The Marks Law Firm Blog and New Updates

What Kind of Family Law Attorney Are You Looking For?

By Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

Some people want an experienced, more expensive Family Law Attorney and some people want a newer, less expensive Family Law Attorney. Some people want their attorney to be a “bulldog” and some people want someone who cares about them and their future.  Is it possible to get all of these in one Family Law firm? Let’s explore this question.

The Marks Law Firm has several attorneys, with professional rates ranging from $275 to $450 per hour. We also have attorneys with experience levels from 3 to 44 years. The Firm has an experienced team of paralegals with rates of $125 per hour.

So how do you put all of those fees and costs together in the most cost effective, efficient and strategic way? The answer is that we work as a team. The paralegals support the attorneys and do whatever they can under the supervision of the attorneys to keep costs down.

For those looking for a more cost effective source of representation, we pair the paralegals with the more entry-level attorney(s). On bigger more complex cases we utilize the more experienced attorneys along with the paralegals and if necessary the more cost effective younger lawyers.

Of course we have administrative support staff including our Receptionist, Office Manager and Marketing Director.  This provides administrative support that includes having non-legal client questions answered without charging the client. In addition, we bring the client on as part of the team with the paralegals, attorneys and support staff.

The client knows the facts as to what has occurred in the marriage and leading up to the Dissolution of the Marriage, Paternity action or any other family law matter we might be handling for them. I like to say we “row the boat together” or we “plow the field together”. That way the client, as part of the team, works in unison with the paralegals and attorneys in a very collaborative and synergistic way. I have found this team effort to be a great way to be on the same page with the client in presenting our case in Mediation, to Opposing Counsel or to the Court.

We make every effort to resolve each client’s case in an amicable and an uncontested fashion. However, when we find the other side being completely unreasonable and unwilling to resolve the family law matter in a positive realistic way, we are experienced enough and ready to litigate our clients case to the fullest.

You might call that, “being a bulldog,” we would call that “representing our clients zealously”. So we are able to provide the whole range of family law services and competencies to the Client, bringing the Client on to the team of Attorneys, Paralegals, Legal Assistants, and Administrative support staff. Simply put, we care deeply about our Clients. We want to see them better off for having been represented by The Marks Law Firm. We strive to represent our clients with integrity, excellence and devotion. Our clients are our mission.

Family Law Mediation in Orlando, Florida

What is Family Law Mediation?

Mediation is the process by which a trained and independent third-party assists the parties in resolving their dispute dispute.  Your mediation may resolve all issues in your case, but does not have to. Often parties will reach a partial agreement at mediation, narrowing the issues that need to be presented to the Court.

During your mediation, you have the chance to present your goals to the mediator who will then facilitate a conversation between you and the other party.  It is a lower pressure alternative to litigation that lets the parties control the resolution.

Do I have to attend Mediation?

In Florida, most Family Law Courts will require the you to attend mediation before allowing you set a hearing and seek relief from the Court.

What happens if I decide not to attend mediation after I have received notice?

Unless you physically unable, you should not skip a schedule mediation.  If you fail to appear at a properly noticed mediation, and you don’t have a good reason for not showing up, the other party can seek sanctions against you.  These sanctions can include an award of mediator and attorneys’ fees, other costs against you, and you will also have really upset your Judge!

What does mediation cost?

The cost of mediation (excluding the Parties’ own attorney’s fees) depends on whether you attend private mediation with a private mediator, or take advantage of mediation at your County Courthouse.  The cost of private mediation is based on the mediator’s hourly rate, which is generally determined by the mediator’s experience, reputation, and training. If private mediation is too costly, many counties allow you to attend mediation at the Courthouse, with a Court-approved mediator, at a significant discount.  The cost when mediating at the Courthouse depends on the income of the parties. For example, in Orange and Osceola Counties, the costs are determined as follows:

  • If the combined gross income of the Parties is less than $50,000, the fee is $60.00 per Party, for up to one 3 hour session.
  • If the combined gross income of two Parties is less than $100,000, but more than $50,000, the fee is $120.00 per Party for up to one 3 hour session.
  • If the combined gross income of the Parties exceeds $100,000 the Parties can select a private mediator or the Court can provide a list of mediators from which you can choose. If the Parties can’t agree on a mediator, the court will appoint one on from the list.
  • If you cannot afford to pay any cost for mediation, you have the opportunity to apply for indigent status.  For those the Court deems indigent, the fee is waived.

Does the Mediator render a decision that is binding?

No.  In fact, the mediator doesn’t render any decisions.  Instead, the parties steer the ship in mediation.  Unlike arbitration, where an arbitrator issues a decision that normally binds the parties, the goal of the mediator is to facilitate the Parties, through negotiation, to reach an agreement.  If you do not like the options discussed at mediation, you are under no obligation to agree to them.  Remember, in a mediation the parties are in charge!

What happens if we can’t come to an agreement?

If you can’t reach an agreement at mediation, the mediator will file a report stating the parties are at an “impasse.”  Thereafter, you can pursue further mediation, negotiate informally, or put your dispute before the Court.

Do we have to resolve all issues at mediation?

No.  You are free to resolve any, all, or none of the issues involved.  If you reach a partial agreement, the mediator will notify the Court and you will have reduced the time and money that will be necessary going forward.   Keep in mind, however, that if whether you reach a full or partial agreement, once the Court ratifies the agreement, you will be bound to honor it.

We’re Outta Here!!! Maybe…

In a place populated by displaced northerners and others escaping bad weather or starting over in the “Sunshine State,” a common issue in family law cases is one party’s desire to grab the children, leave Florida, and head “back home” when his marriage hits the skids.

We often meet parents who either want to take the kids and leave, or who are afraid the other parent is on the verge of doing so herself. Fortunately, Florida’s Statutes (specifically Section 61.13001) provide some guidance for parties in this situation.

Let me first talk to the parent who is lying awake at night in fear that his spouse or significant other is going to disappear out of town with the minor children. According to Florida Statute 61.13001, a parent cannot relocate, with a child, more than 50 miles from the residence, unless that parent has a court order or the written consent of the other parent.

While the Statute’s definition of “Relocate” does allow for brief periods of travel for certain purposes (i.e. vacation or health care for the child), it does not allow your spouse or significant other to pack up the kids and “move” to any location more than 50 miles from the residence. If you wake up to find that this has happened to you, the Statute allows the court to facilitate the quick return of the child, although you will want to counsel with an experienced family law attorney to ensure you and your child are protected.

And to the parent who truly believes it is best for the child to “relocate” out of the area or the State, the Statute gives you the process for trying to make that happen. If you file a Petition for Relocation you will have the chance to explain to the Court all of the reasons it is better for the child to move to the new location. But make sure the focus truly is on the best interests of your child(ren). A court is not going to let you move away just because you don’t want to be around your soon-to-be former spouse, or because you miss your family back home. So before you say “We’re outta here!” make sure you’ve consulted with an attorney and followed the law. Otherwise you could find yourself on the business end of a very unhappy family law judge!”

Help! My Divorce Case Was Referred to the General Magistrate?



Why was my case referred to a General Magistrate?

Most Judges’ dockets are very congested.  In an effort expedite the resolution of the thousands of cases filed every year, cases often are referred to General Magistrates.

Is the General Magistrate the same as a Judge? The short answer is “no.”

General Magistrates are attorneys and, similar to judges, they wear black robes, hear testimony, and rule on objections and evidentiary matters.  However, because General Magistrates do not have the power to issue Final Orders requiring a party or parties to act (or refrain from acting), they differ from judges.

Instead of issuing a Final Order, the General Magistrate submits her report and recommendation to the Circuit Court Judge who assigned to your case.  The report and recommendation must contain findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations.  Additionally, the General Magistrate must give notice to the parties that she has submitted the report and recommendation to the Circuit Court Judge.  This notice usually comes by mail to the parties or their attorneys.

Do I have to submit my case to the General Magistrate?

No.  Any party can object to the referral to a General Magistrate, so long as he does so within 10 days after service of the referral upon that party. Otherwise, the law assumes you consent to the referral.  Additionally, a Party can object before the time a responsive pleading is due, if the referral occurred within 20 days of when action filed.  A party waives the right to object to a referral actually made if the party participates in the hearing, but the party does not waive objection if there is a total lack of any referral order.

What does the Notice of referral to the General Magistrate have to tell me?

The notice of referral must state with specificity what the Court is referring to the General Magistrate .   If the General Magistrate makes recommendations or findings of fact on issues that weren’t included in the notice of referral, those recommendations or findings have no effect.  Every referral also must include other dry, standard language per Florida Statutes.  If you’ve received a referral and want to know if it complies with Florida law, contact one of the family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm for review of your documents.

If the General Magistrate’s Report and Recommendation get it wrong, am I stuck with them?

No! If a party disagrees with the report and recommendations, that party may serve “exceptions” (objections) to them.  The party must serve these objections within 10 days of being served with the report and recommendation.  It is important to timely file any exceptions— the failure to file exceptions on time will preclude further review of the report and recommendations. Furthermore, you have to explain your exceptions with specificity.  Once the exceptions have been timely filed, the court may not enter the order or take action until after the hearing on the exceptions.

If I file exceptions to the general magistrates report and recommendation, will the Judge re-hear the entire matter?

No.  The purpose of a hearing on exceptions is for the Judge to review the record to determine whether competent evidence. Supports the report and recommendations.  If specific findings are not supported by competent evidence, the Judge may rule solely on those specific issues.  It is important to remember the party filing the exceptions is required to file a record of the hearing, so if you are concerned about having a hearing before a General Magistrate, make sure to bring a Court Report to record what happens in front of the Magistrate.  Of course, the best way to ensure your rights are protected, whether in front of a General Magistrate or Circuit Court Judge, is to bring qualified legal counsel to your hearing.  The family lawyers at The Marks Law Firm have extensive experience in such matters and would be glad to talk with you about your case.

Collaborative Law: An Orlando Divorce Alternative

by Family Law Attorney Tom Marks

Divorce is not always possible to avoid and that we don’t live in a perfect world. It is our goal at The Marks Law Firm to help our clients through what is probably the worst time in their whole lives. We do this so our clients are clearly better off for having been our Client than they would have otherwise been, and they are better off leaving our office than when they came in to see us.So what are some of the options if you and/or your spouse are not able to reconcile or work out your differences?

Of course there is the traditional litigation model which can be very expensive in terms of money, time, emotions and family devastation. This option is sometimes unavoidable because of the issues and perhaps personalities involved. It however, should never be the first choice. If the case goes all the way to Trial it can take months if not more than a year and it can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

I have always practiced law in a collaborative way with what we call a small “c”. By that I mean that I do everything I can to help the parties and counsel work together collaboratively or amicably to save time, money and emotional/psychological trauma. I have been trained now for a number of years in Collaborative Law with what we call a capital “C”.

The difference is in the Collaborative Law with a capital “C”, the Parties sign a Collaborative Agreement that basically says they are willing to pursue a resolution of the case without the expense and trauma of litigation and the Collaboratively trained Attorneys in the case also sign the Collaborative Agreement committing to the Collaborative Process.

The Collaborative Attorneys also commit not to take the matter to Court and through the Litigation Process if the Collaborative Process fails. This removes any and all interest an Attorney might have in the Collaborative Process failing because, 1. They lose a client and 2. They do not get the work to take the case through the Litigation Process.

Essentially the Parties and their Attorneys are all committed to seeing the Collaborative Process be successful because all of them have a vested interest in seeing it succeed. In order to further the prospect of seeing the process succeed, the Collaborative Process also includes a Mental Health Collaborative Professional and a Financial Collaborative Professional. These two “Neutrals” help the team move the process forward within their spheres of expertise.

The Mental Health Collaborative Professional leads the team, insures that the Parties appropriately express their goals and expectations, and moves everyone toward a successful resolution of all issues. The Mental Health Collaborative Professional also meets with the Parties to develop the Parenting Plan if there are minor children.

The Financial Collaborative Professional compiles all of the financial data, drafts Child Support Guideline Worksheets, Equitable Distribution Work Sheets and perhaps Alimony Analyzer Worksheets as options for the Parties and their counsel to consider. Both the Mental Health Collaborative Professional and the Financial Collaborative Professional are “Neutral” and so they do not take sides.

Finally, because the Attorneys are not involved in drafting the Parenting Plan, Child Support Guideline Worksheets, Equitable Distribution Work Sheets, or Alimony Analyzer Worksheets typically, the Attorney Fees in Collaborative Cases can be substantially less than in a traditional Litigation Case.

The Attorney Collaborative Professionals are still actively involved in Providing Legal Input and Advice to their Clients and the Clients still enjoy an Attorney Client privilege with their respective Attorney.

Probably the best thing about the Collaborative Process is that the Husband and Wife are able to express their respective goals in a safe, open and professional environment while receiving both neutral input and legal advice.

They can reach an informed and very personal and specific resolution that meets their overall expectations and family needs. They can walk out of the process knowing they have each been fully heard and their goals have been met. They can move forward without the devastation which so often occurs in standard family law litigation.

Is it Expensive to Consult a Divorce Attorney in Orlando?

No is the answer. In fact, it may be very expensive not to consult a lawyer. And I’m not saying that just because I am one.

Take, for example, a recent case in the state of Kansas. There, a lesbian couple wanted to have a child, and they wanted it to be their own (i.e. sharing their own genes, or at least one set). The design of nature being what it is, they found it necessary to search online for, and eventually locate, a sperm donor. Enter Mr. William Marotta, a strapping 46 year old male, willing, if not eager to participate in the success of the couple’s goal.

The three entered into a written agreement whereby Mr. Marotta would supply the requisite sperm for the ultimate production of a child. The facts of the reports are not specific, but the indication is that an artificial insemination kit was employed and eventually a daughter was born to the couple. The mother of the child applied for state aid for the child’s expenses and did receive funds from the state.

This prompted the state of Kansas to seek out the father of the child in order to recover those expenses, as well as future child support. At that time the child was three years old and the expenses sought by the state amounted to $6000.00. The state filed an action against Mr. Marotta seeking to recover the expenses and future child support.

Apparently, the couple is siding with Mr. Marotta. However, Kansas must be like Florida, and is a state where if a parent seeks aid from the taxpayers, to wit: the state treasury, the parent automatically assigns their right to child assistance to the state, and the state may pursue whatever remedies are available.

If the state is successful (and from all appearances, it will be), Mr. Marotta will be required to pay the $6000 in expenses, plus child support, plus his attorney’s fees. My guess on the fees would be between $2500 and $5000, let’s call it $3500 (it’s going to require a lot of research to see what other states are doing in these circumstances that might yield a defense).

As to the child support, let’s guess that Mr. Marotta is netting $3000 per month. Again, if Kansas is like Florida, Mr. Marotta will be paying approximately $600 per month plus probably ½ of daycare for a number of years, plus probably ½ of health insurance for the child. So we are looking at roughly $9500 plus retroactive support (depending on Kansas law), and about $1000 per month in child support for 18 years. For those of you who are not math wizards, like me, we are talking some BIG bucks at $12,000 per year.

Now, for the uninformed, including Mr. Marotta, there is a state law in Kansas that covers just these types of situations. It simply provides that in order to effect artificial insemination for a potential parent, you must have a doctor perform the requisite procedures, then the donor is absolved of any parental responsibility.

Which brings us back to the original question. Would it have been expensive for Mr. Marotta to have consulted an attorney? As they say, “expense” is relative. It is also relative. Obviously, Mr. Marotta would have been way ahead of the curve moneywise had he consulted an attorney at the beginning of his adventure. He may even have made a profit. After all, he did not have a great deal invested in bringing his product to market.

One way to look at consultation with an attorney is that it is insurance against the unexpected. We pay approximately $1000 per year on car insurance to protect us against unexpected property loss, or greater still, liability loss. Fortunately, only a few of us have had to call on that insurance for reimbursement despite the sizable sum we have paid over the years.

Likewise (home insurance, the price of which is escalating as you read in this article), is roughly $1000 to $2000 per year. Again, many folks have paid for years, with few reimbursements to come close to equaling their premiums.

So we pay a lot to play it safe. Are we as cautious with our potential legal entanglements? Far too many times a client presents himself or herself with the proverbial ball of twine that has become all tangled up, wanting the attorney to untangle the mess. Wouldn’t it have been much less stressful, to bring in the twine when it could have been wound in a more permanently orderly fashion?

You get my drift. A visit to your friendly attorney for a half hour or hour’s conference for a few hundred dollars is a small premium to pay for what may save you thousands of dollars (and a huge headache!).

For instance, say your ex wants to move with the child back to the grandparents spread far away. You are served with a petition that requires a response in 20 days. You think you are ok because you have talked with him or her, and you are sure you can work it out. The 20 days runs and, unfortunately, you are the only one who is out.

Another scenario, you and a friend purchase a lot in both names from another friend with a quit claim deed. You both think that if one of you dies, the other will automatically own the whole property. Not so, but if you had consulted an attorney beforehand, the desired result could have been achieved inexpensively.

Still more, you and your bride-to-be have discussed a pre-nuptial agreement, but the stigma of a lack of trust scares you away. Now, wouldn’t it be enlightening to at least learn what your rights and responsibilities would be if you entered a marriage without such an agreement, so that you could properly evaluate the decisions that you will make after the marriage.

I can go on and on about how people wind up paying attorneys lots of money because they don’t want to spend what would be a lot less in the beginning, to get an idea of what their rights and responsibilities will be if they followed through on a planned course of action.

Bottom line – if an action you are about to undertake seems like it might involve  legal entanglements, contact your friendly lawyer and let him save you some money and a lot of heartache.

Mediation-Don’t Go it Alone!

The large majority of family law cases never see the bright lights and excitement of a trial.

Instead, most are resolved by the parties, and usually with the help of formal Mediation. As of January 1, 2013, a significant change to Florida’s procedural rules regarding Mediated settlement agreements has made more important than ever for a family law party to understand the danger of mediating without counsel.
Florida Family Law Rule 12.740 is entitled “Family Mediation” and governs procedural aspects of a family law mediation. Until the end of 2012, paragraph (f) of the Rule included a provision to protect parties who attend mediation without legal counsel. According to the old paragraph (f), if counsel of record in a case wasn’t present when the parties reached a mediated settlement agreement, counsel had 10 days to serve written objections to the mediator after being served with said agreement. This important protection allowed a party to save money by leaving her attorney at home for a lengthy mediation but still gave the attorney a chance to ensure everything was on the “up and up” regarding any agreement reached.

As of January 1, 2013, that provision no longer exists. The Florida Supreme Court has removed the 10 day provision from paragraph (f). This change could have serious implications on a family law party that does not show up to mediation prepared and informed. But alas, after reading this post you will not be such a party!

While the deletion of the 10 day provision seems, at first, to limit the ability of family law parties to obtain full review of a mediated agreement reached without their attorney present, that is not the case. All the deletion means is that you do not have the protection of an automatic 10 day period for objection. However, you can ensure that same protection by simply demanding that a review provision be included in your agreement before you sign it. By including language that gives your attorney a certain time period within which to review the agreement and object to any points of concern, you can ensure you have the same protection the paragraph (f) of Rule 12.740 previously provided. You can also refuse to sign any agreement that your attorney will not have the chance to review first.

Of course, you can always take the course of action that gives you the greatest protection–take counsel to your mediation so you can avoid unnecessary hiccups in the first place! If you have a mediation coming up and you don’t want to go it alone, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss your options.

Valuation of Marital Assets

During a divorce proceeding, one of the biggest questions is often “What date do we use to determine the value of a particular marital asset?”

For example, on what date do we look at a spouse’s 401k to assign a value to it for family law purposes?  Should the date of separation be the valuation date, or should we use the date the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed?  What about the date of the Final Judgment—is if ever proper to use that date?

Pursuant to Florida Statute 61.075(7), the Court has discretion in answering these questions. The statute allows the Court to select the date for determining the value of assets and the amount of liabilities based on Its belief as to what is just and equitable under the circumstances. Put simply, the Court can pick the date that It thinks will result in the fairest determination, all things considered.  This broad discretion means it is important to explain clearly, and with supporting evidence, why you believe it is fair for that Court to use a date that benefits you in valuing a particular asset or liability.

In regards to the valuation of the property itself, the Court also must support Its final assignment of a value to a marital debt or liability with competent, substantial evidence.  This means the Court usually should not assign values simply by splitting the difference between each party’s estimate of the property’s value.  Of course, this all assumes that the parties have presented some actual evidence of the value of the property at issue (note that your own opinion of the value of your property is admissible evidence in a divorce case).  If the parties present no evidence as to the value of an item, the Court need not speculate as the item’s value.  This underscores the importance of making sure you can explain the value you assign to the debts and liabilities over which you are fighting!

As you can see, determining the date of valuation for marital assets and liabilities can be tricky.  If you have questions about this issue, contact the experienced family law attorneys at The Marks Law Firm to discuss your situation and ensure that you protected.

Words of Encouragement for Those Going Through A Divorce During the Holidays

With the holiday season in full swing, I wanted to take a moment away from the legal discussion that normally takes place on the blog and provide a word of encouragement to those struggling through a divorce case or other family law matter. One of, if not the most difficult job we have as family law attorneys, is helping the client manage their emotions and remain mentally and spiritually whole during their case.

It is both easy and understandable for someone in a divorce to be hurt, become angry, or disengage from those close to them. The end of a marriage involves a mourning process and it can often seem like that process will never end. Take heart, things will get better!

The first word of encouragement is this: it’s ok to hurt and to mourn as you work through the difficulties of family law litigation. In fact, confronting and dealing with the pain you’re feeling is healthy and necessary, particularly if you want to have positive relationships moving forward.

At The Marks Law Firm we work closely with a handful of select counselors to help ensure that our clients are taking care of all areas of their personal health. So don’t let outdated stigmas or injured pride keep you from getting the help needed so you can start the next chapter of your life off on the right foot!

The second thing to remember this holiday season is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! In the midst of the battle it can be hard to see peace awaiting you on the other side, but it’s there! The attorneys at The Marks Law Firm have combined more than 80 years of family law experience, and we want every family law litigant to know that regardless of how difficult your case seems, it will eventually come to an end.

Resolution is coming, and with it, the opportunity to start fresh. So if you ever feel like yours is a lost cause and things will never improve, give us a call for a reminder that there is hope and that better days are ahead!

Skills to Increase Intimacy and Ward Off Divorce

The rehabilitation of marriages is something that every professional family lawyer should explore rather than race headlong into driving the last nail into the coffin of a bad marriage.

I have to say, however, it is somewhat difficult for a family law attorney to expound upon the essentials of a good marriage, since as you might suspect, our offices are not the place where one would deal with healthy marriages.

It is with this reality in mind that I was pleased to happen upon an article on the Internet addressing how good relationships could be maintained and poor relationships could be rehabilitated. The author’s name is Laura Doyle and she has a website at She is a relationship expert, and New York Times best selling author, who specializes in training and coaching intimacy skills.

In that article she expresses her belief in intimacy skills that she has learned over a period of time in her work of counseling women. She refers to these skills as “Six Steps for Women to Stamp Out Divorce”. She begins by recognizing what most of us would readily admit which is that most people do not have good relationship role models. Many of today’s marrieds are products of single-parent households or broken homes or marriages that have washed up on the rocks as a permanent condition. Her humorous line was that learning intimacy skills from broken marriages is the equivalent of learning oral care from parents with false teeth.

Many of us know that there is very little teaching in schools or colleges about marriage and the skills of intimacy necessary to maintain a good marriage. Normally a Sunday school class or church sermon is as close as some of us get to lessons on how to conduct a good marriage. Most of us learn marriage skills after several years of marriage, and the resulting unhappiness has driven us to seek counselors for help after a great deal of damage to the relationship has already been accomplished. This, then, becomes our belated classroom.

I read the article out of curiosity since it related to my practice of family law but after I had finished the article I could see how most men would probably respond in a very positive manner to a spouse who initiated these skills, and that they would, no doubt, encourage reciprocity on the part of the husband.

I am going to refer to her comments because I believe that her approach could lead to a very successful rehabilitative process. However I may add some of my own comments where I feel my professional experience might assist in your understanding. The six intimacy skills that she espouses are as follows:

Skill #1: Do at least three things a day for your own pleasure.

She is of the opinion that there is a direct correlation between your self-care and your level of tolerance for your husband. She says relationships require patience and compassion but if you’re tired, frazzled or undernourished, you give your relationship little chance of thriving. She believes that focusing on your own pleasure through self-care takes the pressure off of your husband to make you happy (and she acknowledges that your happiness is your own responsibility and not that of your husband anyway.) She believes that your good mood also signals to him that he can succeed in delighting you which inspires him to want to do just that. Here, it seems to me, for a person to have fun every day reduces the demands and expectations on a husband to provide an escape from a mundane life, and you might expect that relief to encourage a positive response.

Skill #2: Relinquish control of people you cannot control.

She states, with a great deal of insightfulness, that “helpful” in wife language means “controlling” in husband language. She says that when you correct your man’s driving, or what he wears, or what he does at work, you are sending a message that he is not competent to guide his daily life properly. She knowingly states that unwitting criticism is an attack. This pushes intimacy away no matter how well-meaning your comments. She knows that intimacy needs safety and encouragement in order to thrive, and the intimacy vanishes with criticism. She prescribes for the woman to take a step back and trust her husband to run his own life without any help from her, and then watch him take a step forward and start acting like the man that she initially fell in love with.

Skill #3 -Receive gifts, complements and help graciously

Her opinion is that “receiving is the opposite of rejecting. When your husband gives you something that’s not what you had in mind, receive it anyway by saying, “you were so thoughtful. Thank you” On the other hand, deflecting a gift or a complement is rejecting the giver as well as the emotional connection you could have had, had you accepted the gift graciously. She recommends that when your husband offers to bathe the kids, accept his help graciously no matter how imperfectly he does it. Rejecting a gift, or compliments or help, contributes to reducing the quality of your relationship. She believes that if you receive gifts graciously that you’ll probably see more gifts start to come your way almost immediately.

Skill #4 – Respect the man you chose.

Laura believes that being respectful will resurrect the man you fell in love with. She readily concedes that you probably didn’t marry a dumb man to begin with, and if he appears to be dumb now, it’s probably because you are focused on his shortcomings. She understands that a man who feels respected by the woman, who knows him best, also feels self-respect, which is far more attractive than him cowering or bristling with hostility. She goes on to say that the lack of respect causes more divorces than cheating does, because for men, respect is like oxygen. She thinks that they need respect more than they do sex. The exercise of respect means that you don’t dismiss, criticize, contradict or try to teach them anything. It should be obvious, according to her, that he won’t do things the same way you do. And it follows that if you wanted to have that, you could’ve just married yourself. She is convinced that with your respect, he will once again do the things that amazed and delighted you to begin with.

Her statement here brought to mind my recollection of the biblical encouragement found in Ephesians chapter 5 at verse 33, where Paul is speaking to husbands and wives saying that “each one of you must love his wife as he loves himself and the wife must respect her husband”. It seems that if respect is important enough to find its way in the Scriptures then it is certainly a skill worthy of development.

I once heard a counselor state that if a wife praises her husband for being thoughtful, even though he is not thoughtful, that by hearing it enough he will be inspired to grow into that description. I believe there’s a lot of validity to that statement.

Skill #5 – Express gratitude three times daily.

Laura states the following: “gratitude has magical powers. It turns an ordinary meal into a feast an average relationship into a lifelong romance, and an ordinary husband into your hero.” Laura admitted that in her personal experience that she had been reluctant to thank her husband for anything because she thought that she was doing more than he was anyway, and he wasn’t thanking her for what she was doing. She also thought that he would stop doing the things that she thanked him for because he would consider those efforts as being optional. However she admits that she was wrong and that currently she thanks him for washing dishes, replacing light bulbs, and working hard at his business. She states what appears to be a truism, that the more grateful she was for what he did, the more inspired he was to do the things that she appreciated, which made her feel more cherished and adored.

It strikes me as only logical that if the husband receives no appreciation for the things that he does, because his wife feels that he is supposed to do those things anyway, then it would follow that the husband believes that he is no better off than a hired hand who is doing no more than what is paid for doing. Surely, fostering an employer/employee relationship is the farthest thing from encouraging the intimacy that one would seek to enjoy in a marriage.

Skill #6 – Strive to be Vulnerable

Laura is of the opinion that intimacy and vulnerability are directly connected. She believes that if you want intimacy, then you will need to take the risk of admitting that you are lonely, embarrassed or hurt, or whatever admission sends the message of vulnerability. This is not a sign of weakness, according to her, since it takes a lot of strength to do that. But she illustrates that when you are vulnerable you don’t care about being right. You’re just open and trusting enough to say “I miss you” instead of “you never spend time with me”. She recommends that it simply means saying “ouch” when he is insensitive, rather than retaliating. She knows that such vulnerability completely changes the way that your husband responds to you. She encourages you to understand that vulnerability is not only attractive but it’s the only way to get to that incredible feeling of being loved just the way you are, by someone who knows you very well. She paints the picture that there is nothing like the joy of intimacy that results from vulnerability. She urges women to understand that it is really worth dropping the burden of being an efficient, over scheduled superwoman in order to have the intimacy that vulnerability brings about.

The bottom line for Laura Doyle is that an intimate, passionate, peaceful relationship is not a matter of luck – it’s a matter of skill and good habits.

What I observed in my practice is that most unhealthy marriages result from a lack of focus on the essential needs of your spouse. This is what Laura Doyle covers very well in her statement about the six skills. What has become evident over the years is that spouses become very self focused and begin to develop a primary concern that their own needs are not being met in the marriage. These feelings inevitably result in feelings of resentment, and the resentment level slowly increases until you almost can’t stand being around the other person. That is the result of self-focus.

Many people state that marriage is a 50-50 proposition with each person doing their fair share. However, in my view the wise ones are the ones that advocate marriage being a 100/100 proposition. This calls for focusing on his needs as well as your own.

When you review the six skills that she’s talking about, it really doesn’t call for a great deal of sacrifice. All it calls for, is doing at least three things a day for your own pleasure; relinquishing control over people that you can’t control anyhow; receiving gifts, compliments and help, graciously; showing respect for the man; expressing gratitude three times a day, and risking to be vulnerable, because it’s more attractive.

When you really think about it, those skills don’t demand a great deal of sacrifice, but they may well draw more intimate attention from the man you married, because in this kind of relationship, pulling, by attraction, is far more successful than pushing.