He’s always visiting his “mother”. She’s looking up plastic surgeons. A top divorce lawyer opens her files …
This week, a survey revealed that women who feel they’re heading for divorce work harder in order to earn more and enhance their career prospects in preparation for a single life of financial independence.
As a divorce lawyer, it set me thinking about all the other ways men and women change their behaviour when they think their marriage is heading for the rocks.
I have scores of such people coming through my door, and the tell-tale signs that trouble is ahead are nearly always the same, whether you’re rich or poor, married for 20 years or just two months.
Men, it has to be said, are far more obvious, leaving a stream of evidence to be used later by the wife’s lawyer. Women are the more subtle and calculating sex – though on the financial front, men, too, can be incredibly wily when they know a financial settlement lies ahead.
So what are the telltale signs for men and women? Here are the ones I come across most often.
The cheating man
Being permanently glued to his mobile phone. Together with a redirection of his mobile phone and credit card bills to his office, this indicates that he has something to hide – and usually it’s a new relationship.
One of my clients, Andrea, became concerned about her marriage after her husband catapulted himself across a room like a Bond stuntman to grab his mobile when she dusted too near the handset.
One evening when he had drunk too much, she looked at his text messages and discovered that he had another woman whom he was intending to run away with the following week. After having all his assets frozen, he had to pay her a substantial settlement.
When a man becomes so withdrawn that no amount of coaxing, cajoling or promises of rampant sex can alter his state of indifference. In this situation he has switched off from his wife in anticipation of a new life. A lack of rowing means that he no longer cares and it is probably the end of the marriage.
Other men are cowards when it comes to ending a relationship, so they will try to provoke their wife into ending it for them, or giving him an excuse to walk out. In this case, a man will deliberately start a row about any subject at all – whether it is the state of the weather, friends, family or what’s on TV.
One client recalled how her husband would deliberately criticise her choice of meal. If she made fish for dinner, he would complain that he wanted a steak. His displeasure gave him a reason to storm out of the house to meet his lover.
Another favourite for husbands who want out of the marriage is to aim a barrage of
criticism at their wives to erode their confidence. One client of mine, Gloria, was slightly overweight, but was devastated when her rotund husband kept tapping her stomach and calling her ‘podge’, ‘Mrs Blobby’ and ‘Mrs Wibbly Wobbly’.
She was even more concerned when she discovered that her husband had emailed a picture of her in her bikini with the words ‘Is this grounds for divorce?’emblazoned across her stomach.
New hobbies are a classic sign. If a man needs an excuse to get away to meet his new lover, he is likely to need a valid excuse to get out of the house. So when you think he’s off out for a boring game of golf, then watch out.
Countless women have told me that dramatic changes in hairstyle and grooming habits in a man often spell matrimonial doom, even if it’s as harmless as changing a parting from the left to the right or trimming off nasal and ear hairs. (So look out, Mrs Cameron.)
When men express an overwhelming desire to see their mothers, when previously it was the wife who constantly had to encourage such visits, it can mean another excuse to have an ‘away day’.
A client of mine called Nancy discovered-that for 12 months her husband had not, in fact, been visiting his mother at all but somebody considerably younger.
Seemingly innocuous visits to solicitors should ring warning bells. Men who want to end their marriage will often seek advice from a lawyer at least one year before.
They want to put in place a game plan to minimise the amount of the wife’s settlement.
They will try to reduce the outgoings in the household, increase their debts and loans, and refuse to do any repairs to the home if they think they might be losing it in a settlement.
The cheating woman
Many women will stockpile sums from the housekeeping for a ‘lawyer’s fund’, which enables them secretly to take advice without their husband knowing.
A client of mine, Estelle, was particularly adept at this, managing to save ?15,000 over a period of two years without her husband having any idea that her desire for a little extra each week was actually for her ‘goodbye fund’.
A change of appearance and dramatic weight loss is the biggest warning sign, according to most of the male clients I’ve spoken to. Spending a fortune on a new hairstyle and new clothes is also a strong indication that a woman is trying to woo a new partner.
Many women take to the gym to improve their figures for their new life. They’re not going to hook a handsome new bloke if they look like they’ve let themselves go.
Plastic surgery has become?de rigueur for women intending divorce – so much so that it is becoming normal to include breast enlargements, eye jobs and liposuction as part of the necessary capital expectation arising from a divorce settlement.
Some have it before the divorce comes through, with the promise of the settlement to come.
One wealthy divorcee purchased boob jobs for her three closest friends so that they could go out together looking for new men.
When a woman finds ever more bizarre reasons not to have sex with her husband, all is not well. Regularly faking orgasm is also an indicator.
Charles was very concerned when his wife, formerly a quiet lover, started obviously to fake her pleasure at their sexual encounters, behaving like a Stepford wife and screaming loudly. In fact, his wife was having an affair and left him shortly after.
When a wife’s spending habits radically change and she starts to increase the family outgoings beyond reason, she may have received legal advice and be attempting to maximise what we lawyers call her ‘lifestyle needs’.
She can then demand monies for these in the settlement. One woman I know even tried to insist she needed Perrier water for the dog, a dog walker, and flowers at ?100 per week. She failed.
A cheating wife may well accuse her husband of having an affair to divert attention away from her own. This tactic is known as ‘transference’.
Women who are intending divorce often seek out their husband’s financial information like heat-seeking missiles, going through files, briefcases and Blackberries to stockpile all the information they need to ensure a satisfactory settlement.
One woman client of mine, Elizabeth, thought she had been very clever stockpiling all her husband’s information before the divorce – until she found that her husband had done exactly the same to her.
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