Attorney at Love
Advice: Do the Little Things
By: Valerie Vinyard
Jim Duzak’s phone voice is deep and soulful, like one of those “love-line” DJs at night.
Which is fitting. The self-described “Attorney at Love” has spent much of his life dealing with issues of marriage, divorce, single-parenting, post-divorce dating and remarriage.
Duzak wrote the recently released Mid-Life Divorce and the Rebirth of Commitment (Cold Tree Press; $14.95 softcover, $23.95 hardcover). It’s available at Mostly Books, at 6208 E. Speedway; amazon.com; and barnesandnoble.com.
Duzak didn’t become a relationship guru without his own experiences.
By age 20, he was a husband and father. By 30, he was divorced, raising his daughter by himself and attending law school at Boston College.
Duzak also owned a small dating service called To Life from 1993 to 1997. It specialized in 40-and-older matchups in the New England and New York areas.
Duzak first spoke to Sandra on Valentine’s Day 1978 after placing a personal ad of his own in a Boston alternative newspaper.
“The first date I was crazy for her,” Duzak said.
The two have been married for 27 years and live in Green Valley.
Duzak, 60, occasionally speaks to and puts on workshops for singles groups. Sandra is a personal chef.
The former divorce attorney is full of advice on making relationships work, but he’s quick to note that he possesses no pat formula for marital happiness.
“All you need to do are a lot of little things … Try to do the kinds of things that couples do when they’re first going out,” Duzak said. “Always notice.”
As an attorney in Massachusetts from 1979 to 2001, Duzak represented hundreds of clients in divorce and custody cases. He later was a full-time divorce mediator in Maricopa County.
“Small and frequent rewards are more appreciated than the occasional big reward,” Duzak said. “It doesn’t take that much.”
Looking every bit the lawyer in his sport coat and starched white shirt, Duzak told a group at a recent reading at Bookmans that “inactions have consequences, too” in relationships.
“Do you want to have the same doubts five, 10, 20 years from now? Do you want to wake up some day and feel that it’s too late to start over, that you’ve wasted the only life you’ve ever had?”
Jim Duzak, the “Attorney at Love,” answered some questions about relationships.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve heard?
“People always want to tell their stories. . . . Most of them involve adultery.
“In one case, the husband and wife both agreed the marriage was over, but they both wanted the other to move out of the house first. So she went and got herself a boyfriend from an Internet site and they took over the master bedroom. He didn’t leave — he just moved to a different part of the house. They finally agreed to sell the house and split it 50-50.
“And then there was a guy who had affairs with all three of his wife’s sisters.
“It is amazing some of the things that go on.
“When you hear these kind of things, they’re either comical or sad. But the really sad thing is that people let things go so long.”
So, what made you good at this?
“I think I have an insatiable curiosity about human life. I’m fascinated with what goes on between men and women.
“I think I’ve got the right personality for this. I’m not shy and retiring, but I don’t need to impose my will on people. Plus, I like helping people.”
What is the biggest mistake people make in a relationship?
“Not seeing each other with the same eyes that they originally did.
“Look — literally — look at your husband or wife when you were dating, when presumably, everything about this person delighted you. Try to do that again.
“It’s not easy. We’re lazier in our mental habits than we are in our physical ones. Talk about things that are interesting again. Ask questions of each other. Keep going back to when you were on a first or second date. Make an effort.”
What advice do you have for new couples?
“To recognize that conflict is normal. The only thing bad about it is if you fight the wrong way; if you hit below the belt.
“Keep conflicts to the issue at hand. Stop dredging up the past. Talk about what’s going on right now.”
What about couples who have been together a long time?
“Stop taking them for granted. A lot of guys think it’s enough if they feel it. They forget that women — and a lot of men — need more reinforcement than that.
“I would try to get men more realistic to the need for more attention and affection. A once-a-year-thing … that’s nice … if a person does it once a year and forgets about it, it’s not going to work. Each day should be Valentine’s Day.
“Fortunately, once you start making a habit of it, you can make a habit of noticing and giving little compliments.”