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"The appointment with the divorce lawyer was for 10 o'clock. Should I have cancelled? But I've already done so twice. I want to run. But I can't ..." This is the introduction to a book dealing with the major decision of whether to get divorced or not. It's written by a Cape Town attorney who's been involved in many divorce actions in his long career. But it isn't about how to get divorced - it's about how to give an ailing marriage another chance. A lawyer who saves marriages sounds as unlikely as a shopkeeper who turns away customers. But Alastair van Huyssteen insists: "I'm no different to other attorneys. Most of them aren't out to ensure their clients get divorced at all costs but rather to establish what's in their best interest. The solution could be finally to end the relationship - but there may also be other solutions. Perhaps we shouldn't talk about the breakdown of a relationship - perhaps we should rather consider how to break free from unhappiness."

Hearing this from a lawyer is as surprising as finding two ceramic dwarfs among the imposing law books in a cabinet in his office. They even have names: Gemi is the friendly one, Ni the angry one. "They represent the twin personalities of the star sign Gemini," Alastair explains (as it happens he's a Gemini). These personalities symbolise the fluctuating emotions he's seen in clients: sadness, anger, laughter and tears. The dwarfs are also characters in his book, The Giant Puzzle*. "There are times when it seems they are married. Then again it seems as if they merely live together," he writes. For him these are normal phases in even apparently happy marriages. "No one who's been married for 30 years hasn't at some stage been through a 'private divorce' and then fallen in love again and 'remarried'," Alastair says. "If you accept a marriage or long term relationship must be regularly
-How to avoid it
It may seem odd but divorce lawyer Alastair van Huyssteen has written a book on how to work at staying together
renewed then there must be courtship." Like a schoolboy who sees a girl he fancies married couples must make the effort to win each other over again. He's been married for 30 years and in the book he calls his wife "my lifelong girlfriend and ongoing affair". For him the key to marital happiness is complete honesty or, as he puts it in his book, "the truth, who whole truth and nothing but the emotional truth". "If people wear masks, cobwebs grow between them," he says. "Withholding the truth doesn't work. Your body language makes
up more than 90 percent of your communication. If you lie your partner will notice. This creates stress in an intimate situation and causes friction. It becomes a vicious circle. The husband may be having an affair and wants to extricate himself but he no longer has emotional contact with his wife." That's why Alastair believes a spouse who's had an affair should confess. "Play open cards with your partner so you can communicate about the issue and better understand each other's feelings. If people are

This article was published in the You Magazine on June 2nd, 2005
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