Do you need a marriage diary?


Vira Hladun Goldmann made legal history in America when she became the first wife ever to win a 50-50 split of her husband's fortune - £57 million, to be precise.

And she did it by proving that the contribution she made within her marriage to her husband Robert equalled anything he had done to build his business.

In her new book, Separate Ways: Relationships, Divorce and Independence of Mind (Gazelle, £12.99), Vira says that key to her success, and one of the most important things women facing divorce can do, is to keep a marital diary.

"Unsure of your importance to the family nest?" she writes. "Write down everything you did to help the family that day, and you'll understand the importance of your role, loud and clear," advises Vira.

"Just make a list of every single thing. And I mean every single thing... It's all invisible to the wider world, and it's as important as vitamins and minerals to the health of a family."

  • Value

    Vira goes on to explain that a marriage diary helps a woman "realise what she has given to the partnership. But also, and more importantly, so that she can begin the process of recognising her value."

    In time to come, when she consults a lawyer, instead of feeling powerless as many divorcing women do, she will feel quite the opposite, says Vira.

    "When most women go to see a divorce lawyer they are in a vulnerable, weak state. When you feel like that, you could find yourself being pushed around. You don't want your lawyer telling you how your divorce will go, or how much you are likely to get."

  • Confident

    "He doesn't know what sort of marriage you had, and how much you did in that marriage, unless you present him with the evidence," says Vira.

    "A marriage diary will make you feel more confident, more able to state your case, because it is evidence of your worth," she says.

    But if a marriage diary is such a powerful tool when a relationship is ending, does the idea have any value in helping solve other relationship problems? Marital and psychosexual counsellor Zelda West-Meads believes it does - but with modifications.

    "A valuable counselling tool where couples aren't getting on well is to ask each of them to write down all the things that are not working for them on one side of a piece of paper, and also to write a list of all the changes they would like," she says.

  • Discussion

    "Getting couples to think back through their relationship and write down what they feel they have brought to it, and what they would like it to be, is extremely useful as it provides a platform for discussion. It helps you to ask each other for different ways to meet your needs," says Zelda.

    "If couples merely rely on talking to each other to try to sort out problems, often the real purpose of the conversation gets missed. The power of writing something down is, like Vira's diary, that it cannot be easily avoided," she says.

    Zelda says that couples wanting to sort out problems can try the "diary" approach on their own - but it is difficult. "Care needs to be taken not to turn your thoughts into lists of accusations," she says.

    "It can be very easy for this to turn into an argument if you are on your own. If a counsellor is there they can encourage you to use your communication skills to recognise how to move on from that list together."

    Zelda says keeping a diary of the detailed type recommended by Vira is probably best kept for after the marriage is over, as it could cause more disagreements than it solves!

  • Lists

    "When I ask couples to write their lists, it's interesting that the women's lists are always longer than the men's," adds Zelda.

    "I think this is because women have longer memories and can store things up almost indefinitely.

    "Research into marriage behaviour has also shown that women are more likely to try and adapt to the needs of men, whereas a man can often see requests from a woman for him to change as controlling or bullying behaviour on her part," she says. Result: women are keener, and more able, to air their grievances.

    So would keeping a detailed diary of all the work you do around the house be a good idea if you wanted to get your man to do more, for example? Zelda thinks not.

    "I wouldn't recommend presenting him with a huge list of everything you've ever done," she says. "It would be too overwhelming and would probably put him off helping rather than encourage him."

  • Dossier

    Zelda suggests that a better way to encourage your man to change his behaviour is to tackle the problem in small stages, rather than presenting him with a dossier that points up his shortcomings.

    "If housework is the problem, perhaps it would be better to choose the three things he doesn't do that annoy you most, and address those first. Tackling your grievances gradually will make sorting them out seem much more manageable."

    "Always make it clear that if you weren't so tired out by him not pulling his weight you'd have more energy, more time for fun... and certainly more time to make love."

    Put it this way and you could soon find yourself throwing away that marriage diary for good - although Vira advises: "If you pull back from the brink of divorce and decide to try again, why not tuck that diary away somewhere safe.

    Who knows, in a few years' time you might have decided that divorce really is the only option - and then you'll be only too glad of it!"

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