Whenever I am on a plane, as I am now, I wonder, if in that moment of fear, will I remember or be able to secure my mask first before taking care of our precious daughter. I imagine all of us would like to believe that even in the most threatening of circumstances we could win the battle between sound judgment and raw emotion. But, would we?
At Beermann, LLP we are constantly reminding our clients of the importance in taking care of themselves. However, we are often left wondering, “Why can’t they get it?” We can only imagine that moment when one realizes that their life as they know it, and everything they hoped for is suddenly in free fall. For most of our clients, divorce is a free fall. It threatens their very identity as a person and as a parent. If we are to assist in securing a safe landing, we need to better understand their fear in all aspects of survival. We all have a fundamental need to feel a sense of power over who we are and some sense of control over our lives. As practitioners, we must remind ourselves that divorce threatens our client’s mere sense of identity. Going through this requires each person to re-establish a sense of who they are in relation to all there is.
This can be done in a number of ways, some more healthy than others. The first is to attempt to establish power over someone else which is what we often see in divorce situations. The ineffectiveness and the destructive ramifications of this strategy are clear. We often see this by a person going to every firm they consider “powerful” for a consultation so his or her spouse is precluded from using that firm. This also allows him or her to choose which divorce process they want to use: litigation, mediation or Collaborative Law. The other spouse is left dealing with responding to his or her choice. While the seemingly obvious choice would be to turn to litigation and to use the courts as a tool to hurt the other spouse, some choose to manipulate the other spouse by using a form of alternative dispute resolution. This is often done to buy more time to hide assets or to manipulate a desired parenting schedule. The second way to establish equilibrium is to access “power with” someone else. Instinctively, people going through divorce seek out others for support. Unfortunately, clients often turn to individuals who actually fuel their anger. In the business, we often refer to this as the “Greek Chorus”. We often hear our clients say, “My friend’s cousin’s neighbor’s husband makes the same amount of money as mine and she is getting twice as much support as me and it’s not fair.” This support system means well as they are telling their friends what they think they want to hear; however, rarely does the advice given actually help. In fact, the advice often makes things much worse, and sets the person up for disappointment.The healthiest way to establish equilibrium is to access “power within”.
The goal is to re-establish a sense of identity and meaning to life. Once this need is met, the individual has less desire to exercise power and control over the other person and then they can more rationally resolve issues. Rarely can an individual do this without the assistance of an experienced therapist.
At Beermann, LLP we are consistently ask parents, “Do you believe this is in the best interest of your children?” In reality, rarely can a parent think about their children’s needs without doing so through the lens of their own pain, anger and other emotions. When parents are making decisions in the divorce context which will impact their children’s lives forever, they cannot possibly do so without therapy and proper coaching. A Divorce Coach provides the client with education, modeling, guidance and tremendous emotional support. They assist the client in identifying their current needs, in the context of the divorce, and help them craft and choose a plan to best meet those needs.
In contrast, a Therapist takes this process a step further by helping the client to better understand the source of their personal pain to better enable them to continue in the long term to separate their ‘personal issues’ from future problem solving efforts. The Therapist’s ultimate goal is to assist the client in gaining a greater self-awareness so they can begin their own healing process. While both roles are absolutely essential to healing, they are different sides of the same coin.
Most parents want desperately to save their children from the potential devastating effects of the breakdown of the marriage. However, they find themselves gasping for air. It is crucial to understand that you cannot begin to address your children’s needs until you have done the hard work of addressing your own.
At Beermann, LLP, we assist our clients in finding the balance between sound judgment and raw emotion as they come to terms with their new post-divorce reality. With the proper support, our clients can move successfully through the divorce process taking care of “self” in a way that results in the best outcome not only for them, but for their children.
Beth F. McCormack; Partner