Judge Lynn Toler knows a few things about divorce. As the host of television’s longest running court program, “Divorce Court,” she routinely counsels couples who feel that their marriage has run out of options. Check out Judge Toler’s tips for keeping your partnership out of her courtroom.

Effective communication is essential to any relationship: 1) Wait for the right moment to talk and learn to table issues until you both are able to hear what’s being said; 2.) Listen intelligently. Listen to understand. Then make sure you have it right by restating your spouse’s position then ask if that’s what they meant; 3) When it’s your turn to talk, start with the word “I”— state how you feel and work from there.

Understand and appreciate gender differences: Women are not defective men, nor are men faulty women. You do not have to be cold in order to get your spouse a blanket. Likewise, you do not have to understand why your spouse needs this or that in order to fulfill it.  For example, women often need to cut down on how many words they use and men need to increase the number they are willing to listen to.

Approach money intelligently: You need to understand what money is for and how it works so you can understand how to manage it.  You also have to understand and appreciate each partner’s personal relationship to it as well.  Some people see money as security; others see it as a means by which to show their worth and there are lots of different approaches in between. Your relationship to money determines what you see as a necessary expenditure. So once you both understand how you both feel about money it will be easier to reach effective compromise about it.

Remember-marriage is a two party game: Don’t involve the entire community, the vast virtual world or your whole family into your union.  Yes, you should have support from people outside your marriage but choose those people wisely and keep them to a minimum.  Also keep an eye out for the new third threat: the internet. Don’t let the ease of a virtual life lead you to lose your real one.

Use marriage counseling early: One third-party support system I do recommend is marriage counseling. The problem is most people wait too long to get there. By the time they do, the relationship is already going off a cliff. Marriage counseling is often most effective at the beginning of a marriage– before things go wrong. It helps you learn what is needed to stay married and work out issues that will eventually arise.

Judge Lynn Toler is the author of My Mother’s Rules: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Emotional Genius (available now) and Making Marriage Work (August 2012).