has taught me quite a bit. Here’s what I’ve learned:
**We can’t sweat the small stuff. Seriously. Hours of my day are often spent listening to clients talk about the darkest times of their lives. They tell me about abusive spouses, absentee parents, and other unfathomable misfortunes. When we become consumed because our spouse didn’t empty the dishwasher or replace the light bulb in our living room, we have to put it into perspective. Sometimes, those small things are simply not worth fighting about. Sometimes we have to let the small things slide.
**There’s a fine line between living as partners and living as roommates. Many clients tell me that they have simply become their spouse’s roommate instead of partner. I understand that. After an exhausting day of work, followed by a dinner/bath/bed time routine with kids, it’s easy to sit on the couch and watch TV in silence. If people have different schedules, it’s easy to become akin to ships passing in the night. What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t have to be an elaborate date night out (but those nights are great too!) --just 15 minutes a day of uninterrupted conversation can help people feel more connected and less like roommates.
**A marriage is also a business. Why is money such a taboo subject? I am perpetually shocked at how few people talk about money before they get married. It then follows suit that they didn’t talk about money after they got married. Do you know how much your spouse earns? Do you know how much your mortgage is? Do you know what credit cards the other person has? Some couples have all joint accounts, some couples have all separate accounts, and some couples have a mix. That part isn’t what matters. What matters is being on the same page about how to spend your money and how to save your money. There has to be a level of transparency. It’s so important for both people to understand the inner workings of the finances- not even in the event of a divorce, but in the event of a tragedy. What’s the public service announcement? The more you know.
**Words can break the heart. I have a sign in my office that says, "Taste your words before you spit them out." I try to live by that. I try to pause for just a second before saying every single thing on my mind. We can’t take words back. It’s worth the pause.
**It takes two. We can know that we are doing the right thing and putting effort into our marriage, but without our spouse doing the same, our marriage doesn’t work. So many of my clients suffer from frustration after years of being the only one trying to keep it together. They become resentful and after too long, they no longer want to put in the effort either. Chances are, if one person does not want to put in the effort, they have already somewhat moved on.
As often as people are surprised I am married, people are also surprised my husband would marry a divorce lawyer. Divorce lawyers get a bad rap, but the truth is that our profession can make us better spouses and parents if we take what we learn in our day-to-day jobs and apply it to our day-to-day lives.
Ashley Vallillo Manzi lives in Hoboken with her husband and two year old daughter. She is a family law attorney with Ziegler Zemsky & Resnick. With focus on prenuptial agreements, divorce, alimony & child custody, Ashley sees her role as "helping someone arrive at a new beginning." On the weekends, Greg, Brielle, and Ashley love to go out for brunch, playing in Church Square Park, or chasing the birds along Sinatra Drive. With lots of friends and family (her siblings live here too!) this family is always on the go.