In just a few months I will be celebrating 25 years as a family lawyer in our nation’s capital. That means half my life I’ve been helping to restructure hundreds of families tackling major issues related to their finances and children, as well as the redistribution of responsibilities and resources. Meanwhile, despite my best efforts, my own family has gone through several painful reorganization endeavors with incredibly mixed results. The fact is after all these years, my conclusion is best summarized in this one line from the new movie, The Jesus Revolution: families are like rock bands, they break up.
The most common factors contributing to a falling out among family members are disagreements over (1) money, (2) kids, (3) an individual’s poor choices and/or bad behaviors that negatively impacts others, and (4) unmet expectations. These issues are easily exacerbated during trying times by our inability to communicate effectively and respectfully. Family problems never just go away on their own, and unfortunately left unattended tend to slowly erode trust and respect until there is nothing left but deep resentment and contempt.
Over the past two decades while navigating motherhood and an intense professional life, I wish I could say my family has always stood by me, but nothing could be farther from the truth. All the plot twists and turns in our story could easily make a telenovela seem like a child’s fairytale. Instead, it’s been the support of my peers and friends that have kept me going on my journey, which has been chock full of trials and tribulations, particularly over the past decade in the category of romantic partners.
After my own divorce, I easily lost sight of the big picture while focused on the daily mundane tasks at hand. Months quickly turned into years without a true partner to share in all the joys and sorrows of life, and then COVID hit. There’s nothing like a worldwide pandemic and a milestone birthday to shake you out of auto-pilot mode and force you to reckon with questions about your true purpose, desired legacy and the meaning of life.
One might easily surmise that I have become jaded to the point that I no longer believe in the institution of marriage, particularly as a divorce attorney. I will admit there have been times when I have had my sincere doubts–especially with a mother that never married and a father that has already had three divorces. Indeed, the safer choice may be to stay single– less mess and drama for sure. But if you choose to be brave, you might just find that one special person you can envision by your side, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, to enjoy the remainder of your days with you, even when the rest of your family completely lets you down.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs points out that all humans are driven by an underlying desire for love and a sense of belonging, which we either find in the families we are born into or we seek in the families we create for ourselves. And for those of us that are religious, the commitment of marriage undeniably goes hand in hand with the true creation of a family.
The truth is together we are stronger, and if you believe in the story of Genesis, we were never meant to weather life’s storms alone. Hopefully this message will resonate with you too, and you will find your rock star to be in your new band.
By Regina A. DeMeo