A recent client meeting reminded me of the iconic Smashing Pumpkins album – Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness. In this meeting, you could just tell that the sadness and whatever other emotions the client was feeling, was clouding her thought processes and causing her to make bad if not self-destructive decisions.
This is not an uncommon phenomena that we see on a practically daily basis as a divorce attorney. Sometimes the sadness has a paralytic effect, causing a party to take no action at. Sometimes a party lives in an emotional purgatory, stuck if not alternating between the reality of proceeding with the divorce and holding out hope for a reconcilation that their spouse who says it isn’t going to happen (harkening back to Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber in response to Lauren Holly telling that there was a “.. one out of a million” chance of dating him – “So you’re telling me there’s a chance… YEAH!”)
You see many iterations of emotions running the show. How about the “I don’t want her but don’t want anyone else to have her” stalemate. “I insist that the house be sold because he can’t live in the house without me or with that !?!?!??” Or the other woman in marriage number one, being shocked and devestated when prince charming cheated on her in marriage number two.
More often, the emotion is anger that colors the divorce process. In fact, it is common that anger permeates every decision. I am not just talking about issues relating to children, where it is more natural or even understandable (but not necessarily right) for anger to color one’s judgment. I am talking about money and property issues – including ones that are often clear cut. How many times have divorce clients told their lawyers that they would rather pay their lawyer than give the other spouse a penny. No matter how you try to dissuade that person, there are many who just wont listen.
So what is the solution? There is no shame in seeking help and getting therapy. Many have said that divorce is one of the greatest traumas a person can go through after losing a child or a parent. Judges don’t penalize people for getting therapy. In fact, many believe that seeking help and productively addressing the emotions is better than the alternatives. If you aren’t one who believes in therapy, you are still better served, if you can, from trying to separate the emotion from the issues and trying to treat the financial aspects as a business decision.
I am not saying that someone going through a divorce should not feel mad, said, depressed, anxious, nervous, etc. What you don’t want to do is act in a self-destructive way where you are punishing yourself in your attempt to punish you spouse.
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland and Morristown, New Jersey offices though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_icetray’>icetray / 123RF Stock Photo</a>