May 15, 2013

The Power of Empathy

Divorce is a painful process. Often both spouses are disappointed with the marriage. One or both may feel betrayed.  The time when spouses decide to divorce is the time when they likely feel at their lowest – about one another and perhaps about themselves. And yet, this is the time spouses are called upon to make decisions that will affect them and their children for the rest of their lives.

A natural instinct in this circumstance is for self-preservation. One thinks of oneself and one’s own needs – something by the way which is vitally important to do.  You want to continue parenting your children effectively, be able to live the lifestyle you became accustomed to, and have long term financial security.   It is common at such a time to fear that if your spouse’s needs are met, your own needs suffer. And so one fights – fight in hopes that this in turn will enable one’s own needs to be met and prevail.

But this is where one can go wrong.  Listening to your spouse, really listening and simply acknowledging his or her needs  is powerful.  Recall the last time you felt heard, and how that affected you.  By hearing your spouse, you increase the opportunity for your spouse to hear you. Solutions to issues emerge in such an environment which could not surface when one is in fighting mode.

Do not sacrifice your goals and interests. Instead, clearly and deeply identify them, and at the same time listen deeply to those expressed by your spouse. You will open doors to solutions that  were previously closed.

The Collaborative Law process fosters such an approach for divorcing spouses. I encourage you to consider learning more about the Collaborative process if you are contemplating divorce.

Linda Wray

Linda K. Wray practices family law and has had her own firm since 1995. She is devoted to preserving the dignity and values of her clients while effectively representing them. She encourages the use of ADR where appropriate, and is an experienced collaborative attorney, mediator and litigator. Linda was the 2006 President of the Collaborative Law Institute and has led the effort to enact more extensive laws regarding Collaborative Law in Minnesota. She is presently serving on the Board of Directors for the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, co-chairing the American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Section Collaborative Law Committee, and serving as a leader in the development of research regarding Collaborative Law. Linda has been named to the Minnesota Super Lawyers list every year since 2003.

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