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Unconscious uncoupling and cleaning up the mess

A friend of mine, Cheryl (not her real name), sent me this note:

Dear Jane,

I am feeling lonely in my relationship and am not sure what to do. My husband is not interested in doing anything with me. I am taking courses and connecting with friends and he is mostly at home on the computer or playing video games. I try to connect and share, and he listens but doesn’t connect around it.

Other than me feeling lonely in my marriage, I have nothing to complain about. We get along fine when we are doing chores around the house and eating meals and stuff like that. He is a nice guy and has a good job; he doesn’t drink or anything like that. Am I expecting too much?

I am interested in your advice, just in case I wake up one day and feel sick and tired of feeling so lonely all the time.

Cheryl’s message made me think of how many people do this “unconscious uncoupling” thing… without even thinking about it. It starts with leading separate lives, punctuated by a few shared moments. Then the confusion and the mess and an overwhelming decision of what to do next.

At least, that’s how it happened to me.

Years ago, all I remember was just trying to get through each day, especially when the kids were little. Those were the days when the kids needed so much: lunches packed, uniforms ironed, laundry two and three times a day, their baths, their strollers, their appointments…

…And the mess, all over the place, all the time. All that work before (sometimes during) and after my own work hours. Most weekends, I was all over the map. From music lessons, birthday parties and soccer clinics, I had to buy a car with a GPS. On some lucky weekends, I had a husband (aka my weekend co-worker) to share the dishwashing, diapering and the driving.

Then one day I woke up and realized that the kids were teenagers. All of a sudden, the craziness came to an abrupt end. My husband started doing stuff on his own and so did I.

Pretty soon…BAM! We were living like Cheryl and her husband. Alone. Separate. Uncoupled, unconsciously.

As a family law lawyer, I know what usually happens next. But in my own story, I was blind sighted. Many others who come to me are also blind sighted when their husbands (as mine did) disclose one day: “I met someone” (or, “This is not working”, or “I am moving out”, or “I can’t do this anymore”). Of course, it could’ve been me saying all of this, but the mess and confusion that follow are the same.

What did I do?

Because I am a Collaborative Lawyer, and I really truly believe in doing what’s best for everyone (me, him, the kids – OMG the kids), my response to him was: “Let’s do this collaboratively.”

My only mistake at the time was to also say: “Let’s just do this without lawyers, ok?” After all, I am a Collaborative family law Lawyer. I know this stuff.

In hindsight though, I could have really used a Collaborative Lawyer who:

A) guided me through the mess and confusion with a caring voice;
B) focused me on my next steps; and
C) helped me clean up the emotional mess, by way of A) and B).

Call me! I will help you with all your ABC’s. I’ve been there. I can become your Collaborative family Lawyer that I wish I had.