By:  LINDSEY O'NEILL, ESQ.

What exactly is foreclosure?  For a lot of people, it means they were hit with some financial burden, either a job loss, unexpected medical expenses, an outrageous increase in their adjustable rate mortgage, or some other stressful change in their financial situation rendering them unable to make their house payment.  As a result, the owner's dream of homeownership is shattered and the house is taken away.  I was thinking about this the other day and how that might be similar to what a lot of couples go through.  One day, the marriage is going along fine, and then BOOM! Something happens - some stress, some crisis - that the marriage struggles to deal with.  If the couple can't remedy the problem or otherwise survive the marital crisis, that outside force basically forecloses on the marriage. 

Just like having problems making your mortgage obligations and failing to communicate with your lender are early signs of home foreclosure, having problems living up to your marriage vows and failing to communicate with your partner are early signs of what I'm calling here "marital foreclosure"  - or divorce. 

Barely making the minimums.  Like barely making your minimum monthly mortgage payment, are you barely living up to your minimum obligations in your relationship?  For instance, are you just civil to each other instead of loving and affectionate?  Do your conversations end up being only about the bills, the household chores, the kids' schedules, or do you have true, open and intimate discussions about your dreams and fears? 

In denial about your situation. Unfortunately, many people in danger of foreclosure have a real financial problem to solve, but are in denial about their lifestyle - whether for them it means increasing their income, downsizing and decreasing spending, or other financial fix.  A similar thing happens in relationships.  Many couples are simply in denial about their relationships - whether falsely thinking their partner's annoying habit will somehow magically change, or thinking that the ego-boost they get from flirting with their hot new co-worker doesn't really mean anything, or that the constant (or worse, violent) arguing and inability to resolve conflict will just somehow take its course. 

All work and no fun.  Just like homeowners in danger of foreclosure may not be able to pay the landscaping maintenance fees anymore, or have to sell all the furniture to pay the mortgage, or live in constant fear of calls and letter from an angry lender, the fun going out of the marriage may also signal danger of a break-up.  If you work all day at the office, then come home to more work in the form of kids, laundry, pets, cooking... without any laughing or leisure time, your relationship could become something you no longer want to be in. 

These are just some thoughts about what a "relationship foreclosure" might look like.  Kind of an interesting analogy.  The good news is this - just like you may be able to prevent home foreclosure by dealing responsibly with your lender, and even hiring an attorney to advise you of the legal options, you may be able to prevent the deterioration of your relationship.  Not only can counselors work with you, but even family law lawyers are beginning to use more collaborative methods of divorce, if it does come to that. 

For more information about divorce, contact a family law attorney or divorce lawyer in your area today.