Thursday, November 15, 2012

Acknowledgements: Spouse of a Professional, Facing Divorce

How about the spouses of professionals?

I recently wrote about how married professionals often feel under-appreciated.  What's true for such professionals as physicians, lawyers, dentists, veterinarians, CPAs, professional athletes, financial planners, pilots, architects, engineers and many others, is also true for their spouses.  Just like the professionals to whom they are married, spouses of professionals often have a difficult time facing divorce. 

Spouses of high-earning professionals of all types experience some common problems that need to be addressed during the marriage (to save the marriage, if it's not too late!), or during a divorce.  There's always an easy way and a hard way, or a nice way and a not-so-nice way, to do divorces.  People who choose to use Collaborative Law are opting for the nicer way, but that doesn't necessarily make the process easy.

In representing spouses of professionals, I have heard some complaints over and over.  Although I don't doubt the validity of the issues, what really matters is the strong feelings associated with how the spouses feel valued or not.

Many times, busy professionals tend to overlook or minimize the sacrifices of their spouses in keeping a family together, running a household and raising children.  Sometimes, the professionals feel sorry for themselves and don't think much about their spouse.  They often take for granted the daily things the spouse does without getting much credit for it.

For professionals facing divorce, even if they haven't shown much appreciation and understanding of their spouse in the past, and even if they aren't feeling too charitable as they work through a divorce, it is certainly in their best interest to express understanding and appreciation of their spouse.  That can really help establish an atmosphere of cooperation and shared interests.

In case professionals have forgotten what their spouses have done, here are some suggestions of topics to focus on:
  • The spouse may have really carried the load for years with the kids.  That includes such time consuming actions as taking them to school and picking them up, taking them to the doctor or dentist or orthodontist, getting school supplies, buying appropriately stylist clothes for the kids, managing play dates for young kids, keeping track of dating for older kids, helping them with homework, taking the kids to sports practices and games, and many other things.  That's not to mention being a doctor and therapist for the children.  There's a lot of work that's easy to overlook if you're not in the trenches.
  • Your spouse may have carried the load with the house.  Someone has to maintain the house and get help as needed.  Some spouses decorate and clean, others hire workers.  A spouse often takes responsibility for setting up the house to entertain friends, family, business associates and others.
  • Your spouse may have worked to support the family while you were in school or in training.  The spouse may not have earned nearly what you earn now, but she or he worked hard and made it possible for you to get to your current position.
  • Many times, a spouse must deal with the fact that a professional is away from home for long periods.  Traveling may become tedious to you, but it is lonely for your spouse.
  • Believe it or not,  sometimes you are very difficult to deal with when you come home from work.  Your spouse doesn't have anywhere to go or hide.  Instead, she or he tries to comfort you and reassure you that you will get over whatever difficulty you are having at work.
  • Your spouse may have needed to take charge of the personal finances.  Because you have been so busy, your spouse often sees that the bills are paid and that the necessities are purchased.  Your spouse has had to live within a tight budge at times, even if you make a high income now.  You probably don't have time to deal with all that. 
 While you have a busy and demanding life, and the family has been rewarded by your income, that doesn't mean that your spouse has had an easy life.  If you will do a little soul searching, you will probably realize that your spouse has done a lot for you that you hadn't recognized before.

It will greatly benefit you if you will make some honest and sincere acknowledgements to your spouse and thank her or him for their contributions.  Just like you may feel under-appreciated, I'll guarantee your spouse feels the same way.  Both of you can do better by understanding more about what the other has contributed to the good aspects of your marriage.  Help yourself  and your family by recognizing your spouse's efforts.

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