Among the many things that we do first thing in the morning is check the weather, be it by looking at our Weather App, listening to the radio, or simply looking out the window. It’s almost automatic; as is our response. We dress or plan our day accordingly. This is especially true when we have a major life event or plan that we are making. I would argue that many of us even plan our entire life around the weather. It affects where we choose to live, how we feel, what we wear, and even when we get married.
Although we can generally adapt to unexpected changes in weather, the one thing we don’t do is make beach plans in Winter or Ski trips in Summer. In other words, we understand core weather concepts, and therefore are realistic about what and when we can and cannot do. Sometimes we intentionally fight the weather. We may wear a new sundress even if it’s raining. Other times we mentally block ourselves out of the realities of weather. The Temptations had “sunshine on a cloudy day” and the month of May when it was cold outside. But more often than not, weather is real, and we adjust our thoughts, decisions and actions to reflect that reality.
When it comes to divorce, it too has weather patterns, temperatures, and seasons, and if you don’t check the weather, understand its patterns, and dress or plan for the season, you will find yourself soaked, freezing and sorry. After 20 years of being an attorney and fighting legal battles, my goal is to explain things to clients in a way that is relatable, understandable, and do-able. There is a lot that does not make sense in divorce, but “dressing for divorce” is one thing that every client can do to “weather the storm ahead.”
Every divorce begins in the dead of “Winter.” The divorce begins before it has actually started. You feel cold. There may be ice in your heart. There is darkness all around you. The roads are slippery and you can’t seem to go very far without falling down and getting hurt. Your emotions are bundled up tightly in your body. You have layered yourself in fears. You have confined yourself so as to protect yourself from arguments and accusations that that howl at you like a blizzard with its pellets of hail striking your fragile mind and aching body. The ground is frozen, and so are you. This is not the time to make drastic changes. Ready as you may feel to build your new life, as any architect or builder will tell you, there is no construction in Winter. This is the time to comfort yourself, and find ways to get the support you will need for the storm that lies ahead. This is the time to dress warmly and not overexpose yourself or reveal too much to your soon to be ex-spouse. This is the time to meet with an attorney, a financial planner, a therapist, and anyone else that will be a part of your team during the divorce.
Once the ice begins to melt, it is safe to come out to begin your Spring Cleanup and Planting. While the worst of Winter may be over, there will still be some very cold days, and guaranteed rain. While you are clearing the debris and gathering new and fertile soil, you will simultaneously continue to face some of the hail from those slushy spring rains. This is the time when the professionals begin their work and you start to feel and see the signs of “new life.” You may feel rejuvenated and renewed, but among the signs of new beginnings you may feel equally disappointed by the continued rain. Although the plants are beginning to grow, the progress is slow, and the blooming is still very far away. Although the snow is gone, and the temperature is rising, there are still very cold days. At this point the best thing to do is wear a “slicker” because you are going to need to let the rain roll right off of you. Gone are the days of Winter where you were frozen and bundled. You have taken the step, left the house (perhaps literally), are moving forward and springing ahead.
While Spring comes on slowly, Summer sizzles its way in and quickly turns up the heat. The days feel twice as long and hotter than hell. The pellets of hail get engulfed in the fire and relief from the heat is impossible from harsh crashing waves. It is no longer a battle of two but a battle of four. The cold words of your spouse are not nearly as cutting as those of his or her lawyers which burn through you like rays of swords. You are not only hot and sweaty, but exhausted and thirsty. Depending on where you live, you are in Hurricane, Tornado or Wildfire Season. This is the time to choose and pick your battles. This is the time to sit with your lawyer and take inventory of where you are in the case. What is holding this back? What concessions have been made, and what reasonable concessions need to be made? More importantly, what do you need to do to avoid getting burned? This is the time to get out of your bathing suit and into a wet suit or you will drown. If there is nothing you can do, then get into the shade and wait. Take the time to let the sunburn heal and your body rehydrate. You cannot go to the beach everyday.
And then, as quickly as it came in, Summer is gone, having been sent off with a kiss of cool air from its calming Sister, Autumn. Welcome to the splendor of color and transformation. This is the final stage of your divorce. This is a time to witness your resilience in surviving the most brutal of weather. This is the time to breathe in the crisp air and harvest the crops of your strength. This is a time to shed your fears and even tears. The divorce has ended when that final leaf drops, and that branch is naked. It is you, uncovered and unbroken.