From Divorce Lawyer to Marital Mediator

What is marital mediation and what brings someone into the field? Laurie Israel was a divorce attorney who changed her focus in mid-career to saving marriages.

In this interview by Amy Martell, you’ll hear how Laurie observed that feelings of inequality in contribution were a common problem in divorce and realized how she could apply this concept to couples who are still married by recognizing married couples’ patterns of poor communications.

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A Divorce Attorney Can Rush You Into Divorce

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An Interview with author Deborah Moskovitch of The Smart Divorce

This week we’re announcing a new interview series with Deborah Moskovitch, the creator and facilitator of The Smart Divorce.

Based on her personal experience with divorce and insights gathered from leading divorce gurus, Deborah has become a leading divorce and relationship expert who helps people manage the divorce process and move on to a better life.

Deborah’s video is in five parts:

Part 1: Communication When Entering Marriage

Part 2: Save your marriage or get a divorce

Part 3: Choosing a mediator or a divorce attorney

Part 4: Marriages saved through mediation

Part 5: Postnuptial agreements (postnups)

Deborah is an opinion leader in the media and regularly shares her insights and research on television and radio to discuss how divorce can be managed to minimize the grief and financial hardships people often experience. Deborah also speaks regularly about the importance of the emotional healing post-divorce. She is a regular contributor to More magazine’s online edition, a national publication celebrating women over 40. She serves on the Board of Directors of AFCC Ontario, an international association of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through the resolution of family conflict. Her goal is to help people manage the divorce process in a healthier, less painful way and move on to create a better life post-divorce.

For more information about Deborah, you can visit her website at, contact her via email at info at thesmartdivorce dot com or call her at 905 695 0270. The Smart Divorce includes a consulting service, workshops and the book: The Smart Divorce: Proven Strategies and Valuable Advice from 100 Top Divorce Lawyers, Financial Advisers, Counselors and Other Experts.

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Save your marriage or leave it

In this exclusive interview, Deborah Moskovitch discusses knowing when to leave a marriage or try to save it:

“You need to do everything you can to put your marriage back on track, so that if you do decide to divorce, you know that you did all the work up front. So you tried the couples counseling, and obviously if you’re getting divorced, it didn’t work. But you saw what was wrong in that relationship. You really did try to put in on track.”

Deborah Moskovitch is a leading author and public speaker on divorce and relationships.

She regularly shares her insights and research on television and radio to discuss how divorce can be managed to minimize the grief and financial hardships people often experience. Deborah also speaks regularly about the importance of the emotional healing post-divorce. She is a regular contributor to More magazine’s online edition, a national publication celebrating women over 40. She serves on the Board of Directors of AFCC Ontario, an international association of professionals dedicated to improving the lives of children and families through the resolution of family conflict. Her goal is to help people manage the divorce process in a healthier, less painful way and move on to create a better life post-divorce.

For more information, visit Deborah’s website at, contact her via email at info at thesmartdivorce dot com or call 905 695 0270.

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Key points in postnuptial or marital agreements

Here are some standards from the American Law Institute (ALI) about ‘marital’ (i.e., postnuptial) agreements:

  • A marital agreement is presumed that it was not made under duress if parties were advised to obtain independent legal counsel, and had reasonable opportunity to do so before the agreement’s execution.
  • Full disclosure is required. In order to be enforceable, the parties to a marriage agreement must make full disclosure of assets, income, and also assets or entitlements that a party reasonably expects to realize in the near future.
  • There are “Circuit-breaker” protections if there is “substantial injustice”. For example, an unanticipated change in circumstance between the time when the agreement was executed that has a substantial impact on the parties or their children.
  • A court will also take into account whether the purpose of the agreement was to benefit or protect the interests of third parties (such as the children from a prior relationship).

Read the full ALI excerpt on marital agreements.

Or visit our postnuptial agreement information page.

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Breaking Marriage Trust Comes in Many Forms

Trust is a key ingredient in healthy relationships. Most people would agree that dating someone else is breaking trust and jeopardizing the existence of the marital relationship.

Breaking the bonds of financial trust can be equally damaging to a relationship. If couples want to stay married and value that relationship, they will do all they can to be transparent, forthcoming, and create a mutually supportive approach to money. Otherwise they risk losing the love, respect, and trust that holds their relationship together.

For example, if one person has withdrawn the full amount of the home equity loan without their spouse knowing — that’s breaking trust.  Or opening one or more charge cards and running up debt that can’t be repaid, all unbeknownst to their spouse —- its breaking trust.

The money might have gone for gambling or to make what was thought to be a solid investment. The hidden use of the money might mitigate the ensuing anger, but it’s very likely the broken trust will cause long term damage often ending in divorce. It’s as hard to bring back financial trust as it is to bring back emotional trust, and they are intertwined.

It’s a good idea for couples to have an annual review of separate and joint credit reports. If one person doesn’t want to get a credit report, it could be a signal that there are deeper issues and maybe cause for concern.

Marital Mediation offers a neutral forum to talk about the condition of money in the marriage and to find ways to have agreement and keep trust in the relationship.

Cinda Jones, CFP, CDFA
San Diego – Del Mar – Carlsbad


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Case Study: Postnuptial helped set aside financial stress in the marriage

[Editor: This episode is part of a video interview series with MaritalMediation member Rebecca Fishman Green in which she talks about her experience as a marital mediator.]

“For them it felt fair for the husband to be solely responsible for all of the debt. So, he did what we lawyers call an indemnification, he would hold her harmless from any of the debt. If and when they ever sell their house, that home equity loan will come out of his share of the proceeds… And they signed their postnuptial agreement and they are still married to this day.”

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Can marriage argument styles indicate the odds of divorce?

The Voice of America highlights a recent study about argument styles in marriage and the impact on divorce rates. It was a 16 year study, so the results are worth noting.

University of Michigan professor Kira S. Birditt led the study of 373 couples. The study found that 46% had divorced by the final year of the study in 2002.

The couples were asked at four different times to report on their most recent conflict. First, they had to agree on which conflict was their most recent. The husbands and wives each had to choose from a list of behaviors to describe the strategies they used. The list included behaviors like calm discussion, listening and trying hard to find out the other person’s feelings. The list also included behaviors like yelling, using insults, walking away or not communicating — in other words, the silent treatment.

Assistant professor Kira Birditt led the study which found that over time, wives became less destructive in the way they argued. Husbands stayed the same.

They also found that different combinations of strategies may help predict whether a couple will stay together. The chances decrease if only one partner uses constructive strategies.

More detail at LiveScience: Birditt and U-M colleagues Lisa Jackey and Toni Antonucci looked at how negative views of spouses, friends and children changed over time and among different age groups, including young adults (ages 20 to 39), middle-aged adults (40 to 59) and older adults (60 and over).

We’re trying to get our hands on the study to look more closely, if you want to get it yourself, it was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family October 2010 under the title Marital Conflict Behaviors and Implications for Divorce Over 16 Years by Kira S. Birditt, Edna Brown, Terri L. Orbuch, Jessica M. McIlvane/

Thanks to Richard Nicastro @RelationshipAid for pointing out the VOA article.

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Does living together lead to higher divorce rates?

In Newsweek, journalist Mike Kemp writes about some new studies of unmarried couples living together. Traditionally, living together before marriage was thought to make divorce more likely.

Moving in together before marriage used to be associated with a higher risk for divorce. But now, as more unmarried couples than ever before decide to live under the same roof, do they face the same fate?

Sociologists think the calculus may have changed. Part of the difference stems from just who’s deciding to shack up. In the late ’70s, only about a third of people lived together before tying the knot. Those people tended to be less traditional in their beliefs—it was the age of the hippie, after all—and therefore more likely to get divorced, says Pamela Smock, a sociologist at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. As cohabiting has come more common across the country, however, the once strong link between “living in sin” and divorce has weakened over time.

Many thanks for Mike Kemp and Newsweek for providing links directly to the actual studies on Google Docs. A news story is so much more powerful if you can see the source data.

In a paper by Rose Kreider, a large increase in cohabitating couples was noted between 2009 and 2010. This contrasts with the recent falls in divorce rates that we’ve seen. Read source document.

In a 2007 paper by Steffen Reinhold, he talks about previous findings that premarital cohabitation was linked with a greater number of divorces. By looking at data from 1988 to 2002, he demonstrates that this link has weakened over time. Read source document.

Learn more about trends in marriage and divorce in our recent interview with Rebecca Davis.

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Money Is More than Dollars – Emotions and Finance in Relationships

When relationships fail, about 70% of those who decide to split do so because of money issues. We intellectualize money and talk about it in terms of making sound financial decisions. The recognition of the emotions connected to money is rarely discussed even in the closest of relationships. Couples are more likely to talk about sex than talk about how money represents power, self-worth, approval, social standing, and security.

When relationships are strained, the issues around money take on a heightened importance. It’s often the weapon of choice in the battle field of who is right and who is wrong.

Money is often laden with values and proving the other person wrong has little chance of success. Our approach to money is inherited and learned and is a deep seated belief. We inherit much of what we know and feel about money from our family of origin and then we add to it as we mature and have our own money.

For example in one family, it’s a given that all advanced education costs are covered completely. In another family the rule is the child is out of the house at 18 and any advanced education is for them to get or not.

When there are these types of disparate views, couples need to have a fuller discussion about how money and financial matters affect how they feel about themselves and what it means to them in terms of values. They are more likely to find their way through money problems if they are willing to communicate and explore alternatives. Couples financial mediation is one approach to working together to find workable solutions.

Cinda Jones, CFP, CDFA
San Diego – Del Mar – Carlsbad

Read more about Cinda’s practice in California financial planning for marriage and divorce mediation or visit her divorce financial solutions website.

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Marriage compatibility is all in your head

George Pransky is a prominent psychologist known for his theories on relationships. Among his many writings, he is the author of The Relationship Handbook, an extremely interesting guide to relationships, marriage, and divorce which includes the following excerpt:

We have all been surprised by an unlikely couple who found marital bliss. Let’s look at an example.

A woman told a marriage therapist that her husband was in jail and had served five years of a ten-year sentence. She said she visited him every day. The therapist thought he knew what was coming. He expected her to be ambivalent about remaining married or resentful about how much she was giving and how little she was getting back. To his amazement her problem was just the opposite.

“I came in to see if I”m crazy,” she said to him. “I feel a lot of love for my husband. I carry him in my heart all day long. I am grateful to be married to such a man. Of course, I wish he were out of prison so that we could live together.”

“It’s good you love your husband. Why are you concerned about that?” replied the therapist.

“My friends tell me I should divorce him and get another husband. They say it’s wrong to be satisfied with my situation.”

“Are your friends happy in their marriages?”

“Not really. They don’t like the way they are treated. They don’t seem to appreciate their marriages. Only one of my friends is happily married. Come to think of it, she is the only one who seems to approve of my feelings.”

“The point of marriage is to have the feelings you and your husband share,” he said. Yes, it would be better to have companionship, too, but having those feelings in your heart is the most important thing.”

The client was relieved. She knew she felt happy and in love with her husband. She had entertained the idea that they would have to divorce. It was a relief to hear a definition of compatibility that related to inside feelings rather than the external situation.

Suppose a wife is loud, opinionated, plays golf incessantly and likes weird movies, but her husband doesn’t resent these traits. Would he feel compatible with his wife? Of course he would.

There really is no such thing as incompatibility. It is all in our minds. Were this not the case, there wouldn’t be such an unlikely assortment of happy couples in the world.

Compatibility is a product of thought, a figment of the imagination. If we think a characteristic is incompatible, then we will get a negative feeling from that thought. The negative feeling is what we call “incompatibility”. Were we to have a chance of heart and think of the characteristic as good or unimportant, we would feel compatible again.

You can read more about “>The Relationship Handbook on Amazon.

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Michele Weiner-Davis on Regrets After Divorce

Michele Weiner-Davis is a well-known author and therapist who specializes in marriage relationships. She’s published the first chapter from her fascinating book Divorce Busting from which we get this quote about her changed perspective to divorce.

Over the past several years I have witnessed the suffering and disillusionment that are the predictable by-products of divorce. I have seen people who have been divorced for five years or longer with wounds that won’t heal. These people failed to anticipate the pain and upheaval divorce leaves in its wake. I have heard countless divorced couples battle tenaciously over the very same issues they believed they were leaving behind when they walked out the door. They learned too late that the act of divorce does not free them from their ex-spouses’ emotional grip; some ghosts live forever.

I have heard too many disillusioned individuals express regrets about their belief that their ex-spouse was the problem only to discover similar problems in their second marriages or, even more surprisingly, in their new single lives. They admit to recreating the same unproductive patterns of interacting in new relationships, repeating old mistakes or discovering that they are still miserable.

Diagnosing one’s spouse as the source of the problem, a common antecedent to divorce, doesn’t take into account the roles both partners play in the deterioration of the relationship. The habits spouses developed over the years go with them when they walk out the door…

I have not arrived at this conclusion based on religious or moralistic views. From my perspective, divorce is neither immoral nor bad. In fact, in extreme cases, certain relationships are better off terminated for the health and well being of everyone involved. This book will also address these exceptional situations. However, most people considering divorce do not fall into these extreme categories.

Visit Michele Weiner-Davis’s website to read more about the book. We also previously discussed it in our Divorce Busting post.

And if you’d like to learn more about the historical basis of marriage, check out our exclusive video interview with Rebecca Davis about her book More Perfect Unions.

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A story of infidelity, divorce mediation, then reconciliation

There is a touching story in Salon about an infidelity overcome through the persistence of both husband and wife. Written five years after the affair, it shows that not every affair necessarily ends in divorce.

When Robert told me about the affair, we were walking from marriage counseling through the arboretum near campus. We’d been in therapy for a couple of months, but we’d been fighting much longer than that.

“I have to be honest with you,” he said, slumping onto a park bench, looking ill. “I’m sleeping with someone else.”

“We should get a divorce,” I said.

He put his head in his hands. “That’s the last thing I want.”

So I went for a meeting with a divorce mediator. Ours wasn’t going to be an ugly split; his guilt and sorrow and my shock and ambivalence were the perfect ingredients for a fair settlement. The process of reconciliation was laborious, but Robert threw his heart into fundamental change. He started seeing an individual counselor and began to dig deep into the reasons for his infidelity. I made changes too: I learned that I had to work to better express my wants and needs to Robert.

Five years later I’m still taking our marriage day by day. In many ways, I believe that is the way any marriage should be lived. Each day I work at my marriage a little. Each day I find value in my marriage. Each day I go to sleep glad he’s by my side.

We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary recently at a lovely dinner overlooking the ocean. Rob reached across the table and held my hand. “Thanks for sticking with me,” he said, as my eyes filled with tears.

Read the whole story in Salon. It’s a good testament that an affair can often be overcome if both partners are willing to fight for the marriage. And mediation during the marriage by a mediator, attorney, or other outside professional can sometimes help the process along.

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Marital Mediation in Texas

Our guest post today is by Michael Hiller, a Houston attorney and mediator, who writes about some unique aspects of marital mediation in Texas.

Marital Mediation is a relatively new way to help couples stay married. It is not designed to replace marriage therapy or counseling. In fact, marital mediation is frequently done by therapists. It is also done by attorneys. Marital mediation can be done by a lawyer AND a therapist (co-mediation). Across the country a variety of approaches are evolving. In this blog I want to introduce marital mediation to the Houston, TX area where I practice family law, and to everyone else reading this blog who may be new to marital mediation. Most clients know that mediation involves a person “in the middle” who helps parties come to an agreement. Throughout the country, divorce mediators tend to meet with clients without lawyers, for about 2 hours each session (Texas mediation is usually different, but it’s always different in Texas). It is the model where each session is about 2 hours that suits the Marital Mediation process well. But all you Texas purists, don’t worry, I plan to make Texas marital mediation both different and bigger. As everyone knows, things are not just different, but bigger in Texas.

The following describes what goes on in marital mediation. First we explain the Marital Mediation Process. I explain my role as a “participant-observer” (neutral third party) and that we listen to the couple, help them communicate, assist them in creating an agreement (whether written or oral) that may resolve their issues in conflict. The mediators then listen to their “Presenting Problem”, giving each client an opportunity to say what he or she wants to discuss. The Marital Mediator also observes the couple’s communication style. Simultaneously, the mediator seeks issues that can be mediated: what is the conflict? Then comes teaching, and the modeling of communication and conflict management. The conflict has not been managed well and there are poor communication skills. The Marital Mediator can “normalize” the couple’s skills and give feedback. BOTH are right: each spouse acknowledges the other, each partner sees things a certain way the other considers wrong. Once the Marital Mediator begins to help the couple communicate and manage conflict better, agreements can be reached, if only on minor issues at first. Ultimately, many couples create a written post nuptial or marital agreement. But oral agreements may also help. In Texas, post-nuptials are enforceable, if only on certain issues.

Stay tuned for more from Michael Hiller, our expert in Texas marital mediation.  His upcoming article will be the “Texas Twist” – “Mental Toughness Marital Mediation”.

If you want to learn more, you can watch our video interview about marital mediation or read articles about postnuptial (postmarital) agreements.

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Exclusive Rebecca Davis interview on

Noted author Rebecca Davis sat down for a talk with MaritalMediation recently. Rebecca’s book More Perfect Unions has been getting great reviews for its unique perspective on how the institution of marriage developed. You can read her rave reviews in the New Yorker, Slate, and Washington Post. Believe it or not, there was a time when marriage counseling didn’t exist, and Rebecca provides a fascinating look at how marriage has shifted with the cultural winds of the last few generations.

Since the topic is so relevant to Marital Mediation, we can’t thank Rebecca enough for giving us these insights into how the concept of saving marriage has evolved to the present day.

If you want to learn more after watching the video, there’s more about Rebecca on her website and you can buy her book More Perfect Unions here.

Learn more about postnuptial agreements.

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Criteria for writing a postnuptial agreement – More on Ansin v. Craven

This week brings more coverage of the Ansin decision in the Business West journal. We’ve been running many stories on the Ansin v. Craven decision, including William Levine’s postnuptial legal overview and other articles related to marital and postmarital agreements.

In the Business West article, Springfield attorney Carla Newton outlines several specific criteria to provide guidance:

(1) each party must have had an opportunity to obtain separate legal counsel of his or her own choosing;

(2) the marital agreement must have been signed freely and voluntarily without any fraud or coercion;

(3) the marital agreement must contain a full disclosure of all assets with their approximate market value, a statement of each party’s approximate annual income, and, equally as important, disclosure of any significant future acquisitions or changes in income which are reasonably anticipated;

(4) the marital agreement must also contain a clear and explicit waiver of the right to a judicial determination of marital rights and asset distribution in the event that a divorce does take place at some point in the future; and

(5) the martial agreement must be evaluated to determine if the terms were fair and reasonable at the time of the execution of the agreement and are still fair and reasonable at the time of the divorce.

The Ansin v. Craven decision is published here.

Learn more about postnuptial agreements.

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An Asperger’s Marriage

Marriage can be a struggle for any of us, but if your husband has Asperger’s it brings a whole set of challenges of its own. David Finch talks about the process he and his wife went through which ultimately was successful in saving their marriage.

IT wasn’t working, any of it. Our third year of marriage threatened to be our last. I’d become cynical and withdrawn, obsessive and preoccupied, dismissive and unhelpful.

Their marriage reaches the breaking point and his wife convinces him to go for Asperger’s testing, at which he receives an extremely high score for diagnosis:

What I needed initially were communication skills and a sense of empathy, neither of which, in my case, had been factory-installed. Fortunately, I was living with a highly qualified therapist with a strong motivation to help. Her objective: re-invent our marriage.

And after they’ve gone through an intensive program of therapy to teach him marriage communication and empathy skills.

But over all I’m a good patient, and we’ve made steady progress. We’ve even reached a therapeutic milestone. When something is wrong, Kristen is able to whisper to me those three magic words: “Can we talk?” And instead of shutting down and freezing her out with silent brooding, I’m able to provide an equally magical response: “Yes.”

It’s an inspiring story, you can read the whole article in the New York Times.

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If your husband contributes less financially, you are more likely to get divorced

A report published by the Journal of Family Issues claims that in marriages where the wife earns 60% or more of the family’s income, the marriage is far more likely to end in divorce.

We only can speculate on the reasons why, since the study doesn’t provide evidence either way: Are women with their own source of income less dependent on the marriage? Do non-traditional gender roles brings stress into the marriage? We’ve written about divorce culture and divorce statistics before.

Apparently, the overall level of wealth in the marriage didn’t make any difference. This was a longitudinal study with 2,500 women participating, so the results are significant. However, since most of the women participating were of the same older generation, it’s likely that a survey of a younger group of women would yield different results.

Here is the abstract:

Using longitudinal data covering 25 years from 1979 to 2004, the author examines the relationship between wives’ economic resources and the risk of marital dissolution. The author considers the effects of labor force participation, income, and relative income while accounting for potential endogeneity of wives’ economic resources. The extent to which wives’ economic resources are differentially related to marital disruption for Whites and Blacks is also ascertained. The author finds that the economic resources of women are tightly linked to the risk of divorce, both negatively and positively, for Whites but not for Blacks.

The full report is a paid download called Wives’ Economic Resources and Risk of Divorce by Jay Teachman of Western Washington University.

Via Time, from an article by the New York Post.

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Does our society really need divorce insurance?

A new insurance product called WedLock is the brainchild of entrepreneur John Logan. According to Logan, “People can say that all they want but the truth is the odds of divorce are higher than most of the other things we commonly insure ourselves against.”

How does it work? Here’s the description from the company’s website:

In effect, Divorce Insurance reduces the risk of the negative impact on individual/personal financial situations associated with divorce. It does NOT insure against divorce itself – only you and your spouse can do that – but it does afford you the peace of mind that if your strong and healthy marriage turns sour and toxic, you can rest assured that your insurance benefits may help you start your life anew.
While it’s hard for us to take this too seriously, it seems the company does. The Wedlock website even includes a divorce calculator that breaks down the costs of attorney fees and mediator hours.

While it may seem hard to take this product seriously, it seems the company does. The Wedlock website even includes a divorce calculator that breaks down the costs of attorney fees and mediator hours.

Reported by ABC Los Angeles.

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Communication between couples in marriage

Today there’s an essay by James Sheridan in the News Sentinal about how important body language is for communication between spouses.  It’s very difficult to intentionally modify subconcious traits like body language, but it can make a huge difference in people’s perception.  For example:

1) Maintain eye contact by looking at the speaker’s face, but don’t stare

2) Mirror your spouse by making the same basic movements and gestures

3) Lean forward slightly

Here’s an excerpt from the essay, the full article is here:

Words are not the primary way we communicate. In 1971, researcher Albert Mehrabian demonstrated that, when people express feelings or attitudes, 38 percent of the impact of the message is conveyed by the tone of voice and another 55 percent by body language. Only 7 percent of the message was in the words.

Wives mirror their husband’s body language far more often than husbands mirror their wives. The Peases note, however, “it pays big dividends for the man who becomes good at it.” Research shows that when a man mirrors a woman’s facial expressions when she talks, she sees him “as caring, intelligent, interesting and attractive.”

Men typically do not use facial expressions to show their attitudes; instead, men use their bodies. Thus, women do better reducing their facial expressions. Using the same facial expressions with your husband as you would when talking with another woman can make you “come across as overwhelming or intimidating.” In business settings, women who listen with a “serious face are described by men as more intelligent, astute and sensible.”

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