We all have different strengths– and luckily one of mine is that I’m a very visual person. When someone tells me their story, I can start to see it like a movie, and then I can play out different endings in my head. By hitting rewind, I can work backwards and figure out the best way to get them the ending that they want, well at least as far as their divorce story goes. But what if they could have used some visuals earlier on, hit pause, and prevented the need to ever see me? I believe it is possible– not easy, but not impossible.
A few years ago, my esteemed colleague, Steve Stein, wrote an article for Washington Parent entitled, “Measuring Your Family’s Emotional Thermometer.” In it he strongly encourages parents to imagine a thermometer to gauge the level of emotion in a child. Of course, the same technique could be applied to any member of the family, and the point is that if someone is at a 7-10 range, which means emotions are high, this is probably not the best time to have a difficult conversation. You need to be at a 1-3 range for calmer heads to prevail when discussing a hot-topic.
Unfortunately, not enough people use this emotional thermometer tool, and when people do not fight well and resolve conflict in a way that brings you closer, then with each additional battle you run the risk of further alienating that other person and completely undermining your relationship. Visualize this: with each jab you make, with each incident where you shutdown and withhold your affection or each snarky, cynical remark you make, you are literally chiseling away at the foundation of your love. Before you know it, that bull dozer approach has just destroyed all that trust and respect that you spent so much time building in the beginning, and man it can all come crashing down at once in a nano-second, with one person bailing and the other left standing in the middle of all the rubble wondering what the hell just happened.
As a divorce attorney, I can tell you it is far easier to represent the person who has bailed instead of the person left behind. It is no secret that the one dumped has a much harder time picking up the pieces and moving forward. No doubt everyone has emotional scars, but the dumper heals much, much faster– and this is not just my opinion, but rather studies have repeatedly proven this to be the case. As Dr. Emery of University of VA once said– you need to picture 2 people paddling up a river, but now imagine that the one that made the decision to leave got a head start, so no matter how fast the other person tries, the one that left is always going to be a mile ahead. It is a tough position to be in, and a very precarious one for family law attorneys to be in when they are representing the underdog.
In the end, my legal obligation ends once the adults have either reached an agreement or gotten a court order that resolves custody and child support, but it is well known that I am incredibly passionate about children, and their welfare long after my cases end. So, the tv segment with Steve Stein is actually focused on parenting, and how as parents we need to talk to our kids about difficult situations, including violent acts that appear in our media on a daily basis. In a post 9/11 world, parenting has really gotten a lot more complicated, and we need to step up to the challenge if we want to properly prepare our kids for life. It’s not just about academic prowess– we need to give our children the emotional tools required to address the ups and downs that are a normal part of our human existence.
Here is the link to the segment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGE7XlkqKwY
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.