Often during the divorce process, couples hold on to the notion that, “if we are divorcing, we are supposed to ‘go to the mattresses!'” But drama isn’t necessary for a happy ending to the end of your marriage.
When document discovery requests come in, my clients sometimes end up with more truth than they anticipated, sometimes, they fear, more truth than they can handle. Hidden bank accounts, retirement gone, home secretly refinanced all feel like missed opportunities for slammed doors and dramatic exits.
Recently, the details of the Disney credit card had my client way off kilter. “I didn’t even approve of that card! We had the money. He had a big trip planned right before I found out…” she shook her head. “Well did you go?” “Yes.” Bewildered I asked for clarification, “After you found out… you still went on the Disney trip with him?!” She nodded, her head again reflecting on that day now two years ago.
She was three months pregnant. Her spouse had planned a big Disney vacation for them while she had been away, taking care of her dying grandmother. When she came home, she discovered her husband’s racy emails forgotten in the recycling bin of the family computer. She also discovered his girlfriend. As it happened, she discovered he had also planned and consummated various ‘meetings’ in hotels and dark corners of the city while she was away…using the same Disney card.
Her voice changed from sadness to frustrated regret. She described how she absorbed the excuses and lies that followed, unable to react. She was frozen. Then she packed her bags…for Disney! She explained how she walked around the park with him feeling numb and still in shock, putting on a brave face for their child.
Following the trip, she again packed her bags to return to attend to her grandmother. Once there, she decided she and her son wouldn’t be coming back. There was no yelling, no slamming of doors, just her decision to quietly and permanently close the door to that relationship.
Now, two years later, before me sat an educated, confident woman and mother with only one unique regret. Having been on her own, raising two small children, she was making it. “He said I was overreacting when I got angry…about the credit card!” She never really truly confronted him about his actions in her absence. Her friends later called her the under-reactor. Today, her ONE regret was missing her major movie moment. She wished she could go back in time and have her dramatic exit, perhaps burn his clothes on the front lawn, maybe smash his car headlights with a baseball bat, possibly empty the bank account, and storm out…just like the movies.
Whether falling in love or out of love, we hope for the music to swell and the tears to flow, just one small tear slowly falling for the close-up. Often during the divorce process, couples hold on to the notion that, “if we are divorcing, we are supposed to fight.” It will be an Oscar-winning performance of the scorned housewife or the dedicated super parent who fights to the end, spending all his money in a valiant pursuit of custody or maybe just plain vengeance. Will it be Kramer vs. Kramer, The War of the Roses, [insert other notorious divorce movies here]?
New clients typically walk through my door amped up, with a firm idea of what part they will play in the action/drama called ‘Divorce.’ They are holding auditions for the role of their aggressive attorney, imagining me yelling “You can’t handle the truth!” at their soon-to-be ex as I stomp around the courtroom, pointing my finger accusingly.
The truth is, you can handle the truth. You must absorb it, you must explore it, you will have to get familiar with the truth of your divorce. No stomping necessary. No accusations required. Just a sober, somber confrontation of self.
It’s a common misconception that yelling and Terminator 3 level custody battles are some kind of prerequisite to finalizing a divorce. The reality is that yelling isn’t required in divorce. In fact, divorce can go more smoothly and often reap far better results when you choose the role of an under-reactor and diligent parent over an Oscar-winning interpretation of (any destructive character).
The truth is, the judge isn’t handing out Oscars. That’s not the award issued here. The truth is, divorce courts have little tolerance for the dramatic. The role a judge cares about in your divorce case is the reasonable, honest party and in your child custody case, the diligent parent’ or ever resilient ‘co-parent.’
The truth is, divorce will happen, whether you decide to slam the door or close it quietly behind you. The truth is, you choose your reaction. The truth is, you write your script.
To attain the happiest endings in your divorce proceeding, let truth be your soundtrack and let your attorney be the director. Explore and understand the script and how your role affects the outcome of the case. Play it well, and remember….you can handle the truth!