Why this blog?
Welcome, readers. My intention with this first blog post is to start a conversation about new ways to think about and approach divorce. This includes how to have a peaceful and compassionate divorce, which is possible, if you set your intention and behave accordingly.
I’m a divorce lawyer by training and profession. I’ve also been divorced, so I share that personal experience. I’m fallible, but I can recognize suffering in others when I see it, often before I see it in myself. It is with humility, tinged with a degree of shame and embarrassment, that I am here. I know it is a weird thing to talk about. I just want to share my experience and observations over the past 25 years of practice and I hope that it helps alleviate some suffering around divorce.
They say you should write about what you know. Deep sigh. I know about divorce. I can assure you that I never expected to be 51 and know as much as I do about the practical legalities and emotional realities of divorce. I believe we all have gifts to share in this lifetime together, and it seems like this is mine at the moment. Please feel free to use what makes sense and leave the rest. These are my perspectives and I take sole responsibility for them. This is not intended as legal advice to anyone.
Why writing about divorce feels a little scary
I told my coach the other day that I am afraid of putting these ideas out there, which is code for “I am afraid of criticism or of making a fool of myself.”
Then I read Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness in a single luxurious rainy Saturday on my purple couch with my dog and cat curled up next to me. I so admire her courage and appreciate the funny and poignant way she brings to the forefront of consciousness issues that I see and feel but have not been able to name for all these years. Shame. Vulnerability. Courage.
I was brought to tears by the passage she cites from Cheryl Sandberg and the vivid description of the grief Cheryl and her children experienced at the cemetery after their father, her husband, died suddenly. I rarely cry, but I was struck by how profound grief and loss are and how one’s ability to cope with those intense times of life really do provide opportunities for personal growth though no one would ever solicit such opportunities.
Divorce is like a death in the family, except no one is bringing you food.
Divorce is like that. It is a tremendous loss, even if you initiate it. It is also an opportunity to practice resilience in the face of adversity. Everyone has a different experience, so please don’t worry if your experience does not “fit” anyone else’s advice or expectations, even mine.
Talking about the new paradigm of divorce
Imagine when someone approaches me at a cocktail party or charitable event and just wants to have some small talk, and simply asks me what I do for work. I tell them I’m a divorce lawyer and the buzz-kill is palpable. I wait for the color in their faces to either fade away or rise, precipitously. People either slink away from me, afraid they will “catch” the dis-ease of divorce from talking about it, or they will launch into a horror story of an adversarial divorce run amok.
I quickly try to explain that I’m a “good divorce” lawyer. I practice Collaborative Divorce. I earnestly set about explaining the new paradigm for divorce that is practiced in growing numbers across the country and abroad. It is a model that values peace, compassion, integrity, transparency and showing up as you are, but with hope and expectation that it will get better, which it will. It views you and your family as a whole system that needs support during this transition, not as adversaries.
People’s reaction to this new concept runs the gamut from intrigued (often people in service, healing professions or artists) to outright cynical (most often the lawyers, especially other family lawyers). My hope is that by talking about new ways to approach divorce in our culture, we will strengthen our collective capacity for holding seemingly contradictory ideas. By acknowledging our common humanity, we can begin a frank discussion about how we want to support each other during the transition of divorce.
The goal is healthy post-divorce relationships
Do we want healthy post-divorce relationships or are we content with the legacy of bitterness and resentment which is often the by-product of an adversarial divorce? I invite all of us to move away from rigid, binary thinking. It is time to open up our minds and hearts to each other and engage in robust, civil discourse about difficult topics, such as divorce and how to heal from one of life’s biggest and most disruptive transitions, short of the death of a loved one.
So this is my welcome. I invite you to comment on the idea of a peaceful divorce, if you so wish, and hope that you come back and join the conversation on topics related to divorce that I will be posting.