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10 things every married woman should know
Infidelity is not about you. If your husband cheats on you, don't beat yourself up or think that it's all your fault. Infidelity is about him and his choices.

by Sheilah D. Vance

Just about everyone who marries wants a happy and long-lasting union. But not everyone gets that. And when divorce raises its ugly head, most people-especially women-are unprepared.

Even though I had handled many divorces in my law practice before I went through my own, I was unprepared for the land mines that blew up in my face. Then, as my friends started going through their divorces, I saw the same thing. Now, I see it with my clients.

I suggest that women prepare themselves before getting to a point of separation or divorce. So, here are 10 things every married woman-whether happily or unhappily-should know.
1. Your husband can always change his mind. You may be in a happy marriage and think that this article doesn't apply to you. But it does. Your husband can always change his mind about his desire to be married to you and, if he does, your life can change in an instant. Divorce can happen to anyone, no matter what you do.
2. Know your family's finances inside and out. Many husbands pay the bills and manage the family finances. There's nothing wrong with that, but at least know what those bills and finances are. Keep a record of the name and address of every savings, checking, retirement and investment account either or both of you have.
3. If your husband ever mentions separation or divorce to you, put your plan in place because you are playing catch-up. I'm all for counseling and believe that couples should try to save their marriages. But protect yourself, just in case. While you and your spouse go to couple's counseling, get some pre-divorce counseling from a financial planner or attorney. Try to save your marriage, but don't think that there's anything wrong in also trying to save yourself.
4. Protect your credit. Keep your credit rating up. If you find yourself in a divorce, you will need good credit to rent an apartment or buy a new home or a car.

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5. Have your own money. That is money in your own name that your husband cannot touch. If you are in a divorce, you will need money for attorney's fees to even give yourself a chance at child and spousal support, let alone a fair property settlement.
6. Mental illness in high-achieving men often doesn't manifest itself until midlife. If something doesn't seem right with your spouse's behavior, it probably isn't. Suggesting that your spouse get help may help you save your marriage.
7. Encourage your husband to put as much money as possible into his company retirement plan. Yes, even in this challenging economy. Contributions to a company retirement plan leave a paper trail and generally cannot be hidden. A company retirement plan is considered joint property.
8. Infidelity is not about you. If your husband cheats on you, don't beat yourself up or think that it's all your fault. Infidelity is about him and his choices. Infidelity may leave you feeling that you are undesirable, but don't go there. There are plenty of men out there who would love to have sex with you if that's what you wanted. If you doubt it, go on any online dating service or walk into any bar.
9. You deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and dignity at all times. No one is perfect, but ... mental abuse almost always comes before physical abuse. If you think your husband is disrespecting you, you're right, because only you know how you feel. Don't ignore your inner inklings.
10. The only thing certain about alimony, or spousal support, is that it's certain to end. It is discretionary, awarded by the court or in a settlement between parties based largely on your ability to provide for yourself. It is only for a limited number of years. Keep your resume and skills up to date, because if you have not been working outside of the home, you will most likely have to do so after the divorce.

Hopefully, you will never have to face a divorce. But if you do, I hope that these 10 things will make you better prepared.

Sheilah D. Vance is an attorney in private practice in Philadelphia. She is the author of the book "Land Mines," www.TheElevatorGroup.com

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