Every day I see victims of horrible occurrences transform into strong survivors that overcome life’s setbacks and move forward with formidable courage that inspires everyone else around them. This is what I love most about being a divorce lawyer– not just seeing this metamorphosis, but actually being a central part of it.

For over 18 years, I have essentially been collecting data on (a) what causes relationships to fall apart, (b) how different people manage their emotions during a time of turmoil, and (c) who comes out on top at the end of this process.  Today, I want to focus on the last part of my information gathering– because those who come out strongest at the end of the whole divorce process all share some very similar characteristics that we can all learn from:

  1. Openness– While everyone has a story as to what they believe caused the demise of the relationship, those that are open to hearing a different point of view also prove to be the ones most likely to show flexibility and creativity in reaching a resolution, while those that are not open to seeing things from anyone else’s perspective (including mine or the judicial system’s way of handling certain issues) will most likely fail at reaching a settlement and be highly disappointed when they learn that divorce court is not criminal court, and we are not set up to punish anyone.
  2. Emotional Intelligence– Those that lack emotional awareness are often incapable of truly solving problems.  They are either sad beyond belief or so busy being angry, that they are unable to really be present when others are trying to focus on key immediate issues that need to be addressed or create a viable plan for the future.  Meanwhile, those that can name the emotions they are feeling, and show empathy towards those that their partners may be grappling with, and take the time to process them are generally not overwhelmed by their emotions when we are talking about ways to mitigate the damages and move forward, so they are active participants in both the brain-storming and negotiations of the legal solutions to their situation.
  3. Realistic Expectations– Those that believe they are entitled to an immediate court date and should get 100% of what they want while the other person shouldn’t get a thing are in for a pretty rude awakening.  With over 14,000 new civil cases filed in Montgomery County, Maryland each year, and less than 30 judges to handle all these matters, the sad truth is justice is not speedy.  Normally, a contested divorce case can take 18 months to wrap up, and rarely does a person get everything they asked for, especially the more set they are in a particular outcome or when either party decides to take extreme positions.  Then there’s also the cost/benefit analysis that each person has to grapple with, and it often boils down to this: how much are you will to cough up to fight for your principals?
  4. Self-care and Love–  If there is one truth that is abundantly self-evident in a crisis it is this: you are of no use to anyone if you are a hot mess.  Just because things around you are falling to pieces does not mean you have to let yourself fall apart.  Those that continue a healthy routine including eating right, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and seeking medical/mental help as needed will sail through the storms with far greater aptitude and success than those that don’t take care of themselves.  Also, those that surround themselves with loved ones will experience an incredible sense of support and comfort during their darkest hours, while those that retreat and hide often become prisoners of their own shame and fear.

We all suffer setbacks in life, it is an unavoidable part of the human experience.   But if you embrace these transformative opportunities with openness and emotional intelligence, while setting realistic expectations and continuing to care for yourself and allowing love into your heart, you will work your way through the rabbit hole and come out on the other side far stronger and wiser than you ever imagined.

By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.