Communication in a Strained Marriage

In the Philippines, most marriages are happy affairs punctuated by large disagreements. The vast majority of the time, homeostasis is quickly found again and the couple returns to a normal state of affairs. In a small subset of marriages though, for one of a universe of reasons, that is not possible. Now what follows can be tips for the run-up to a seemingly inevitable annulment proceeding or just pointers for remaining civil your husband or wife.

Stick to the facts

In a marriage that is on the rocks, having productive discussions with your spouse can be difficult. For the more timid spouse, it’s about getting through the interaction. For the more controlling spouse, it’s about not making things worse. In either case, its usually best to stick to the facts. I’m not saying that you should abandon any and all forms of light language but inevitably there will be topics which have a considerably higher chance of generating strife.

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For example: “Household expenses are X. I only earn Y. You need to help with the difference.” Everything remains factual and while the statement will likely lead to a disagreement, the scope of that disagreement is considerably reduced. If it isn’t clear, let me illustrate the more common version of this statement: “I do everything around the house. You do nothing. Would it kill you to get off your butt and actually contribute?”

Don’t write down anything…

People don’t realize that when they transition to less confrontational means of communication, they are actually creating lots of issues for themselves. Using instant messaging or email leaves an indelible proof that communication happened and that it was responded to or ignored. This is bad for two reasons. First if you’re both transitioning to instant messaging instead of actually talking because talking is more difficult, then you’re simply leaning into the slow process by which marriages degrade. Second, its kerosene for the fire of any future legal proceeding.

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…except when you should

There are some things that you actually do want to write down though. If you’re asking for support for yourself or your child. You should reduce it to writing and keep a copy. This can be a letter you have signed and received or an email. The obligation to render support is one of those things that the law takes very seriously. If you’re husband or wife, absconds leaving the remaining members of the family to fend for themselves, that letter is a fixed point in time from which any proceeding in which support will be determined will be reckoned from. In simpler words, thats when the meter starts running for how much they owe you. If you sent the letter 5 years ago and the court determines that your spouse should be rendering Fifty Thousand pesos a month the math is fifty thousand times five years times twelve months. (50,000 x 5 years x 12 months)

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Atty. Hourani practices law in Cebu City, PhilippinesIf you would like to set an appointment with him, you may reach him here.

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