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“You’ve got the facts in each paragraph but nothing is tying them together,” said my boss.  “You are missing the connections.”

My first lesson in legal writing came fast after law school.  The assignment was to write a report for the Federal Communications Commission.  I learned the value of connecting words and phrases that make your writing flow and carry the readers along so they are nodding their heads in agreement by the end.

It was about that time that I read The Magus by John Fowles, in which the protagonist discovers that he has been looking at life as a series of events, like mountaintops.  But his girlfriend sees the relationships between the events.  She sees not only the mountaintops, but the valleys that connect them.

Facts are powerful mountaintops.  We all like to think we weigh the facts and make rational decisions.  But relationships between the facts may be even more powerful.  Our decisions may be based on subconscious connections that we are unaware of.

One of the things I like about our law firm is that we have people who see the mountaintops and people who see the valleys between.  That is some of our lawyers see the facts clearly and others see the relationships.

We joke about it and say we have a Partner in Charge of Feelings.  But when you are dealing with emotionally charged issues like divorce, children, betrayal, and money, feelings can be the driving force.   So by all means, get the facts.  But don’t forget the connections.

 

 

When I was ready to hire the first employee for my law firm, if you had asked me what I was looking for in an employee, I would have told you “Why, someone just like me.”

What a mistake that would have been.  Can you imagine two headstrong, stubborn attorneys, full iof themselves, arguing and debating all day long?

When I was  younger, and before my enlightenment, I knew I was always right.   People who didn’t think the way I thought were simply wrong.  Now I see the value in having partners who each view things a little differently than me.  For example, in a divorce, I might decide no child custody evaluation is needed.  One of my partners, a litigator, might say we need the evaluation in order to get the child’s preference into evidence at trial.

People make a similar mistake when looking for a spouse.  They look for someone like themselves.  First, no one will be exactly like you.  There will always be different agendas and your thinking will not always sync.  You can try to control the situation and persuade your spouse that your view is the correct one.  I guarantee that will not be a successful relationship strategy.

The enlightened approach is ‘viva la difference”.  Enjoy and embrace the fact that your spouse thinks differently than you.  That is what makes life interesting, richer and joyful.

 

 

 

While driving to the office this morning, I turned on “The Kane Show” on Hot99.5 FM.  Kane invited callers to tell him and his entourage about a relationship dispute and they would decide who was right and who was wrong.

What a great idea!  I have often said that people in relationships have different agendas and they need a good conflict resolution system.

Marriage counselors can help, but they cost money, and frequently tell you that you are both right (in alternative universes), which may be true, but  it is not very satisfying.

Divorce is the ultimate conflict resolution system, but it has some serious drawbacks.  It’s expensive and time-consuming.  Sometimes the judge doesn’t tell you who was right and who was wrong.  And even when the judge does tell you, the judge frequently gets it wrong.

So we have decided, as a public service, that you can post your relationship conflicts in the comments section, and we will tell you who is right and who is wrong.  We reserve the right to be arbitrary and capricious, but at least it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Facebook has developed an algorithm that predicts whether your relationship will last or not. Researchers looked at 1.3 million Facebook users to determine their “dispersion”.

Dispersion is the extent of overlap in two people’s mutual friends. If you have high dispersion, you each have your own set of friends. Low dispersion means your friends are friends with one another.

High dispersion relationships are likely to last, but low dispersion relationships tended to be over in about two months. The conclusion is that you are more likely to have a strong relationship if you each maintain your own separate circle of friends.

My wife has a humorous coaster on the coffee table that says, “Housework became a snap when I realized — Hey, I’m a man!”  A new study is probably going to be the topic of a conversation tonight when she reads this.  Using data from 2007 and 2008, researchers looked at thousands of Norwegian couples to see if they could find any correlations between marriage, housework and happiness.

  • 71% had relationships where the women did all or most of the housework.
  • 4% had relationships where the men did all or most of the housework.
  • 25% of the couples shared housework equally.

They found that divorce rates were significantly higher among the 4% where the men did most of the housework.

However, men before you throw down the dish towel, the researchers concluded this might just mean that modern couples are more likely to divorce than old-fashion couples, and housework has no effect on divorce at all.

Robin Rivers has posted an interview on OurBigEarth.com with Calvin Sandborn, lawyer and author of The Kind Father.

Sandborn says that we learn to talk to ourselves in our heads with the same voice that we learned from our father.  In trying to teach children to be successful and assert control or power over others, the traditional father addresses his son from a height and treats him harshly.  (“Show him you’re boss!” “Suck it up!” “Don’t be a wuss!”)

The son uses the same voice that his father did when talking to himself.  As a result, the son’s inner life becomes a harsh place.  He tortures himself with cruel self-talk, has contempt for himself and then transfers that contempt to those around him.

The answer, says Sandborn, is to begin to treat yourself compassionately.  Banish the Harsh Father in your self-talk.  Speak daily to yourself with kind and encouraging words.  If you can do this, then you can become your own Kind Father and have more compassionate relationships with your children and others around you.

UC Berkeley scientists have discovered that couples who use pronouns like “we”, “us” and “our” in their conversations are happier and have healthier relationships than couples who use “I” and “you”.

The researchers analyzed the speech patterns of couples while they talked about disagreements in their marriages.  Couples who used “I” and “you” tended to be more stressed, less close and unhappy.

The study concluded the reason for this is that successful couples have a sense of unity with each other.  This helps them resolve conflicts, grow closer together and have more positive behavior toward each other.

Emerald Catron at lemmondrop.com, however, finds referring to yourself as “we” rather annoying if you’re not the Queen of England.

WUSA TV News Anchor, Andrea Roane, interviewed TGC Attorney, Jill Breslau, today about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s marital difficulties.

“Right now it appears that Governor Sanford is more intent upon self-justification than he is on changing himself,” said Breslau.   “His behaviors have been completely inconsistent with the values he says he holds, and he is glamorizing his relationship, and characterizing himself as a tragic hero, because he has risked everything for it—his marriage, his family, his political life, his reputation.  Only if he inflates the meaning of his affair is it worth all those potential losses.”

Regarding putting his marriage back together, Breslau, who is also a trained psychotherapist, said, “As much as the public finds it irresistible to be judgmental about Sanford’s behavior, a primary purpose of counseling is to have a private, confidential setting where the therapist is nonjudgmental.”

Here is some good news for relationships during the recession.

According to Time.Com, the American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study which correlated market conditions with Playboy centerfolds.

It found that men like fuller-figured women more in lean times than in boom times.

This is perfect because another APA study showed that when stressed, women liked to eat.

Bingo!

Words are the tools of a lawyer.  Words can be used to persuade and convince.  Words can be used to build relationships or harm relationships.

Discounting is the label I give to words that harm relationships.  It means you show by your words you do not respect the other person or their opinions and beliefs.  In fact you disrespect them and have contempt for them.

You can listen to, and acknowledge, an opposing point of view without agreeing to it.  Or you can discount it.  Here is an example of discounting in a letter I received from an opposing counsel in a divorce case recently.

“Jim:  This needs to stop. You are doing a disservice to your client. This is beyond ridiculous. If your client would stop this nonsense, sign the agreement I sent last night she would get a check the next day and this would be done.  Instead, you are making changes that make no sense, conflict with each other and costing my client (not to mention yours) unnecessary fees.  I will be tied up all day Monday and will be leaving the office early, out of the office on Tuesday and am leaving at 5:30 today and have deadlines I have to meet before then.”

Divorce lawyers have to develop a fairly thick skin in the heated exchanges of a litigation practice.  But do you really think that a letter like this ever persuades anyone to do what you want them to do?  Our response was to file suit.  Discounting never works.  As the Good Book says, A kind word turneth away wrath.