By Lesley Harris Colvett
Larry Rice has been successfully practicing divorce law as a partner at Rice, Amundsen, and Caperton, L.L.P.C. Widely recognized as the best CLE speaker on divorce practice, Larry is certified as a Family Law Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and certified as a Family Law Specialist by the Tennessee Board of Specialization. Larry’s father was a divorce attorney, and his son Nick is following in the family footsteps at the law firm. Larry and Nick are co-authors of The Complete Guide to Divorce Practice, which is published by the American Bar Association and recognized as the standard reference for divorce lawyers across the nation. Larry also authored Divorce Practice in Tennessee, The Effective Ethical Lawyer, and The Complete Guide to Divorce Practice: Forms and Procedures for Lawyers 1st, 2nd and 3rd editions. A graduate with distinctions and honors from Rhodes College, Larry also studied British Studies at the University College in Oxford, England.
While Larry’s had huge success in the courtroom in the realm of divorce, he’s also quite an expert on explaining how NOT to hire him. Having listened to the stories of his clients’ marriages, Larry has seen what makes for a good, successful marriage. Larry has been married to his wife Joy for 44 years, and they recently celebrated the anniversary of their first date December 14, 1969.
“Marriage is the biggest bet you can possibly make - you are betting everything. You’re betting what you will acquire for the rest of your life, your income, your children, your emotions - all of that - in your belief that the person you are with now will continue to have a mutual attraction for decades to come, as each of you change in ways neither of you can foresee,” Larry says. “Thank goodness for love because no sane person would make that bet without love clouding their judgement.”
So, how do you improve your odds? Below is Larry’s wise advice and anecdotes on “how to not hire him” - AKA “how not to get divorced.”
Be nice so that you have enough positive points to offset your deficits. Flowers for no reason are the best investment a guy can make; or cards, or a nice note printed off the computer, or even an “I Love You” message on a post it. Larry says he buys flowers for Joy on most weeks, because he loves to see the smile on her face. Guys should apologize, and women should accept the apology graciously and appreciate that he loves you enough to apologize even when he may not have any knowledge that he has done anything wrong.
It’s easy to get tied up in work, child care, etc. but you took an oath that this person you’re married to would come first, so when you start prioritizing things if they get lost on the list for too long, they get lost all together, but if you keep them first that helps keep all the rest of it in order. Adults need to date and have time together to be happy. Have a paid babysitter or a relative and go out on a date. The big thing is to take a vacation, a minimum of three days up to two weeks - just the two of you. This will benefit your children.
Why are those date nights and vacations so important?
Larry makes the analogy that marriage is like a battleship. Battleships almost never sink with one shot, it is usually the accumulated damage that isn’t fixed that sinks the ship. It takes damage, it goes slower, it can’t defend itself and becomes more vulnerable to attack, so it’s more sensitive. If it can get into a port (a date or a vacation) and get repaired then it can sail back out in as good of shape as ever, so it is critical to keep the battleship of your marriage afloat.
Find out what your spouse likes and do it over and over. You can space it out but do what your spouse likes. “It makes me happy to do for my wife and make her happy.”
There’s going to be plenty of times you may get crossways and irritated, but every time you get mad, access the thought, “What is more important - this or our relationship?”. Larry says for example, “I am so upset that you drank milk out of the carton, oh but I am still glad I married you!”
Stay out of “Show Business”:
When the thought enters your mind “I will show him/her” - don’t. Nothing ever good comes from “I will show them.” It’s not about showing your spouse, but it is about your unhappiness. If the thought is, “I’m going to show them,” then that is going to be an emotional grenade.
Do Opposites Attract?:
Opposites can create a balanced relationship, but no couple is completely opposite or the completely the same. There’s a balance of similar characteristics, traits or goals, and they’re also a balance of opposing characteristics and goals. The interplay between the positive things that you appreciate about each other and the love and appreciation and support that you feel for each other that lets you live in an emotional solar system where the two planets are orbiting at opposite poles.
When is Divorce the Best Option?:
Larry says if you can’t be happy, or you can’t get the life you would reasonably expect to lead, then you have to look at divorce. Drugs, alcohol abuse or certain mental illnesses are reasons divorce may be the only option. One of the most important things is to ask your spouse is to go to counseling with you. The answer to that question is critical. If your spouse says yes to counseling, they are willing to put the marriage ahead of their ego, and that answer “yes” is an indicator of how important the relationship is to that person.
Larry says he enjoys laughing with Joy, and that in a good marriage, it is not work. With a smile he says “It makes me happy to make Joy happy. I really am lucky - my wife is a Joy, and a joy!”
Larry will be hosting his last CLE seminar next spring at the Fire Museum of Memphis March 13-15, 2019. More information on the seminar can be found at www.aboutdivorce.com.
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