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Episode 52 - The Advantage of Owning Your Part of the Divorce and How it Can Set You on the Right Path

Episode 52 - The Advantage of Owning Your Part of the Divorce and How it Can Set You on the Right Path Image

11/20/2018 9:00 am

It is human nature to pass the blame onto someone else. On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to accept your part in the breakdown of a marriage, especially when it really was mostly the other person's doing. But, regardless of whose fault it primarily was, you will put yourself onto a path of healing and growing when you own your part. In this show, we breakdown the value in owning your part, how you can get control of your emotions, and practical advice for things you can do that will put you in the right mindset. Not only will this ownership help you get through the divorce, it will also set you up for success in your next relationship.

Transcript

Female:                Did I also tell you that my ex cheated on me? He is such a piece of work. He never really cared about me. He would just come home and ...

Male:                    Wow. He sounds like a real jerk.

Female:                Yeah. He ruined our family. Where we are today is all his fault.

Leh:                       Well, we hear things like this way too frequently. There are just so many issues that arise out of a divorce, and unfortunately, sometimes it's wanting to play the blame game, and ...

Todd:                    Say that three times in a row fast.

Leh:                       Yeah. No, I'd rather not because then I would mess up, and you'd make fun of me. But we wanted to dedicate this whole show to understanding what it means to own your divorce and accepting responsibility for your part and why it's so important. Well, welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, and even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level or save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. Every week, Todd and I share our experiences and knowledge to help people navigate challenging times in their marriage, their life, and with their family. If you want to learn more about us, you can always visit us or call us ... call us or visit us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com.

Todd:                    We're going to get it right today. I promise you.

Todd:                    Yeah. Well, today you're 100 percent right. We wanted to talk about ...

Leh:                       Oh, can we mark that down, that I'm 100 percent right?

Todd:                    No, I ... Let's just say, uh, for ... yes.

Leh:                       Okay, good. Alright.

Leh:                       This one time, I think. But today we wanted to talk about owning your divorce, and by that, what I mean is, owning your part and where you are today, okay? And it's so important because that thought process can really affect the tone and tenor of the case.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    It can really impact, basically, is it going to be a hotly litigated case or is it going to be one where it's more amicable, alright?

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    And so it sounds on the surface, it may sound like oh, owning the divorce, what does that even mean? What we're getting at, and what we're going to get at throughout the show, we firmly believe that this an issue that, if you don't own it, if you don't walk into this process and really grasp the concept, it can really have negative impact, so I know some listeners might be thinking that what do you mean by own it? They may be thinking well, I didn't force my spouse to cheat. I didn't make my spouse file for divorce. He was treating me horribly. She didn't show me any love. He made fun of the way I felt, or I gave my spouse everything and this is how he or she repays me. How is any of this my fault?

Leh:                       Yeah, and we hear that all the time. We hear examples of that all the time, and usually a lot of the times it's excuses, and we like excuses. They let us off the hook. They really help us avoid making potentially painful self-assessments of where we are, and it makes it easy for us to avoid it. We start as children. We start going, "Hey, I didn't do it," or "My brother made me do it." I mean, we want to blame other people, and before we go any further, I think it's important that we ... There's a ... I don't want anybody to think we're coming across as judgmental, that we're judging anybody because they've made these statements. I don't want them to think that at all.

Todd:                    No, I may judge you if you get tongue-tied again, but as it relates to this, you're right. No, there's no judgment.

Leh:                       But what we're trying to do is we've seen people, and we say this a lot when we talk to clients, this may be your first divorce, but we've been through hundreds if not thousands, and so we see people get through it, and we see the ones that own their part of the relationship, own their part of what's gotten them there, that part, even if it's ten percent of the reason why they're getting a divorce.

Leh:                       They own it, and they get through the divorce in a relatively amicable fashion, and then they're able to move on with their lives in a very healthy way,

Todd:                    And I think you hit the nail on the head because it doesn't just assist in how you handle the divorce, and it doesn't just set the stage for how the divorce is going to be handled in terms of is it litigated, is it very contentious, or is it a more amicable kind of situation, but even after the fact, and we're not trying to play therapist here, but even after the fact, just by going into it and being able to own a part of it, and not play that blame game, you don't become that person, that one, two, five, ten years later is still talking negatively about your spouse.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    You've moved on with your life. You found happiness, and that's it. You're in a different stage or at a different stage at that point, so blame allows you to pass your mistakes and issues onto the other, onto the spouse, and into the future, and before you can move forward, you have to ask what was my part.

Leh:                       Right. I mean that's the big thing. Blame allows you to carry what, you know, there may be something that you contributed you didn't even realize, and then you take it into the next relationship, and then you get a divorce the second time, and so, we don't want, we actually want to help people so that they're not necessarily repeat customers. I mean, we do help people with modifications after a divorce, and we definitely like to do that, but we don't necessarily like to see people getting a divorce a second and a third time. We don't even like to see people, even though that's we do for a living, we don't necessarily like to see them get a divorce the first time.

Todd:                    We don't, and that's why we spend a lot of time, we do shows, and I know you even do work through your church trying to help people understand that it takes two to tango, and what is broken can be fixed if you're willing to put forth the effort, and again, I think it's important for me to say that it doesn't mean, and what we're saying does not mean, and shouldn't be taken as saying, you must forgive bad behavior.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    We understand. Trust me. As bad a situation as you're in, we've probably worked in cases where we've seen worse, and that doesn't mean that what you're dealing with isn't serious and isn't important to you ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... but it just means, what we're talking about, owning it. It just means that you've truly analyzed all of the events that led to the breakdown, and you recognize that there were probably things you could have said or done differently, things you could have done better, and if nothing else, it allows you to move forward and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Leh:                       Yeah, and I've seen situations, too, where, you know, we've had those cases where one of the spouses, I mean, did everything in their power to be a good spouse, a good husband, a good wife, and even saved their marriage, and it's difficult to even see how they may have contributed even one percent to the divorce, but it's still even in those situations important to take a self-assessment because you may find something out. You may find out hey, maybe I never should have gotten married to begin with. Maybe you met ...

Leh:                       We've seen situations where couples, they met in a bar, and throughout their entire courtship, they were going out drinking heavily in bars, and then one of the spouses noticed that, let's say, the wife noticed the husband drinking a lot, all the time, and then when they get married, and then she gets pregnant, and the kids come along, she of course stops drinking, and she grows up, but the husband doesn't, and so I've even had conversations with judges who have said, "My gosh, I saw this in the courtroom, this divorce coming. After I heard the story, I'm still surprised that the husband or the wife is in shock that the other person's an alcoholic."

Leh:                       So, that's what I'm saying, that the non-alcoholic may have been, from the standpoint of inside the marriage and everything right, but if they take an honest assessment, and they've been like, "Okay, in my next relationship, I need to make sure I don't get into a relationship like this person, the person that has these kind of characteristics. I need to stay away from them."

Todd:                    Well, you're learning, if not from it, I don't know if I want to define it as a mistake, but you're learning from past ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... experiences, and by learning from those past experiences, hopefully you can avoid the same pitfalls in the future. I'm probably going to get mocked mercilessly by some of my buddies because I'm actually going to use a quote from Oprah Winfrey, okay? And she said that "Learn from every mistake because every experience, particularly your mistakes, are there to teach you and force you into being more of who are." I actually love that statement because it really goes to the heart of what we're talking about. Everyone, I hope, for the most part, is a good person deep down, and they want to be that good person, but unfortunately, you get caught up in the blame game, a bad relationship, and you start to stray away from that, and by learning from your mistakes, you can get back to being the person that you are and that you want to be.

Leh:                       Exactly.

Todd:                    Thank you, Oprah.

Leh:                       You probably are going to get mocked.

Todd:                    Oh, I know I will. I'll own it, but I'm going to own it, so ...

Leh:                       You hope. There you go. You're going to own it. So, I've even seen situations where, and it impacts it later on as far as dealing with co-parenting, but where a husband doesn't, or some guys don't respect women, you know? And sometimes the wife during the courting process, they notice it during the courting process, but ...

Todd:                    They look past it.

Leh:                       They look past it, and then they're surprised that they're treated poorly during the course of the marriage, so that's what I'm saying. We've got to own it, got to take the full responsibility for everything, and that includes recognizing that we are up against the break, but don't go away. When we come back, we're going to break down facing and owning our emotions inside of the divorce because it's okay to have these emotions, and we're going to talk about how and what you do to own your part, including some practical questions to ask yourself to make sure you're honestly assessing your current situation. We'll be right back.

Male:                    I can't believe she did this to me. I deserve better. She took advantage of me. She never respected me or appreciated everything I did for her. I need to figure out how to make her pay.

Leh:                       Welcome back to Meriwether and Tharp radio. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We're partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, a firm dedicated to helping people through difficult times. If you want to learn more about us, you can call or visit us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. Well, what we're talking about today is owning your part in a divorce or even a similar family law matter, and what you just heard was what we hear a lot, where people want to make the other side pay because they had nothing to do with why they are where they are, and we have found that that necessarily is not the healthiest attitude to take, to blame the other side, but when we're talking about owning your part in a divorce, we also want to recognize that hey, look, these feelings are real. We cannot ignore these feelings. In fact, it's unhealthy to ignore these feelings, and so that's ... Before we get into the practical tips on owning your divorce, I think we need to talk about this.

Todd:                    Absolutely, absolutely, because you're right. You can't ignore or bottle up those emotional feelings that you have because that's when we really see the problems coming up, and coming to the surface in the divorce, and I got to tell you, I know in your cases as well, there are many times that we will look at our clients and say, "Go talk to someone."

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    "We have names. Just go," and it's, understand, it's not an issue of crazy. It's an issue of maybe you're spouse is driving you crazy, alright?

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    But you need to recognize that your spouse and the issues in the case are having that kind of an impact on you, and you need to then get help because the bottom line is when you don't, then the emotion starts to take control, and I've talked about this on the show before where, summarizing what I've gone into more detail on, a person that I met a long time ago, who practices family law, said to me, "That's the biggest killer in cases," and so his ... Basically, the way he managed his cases, he said, "I control the emotion because if you don't control the emotion, then it takes control, and that's when the cases spiral out of control."

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    So, I absolutely believe that, and I absolutely, in my career, have done everything that I could to control the emotion because I've seen it ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... when no matter what we try, it gets out of control, and the next thing you know, what should have been a very simple case is anything but.

Leh:                       And it takes years to go through.

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       And when we say control, we're not saying, hey, suck it up, Buttercup. We're not saying that at all.

Todd:                    If you were in a black belt in judo, I would say you better not call me Buttercup.

Leh:                       What we're saying is hey, look, we need to acknowledge that there's emotion there, that we're not saying ignore it. In fact, we're saying it, actually acknowledge it, so it's okay, I mean, we're human beings. We are emotional beings, and it's okay to feel pain, anger, resentment. I'm just going to identify some of the emotions in case you may be, maybe you haven't thought about it, but maybe you actually are feeling these things, betrayal, bitterness, sadness, regret, rejection, depression, loneliness, fear, frustration, confusion, relief, and then sometimes guilt for feeling relief that you're getting a divorce, anxiety, sometimes you feel like a failure, and all these feelings can impact you in not just ways of causing your divorce to explode, but they can cause other things.

Leh:                       So, like all these in general can, left unchecked, when we don't acknowledge them and we don't deal with them, you run the risk of alienating everyone around you. Let's say anger. You're angry about the divorce, and then you yell at your kids, who have nothing to do with the divorce, and now all of a sudden they feel like they're causing it, or maybe it's co-workers at work, you blow up at them, and they didn't do anything.

Todd:                    You yell at me all the time, and ...

Leh:                       Well, that's because I love you. You're like a brother.

Todd:                    I want a new family then. No, I'm kidding. No, but you're right. You're right. The anger, it's not contained and it's not, usually, it's not focused only in the direction of the spouse.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    And, we see too often that the behavior, the emotion, it has a very big tendency to start to affect other areas of your life, taking it out on the kids, taking it out on friends, alienating yourself because of bad behavior, you know, because you're angry or whatever, and now friends don't want to hang out with you, and again, owning it, if you're able to put the emotion aside, if there was literally a switch that you could just flip that switch, the emotion goes away, hopefully you would be able to self-analyze, and you'd be able to step back and go, wow, I have to really modify my behavior because I'm starting to alienate myself from everyone ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... because of what I'm doing.

Leh:                       Yeah, and sadness can do the same thing on the other end ...

Todd:                    Absolutely.

Leh:                       ... because, I mean, nobody wants to, man, let's stay away from Todd. All he talks about is how sad he is. I mean, people don't want to be around that negativity. They want to be around positivity, and I'm not saying, oh, you should be cheerful about getting a divorce. I'm not saying that at all, but it's recognizing that you are dealing with that emotion because you may have the ... You may be expressing sadness or anger, and not even realizing it, and that's what causes you to unload on your children or depress your co-workers or something like that.

Todd:                    And tying it back into the theme of the show, owning your part in the divorce and in the breakdowns that occurred in your relationship, we believe firmly that by doing so, by owning your role, by owning your part, okay, that it will help you to manage the behavior.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    And, if for no other reason, and by the way, there are many more important reasons, but if for no other reason, it will help you get through the divorce process more efficiently, and with a lot less damage.

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    Alright, so we feel it's very important.

Leh:                       So when you acknowledge the anger, for instance, let's talk about how the benefits of this, so when you recognize the anger, perhaps, maybe you can't control it, but what you do is avoid situations that cause you to lose it. When we talked about, not too long ago, in the communication and about how recognizing perhaps the time of day, you know, there's that concept called ego depletion, you could be tired, so you combine that tired with the anger of the divorce, well, maybe you don't want to engage with your children on certain issues at night, if you might lose it with them. So it's being cognizant of that and avoiding situations if you think you can't avoid the anger, but even guilt ... I know you and I have counseled people that they felt so guilty for where they were in the divorce that they were about to sign a settlement agreement that would have basically ...

Todd:                    Grossly unfair.

Leh:                       Grossly unfair, number one, and it wasn't even unfair to them, but to their children because they wouldn't even have any money left over to take the kids anywhere on their time, and so guilt can be a problem if you don't recognize it. Loneliness, I mean, if you suddenly feel lonely, and oh, I'm going to go on a date with someone because I feel lonely, and now all of a sudden, the other side's claiming well, you committed adultery, even though it was post-separation.

Todd:                    And I think it's also important to note that a lot of these emotions, usually you don't just have one.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    So, if there's an issue of loneliness, then all of a sudden you see the other spouse, and they've started dating, and there's a girlfriend or boyfriend involved, and that loneliness then becomes very much related to the anger that suddenly sprout up because you see your spouse extremely happy ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... and they're not lonely, and then you become bitter, and you become angry, and again, tying it back into the overall theme, by owning your role in the breakdown, it will help bring you some peace so that you don't dwell on those things.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    You can just move forward with your life and focus on the things that matter, and at that point in time, it is managing the divorce and getting through it as efficiently as you can.

Leh:                       Yeah, so let's talk about some questions we can ask ourselves, just you know, well, you can ask what emotion am I experiencing today? Am I hiding any of my emotions? And ask these, yourself questions. I usually say, write them down on a sheet of paper, and do your best on it, answer them honestly. How am I expressing my emotions? And think about the course of your day. Did you get a negative reaction from your co-workers or your friends or family or children? Am I allowing my emotions to overwhelm me? How are they impacting my decision making which can be really important. Am I developing coping mechanisms that are healthy or unhealthy to deal with my emotions? And you know, here's an example we see one, people go into denial that they're going through a divorce, and next thing you know, they don't engage with their lawyer, they don't call them back, or they don't show up to court, which can be very devastating for their case.

Todd:                    You don't go to court, you don't make your arguments, you usually don't get what you want.

Leh:                       Right. And so, another bad coping mechanism, rationalization. All of a sudden saying, hey, well, I'm ... It's okay for me to act this way because he deserves it or she deserves it or she has it coming, and so that puts you in a bad spot, so those are some examples of bad coping mechanisms.

Todd:                    And then there's good coping mechanisms. Be proactive. Don't let the situation or your situation happen to you. Identify what you can control, take action, alright? We've done shows on proactive behavior, and adapt. We, as humans, we usually want to resist change, so by resisting it, it usually causes more pain.

Leh:                       And one of the painful things is we're up against another break again, but don't go away. When we come right back, we're going to talk about more of the specific benefits of owning your part, and then we're going to get into some specific questions to ask yourself to help you own your part. Stay tuned. We'll be right back.

Female:                Hey, honey, so I have to tell you this funny story. So the other night, a new gal, I think her name was Marge, she showed up to our book club, and we all introduced ourselves to her and shared a little bit about each other. Marge told us about how she's on husband number four, and all the problems with this husband, and husbands number one through three. I don't know if it's appropriate or not, but I couldn't help but laugh when Stephanie said to her, "Marge, it doesn't sound like you're on husband number four. It sounds like you've been married to the same husband all these years. He just keeps changing his name."

Leh:                       You know, I love this story. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and today what we are talking about is owning your part of the divorce, so that you're not like Marge there, who keeps marrying the same person and divorcing the same person over and over again just with a different name. Welcome back to Meriwether and Tharp radio. If you're just tuning into the show, thanks so much. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We're partners of the law firm at Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio. In this show, we share our experiences and knowledge to help people navigate challenging times in their marriage and with their family.

Leh:                       If you want to learn more about us, you can always visit us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com, and like I said before, we have been talking about this show, owning your part in a divorce, taking responsibility for where you are, even if it's only ten percent or one percent of the breakdown in the marriage, still owning that part so that you can really learn from it, and we're going to, we started off talking about why it's so important. We talked about in the last segment, we talked about the importance of just recognizing the emotions, and not trying to ignore any of the emotions, in fact, embracing them, and then through that learning how to deal with them and how to develop healthy coping, watch out for bad coping mechanisms, look for good coping mechanisms.

Todd:                    And how to not allow those emotions to have a negative impact on a pending case, on a pending divorce case.

Leh:                       Exactly, and you can't do it until you recognize that you do have the emotions, and so now we're going to give, we're going to go over the seven benefits of owning your part, and then when we finish with that, and then in the last segment, we're going to talk about some really practical tips to figure out okay, well how do I own my part?

Todd:                    So let's dig in.

Leh:                       Let's dig in. So, if you play the blame game, you fall prey to wanting to make the other person pay. Then it becomes ... That's what we're talking about when we say what should be an amicable type of resolution, it becomes much more litigious and contentious because now, your goal isn't to reach an agreement and to get through this efficiently. You're now out for blood.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       And obviously, I don't need to say, not literal blood, but you're looking to make the other person pay, and that's not what the whole process is about.

Todd:                    And, you know, I'll give a quick example here. We saw a case where on one side, the wife was an alcoholic, and she'd been in and out of rehab, and after 35 years the husband kind of had enough of it, and well, he did dome things he shouldn't have, hired some prostitutes, but when they went to a final divorce hearing, she actually asked for a jury trial, and she would not acknowledge anything wrong she had done in the marriage. She said it was all his fault and ignored all the trips to the rehab facility and all that sort of thing.

Leh:                       And let me guess, the jury didn't really buy into that, did they?

Todd:                    No, they didn't, and so she wound up spending ... Talking about the making people pay because she wanted him to pay, the only person who paid was her. She paid her lawyer something like $380,000. I think our client was about $140,000, but that ... You want to talk about something blowing up way beyond what it ever should have been?

Leh:                       And I know it's hard to believe because in that scenario, you're talking about a situation where one spouse actually hired prostitutes, alright?

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       And so ...

Todd:                    Not excusing the behavior.

Leh:                       No, but so I can understand there being a moment of come on, how could a jury not see that that is the person who is at fault, and that goes right to the heart of emotion because you, meaning she in that situation, was so caught up in the emotion that she refused to acknowledge that any part of their combined story and any of the problems that they were experiencing might have been her fault, and so she goes, and we've done jury trials, you go in front of this jury, and they're not perfect people, and they hear somebody saying, in essence, I'm perfect and my spouse is evil, but then they start hearing all these other facts.

Todd:                    The rest of the story.

Leh:                       The rest of the story, and while they don't forgive the prostitutes, okay? They assign some blame and potentially even get angry that there's no recognition by her that she is partly to blame.

Todd:                    Right. And I probably should note, I think Georgia's one of the few states in the United States that actually allows jury trials for divorces. It's usually judges.

Leh:                       And they're rare. They're rare.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       But they happen. We try them.

Todd:                    But the judges are very, have similar reactions, so ... Well, the second thing is when you accept responsibility, it allows you to focus on what you have control over and stop wasting time trying to control what you can't. So you can't control your spouse.

Leh:                       You lose sight. You can't see the forest for the trees. However you want to put it, it's absolutely true because then you start to hyper-focus on things you shouldn't be hyper-focused on, and when you do that, then you stop, you lose focus on the important stuff.

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       And that's going to drag things out, or it's going to make you take on case strategies that are losers, you know?

Todd:                    Right. Yeah.

Leh:                       And hopefully you have an attorney that will identify that and keep you on track, but if not, then unfortunately, you're going to go down this path, fight the fight, and it's the wrong fight, and you don't get the result you want.

Todd:                    And most good lawyers are going to tell you the problems with your side of the story, and the problems in your story, and so if you're willing to accept that responsibility, you're going to hear, you're going to follow some good legal advice, which usually results in a good settlement.

Leh:                       Well, how about this? A benefit is you grow.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       You grow as a person, okay? Perhaps you weren't the best husband or father. We've seen dads become better dads. We've seen husbands or wives go on to other and new relationships, and things are better.

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       Things are working, and we absolutely, I'm speaking for both of us, believe that a lot of that has to do with, they have owned some of their responsibility, and, as Oprah says, they have learned from it, alright?

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       And they have gotten back to being the person or the people that they want to be.

Todd:                    Exactly. And in some situations, so here's a fourth benefit, we have seen in some situations that people actually save their marriage, even in the middle of the divorce or right before a trial because they accepted responsibility for their part, and all of a sudden opened the door, and a lot of the times, it's not that you're necessarily doing anything wrong, but you're not necessarily doing it right either. And unfortunately, it takes that divorce to bring it out, and if you could have both parties own it, oh my gosh, you can save marriages, and that's one of the things, another reason why I wanted to have this show, too. We've seen it, like one of my favorite books is The Five Love Languages. If you're not speaking, and we don't have time to go into that today, but if you're not speaking your spouses love language, well they start feeling like their not loved.

Leh:                       Yeah, we've seen people because someone is not owning, one of the spouses is not owning their responsibility, we've seen people file for divorce, and we're not talking about, to use the word again, prostitutes. We're not talking about horrible, horrible behavior ...

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       ... but there's just no recognition by a spouse of any wrongdoing, and ...

Todd:                    They just say we drifted apart.

Leh:                       And then it's like well, I give up then, alright? Or, the spouse who files is like, I have no choice because you won't even recognize that there are some flaws and things that we need to fix, and I have seen situations where people have gone all the way through a divorce, and then they get remarried because finally, it got to a point where they put their weapons down, and they were like, you know what? I was a jerk. Oh, you know what? I was sort of a jerk, too, at times. We can be better, and then they got back together.

Todd:                    Yeah, and we've seen those marriages last, too.

Leh:                       That's right.

Todd:                    So, number five, an increase, and we've kind of talked about this already, but it increases the likelihood of resolving your case rather than litigating it.

Leh:                       You focus on the important stuff, and you don't let emotion control and dictate the tone and tenor of the case. Absolutely ... Hopefully, it'll keep you out of a courtroom.

Todd:                    And so, the number six is if you don't own it, then you tend to make mistakes in the future. Blame, as we said in the first segment, blame has a way of carrying forward into your next relationship.

Leh:                       It's all about learning. I mean, I don't want to sit hear and sound too hokey that life is a voyage and a journey or whatever, but the bottom line is we have to constantly be learning. If we don't learn from mistakes, if we don't learn from bad behavior, and the effects that bad behavior can have, then we're going to repeat, okay?

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       And so, absolutely, I think if you don't own it, you're just going to keep repeating the same bad behavior, have the same unhealthy relationships, and potentially go through the same divorce action that you might have gone through once, twice or three times before.

Todd:                    And speaking of the bad behavior, that's number seven. It helps you to avoid bad coping mechanisms that can hurt your family and your employment because we've seen people that, they don't own their part, they just oh, this is their fault, and oh, woe is me, and then they start drinking, and then like I say, they get fired because they don't perform as well, or they start eating too much, and gosh, we've even seen situations where they don't own their part, and they like, well, I'll show him, and they go out and buy $5,000 ... One time it was $20,000 worth of clothes.

Leh:                       That's a nice wardrobe.

Todd:                    Yes, it was a quick way to max out a credit card, but ...

Leh:                       I'm sure the judge loved that behavior. He really did.

Todd:                    One thing that I don't love is that we're at the end of a segment again, and we've got to go. Hey, but we'll be right back, and don't go away because when we come back, we're going to talk about some questions to ask yourself to force that deep introspection, and things that you can do to make sure that you don't repeat this again. We'll be right back.

Todd:                    Welcome back to Meriwether and Tharp radio. If you're just tuning into the show, welcome. I'm Todd Orston. With me is Leh Meriwether. We're partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio. In this show, we share our experiences and knowledge to help people navigate challenging times in their marriage and with their families. If you want to learn more about us, you can call or visit us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. How was that, Leh?

Leh:                       That was good.

Todd:                    Thank you. I appreciate that.

Leh:                       Thanks for introducing us.

Todd:                    Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So as a quick recap, how do you own your divorce? How do I figure out what my part is, and we know this can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes you have to start by asking hard questions, trying to answer them honestly. You may have to answer these in a group setting with a counselor or with the help of some friends who have nothing to lose by telling you the truth.

Leh:                       Right. And so, I do want to say that some of this material, that especially some of the questions I'm going to present, some of it comes from a group that I work with through my church, it's called Oasis, and the nice thing out there, we talked about doing this in a group setting because sometimes people have nothing to lose by telling you the truth will help make sure you're being honest with your assessments, and in this group setting, like the Oasis is, it's a nine week group thing that you go through this and in a lot of detail, and you ask some very difficult questions, and there's a guide to help you go through this, that there's a mentor that walks you through this, and so Oasis ...

Todd:                    To help keep you honest.

Leh:                       To help keep you honest, and to help you really do your homework essentially, and so that's through North Point Ministries. So that's just one example, but I know that there's a lot of faith-based options.

Todd:                    And there are non-faith-based options.

Leh:                       Yep, and they are, and I'm having a blank on them right now, but ...

Todd:                    But you can always call us or email us, and we can give names, but the bottom line is help is out there.

Leh:                       Yes.

Todd:                    But you have to recognize that you need help. You have to also want to get that help.

Leh:                       Right. And be willing to own it. And so, these other options help you to own it.

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       And so that's why I wanted to mention that, and I definitely did want to give credit where ... We're pretty smart, but we're not this smart, so I want to give credit where credit's due.

Todd:                    Absolutely.

Leh:                       Well, let's talk about some questions that you can ask yourself, and really try to answer it, so ...

Todd:                    Sure.

Leh:                       ... let's just go back and forth. I know we've got a bunch jotted down.

Todd:                    You first.

Leh:                       Okay. Was I greedy or did I make poor financial decisions?

Todd:                    Yes, you did. Oh, that's not how the game is played.

Leh:                       No, sorry.

Todd:                    Okay, got it. Alright. Yeah ...

Leh:                       Wait a minute. I'm not owning that.

Todd:                    Own it, Leh.

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    Was I greedy? Did I make poor financial decisions? Absolutely. You need to think of that in terms of the financial side of things or even the emotional side. Someone can be greedy in terms of emotions. You can be greedy in the sense that you're a taker, not a giver, and you have to recognize that it's a two-way street, and it's not going to be a, more than likely, a healthy relationship if all you're doing is taking and you're not putting anything back in.

Leh:                       Well, and this can cause you to, this can open up the door to more questions, so let's say, if you're in debt, let's say you have 20, 30,000 dollars in credit card debt or some other type of debt, lots of car notes and that sort of thing, that could be a sign that you were making poor financial decisions because you were living above your means.

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       And so, sometimes people live, they do that because they'll, rather than confront a situation, they'll go buy something. I mean, they kind of, it's that short term pleasure from buying something, so what it does is it causes you to start questioning your behaviors during the course of the marriage.

Todd:                    Yeah, and sometimes you have to even think, because some people will go through that process, and they'll think about how they spent, but in their minds, they say or they think well, I didn't spend too much, but then it comes down to perspective, and you really need to start thinking not in terms of do you think you spent too much, or did your spouse think you spent too much.

Leh:                       Well, yeah.

Todd:                    Meaning, maybe think you were fine, but your spouse, if that was a point of contention repeatedly, whether you thought you were right or wrong, it contributed to the strife. It contributed to the conflict.

Leh:                       So here's another question. Was I jealous?

Todd:                    You shouldn't be, Leh. Alright, I won't play the game that way. Alright, alright. But jealousy, absolutely. Jealousy is a killer.

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    And jealousy can create, I mean, the emotion that's associated with that is a case killer, that it can lead people to divorce, and once you're in a divorce, all it does is poison that well and creates conflict.

Leh:                       Yeah. And so, was I open with my spouse about the way I felt? Sometimes people just avoid ...

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       ... talking about something that's upsetting them.

Todd:                    Yeah, and again, not being open and being willing to talk and reveal what you're feeling, it just creates communication problems that we've also had a show on. We've talked about communication.

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    And so, it's extremely important to be comfortable enough and to find a comfortable place where you can share those emotions.

Leh:                       So, should I have confronted him or her about my concerns but was afraid to do so?

Todd:                    Communication. Again, so many times, the different paths are going to lead back to one central point, and that is communication. Did you communicate well? Did you reveal what it was you were thinking, feeling, whatever it was that impacted your behavior, if you didn't, then you have to own that.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    Then you played a part in this breakdown.

Leh:                       Now here's one that we do see, we've seen frequently. Did I put my career ahead of my family?

Todd:                    But, Leh, I did it for my family. I worked because of my family. I bought a house, and I have cars, and the kids are in school, and so on and so forth, right? I mean, so why am I wrong for doing that?

Leh:                       Well, because it's not all about the money.

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       And the best I've heard, and there's a lot of psychological reports out there that support this, the best gift you can give to your children is a healthy marriage.

Todd:                    And if you do that, I'm not saying don't pursue a career.

Leh:                       And I'm not trying to be judgmental ...

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       ... if you're, we do divorce for a living, so I'm not trying to be judgmental, I'm ...

Todd:                    And we pursue careers. We have careers, but the bottom line is you have to be open to the, at least the thought that your actions may be having a negative impact on the family, on your spouse, which may have led you to that point where divorce is unfortunately, a topic of conversation.

Leh:                       And going back to what you said a minute ago, it's about perspective, too, because ...

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       ... certainly from the wife's perspective, that hey, look, you did put your, from my perspective, you put your career above me.

Todd:                    Yeah. You may disagree.

Leh:                       Right, or my ...

Todd:                    You may feel like you've been present and all that, but at least recognize that your behavior may be impacting, rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, impacting the relationship.

Leh:                       Right. So, did I put my children ahead of my spouse? We've been seeing that. I've had a lot of cases where the families have gone into, they're nearly bankrupt, spending all kinds of money on their kids, and I mean, from everything from like travel baseball to travel, and no, I'm not trying to say it's bad, but you've got to keep things in perspective. But, you know, travel cheerleading, and then on top of that some horseback riding and some pro tennis lessons, and the next thing you know, they're spending four, five thousand dollars a month on their kids, and they're getting a divorce.

Todd:                    And there's the emotional impact because now what you've done, and we've seen this also, the children are then placed squarely in the middle of the conflict between the two parents because both of them are vying for the attention of the children. They are focusing more on the children, less on the spouse, problems aren't being solved, and then jealousy and other problems sort of come up because it's like, well, you love the kids, you ignore me, I'm going to then pay attention to the kids and try and win their affection.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    And then there's this emotional tug of war going on.

Leh:                       And so you've got situations, too, where ... But they don't have that, but what happens is they pour themselves into their children, they forget about each other, because we've seen this ...

Todd:                    Absolutely.

Leh:                       ... [crosstalk 00:40:58] Well, some are called gray divorces, but as the children have now graduated high school and are off in college, the spouses, they wake up and they're sitting across the table from each other going, who are you? And then, we've handled a number of those divorces. Again, not trying, all we're trying to do is get you to ask questions, and if you're listening to this, and have not gone through a divorce, or you think your marriage is fine, just maybe ask some of these questions, so you never have to hire these people, hire us or any family law attorney [inaudible 00:41:30].

Todd:                    I mean, look, there's a number ... I know we're running out of time. There are a number of other things and issues that you should be thinking about, but if you were to sum it up, what would be the most important point that you would make on this topic?

Leh:                       As far as owning it?

Todd:                    Yeah, but as part of owning it. I mean ...

Leh:                       Just not being afraid to ask yourself what did I do to contribute to where I got there? And then, if we're in a divorce process, if we're in the divorce, I think the most important thing is forgiveness.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       It's forgiveness because here's the thing. If you can't forgive your ... And I'm not saying forget.

Todd:                    And it doesn't mean you must stay together. It doesn't mean a divorce shouldn't happen. I mean, there might be many issues that require it, but ... Go ahead.

Leh:                       But, here's the thing. Forgiveness is not something that's earned. Most of the time, they don't deserve it. I mean, if there's some bad behavior, and the important thing is that when you forgive someone, it gives you that chance to let it go, so it doesn't hold you back. Because when you don't forgive someone, what it does is you empower that person, who may have mistreated you, to continue to have influence over your future.

Todd:                    And as a matter of fact, when you let it go, sometimes that will have more of an impact on the other spouse because they don't have that power, and they're like wow, they found happiness, and I don't have any power over them ...

Leh:                       One thing we don't have power over is making the show go longer than we would like it to go. And that about wraps up this show. Hey, thanks so much for listening. You can read more about us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. You can also email us at [email protected] That's mtlawoffice.com, and if, you know what? If you want to listen to the show again, you can definitely check it out in iTunes. Look up "divorce team radio," and we would love to get a five star rating from you.

Todd:                    Or six. I mean ...

Leh:                       Or six.

Todd:                    ... if you can add another star in there somehow, we'll take it.

Female:                Did I also tell you that my ex cheated on me? He is such a piece of work. He never really cared about me. He would just come home and ...

Male:                    Wow. He sounds like a real jerk.

Female:                Yeah. He ruined our family. Where we are today is all his fault.

Leh:                       Well, we hear things like this way too frequently. There are just so many issues that arise out of a divorce, and unfortunately, sometimes it's wanting to play the blame game, and ...

Todd:                    Say that three times in a row fast.

Leh:                       Yeah. No, I'd rather not because then I would mess up, and you'd make fun of me. But we wanted to dedicate this whole show to understanding what it means to own your divorce and accepting responsibility for your part and why it's so important. Well, welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio. Here you will learn about divorce, family law, and even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level or save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. Every week, Todd and I share our experiences and knowledge to help people navigate challenging times in their marriage, their life, and with their family. If you want to learn more about us, you can always visit us or call us ... call us or visit us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com.

Todd:                    We're going to get it right today. I promise you.

Todd:                    Yeah. Well, today you're 100 percent right. We wanted to talk about ...

Leh:                       Oh, can we mark that down, that I'm 100 percent right?

Todd:                    No, I ... Let's just say, uh, for ... yes.

Leh:                       Okay, good. Alright.

Leh:                       This one time, I think. But today we wanted to talk about owning your divorce, and by that, what I mean is, owning your part and where you are today, okay? And it's so important because that thought process can really affect the tone and tenor of the case.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    It can really impact, basically, is it going to be a hotly litigated case or is it going to be one where it's more amicable, alright?

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    And so it sounds on the surface, it may sound like oh, owning the divorce, what does that even mean? What we're getting at, and what we're going to get at throughout the show, we firmly believe that this an issue that, if you don't own it, if you don't walk into this process and really grasp the concept, it can really have negative impact, so I know some listeners might be thinking that what do you mean by own it? They may be thinking well, I didn't force my spouse to cheat. I didn't make my spouse file for divorce. He was treating me horribly. She didn't show me any love. He made fun of the way I felt, or I gave my spouse everything and this is how he or she repays me. How is any of this my fault?

Leh:                       Yeah, and we hear that all the time. We hear examples of that all the time, and usually a lot of the times it's excuses, and we like excuses. They let us off the hook. They really help us avoid making potentially painful self-assessments of where we are, and it makes it easy for us to avoid it. We start as children. We start going, "Hey, I didn't do it," or "My brother made me do it." I mean, we want to blame other people, and before we go any further, I think it's important that we ... There's a ... I don't want anybody to think we're coming across as judgmental, that we're judging anybody because they've made these statements. I don't want them to think that at all.

Todd:                    No, I may judge you if you get tongue-tied again, but as it relates to this, you're right. No, there's no judgment.

Leh:                       But what we're trying to do is we've seen people, and we say this a lot when we talk to clients, this may be your first divorce, but we've been through hundreds if not thousands, and so we see people get through it, and we see the ones that own their part of the relationship, own their part of what's gotten them there, that part, even if it's ten percent of the reason why they're getting a divorce.

Leh:                       They own it, and they get through the divorce in a relatively amicable fashion, and then they're able to move on with their lives in a very healthy way,

Todd:                    And I think you hit the nail on the head because it doesn't just assist in how you handle the divorce, and it doesn't just set the stage for how the divorce is going to be handled in terms of is it litigated, is it very contentious, or is it a more amicable kind of situation, but even after the fact, and we're not trying to play therapist here, but even after the fact, just by going into it and being able to own a part of it, and not play that blame game, you don't become that person, that one, two, five, ten years later is still talking negatively about your spouse.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    You've moved on with your life. You found happiness, and that's it. You're in a different stage or at a different stage at that point, so blame allows you to pass your mistakes and issues onto the other, onto the spouse, and into the future, and before you can move forward, you have to ask what was my part.

Leh:                       Right. I mean that's the big thing. Blame allows you to carry what, you know, there may be something that you contributed you didn't even realize, and then you take it into the next relationship, and then you get a divorce the second time, and so, we don't want, we actually want to help people so that they're not necessarily repeat customers. I mean, we do help people with modifications after a divorce, and we definitely like to do that, but we don't necessarily like to see people getting a divorce a second and a third time. We don't even like to see people, even though that's we do for a living, we don't necessarily like to see them get a divorce the first time.

Todd:                    We don't, and that's why we spend a lot of time, we do shows, and I know you even do work through your church trying to help people understand that it takes two to tango, and what is broken can be fixed if you're willing to put forth the effort, and again, I think it's important for me to say that it doesn't mean, and what we're saying does not mean, and shouldn't be taken as saying, you must forgive bad behavior.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    We understand. Trust me. As bad a situation as you're in, we've probably worked in cases where we've seen worse, and that doesn't mean that what you're dealing with isn't serious and isn't important to you ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... but it just means, what we're talking about, owning it. It just means that you've truly analyzed all of the events that led to the breakdown, and you recognize that there were probably things you could have said or done differently, things you could have done better, and if nothing else, it allows you to move forward and hopefully avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Leh:                       Yeah, and I've seen situations, too, where, you know, we've had those cases where one of the spouses, I mean, did everything in their power to be a good spouse, a good husband, a good wife, and even saved their marriage, and it's difficult to even see how they may have contributed even one percent to the divorce, but it's still even in those situations important to take a self-assessment because you may find something out. You may find out hey, maybe I never should have gotten married to begin with. Maybe you met ...

Leh:                       We've seen situations where couples, they met in a bar, and throughout their entire courtship, they were going out drinking heavily in bars, and then one of the spouses noticed that, let's say, the wife noticed the husband drinking a lot, all the time, and then when they get married, and then she gets pregnant, and the kids come along, she of course stops drinking, and she grows up, but the husband doesn't, and so I've even had conversations with judges who have said, "My gosh, I saw this in the courtroom, this divorce coming. After I heard the story, I'm still surprised that the husband or the wife is in shock that the other person's an alcoholic."

Leh:                       So, that's what I'm saying, that the non-alcoholic may have been, from the standpoint of inside the marriage and everything right, but if they take an honest assessment, and they've been like, "Okay, in my next relationship, I need to make sure I don't get into a relationship like this person, the person that has these kind of characteristics. I need to stay away from them."

Todd:                    Well, you're learning, if not from it, I don't know if I want to define it as a mistake, but you're learning from past ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... experiences, and by learning from those past experiences, hopefully you can avoid the same pitfalls in the future. I'm probably going to get mocked mercilessly by some of my buddies because I'm actually going to use a quote from Oprah Winfrey, okay? And she said that "Learn from every mistake because every experience, particularly your mistakes, are there to teach you and force you into being more of who are." I actually love that statement because it really goes to the heart of what we're talking about. Everyone, I hope, for the most part, is a good person deep down, and they want to be that good person, but unfortunately, you get caught up in the blame game, a bad relationship, and you start to stray away from that, and by learning from your mistakes, you can get back to being the person that you are and that you want to be.

Leh:                       Exactly.

Todd:                    Thank you, Oprah.

Leh:                       You probably are going to get mocked.

Todd:                    Oh, I know I will. I'll own it, but I'm going to own it, so ...

Leh:                       You hope. There you go. You're going to own it. So, I've even seen situations where, and it impacts it later on as far as dealing with co-parenting, but where a husband doesn't, or some guys don't respect women, you know? And sometimes the wife during the courting process, they notice it during the courting process, but ...

Todd:                    They look past it.

Leh:                       They look past it, and then they're surprised that they're treated poorly during the course of the marriage, so that's what I'm saying. We've got to own it, got to take the full responsibility for everything, and that includes recognizing that we are up against the break, but don't go away. When we come back, we're going to break down facing and owning our emotions inside of the divorce because it's okay to have these emotions, and we're going to talk about how and what you do to own your part, including some practical questions to ask yourself to make sure you're honestly assessing your current situation. We'll be right back.

Male:                    I can't believe she did this to me. I deserve better. She took advantage of me. She never respected me or appreciated everything I did for her. I need to figure out how to make her pay.

Leh:                       Welcome back to Meriwether and Tharp radio. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We're partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, a firm dedicated to helping people through difficult times. If you want to learn more about us, you can call or visit us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. Well, what we're talking about today is owning your part in a divorce or even a similar family law matter, and what you just heard was what we hear a lot, where people want to make the other side pay because they had nothing to do with why they are where they are, and we have found that that necessarily is not the healthiest attitude to take, to blame the other side, but when we're talking about owning your part in a divorce, we also want to recognize that hey, look, these feelings are real. We cannot ignore these feelings. In fact, it's unhealthy to ignore these feelings, and so that's ... Before we get into the practical tips on owning your divorce, I think we need to talk about this.

Todd:                    Absolutely, absolutely, because you're right. You can't ignore or bottle up those emotional feelings that you have because that's when we really see the problems coming up, and coming to the surface in the divorce, and I got to tell you, I know in your cases as well, there are many times that we will look at our clients and say, "Go talk to someone."

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    "We have names. Just go," and it's, understand, it's not an issue of crazy. It's an issue of maybe you're spouse is driving you crazy, alright?

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    But you need to recognize that your spouse and the issues in the case are having that kind of an impact on you, and you need to then get help because the bottom line is when you don't, then the emotion starts to take control, and I've talked about this on the show before where, summarizing what I've gone into more detail on, a person that I met a long time ago, who practices family law, said to me, "That's the biggest killer in cases," and so his ... Basically, the way he managed his cases, he said, "I control the emotion because if you don't control the emotion, then it takes control, and that's when the cases spiral out of control."

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    So, I absolutely believe that, and I absolutely, in my career, have done everything that I could to control the emotion because I've seen it ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... when no matter what we try, it gets out of control, and the next thing you know, what should have been a very simple case is anything but.

Leh:                       And it takes years to go through.

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       And when we say control, we're not saying, hey, suck it up, Buttercup. We're not saying that at all.

Todd:                    If you were in a black belt in judo, I would say you better not call me Buttercup.

Leh:                       What we're saying is hey, look, we need to acknowledge that there's emotion there, that we're not saying ignore it. In fact, we're saying it, actually acknowledge it, so it's okay, I mean, we're human beings. We are emotional beings, and it's okay to feel pain, anger, resentment. I'm just going to identify some of the emotions in case you may be, maybe you haven't thought about it, but maybe you actually are feeling these things, betrayal, bitterness, sadness, regret, rejection, depression, loneliness, fear, frustration, confusion, relief, and then sometimes guilt for feeling relief that you're getting a divorce, anxiety, sometimes you feel like a failure, and all these feelings can impact you in not just ways of causing your divorce to explode, but they can cause other things.

Leh:                       So, like all these in general can, left unchecked, when we don't acknowledge them and we don't deal with them, you run the risk of alienating everyone around you. Let's say anger. You're angry about the divorce, and then you yell at your kids, who have nothing to do with the divorce, and now all of a sudden they feel like they're causing it, or maybe it's co-workers at work, you blow up at them, and they didn't do anything.

Todd:                    You yell at me all the time, and ...

Leh:                       Well, that's because I love you. You're like a brother.

Todd:                    I want a new family then. No, I'm kidding. No, but you're right. You're right. The anger, it's not contained and it's not, usually, it's not focused only in the direction of the spouse.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    And, we see too often that the behavior, the emotion, it has a very big tendency to start to affect other areas of your life, taking it out on the kids, taking it out on friends, alienating yourself because of bad behavior, you know, because you're angry or whatever, and now friends don't want to hang out with you, and again, owning it, if you're able to put the emotion aside, if there was literally a switch that you could just flip that switch, the emotion goes away, hopefully you would be able to self-analyze, and you'd be able to step back and go, wow, I have to really modify my behavior because I'm starting to alienate myself from everyone ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... because of what I'm doing.

Leh:                       Yeah, and sadness can do the same thing on the other end ...

Todd:                    Absolutely.

Leh:                       ... because, I mean, nobody wants to, man, let's stay away from Todd. All he talks about is how sad he is. I mean, people don't want to be around that negativity. They want to be around positivity, and I'm not saying, oh, you should be cheerful about getting a divorce. I'm not saying that at all, but it's recognizing that you are dealing with that emotion because you may have the ... You may be expressing sadness or anger, and not even realizing it, and that's what causes you to unload on your children or depress your co-workers or something like that.

Todd:                    And tying it back into the theme of the show, owning your part in the divorce and in the breakdowns that occurred in your relationship, we believe firmly that by doing so, by owning your role, by owning your part, okay, that it will help you to manage the behavior.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    And, if for no other reason, and by the way, there are many more important reasons, but if for no other reason, it will help you get through the divorce process more efficiently, and with a lot less damage.

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    Alright, so we feel it's very important.

Leh:                       So when you acknowledge the anger, for instance, let's talk about how the benefits of this, so when you recognize the anger, perhaps, maybe you can't control it, but what you do is avoid situations that cause you to lose it. When we talked about, not too long ago, in the communication and about how recognizing perhaps the time of day, you know, there's that concept called ego depletion, you could be tired, so you combine that tired with the anger of the divorce, well, maybe you don't want to engage with your children on certain issues at night, if you might lose it with them. So it's being cognizant of that and avoiding situations if you think you can't avoid the anger, but even guilt ... I know you and I have counseled people that they felt so guilty for where they were in the divorce that they were about to sign a settlement agreement that would have basically ...

Todd:                    Grossly unfair.

Leh:                       Grossly unfair, number one, and it wasn't even unfair to them, but to their children because they wouldn't even have any money left over to take the kids anywhere on their time, and so guilt can be a problem if you don't recognize it. Loneliness, I mean, if you suddenly feel lonely, and oh, I'm going to go on a date with someone because I feel lonely, and now all of a sudden, the other side's claiming well, you committed adultery, even though it was post-separation.

Todd:                    And I think it's also important to note that a lot of these emotions, usually you don't just have one.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    So, if there's an issue of loneliness, then all of a sudden you see the other spouse, and they've started dating, and there's a girlfriend or boyfriend involved, and that loneliness then becomes very much related to the anger that suddenly sprout up because you see your spouse extremely happy ...

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    ... and they're not lonely, and then you become bitter, and you become angry, and again, tying it back into the overall theme, by owning your role in the breakdown, it will help bring you some peace so that you don't dwell on those things.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    You can just move forward with your life and focus on the things that matter, and at that point in time, it is managing the divorce and getting through it as efficiently as you can.

Leh:                       Yeah, so let's talk about some questions we can ask ourselves, just you know, well, you can ask what emotion am I experiencing today? Am I hiding any of my emotions? And ask these, yourself questions. I usually say, write them down on a sheet of paper, and do your best on it, answer them honestly. How am I expressing my emotions? And think about the course of your day. Did you get a negative reaction from your co-workers or your friends or family or children? Am I allowing my emotions to overwhelm me? How are they impacting my decision making which can be really important. Am I developing coping mechanisms that are healthy or unhealthy to deal with my emotions? And you know, here's an example we see one, people go into denial that they're going through a divorce, and next thing you know, they don't engage with their lawyer, they don't call them back, or they don't show up to court, which can be very devastating for their case.

Todd:                    You don't go to court, you don't make your arguments, you usually don't get what you want.

Leh:                       Right. And so, another bad coping mechanism, rationalization. All of a sudden saying, hey, well, I'm ... It's okay for me to act this way because he deserves it or she deserves it or she has it coming, and so that puts you in a bad spot, so those are some examples of bad coping mechanisms.

Todd:                    And then there's good coping mechanisms. Be proactive. Don't let the situation or your situation happen to you. Identify what you can control, take action, alright? We've done shows on proactive behavior, and adapt. We, as humans, we usually want to resist change, so by resisting it, it usually causes more pain.

Leh:                       And one of the painful things is we're up against another break again, but don't go away. When we come right back, we're going to talk about more of the specific benefits of owning your part, and then we're going to get into some specific questions to ask yourself to help you own your part. Stay tuned. We'll be right back.

Female:                Hey, honey, so I have to tell you this funny story. So the other night, a new gal, I think her name was Marge, she showed up to our book club, and we all introduced ourselves to her and shared a little bit about each other. Marge told us about how she's on husband number four, and all the problems with this husband, and husbands number one through three. I don't know if it's appropriate or not, but I couldn't help but laugh when Stephanie said to her, "Marge, it doesn't sound like you're on husband number four. It sounds like you've been married to the same husband all these years. He just keeps changing his name."

Leh:                       You know, I love this story. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and today what we are talking about is owning your part of the divorce, so that you're not like Marge there, who keeps marrying the same person and divorcing the same person over and over again just with a different name. Welcome back to Meriwether and Tharp radio. If you're just tuning into the show, thanks so much. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. We're partners of the law firm at Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio. In this show, we share our experiences and knowledge to help people navigate challenging times in their marriage and with their family.

Leh:                       If you want to learn more about us, you can always visit us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com, and like I said before, we have been talking about this show, owning your part in a divorce, taking responsibility for where you are, even if it's only ten percent or one percent of the breakdown in the marriage, still owning that part so that you can really learn from it, and we're going to, we started off talking about why it's so important. We talked about in the last segment, we talked about the importance of just recognizing the emotions, and not trying to ignore any of the emotions, in fact, embracing them, and then through that learning how to deal with them and how to develop healthy coping, watch out for bad coping mechanisms, look for good coping mechanisms.

Todd:                    And how to not allow those emotions to have a negative impact on a pending case, on a pending divorce case.

Leh:                       Exactly, and you can't do it until you recognize that you do have the emotions, and so now we're going to give, we're going to go over the seven benefits of owning your part, and then when we finish with that, and then in the last segment, we're going to talk about some really practical tips to figure out okay, well how do I own my part?

Todd:                    So let's dig in.

Leh:                       Let's dig in. So, if you play the blame game, you fall prey to wanting to make the other person pay. Then it becomes ... That's what we're talking about when we say what should be an amicable type of resolution, it becomes much more litigious and contentious because now, your goal isn't to reach an agreement and to get through this efficiently. You're now out for blood.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       And obviously, I don't need to say, not literal blood, but you're looking to make the other person pay, and that's not what the whole process is about.

Todd:                    And, you know, I'll give a quick example here. We saw a case where on one side, the wife was an alcoholic, and she'd been in and out of rehab, and after 35 years the husband kind of had enough of it, and well, he did dome things he shouldn't have, hired some prostitutes, but when they went to a final divorce hearing, she actually asked for a jury trial, and she would not acknowledge anything wrong she had done in the marriage. She said it was all his fault and ignored all the trips to the rehab facility and all that sort of thing.

Leh:                       And let me guess, the jury didn't really buy into that, did they?

Todd:                    No, they didn't, and so she wound up spending ... Talking about the making people pay because she wanted him to pay, the only person who paid was her. She paid her lawyer something like $380,000. I think our client was about $140,000, but that ... You want to talk about something blowing up way beyond what it ever should have been?

Leh:                       And I know it's hard to believe because in that scenario, you're talking about a situation where one spouse actually hired prostitutes, alright?

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       And so ...

Todd:                    Not excusing the behavior.

Leh:                       No, but so I can understand there being a moment of come on, how could a jury not see that that is the person who is at fault, and that goes right to the heart of emotion because you, meaning she in that situation, was so caught up in the emotion that she refused to acknowledge that any part of their combined story and any of the problems that they were experiencing might have been her fault, and so she goes, and we've done jury trials, you go in front of this jury, and they're not perfect people, and they hear somebody saying, in essence, I'm perfect and my spouse is evil, but then they start hearing all these other facts.

Todd:                    The rest of the story.

Leh:                       The rest of the story, and while they don't forgive the prostitutes, okay? They assign some blame and potentially even get angry that there's no recognition by her that she is partly to blame.

Todd:                    Right. And I probably should note, I think Georgia's one of the few states in the United States that actually allows jury trials for divorces. It's usually judges.

Leh:                       And they're rare. They're rare.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       But they happen. We try them.

Todd:                    But the judges are very, have similar reactions, so ... Well, the second thing is when you accept responsibility, it allows you to focus on what you have control over and stop wasting time trying to control what you can't. So you can't control your spouse.

Leh:                       You lose sight. You can't see the forest for the trees. However you want to put it, it's absolutely true because then you start to hyper-focus on things you shouldn't be hyper-focused on, and when you do that, then you stop, you lose focus on the important stuff.

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       And that's going to drag things out, or it's going to make you take on case strategies that are losers, you know?

Todd:                    Right. Yeah.

Leh:                       And hopefully you have an attorney that will identify that and keep you on track, but if not, then unfortunately, you're going to go down this path, fight the fight, and it's the wrong fight, and you don't get the result you want.

Todd:                    And most good lawyers are going to tell you the problems with your side of the story, and the problems in your story, and so if you're willing to accept that responsibility, you're going to hear, you're going to follow some good legal advice, which usually results in a good settlement.

Leh:                       Well, how about this? A benefit is you grow.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       You grow as a person, okay? Perhaps you weren't the best husband or father. We've seen dads become better dads. We've seen husbands or wives go on to other and new relationships, and things are better.

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       Things are working, and we absolutely, I'm speaking for both of us, believe that a lot of that has to do with, they have owned some of their responsibility, and, as Oprah says, they have learned from it, alright?

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       And they have gotten back to being the person or the people that they want to be.

Todd:                    Exactly. And in some situations, so here's a fourth benefit, we have seen in some situations that people actually save their marriage, even in the middle of the divorce or right before a trial because they accepted responsibility for their part, and all of a sudden opened the door, and a lot of the times, it's not that you're necessarily doing anything wrong, but you're not necessarily doing it right either. And unfortunately, it takes that divorce to bring it out, and if you could have both parties own it, oh my gosh, you can save marriages, and that's one of the things, another reason why I wanted to have this show, too. We've seen it, like one of my favorite books is The Five Love Languages. If you're not speaking, and we don't have time to go into that today, but if you're not speaking your spouses love language, well they start feeling like their not loved.

Leh:                       Yeah, we've seen people because someone is not owning, one of the spouses is not owning their responsibility, we've seen people file for divorce, and we're not talking about, to use the word again, prostitutes. We're not talking about horrible, horrible behavior ...

Todd:                    Right.

Leh:                       ... but there's just no recognition by a spouse of any wrongdoing, and ...

Todd:                    They just say we drifted apart.

Leh:                       And then it's like well, I give up then, alright? Or, the spouse who files is like, I have no choice because you won't even recognize that there are some flaws and things that we need to fix, and I have seen situations where people have gone all the way through a divorce, and then they get remarried because finally, it got to a point where they put their weapons down, and they were like, you know what? I was a jerk. Oh, you know what? I was sort of a jerk, too, at times. We can be better, and then they got back together.

Todd:                    Yeah, and we've seen those marriages last, too.

Leh:                       That's right.

Todd:                    So, number five, an increase, and we've kind of talked about this already, but it increases the likelihood of resolving your case rather than litigating it.

Leh:                       You focus on the important stuff, and you don't let emotion control and dictate the tone and tenor of the case. Absolutely ... Hopefully, it'll keep you out of a courtroom.

Todd:                    And so, the number six is if you don't own it, then you tend to make mistakes in the future. Blame, as we said in the first segment, blame has a way of carrying forward into your next relationship.

Leh:                       It's all about learning. I mean, I don't want to sit hear and sound too hokey that life is a voyage and a journey or whatever, but the bottom line is we have to constantly be learning. If we don't learn from mistakes, if we don't learn from bad behavior, and the effects that bad behavior can have, then we're going to repeat, okay?

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       And so, absolutely, I think if you don't own it, you're just going to keep repeating the same bad behavior, have the same unhealthy relationships, and potentially go through the same divorce action that you might have gone through once, twice or three times before.

Todd:                    And speaking of the bad behavior, that's number seven. It helps you to avoid bad coping mechanisms that can hurt your family and your employment because we've seen people that, they don't own their part, they just oh, this is their fault, and oh, woe is me, and then they start drinking, and then like I say, they get fired because they don't perform as well, or they start eating too much, and gosh, we've even seen situations where they don't own their part, and they like, well, I'll show him, and they go out and buy $5,000 ... One time it was $20,000 worth of clothes.

Leh:                       That's a nice wardrobe.

Todd:                    Yes, it was a quick way to max out a credit card, but ...

Leh:                       I'm sure the judge loved that behavior. He really did.

Todd:                    One thing that I don't love is that we're at the end of a segment again, and we've got to go. Hey, but we'll be right back, and don't go away because when we come back, we're going to talk about some questions to ask yourself to force that deep introspection, and things that you can do to make sure that you don't repeat this again. We'll be right back.

Todd:                    Welcome back to Meriwether and Tharp radio. If you're just tuning into the show, welcome. I'm Todd Orston. With me is Leh Meriwether. We're partners at the law firm of Meriwether and Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether and Tharp radio. In this show, we share our experiences and knowledge to help people navigate challenging times in their marriage and with their families. If you want to learn more about us, you can call or visit us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. How was that, Leh?

Leh:                       That was good.

Todd:                    Thank you. I appreciate that.

Leh:                       Thanks for introducing us.

Todd:                    Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. So as a quick recap, how do you own your divorce? How do I figure out what my part is, and we know this can be incredibly difficult. Sometimes you have to start by asking hard questions, trying to answer them honestly. You may have to answer these in a group setting with a counselor or with the help of some friends who have nothing to lose by telling you the truth.

Leh:                       Right. And so, I do want to say that some of this material, that especially some of the questions I'm going to present, some of it comes from a group that I work with through my church, it's called Oasis, and the nice thing out there, we talked about doing this in a group setting because sometimes people have nothing to lose by telling you the truth will help make sure you're being honest with your assessments, and in this group setting, like the Oasis is, it's a nine week group thing that you go through this and in a lot of detail, and you ask some very difficult questions, and there's a guide to help you go through this, that there's a mentor that walks you through this, and so Oasis ...

Todd:                    To help keep you honest.

Leh:                       To help keep you honest, and to help you really do your homework essentially, and so that's through North Point Ministries. So that's just one example, but I know that there's a lot of faith-based options.

Todd:                    And there are non-faith-based options.

Leh:                       Yep, and they are, and I'm having a blank on them right now, but ...

Todd:                    But you can always call us or email us, and we can give names, but the bottom line is help is out there.

Leh:                       Yes.

Todd:                    But you have to recognize that you need help. You have to also want to get that help.

Leh:                       Right. And be willing to own it. And so, these other options help you to own it.

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       And so that's why I wanted to mention that, and I definitely did want to give credit where ... We're pretty smart, but we're not this smart, so I want to give credit where credit's due.

Todd:                    Absolutely.

Leh:                       Well, let's talk about some questions that you can ask yourself, and really try to answer it, so ...

Todd:                    Sure.

Leh:                       ... let's just go back and forth. I know we've got a bunch jotted down.

Todd:                    You first.

Leh:                       Okay. Was I greedy or did I make poor financial decisions?

Todd:                    Yes, you did. Oh, that's not how the game is played.

Leh:                       No, sorry.

Todd:                    Okay, got it. Alright. Yeah ...

Leh:                       Wait a minute. I'm not owning that.

Todd:                    Own it, Leh.

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    Was I greedy? Did I make poor financial decisions? Absolutely. You need to think of that in terms of the financial side of things or even the emotional side. Someone can be greedy in terms of emotions. You can be greedy in the sense that you're a taker, not a giver, and you have to recognize that it's a two-way street, and it's not going to be a, more than likely, a healthy relationship if all you're doing is taking and you're not putting anything back in.

Leh:                       Well, and this can cause you to, this can open up the door to more questions, so let's say, if you're in debt, let's say you have 20, 30,000 dollars in credit card debt or some other type of debt, lots of car notes and that sort of thing, that could be a sign that you were making poor financial decisions because you were living above your means.

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       And so, sometimes people live, they do that because they'll, rather than confront a situation, they'll go buy something. I mean, they kind of, it's that short term pleasure from buying something, so what it does is it causes you to start questioning your behaviors during the course of the marriage.

Todd:                    Yeah, and sometimes you have to even think, because some people will go through that process, and they'll think about how they spent, but in their minds, they say or they think well, I didn't spend too much, but then it comes down to perspective, and you really need to start thinking not in terms of do you think you spent too much, or did your spouse think you spent too much.

Leh:                       Well, yeah.

Todd:                    Meaning, maybe think you were fine, but your spouse, if that was a point of contention repeatedly, whether you thought you were right or wrong, it contributed to the strife. It contributed to the conflict.

Leh:                       So here's another question. Was I jealous?

Todd:                    You shouldn't be, Leh. Alright, I won't play the game that way. Alright, alright. But jealousy, absolutely. Jealousy is a killer.

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    And jealousy can create, I mean, the emotion that's associated with that is a case killer, that it can lead people to divorce, and once you're in a divorce, all it does is poison that well and creates conflict.

Leh:                       Yeah. And so, was I open with my spouse about the way I felt? Sometimes people just avoid ...

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       ... talking about something that's upsetting them.

Todd:                    Yeah, and again, not being open and being willing to talk and reveal what you're feeling, it just creates communication problems that we've also had a show on. We've talked about communication.

Leh:                       Yeah.

Todd:                    And so, it's extremely important to be comfortable enough and to find a comfortable place where you can share those emotions.

Leh:                       So, should I have confronted him or her about my concerns but was afraid to do so?

Todd:                    Communication. Again, so many times, the different paths are going to lead back to one central point, and that is communication. Did you communicate well? Did you reveal what it was you were thinking, feeling, whatever it was that impacted your behavior, if you didn't, then you have to own that.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    Then you played a part in this breakdown.

Leh:                       Now here's one that we do see, we've seen frequently. Did I put my career ahead of my family?

Todd:                    But, Leh, I did it for my family. I worked because of my family. I bought a house, and I have cars, and the kids are in school, and so on and so forth, right? I mean, so why am I wrong for doing that?

Leh:                       Well, because it's not all about the money.

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       And the best I've heard, and there's a lot of psychological reports out there that support this, the best gift you can give to your children is a healthy marriage.

Todd:                    And if you do that, I'm not saying don't pursue a career.

Leh:                       And I'm not trying to be judgmental ...

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       ... if you're, we do divorce for a living, so I'm not trying to be judgmental, I'm ...

Todd:                    And we pursue careers. We have careers, but the bottom line is you have to be open to the, at least the thought that your actions may be having a negative impact on the family, on your spouse, which may have led you to that point where divorce is unfortunately, a topic of conversation.

Leh:                       And going back to what you said a minute ago, it's about perspective, too, because ...

Todd:                    That's right.

Leh:                       ... certainly from the wife's perspective, that hey, look, you did put your, from my perspective, you put your career above me.

Todd:                    Yeah. You may disagree.

Leh:                       Right, or my ...

Todd:                    You may feel like you've been present and all that, but at least recognize that your behavior may be impacting, rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly, impacting the relationship.

Leh:                       Right. So, did I put my children ahead of my spouse? We've been seeing that. I've had a lot of cases where the families have gone into, they're nearly bankrupt, spending all kinds of money on their kids, and I mean, from everything from like travel baseball to travel, and no, I'm not trying to say it's bad, but you've got to keep things in perspective. But, you know, travel cheerleading, and then on top of that some horseback riding and some pro tennis lessons, and the next thing you know, they're spending four, five thousand dollars a month on their kids, and they're getting a divorce.

Todd:                    And there's the emotional impact because now what you've done, and we've seen this also, the children are then placed squarely in the middle of the conflict between the two parents because both of them are vying for the attention of the children. They are focusing more on the children, less on the spouse, problems aren't being solved, and then jealousy and other problems sort of come up because it's like, well, you love the kids, you ignore me, I'm going to then pay attention to the kids and try and win their affection.

Leh:                       Right.

Todd:                    And then there's this emotional tug of war going on.

Leh:                       And so you've got situations, too, where ... But they don't have that, but what happens is they pour themselves into their children, they forget about each other, because we've seen this ...

Todd:                    Absolutely.

Leh:                       ... [crosstalk 00:40:58] Well, some are called gray divorces, but as the children have now graduated high school and are off in college, the spouses, they wake up and they're sitting across the table from each other going, who are you? And then, we've handled a number of those divorces. Again, not trying, all we're trying to do is get you to ask questions, and if you're listening to this, and have not gone through a divorce, or you think your marriage is fine, just maybe ask some of these questions, so you never have to hire these people, hire us or any family law attorney [inaudible 00:41:30].

Todd:                    I mean, look, there's a number ... I know we're running out of time. There are a number of other things and issues that you should be thinking about, but if you were to sum it up, what would be the most important point that you would make on this topic?

Leh:                       As far as owning it?

Todd:                    Yeah, but as part of owning it. I mean ...

Leh:                       Just not being afraid to ask yourself what did I do to contribute to where I got there? And then, if we're in a divorce process, if we're in the divorce, I think the most important thing is forgiveness.

Todd:                    Yeah.

Leh:                       It's forgiveness because here's the thing. If you can't forgive your ... And I'm not saying forget.

Todd:                    And it doesn't mean you must stay together. It doesn't mean a divorce shouldn't happen. I mean, there might be many issues that require it, but ... Go ahead.

Leh:                       But, here's the thing. Forgiveness is not something that's earned. Most of the time, they don't deserve it. I mean, if there's some bad behavior, and the important thing is that when you forgive someone, it gives you that chance to let it go, so it doesn't hold you back. Because when you don't forgive someone, what it does is you empower that person, who may have mistreated you, to continue to have influence over your future.

Todd:                    And as a matter of fact, when you let it go, sometimes that will have more of an impact on the other spouse because they don't have that power, and they're like wow, they found happiness, and I don't have any power over them ...

Leh:                       One thing we don't have power over is making the show go longer than we would like it to go. And that about wraps up this show. Hey, thanks so much for listening. You can read more about us online at Atlantadivorceteam.com. You can also email us at [email protected] That's mtlawoffice.com, and if, you know what? If you want to listen to the show again, you can definitely check it out in iTunes. Look up "divorce team radio," and we would love to get a five star rating from you.

Todd:                    Or six. I mean ...

Leh:                       Or six.

Todd:                    ... if you can add another star in there somehow, we'll take it.