I was in the middle of writing a blog about the 2018 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act and the non-alimony changes, when a friend of mine posted something on Facebook. This is friend who contracted a virus when we were in junior high school which left him in a wheelchair. Yet, he has always been one of the most upbeat and inspirational people I have ever known. He posted a list of 8 things to quit in 2019, and I realized it was the basis for my first post of the New Year. The tax laws will just have to wait.
The top 8 things to Quit in 2019, from a Family Lawyer’s Perspective:
Trying to please everyone: I think this is on the top of the list for a reason. It simply can’t be done, so stop trying! It’s impossible in the best of situations, and when a person is going through a divorce or other family law matter, the guilt of unsuccessfully trying to please everybody is simply going to drag you further into morass. Moreover, the reason it’s impossible even in the best of situations is that it’s not your responsibility to please everyone. It’s your responsibility to act fairly, listen to the other person’s perspective with an open mind, and be the best parent, son, daughter, former spouse or partner you can be.
Fearing change: for my clients, this is a biggie. Sometimes, staying in a toxic relationship is the less of two perceived evils. At least you know how it is. I can’t tell you how many times during my almost 30 year career that I have clients come back to me two or three years later to let me know that their lives are so much more peaceful. I can promise that during the time I represent a client, one of my most significant goals is to prepare the client for the next chapter in their life. I recognize that it is not easy. When children are involved, it is even more challenging. But remember, change can be good. When talking to children about the changes that are coming, talk about the adventures and new things that await, rather than what is being left behind. Stop worrying about what furniture you’re going to get from the former marital home – think about the new look that your new home is going to have.
Living in the past: as Pumbaa from the Lion King quoted, “It’s times like this my buddy, Timon, here says: you got to put your behind in your past.” I recognize that at one time, the person who a client is now separating from, divorcing, or otherwise having a conflict with was the person with whom a happy ending was expected. However, dwelling on what could have been, the times that were happier years ago, and what might’ve felt more secure isn’t going to allow forward movement.
Overthinking: this one is the lawyer’s tight rope. On the one hand, I want you to listen to me, and carefully consider what I am saying and think about the options I am suggesting you have. On the other, when a client hyper analyzes what I say, it can turn into a black hole of inability to actually make a decision. The most common reason for overthinking in the family law context is that people want a definite answer as to their future. Sadly, this is simply something I cannot give. But I can give you the most information that I have at my disposal to help you make the best decision you can.
Being afraid to be different: “No one in my family is divorced.” “There are no other single moms at the nursery school.” “I will be looked down upon in my church.” These are representatives of so many of the statements that I get from people who come in thinking about a divorce or separation. However, rather than focusing on being the one who can be criticized for doing something different, think about the respect and admiration that people are going give when you have the courage to make a positive change in your life as well as that of your children. Think of the role model you are becoming for those behind you.
Sacrificing your happiness for others: Yes, we all make some sacrifices for our children. However, other than this one small exception, you are entitled to be happy and as for the children, studies consistently show that when parents are happy children are happy.
Thinking you’re not good enough: You are good enough. Let me help you extract yourself from the person who is abusing you by making you think this way. Your relationship did not fail because you were not good enough. Your relationship changed due to a number of factors which may or may not have been any one person’s responsibility. So much of my time is spent listening to clients talk about what brought them to my office, and I realize that someone else has made them feel inadequate in some way. Changing that dynamic is one of the most important things that I can help them accomplish. For example, a mother might believe that she will not be an adequate mother now that she doesn’t have the same income to allow her to take the children to Disney World twice a year. Refocusing the conversation and budgeting for other activities that the children love becomes a priority to allow someone to move forward.
Thinking you have no purpose: To close with a quote from Leonard Cohen: “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Happy New Year to All.