Divorce lawyer James Sexton compares his new book to a doctor telling you to eat healthy — hey, it won’t ruin his business, he’s just telling you what he knows.
He’s taken what he's learned and penned a new book, If You're In My Office, It's Already Too Late, written after witnessing the breakdown of more than a thousand marriages over his 20-year career in New York City. Amazingly, though, he’s still a romantic who believes in love. Which is why he’s also telling us what he knows about staying together.
"I've seen so much of what people do wrong that you could probably reverse-engineer that into what they might have done differently," Sexton tells Personal Space.
His main point is clear; if you’ve found your way to him it’s over for your union. So, how can you prevent divorce?
“Stay connected with your spouse. When you're in something, you don't see it so clearly, like you did in the beginning,” he says.
Sexton says that his whole idea is that after seeing relationships fall apart over decades, you can actually reverse engineer things before they turn ugly.
“It’s like a dentist telling you how to prevent tooth decay,” he says. “What I see is pretty predictable, I’m not speculating here, these are patterns I’ve seen over and over.”
The book is filled with chapters on how to argue better, and deciding whether you want to “be right or be happy,” and he adds that every person in a long-term relationship is going to have disagreements, the real key is in how you have your arguments. He also writes how sex is “the glue of a marriage,” and for a couple scheduling sex, they are ahead of the game.
“The first problem is realizing you have a problem,” Sexton says. “You have to make time, admit we haven’t had sex in however long. We live in such a social media society is all anybody does is put blissfully happy pictures, but I want to know, after 25 years, how often do you have sex? The truth is, we don’t talk about openly what really goes on in marriages.”
Sexton says that he really understands divorce, because as a divorce lawyer, his clients are forced to be really honest with him about what’s going on, and they really don’t lie to him, because they want the best outcome possible from the split.
“If you’re in here with me, it’s past the point. I’ve maybe seen three couples over the years try to call it off and go to couples therapy, and in a few months they’re back here. It’s something you don’t see really clearly inside of it, the demise of a relationship, people don’t realize until they’re past the point.”
The first step is to step back, he says, and really look at your relationship, because “by the time you get to me it’s over.”
And as for Sexton himself, he said he had to learn to develop the emotional resilience in the beginning of his career in order to deal with all the ugliness of divorce.
“Some stories hurt, I feel their pain, I feel things but I’m not gonna help my client by telling them that.” Instead he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, yoga, and writing the book was a meditative experience for him.
“Fundamentally I’m a romantic at heart, watching what I do drives home for me how deeply we want and need to be loved, and it helps me be mindful and present.”
With the divorce business always booming (sadly), Sexton says to think about a few things before you call it quits.
“Before you get to my office think about the fact that relationships end in two ways, very slowly and then all at once…he’s sleeping with his secretary, well he’s sleeping with his secretary for a reason, what’s that reason?
It’s never the side effects, it’s the root causes, the things that bring people together also drive them apart. It’s hard to stay together, and it's really hard to split up.”
If you have to end it, be the best version of yourself you can, have some dignity, and next time, try to notice the signs before you land in his office.
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