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5 Relationship Tips from Divorce Experts

Whether you're happily in a serious relationship, facing trouble in paradise, or newly single, there's a lot of useful insight to be gleaned from experts who make their living helping couples through the divorce process. Here, their tips for a healthy relationship—and break-up.

Take Care of Yourself
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If you’re married or simply living with your S.O., it’s normal to divvy up household chores, but ignorance is not bliss. Know how to handle car repair, apartment or home maintenance, and most importantly—finances, says Karen Finn, Ph.D., creator of the Functional Divorce Process. Not only will you save yourself from being blindsided down the road should you face divorce, but it’s just plain good for an overall healthy relationship for each of you to know all facets of making the household work, says Finn.

It may sound counterintuitive, but she advises treating your relationship like a business by setting aside emotions to discuss income, expenses, and assets once a month. To make sure you're up to speed, check out 16 Money Rules Every Woman Should Know by Age 30.

Take Time to Be Single
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Divorce can wreak havoc on even the most confident woman’s self-esteem—which is why pretty much any expert will advise against jumping into a new relationship right away. “We highly recommend that you don’t seriously date for a year,” say mother-and-daughter duo Nicole Baras Feuer, M.S., and Francine Baras, L.C.S.W., who founded their own divorce advisory practice and recently penned 37 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Divorce.

While one year might be a bit extreme for a less-serious relationship, the same rule applies. After coming off any break-up, take time to look at your wounds and figure which ones you caused and which ones you can heal, says Finn. Go on casual dates to experiment and figure out what you want from your next relationship, or you'll be destined to make the same mistake twice.

Consider Therapy When Things Are Good
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With a divorce rate of roughly 50 percent in this country, most people are either jumping in—or out—of marriage too quickly, says Talia Wager, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “There’s a trend right now where people are coming into therapy before they get married,” Wagner says. "While this still isn’t something most people do, it’s a great way for couples to create a healthy foundation to build a life on."

If you feel you're at the end of your relationship and are considering a divorce, Feuer and Baras warn against using your attorney as a therapist. Rather than making a reflex call to a lawyer, consider letting a divorce advisor or therapist assess the situation and guide you in possible next steps before you drop thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Keep Exes in the Past
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It’s unfair to expect your new beau to be just your ex—whether that means his killer bedroom technique or propensity toward cheating. Bottom line, says Finn: Most people endure a few heartbreaks before they find The One, so don't bring your past relationship into your new one or you're setting yourself up for failure before you even begin.

Keep Talking, Even When it's Hard
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The minute you feel something is lagging in your relationship, speak up, says relationship specialist Rachel Sussman, LCSW. While you need to choose your battles, it's important to always express how you're feeling and what's concerning you. If you feel like you can't, it could be a huge red flag and presursor for divorce (or break-up), says Sussman. To prevent your partner from shutting down or getting defensive, listen to what he's saying and validate his perspective, even if you don't agree, Sussman advises. 

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