Saturday, May 31, 2014

What's the Downside?

This week on Money Matters, I had the privilege of sharing some thoughts on prenups, which are a growing trend among young professionals-- and no, not just those with trust funds.   Why are so many looking into a prenup before they say "I do?"  Easy-- because these people are smart enough to pay attention to the stats, which confirm that at least 50% of U.S. marriages will end in divorce.  It's not that they want the marriage to fail, but rather that they want to (1) clarify upfront what will be marital and (2) minimize the damages in the event the odds do not play out in their favor.

We all spend a lot of money on insurance to protect our major assets, including our house, car, health, and even life, so why not spend a minuscule amount for a prenup to ensure a smooth dissolution of your partnership in the unfortunate event that this happens?  Think of it this way: when you get in a car and put on your seat belt, do you think the car will crash? Of course not, but you take this precaution just in case.  Well, to me the same concept should apply to a prenuptial agreement.

Simply put, a prenup is a legal contract that governs what a couple will define as marital vs. separate property.  There are other things we can also include that I think are important, such as (1) alimony limits; (2) requiring life insurance; (3) addressing the issue of who will move out if things don't work out or how quickly you will list a house for sale; (4) requesting mediation prior to any contested court filing; (5) confidentiality clauses; and (6) absolute protection of intellectual property rights.

Generally speaking, for these agreements need to held valid there are 3 basic requirements: (1) was each party represented by counsel; (2) was there enough time to review and negotiate the provisions; and (3) was there complete financial disclosure?  Of course you need to check with local counsel to see what your specific state requirements are to uphold a prenup aka an ante-nuptial agreement.

Ultimately, each engaged couple will have to do their own analysis of whether they want to get a prenup finalized before the wedding, but the question I would ask is this: what is the downside?  I don't see the downside at all, in fact all I see is tremendous risk if things go south.  Why would you do that when it is so easy to avoid chaos and financial disaster?

For those interested in further info, here is the link to the podcast from this week's radio show on prenups:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Rethinking Your Career? You Are In Good Company

The last ten years have definitely changed many industries, including my legal world.  The technological advances coupled with the Great Recession have led many to rethink their career options and priorities in life.  Clearly moving forward in the 21st century, those that can proceed with an open mind and see the opportunities that come with change will be far better off than those that just want stability and predictability, which are almost impossible to find anymore.

Whenever I have lectured to students (typically ranging in ages from 9-29), I have always emphasized the importance of continually exploring new options.  The funny thing is even after grad school we need to keep thinking this way.  In my own case, the way I practice law today is nothing like the way I was originally trained 16 years ago when I first began my career, or even 5 years ago, when I first gained recognition for promoting a more collaborative approach to divorce.  Given the way things keep evolving, I have no doubt the next 5 years my practice will continue to change drastically, as will my needs in terms of what I find satisfying.

Our careers are built on our skills, interests and values, but we must recognize that these things will all continue to evolve over time, and therefore, I think it is essential that we periodically reassess if what we are doing is truly in line with our ultimate mission in life.  And if you have a life partner, it is critical that you check in with that person and make sure you are both on the same page as to where you want to head, otherwise you run the risk of having a major disconnect and growing so far apart that the connection you once felt will be nothing more than a distant memory of something from a previous life.

Hopefully my work leaves no doubt that I care immensely about personal connections, and yet it is important for everyone to realize that work is such a huge part of our lives-- indeed  most of us spend much more of our waking hours at work than we do with our families, and if we want to feel fulfilled, we have to find a purpose in our work life.

We all need to feel connected and alive, otherwise what is the point?  More importantly, if we are not happy at work, will seep into our personal relationships off the clock, and it is now proven that all this negativity will impact our health.

You don't need an MD to recognize that stress leads to major illnesses, including heart attacks, cancer, and compromised immune systems. Even though I am not trained as a medical professional, I see this cause and effect every day as a divorce lawyer with my clients-- and it is thanks to them all that I was able to learn from their mistakes and change my own ways before it was too late.

Fortunately, many of my colleagues and friends, who decided after age 35 to redefine their careers, were able to inspire me with their stories, and now I'm at the point where I get to repay the favor.  For those of you on the fence about making a switch, just take a good look around you, and talk to those that have made life-altering decisions.  You will notice one remarkable thing: not a single former rat-racer has ever regretted leaving the race.  Not a single one that I've ever met-- so what does that tell you?  

If you are unhappy at work, home, or both don't despair-- simply follow 3 simple steps as outlined by the Dali Lama: (1) identify the source of discontent; (2) address it; and then (3) form a new path.  Many of us have also found that using a life coach is immensely helpful, and I highly recommend this free ebook by Stephen Davis: Butterflies are Free to Fly at

For those wishing to rethink their legal careers in particular, since that is my field of study, here is the Youtube link to the webinar I gave this month for Georgetown University students and alumni on Rethinking Legal Careers in the 21st century:

Let me leave no doubt that the transformation/shake-up process itself is a bit scary, but that is where good friends, family and colleagues will all come in handy to help calm you down and assist you in achieving your fullest potential in life. Once you find a way to be authentic and true to yourself, it is amazing how everything else will all fall into place.

So, whatever path you choose to take in the end, just make sure you are doing it because it brings you joy, then the rest of the pieces of your puzzle in life should all come together, and that my friends is real bliss.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Are You Keeping Your Options Open?

We've all done it in the dating world-- at some point or another we have all kept our options open when we have not been 100% into someone, and I am indeed defending this frame of mind-- especially in the 21st century when there are so many options available-- as long as you are honest with yourself about what is going on and you do your best not to mislead someone else.

To put this point of view in perspective, let's think of our actions in the work environment first.  Now, if your job isn't fulfilling, everyone would expect you to keep yours eyes and ears open for better opportunities, especially if you have already confronted your boss to try and address your concerns and somehow your requests seem to fall on deaf ears.  Eventually, you will either leave of your own volition or you will be asked to leave because it will become clear to your employer that you are not completely on board with the program.  We all accept this as a normal part of life, and guess what?  The same is true in personal relationships.
Just as it is hard to find the perfect job, it is equally difficult to find that person that just gets you, yet since very few of us are okay simply being alone, most of us will temporarily settle for someone far less than perfect, as long as the situation is somewhat enjoyable.  These people are often referred to as placeholders-- simply put they are filling a place in your life until something better comes along.  That is fine- but you have to realize that when you are doing this, it's going to be very hard to close off other options because deep down inside you are still wanting to find something better.

It is very hard to commit to someone who isn't meeting all of your needs, and I admit that wholeheartedly from personal experience.  The fact is that in the past if I wasn't 100% intellectually, physically and emotionally fulfilled in a relationship, I had a hard time shutting doors and not returning to the recycle bin of past dates.  And yet, when I have been completely into someone, I've had absolutely zero desire to look at others, and ending a chapter to start a new one has been super easy.

If someone isn't able to commit, don't take it personally-- and no matter what, don't try to force it.  Anyone that tries to force another to commit will experience a very negative, indeed visceral reaction sooner or later, because the resentment of being trapped is inevitably going to seep out into the relationship.  Meanwhile, if you are the one having a hard time closing your options, don't despair-- I don't think it means you are a commitment phobe or player, rather odds are you just haven't met your match yet.  You will know when you do, and I will tell you now that is is magical-- to the point that everyone around you can see it, and you will not even consider other options because you truly will only have eyes for the one you love.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Are You Making Smart Choices?

Every day I see people make some pretty difficult choices-- the choice to either enter or leave a marriage is not easy, and it is my job to make sure people understand how these choices will impact them (and their finances) not just now, but in the future.

The choices we make all have pros and cons, and it is important to think these through carefully and look not just at the short-term results, but rather the long-term consequences.  Starting early on, we can all recognize that our studies will impact our career choices, and yet not everyone sees how those choices will have significant financial and emotional consequences not just for us in our adult lives, but our entire families.

Some of us have to make very harsh decisions early on.  It was not easy for me to give up a life in the arts to pursue a legal career, but I did not want to be a starving artist.  Being a dancer and gymnast was a lot of fun, but it had a limited shelf life.  Given the choice of feeding my ego or feeding my family, the latter is what mattered most.  Thankfully, 20 years later I have figured out a way to bring back my creative energy, but not everyone is that lucky, and the question we each must answer for ourselves with every major decision we make is this: can you live with this choice?

How we choose to share our resources (mainly our time and money) with those we let into our lives have a significant role in our enjoyment of life.  I have repeatedly warned people that if they are not happy at work, it will affect their personal lives, and if you are not financially responsible, this too will catch up to you and cause havoc in your life.    To achieve good "flow" you have to be at peace both at work and home-- you can't maintain a dual life, believe me I tried for years and it just doesn't work.

The past few years, it has truly been an honor working with young minds-- not just at the law schools, but even at my local grade school and middle school, where the past 2 years I have been a volunteer instructor for Junior Achievement teaching kids about fiscal responsibility and making smart life choices.  And so it is with great joy the other day that a 12 year old girl asked me: how much money do you need to make to have a good life?   My response was this: it all depends on how you define a good life.

Everything comes at a price, so just make sure it is a price you (and your loved ones) are willing and able to pay.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Are You Giving Your Partner an A for Effort?

In sports, academics and the corporate world, we rarely hand out an "A" for effort-- let's face it, it is all about the final results.  That's all fine, but when you go home-- are you still bringing that attitude with you, or are you checking it at the door?  If you want your partnership to survive, let me suggest you check the  results-driven mindset at the door.

Many people seem to have a hard time picking their battles.  Everywhere I turn I see people bickering-- even on vacation.  You guys all need to chill.  Who cares if someone forgot to pick up the dry-cleaning on the way home?  Does it matter if a diaper isn't changed the way you like it done?  Is it really important how the dishes get loaded into the dishwasher or just that they made it out of the sink? If someone is 5 minutes late for dinner, forgot to get cupcakes or made something you did not want that night, really stop and ask yourself BEFORE you say anything, how important is this issue?

These little arguments might seem insignificant, but let me tell you they all had up-- and what winds up happening is that someone will start to think that they can never do anything right so why bother making an effort at all?  Indeed, if you don't give someone an A for effort, you should not be surprised when they eventually stop making any attempts to assist whatsoever.

When you act like a nit-pick or nag, do you really think that is going to turn anyone on?  It is NOT sexy to act like someone's mom or dad.  If you keep doing this, it is the surest way to ruin your sex life.  Once that intimacy starts to fade, if you don't address that issue fast, let me just tell you how that ends-- seeing someone like me for a divorce consult, and that really isn't a very pleasant place to be.

Now, while I understand that some are really wired to want things done a certain way, within a certain timeframe, I hate to tell you this, but life has its own plans that may not correspond with yours, and we are not all brought up the same way.  Our priorities might be different, and in my opinion no one has the right to dictate terms for an entire household.  Rather than try and rule with an iron fist, or to insist that someone change his/her ways, how about learning to just accept and live with them the way they are?  If you really feel the need to be an alpha dog or trainer, then go get yourself a puppy that you can discipline your way.

Seriously, if you have picked someone as your life partner, and they prove themselves to be a decent human being to you each and every day, then honor your commitment by showing that person love and respect on a daily basis.  That means you give them the benefit of the doubt, you cut them slack when they need it, and you bite your tongue sometimes to spare their ego or feelings.  Much like a child, if you just reward good behavior and give them an A for effort, they will love you for life.  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Does It Really Matter Who Is At Fault?

As the trend of no-fault divorces has spread over the last 20 years, I have thankfully seen a dramatic decline in the number of clients that want me to portray the other person as Darth Vader.  Don't get me wrong-- there are still some people that would love to have their exs convicted and placed in solitary confinement for life for crimes against humanity, but either they soon realize that divorce court is not criminal court or the economic realities of legal warfare kick in and knock some sense into them.

Most logical human beings are able to grasp that there are two sides to every story, and many are able to accept that each person is always going to be entitled to his/her own point of view on why things unraveled. However, there are some people that just cannot accept any blame for anything-- it is always someone else's fault. These types are a lost cause as far as I'm concerned, but for the remaining 80% of you that can appreciate your less than perfect status as a mere mortal on Earth, I have high hopes for you-- especially when it comes to creating healthy relationships.

We all have different priorities, interests and passions we want to pursue, and a good partner will respect your autonomy to do what you need to do to feel fulfilled.  But as we evolve, sometimes we may find that our interests may compete with one another, and if you are not cut from the same cloth, you will soon find the competition turns into fiery clashes.

Personally, I see myself as a hawk-- I need to be free to fly, I need to hunt, and at the end of the day I need to return a warm, safe nest.  Now, I am happy to share my nest with another-- as long as it remains a safe and inviting place to come home to at night.  Most men I know are exactly the same way-- the problem is that a non-hunter does not always appreciate the work and sacrifices that are made outside the nest.  Their lack of understanding leads to resentment, and those negative feelings seep out into the relationship creating an unstable environment at home.  Who wants to come home to that?  No one.  And so it is that the slow, downward spiral begins as the conflicts continue to escalate until someone eventually hits his/her wall.

Once someone realizes that no one is getting a gold trophy for sucking it up the longest, I don't blame that person for getting out of a bad situation, and I'm so glad that very few courts still care about this any more.  Because really, who cares why the marriage is ending?  The point is that the contract is being terminated, and the focus needs to be on what we do moving forward, especially when children are involved-- and they above all else don't need to know the details of why a divorce is occurring, they just need to know that their parents will continue to care for them, provide for them, and love them.

Parents that can focus on their kids' best interests are the ones who excel at picking their battles with the other parent.  These are people that understand that someone might be a crappy partner, but still be a great father or mother to a child.  They see that the child is not one person's prized possession, but rather a gift that both need to share and enjoy.  Together, I see so many divorced parents put aside their differences in order to identify problems and find solutions that will work for their children.  And it is these same people that I so often see move on after the divorce to find great success both professionally and personally-- because they let the past go, they don't hold grudges, and they accept that it really doesn't matter who was at fault for letting their love die.  As we all know from observing nature: something always has to die so that something else can live.

So, you can mourn the death of your marriage, but don't try to view it a sham or complete waste.  It was an experience, and for better or worse you hopefully learned some valuable lessons that will serve you well in the future.  The sooner you can stop playing the blame game and accept that it took two to tango, the sooner I believe you will find your real love waiting for you to go write the next chapter of your life's story.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Making the Case for Online Dating

I never thought it would come to this, but here I am writing about the importance of keeping an open mind after 35 and trying the online dating scene.  Why?  Well, it really is quite simple-- how else are you going to screen through a bunch of people while juggling work and kids?  We all barely have time for the friends we already have in our lives, so without wasting a ton of time and still preserving our egos and livers, it has become amazingly easy to screen out potential dating candidates online from the comfort of your own home or on your smart phone.

The fact is that over 20% of people are meeting online now, and there are a ton of options that cater to different tastes and preferences.  My last three friends to marry (one is a doctor, the other is a lawyer, and the third is a PR exec) all met their husbands online, and many of my clients, all highly educated and decent people, are finding quality people through the various sites.  Here are the most popular ones that I've heard of:

2. (which is also an app with a carousel that lets you scroll through pics);
3. (which is owned by and tries to match you based on personalities)
4.  (known for those wanting a serious relationship)
5. Our Time (for those over 50);
6. How About We... (you finish the sentence by suggesting a fun date)
7. OK Cupid
8. JDate (for those that want to date Jewish people);
9. Christian Mingle (for those that want to date Christians); and
10. Plenty of Fish

If you don't want to s*it where you eat by dating people at work or in your building, which could lead to very awkward situations when things don't work out, then I highly recommend you give the online thing a shot.  I'm not saying it will be easy, and I'm definitely not vouching for the integrity of everyone on those sites.  The fact is there are creeps everywhere, and it is up to you to be savvy about the information you put out there and the measures of precaution you take to guard your safety-- and sanity.

The online scene has definitely improved over the last 10 years, and it can be a lot of fun.  Here's hoping you will feel like a kid in a candy store-- and who knows who you will meet???  You just never know... :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Don't Get Jaded By The Dating Game

No matter how much of a gamer you are, let's face it, after a while all of us can get tired of the games.  It is exhausting to always have your guard up, to always feel like you are on the hunt, and to always be negotiating for the best terms possible while you are trading assets.  Unfortunately, the more tired you become, the more tempted you might be to lower your standards. And once you do that, let me just warn you, it's a very easy ride down a very slippery slope, and the slow incremental decline might go unnoticed for a while until sadly one day you realize you truly have hit rock bottom.

We have all dated someone that has left us wondering in the end, "WTF, how did I let things get so bad?"  And I know it sucks at the moment, but let me just say this is actually a good thing-- because hopefully it will force you to take a break, regroup, and have you ponder (1) what do you truly need? and (2) what are things you absolutely won't negotiate away in the future?

The clearer you are about what your own agenda is in life and love, the greater your chances of obtaining your goals.  It is all about knowing what you want, and then being your own best advocate for what you believe you deserve.  Personally, I believe there are some basic minimum standards we should all be able to agree are necessary in a life partner: (1) trust-worthy; (2) respectful; (3) kind; (4) generous; (5) able to give and receive love.   Of course there are many other factors that each of us might need but that is simply a matter of personal preferences, which can vary greatly, and over time you may find your preferences will change without ever trading off on those bare minimum standards.

So, if you find you've really hit the bottom of the barrel in the dating world, don't despair.  It is a very polluted pool to swim in, and sometimes for your own sanity, you will need to get out and detox.  This could take 3-9 months, at least that is my pattern, and just make sure you use it wisely.  It's not about having a drawn out pity party at home-- rather it is about using the time to reflect on your vision for the future and the kind of person you want to share it with going forward.

After going through the worst break-up of my life not too long ago, I admit I felt pretty jaded by the whole dating game, so I took a bit of a much needed time out, and during that time I had to acknowledge that I had really let the games go too far.  I then made a conscious choice to not repeat certain behaviors, and by making a commitment to be less of a gamer, a funny thing happened a few months ago-- I wound up meeting a genuinely decent, authentic, down-to-earth guy, who is not into the games at all, which just proves that there are still some out there-- you just need to think about the kind of person you really want to attract first before you head out on your quest for Mr. or Mrs. Right.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Don't Ignore the Money Talks

Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with many forward-thinking couples on developing contracts that govern how couples will handle money and share assets once married. Clearly in light of the Great Recession, this has become a hot-button topic among couples as evidenced by the surge in prenups this past year. Now, I realize this may not be very romantic, but the harsh truth is that couples cannot ignore money discussions, and it will continually be a work in progress for families to work on a realistic budget, saving for retirement and/or college, and paying down debt.

Two people may be in love and yet have completely different views about money. Rather than ignore these differences, they need to talk about them. Unfortunately, many avoid money talks and sometimes naively believe that as long as two people have good incomes, there shouldn't be any problems. In fact, what I've seen is that the more people make, the more they tend to over-extend themselves with expensive homes, cars, etc. Furthermore, those that come from wealthy families have significant external pressure to protect that family wealth, and emotions can run high when legal discussions are involved.

Most lawyers are generally trained to detach from emotions, and once our clients share their concerns with us, it is simply our job to draft the right legal documents to address their concerns, including: (1) cohabitation agreements, (2) prenuptials (aka "prenups") (3) post-nups, (4) trusts or wills, (5) family limited partnerships, and in the unfortunate event that things do not work out (6) Separation Agreements. These are all part of my every day vocabulary, and my firm belief is that as long as people can articulate their concerns and find common ground, the legal contracts drafted should preserve the peace and protect everyone.

For those that have a problem discussing money with their partners, seeking the advice of a neutral person, such as a couple's counselor or certified financial profession to facilitate these difficult talks might be a wise investment. Let's face it, money talks are inevitable and can make or break a couple. Having realistic expectations of what each party can and will contribute financially on the road to happily-ever-after is perhaps not very romantic, but is a reality of life and love in the 21st century.

Here's the tv interview I did for Money Matters on this subject:

Friday, May 9, 2014

How Do You Reboot?

A lot of people ask me how I am able to decompress, how I find time to write, or how I manage not to let work as a divorce lawyer get me down in the dumps.  One word: boundaries.  Over the past decade, I have really made it a point to detach from work, so that it does not seep into my personal time with family and friends.  My evenings and weekends are mine, and if someone cannot respect that, then we need to terminate the working relationship because my mental and emotional well-being is not for sale.  In the meantime, I have a systematic way of rebooting, and here it is:

1. Meditate- Even just a few minutes in the morning, sitting in absolute silence are just golden.  Give thanks for at least three things in life.  Gratitude and humility go a long way, and there is no better way to start your day that with this in mind.

2. Connect with Nature-- Go for a walk either during lunch, in the evening, or on the weekends.  Take in the sounds and beauty of nature.  There is so much beauty around us-- and if you are like me & into flowers, go buy some for yourself.  Nature has incredible healing powers.

3. Shut off the electronics-- No phone, tv, emails, or electronics for a least a few hours in the evening.  Take time to read or listen to music.  Write in your journal.  Go to the gym and get all your aggression out.

4. Find Your Own Fun- Don't wait for someone to spoil you-- you know what you like and can spoil yourself.  Book a spa appointment, take a language class online, bake some yummy cupcakes, and treat yourself to the movies alone-- no need to compromise with anyone, you pick exactly what you like!

5. Make Time for Loved Ones- It is really hard to coordinate schedules with friends sometimes.  Let's face it we are all very busy and time is a rare commodity, but if you love someone, you have to make time to catch up, check in, show that you care.  Don't take friends and family for granted-- they are your legacy, not your billable hours.

So there you have it, my 5 tips to remaining sane in a crazy world.   Hope you will take some of these tips to heart-- especially this Mother's Day weekend.  And to all those amazing moms out there struggling to find that work-life balance, just know that it can be done-- you will get there, but don't expect it to just happen, you have to find a way to reboot on your own and don't let anyone ignore your boundaries!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Love Is A 2-Way Street

There are a lot of black and white thinkers out there, and two rather harsh sayings that really drill home this point are: (1) there are 2 types of people in this world-- those that like to screw others and those that let themselves get screwed; and (2) there givers and takers in life.  Well, as someone who appreciates a world with varying shades of gray, I would like to think that most human beings at varying times have the capacity to either take or receive,  and play different roles in the screwing process, as is appropriate under different circumstances-- especially when it comes to love.

Love after all is a 2-way street when you are in a healthy, loving relationship.  There should be times when one person may be the one giving, and the other should just graciously receive the gifts being offered, then the next time they would reverse roles, in such a way that they create a balance between them showing mutual love and admiration for one another.  The problem of course is that there are some that are just pure takers, and sadly some incredibly generous souls that keep on giving and giving without realizing that their efforts are simply not being reciprocated or even appreciated.  This is a very unhealthy dynamic, which I call a dysfunctional see-saw.  Remember for a see-saw to work, you both have to make an effort and take turns, otherwise it won't work.

In the divorce world, I see imbalanced relationships every day-- and now even off the clock they are very easy to spot.  It is incredibly clear to me within a few minutes of observing a couple when they both feel like they are equally lucky to be with the other versus when one person clearly is just not as into the other while one appears to have fallen head over heels.  It is very sad to see this lop-sided situation, but even worse  is when you have a major disparity in power.  Those are a recipe for disaster.

No one should ever have the feeling of having the upper hand in a balanced relationship.  When that sentiment exists, that means there is a power imbalance, and this will lead to a lot of friction.  Ultimately the one with the power realizes that s/he can do practically anything and can also walk away at anytime and it just won't matter much, and with such feelings of indifference, apathy becomes inevitable.  Sadly, love cannot exist where there is apathy, and in my opinion that is when you truly hit the point of no return.  

If you want a relationship that will last, then you have to make sure that upfront it feels like there is equality in your passion for one another.  Do you both feel like the signs are telling you this is the one?  Do you both feel like soul mates?  Do you both wake up thinking of each other?  Are you both checking in with one another during the day and/or at night?  Do you both do nice things for each other?  Are you both coming up with plans to do fun things?  Are you both walking around experiencing things together feeling like you have died and gone to heaven?  If you have answered yes to all these questions, then this is how you know you are on the right track-- but don't take it for granted.  To stay on track, you have to constantly put forth the effort together.

Having been on one-way streets more than once, let me just spare you the journey and tell you that the final destination is a Dead End.  So, if that is not where you want to end up, then take a good look in the early stages of your relationship as you first start to pave that road together and make sure the endeavor is indeed a mutual one.

Love is an overused, and often misunderstood word.  Here's hoping someone will walk into your life that gives it real meaning.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

5 Key Signs to Watch Out for in That First Fight

I know this is going to sound weird, but I actually like when that first fight takes place with someone.  Why?  Because you actually learn a lot based on how someone reacts to conflict.  Let's just be realistic here-- we are all going to have arguments with our loved ones-- it may take 6 days or 6 months, but it is bound to happen sooner or later, and when it does, pay attention.  How you resolve conflicts is a critical part to making a relationship last.

It is completely normal to have disagreements,  to want different things at times, and have different points of view.  And when something really matters to you, it is okay not be willing to compromise on something.  What is NOT okay is having someone regress to being a three-year old having a temper tantrum because s/he is not getting his/her way.

What classifies at 3-yr old, unacceptable behavior?  Well, for those of you who haven't been around this age-group much recently, let me refresh your memory with my top 5 signs someone lacks the emotional tools to address problems in a positive way:

1. Spewing venom-- when s/he starts cursing, hurling insults, or calls names.  This may seem funny at first, but overtime, I promise this will wear on you.

2. Threats- this is easy to spot, if you don't do this, then I won't do that.  The point is to force a certain outcome from you.  The more hostile the threats, the more you can tell this person has serious anger management issues.

3. Defensive tactics- rather than own up to doing something hurtful, this person will do everything possible to defend his/her position.  Saying "I'm sorry" is simply impossible for these individuals.

4. Blame-shifting- somehow, in ways you will never even be able to logically explain, these people make it all your fault.  They are never in the wrong, it is always you.  At first you may go along with this, but sooner or later you will wake up-- hopefully sooner for your own sake.

5.  Black and white thinkers-- these individuals are unable to see the gray in life.  One person has to be right, the other must be wrong.  They are unable to walk a mile in another person's shoes.  Why? Because they lack empathy-- it is either their way or the highway.

All of these behaviors are actually quite common among children, but they are simply unacceptable from adults-- at least if you want to be in a loving, healthy relationship.  While I realize that we all want to cut someone slack, I can tell you that each and every time I have done that, I have regretted it.  The fact is that when we first start dating someone, that is typically when we are going to be on our best behavior, so if you see signs upfront that someone doesn't know how to fight well, there is ZERO chance of that getting better later on.

Love is not meant to hurt, and being with someone should not make you cry on a regular basis-- unless they are tears of joy.  If you repeatedly keep getting into heated arguments, stop deluding yourself that this is normal or okay, unless you happen to be a glutton for punishment.

Someone who gets so angry at you that they clench their teeth, tense up, and either explode or shut down and refuse to touch you after an argument has issues well beyond what you should try to tackle.  There are many sick, broken people out there, and unless you want to play the role of a social worker in your relationship, I say cut your losses early on and get out.

Now there are also positive signs to watch for in that first fight-- if you find someone with immense emotional maturity that person will see that first conflict as an opportunity to work with you-- to better understand you.  They will calmly hear your side of the story, and then explain their point of view.  They will draw near you and listen, acknowledge your feelings, and stay focused on resolving the issue at hand.  In the end, you will feel like you have actually grown closer, that you met the challenge head on and have moved on to a better place.  Does this sound too good to be true?  I'm sorry to say if that answer is yes, then you haven't experienced a true loving, healthy relationship.

In the end, I'm certainly not suggesting you go pick a fight for no reason, but I am telling you not to be afraid of that first fight.  Just go into it with your eyes wide open-- pay attention to the signs.  A kind soul will make you feel safe to offer a dissenting opinion, and s/he will not rip your head off for making a mistake.  It is that quality above all else that matters in the end, for life is full of conflict, and the world is full of people lacking good coping skills.  So when you find that gifted individual that knows how to fight well with you, then have fun with your first fight for it will teach you a ton-- and then well... go put that adrenaline to some good use and by all means go have some great make-up sex!