Sometimes, as a lawyer, I don’t want to realize how much my clients are suffering in the divorce process. For me, to realize it means allowing myself to feel it, and, like all human beings, I prefer to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. So I emphasize how much better a cooperative or collaborative process is than an adversarial process, and I remind my clients how well they’re doing and how much better things are going to be once this transition is over.
And all this is true. At the same time, what’s also true is that divorce has moments of excruciating pain. There is immense pain when people who have lived together and loved each other are reduced to sitting across a table from each other, trying to figure out a schedule for child care, or arguing about entitlement to money, or accusing each other of lying. There is a different kind of pain when somebody apologizes or shares an insight, a pain that is filled with regret and sorrow.
The pain and suffering of divorce comes in so many flavors. Anger, frustration, snarkiness, sarcasm, demonization, disconnection, misunderstanding, distrust, all of those feelings. And then there’s just sadness. The loss of the marriage is the loss of a dream, and dreams don’t die easily. Sometimes the loss of the dream evokes more pain than the loss of the actual relationship.
If my clients are going through all this, do I best serve them by staying rational, beyond the reach of their pain? That rationality, of course, is what they’ve hired me for. Or is it? Do they just want a lawyer who can focus on the facts, or would they like a lawyer who knows what they feel? Not a lawyer who jumps into the soup of emotion with them—that is clearly not helpful—but someone who at least is open to that moment of suffering. Do you want your lawyer to feel with you, or just think?