5 Things Being a Divorce Lawyer Has Taught Me About Life

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Some things are just true.  Coffee is one of the world’s best drinks.  People are happier on Fridays, and guys do stupid things to impress women.

Other things are just as true but more difficult to see.  Unchecked jealously will destroy you.  The future is uncontrollable, and change is inevitable.

For the past 13 years, I have had a chance to look behind the curtain to see into people’s private lives.  Here are some truths I have learned while working with people in divorce:

There’s way too much domestic violence in the world.

The widespread nature of this problem boggles my mind.  It was a part of my very first case.  It persists today.  People from all walks of life are affected.  The saddest part of the problem is that so many people don’t recognize how unhealthy their relationships are until it’s too late.

Everyone is struggling with something.

Our public personas are so phony.  Everyone I meet seems perfect, but behind the scenes things aren’t quite so rosy.  Everyone is struggling with something, me included.

Some of the most successful people I know have serious anxiety problems.  You wouldn’t know.  A teacher I once represented had a husband who abused cocaine.  You couldn’t tell.  And don’t even get me started on the lawyers.  We seem to have the most problems of all!

Don’t be ashamed of the real you.  People will respect you more and find you more interesting if they know everything isn't perfect in your private life.

Everyone screws-up their kids.

Sometimes, I wonder how anyone survives childhood.  I cringe every time someone tells me how they “told their kids the truth” about their divorce.  Far too much information, if you ask me.

Just when I start to feel superior, though, I remember some of the awful things I have said to my kids.  It’s enough to make me want to schedule a therapy appointment.

The take-away message here is that we all make mistakes.  No parent is perfect.  Getting divorced doesn’t screw-up your kids any more than the awful comments I make to mine.  Don’t waste your time feeling guilty about your divorce.  Focus your energy on avoiding conflict, building consistency, and being “the rock” your kids need.

Success is never final.  Failure is never fatal.  It is the courage to continue that counts.

This peril of wisdom comes from Winston Churchill.  I am stealing it because it’s 100% true.  The trauma of divorce knocks almost everyone down.  You can feel like a complete failure.  Thankfully, however, life goes on.  And for many of the people I have helped, it goes on in glorious ways that no one could have seen before.

Try hard to stand-up after you fall down.  Some of the best things in my life have happened after I failed in pretty significant ways.

We are where we choose to be.

I like to tell myself that I live in Minnesota because my parents lived in Minnesota.  My parents lived in Minnesota because their parents lived in Minnesota.  And so on.

That’s not really true, though.  I could change where I live, if I wanted to.  Moving might be scary, it might make me poor, and it might leave me worse off than I am right now.  But I could do it.  We are where we are because we choose to be there.

It’s true about our jobs, personal issues, and marriages.  It stinks when we don’t have the courage to change the things we need to change because we are too afraid to do so.

Everyone struggles with these problems.  If you find a way to make change easier, please let me know.