Life Lesson: Keep Your Cool

I’m in the middle of an excellent read by H. Graham Swafford, Jr. called “Go to the Pound and Get a Dog…Then Learn to Fly an Airplane.”  It contains numerous “Life lessons” from Swafford, a family and criminal defense lawyer in Jasper, Tennessee.  Bearing that in mind, I want to take a short moment and offer my readers a “Life Lesson” played out in the Family Law trenches, time and time again.

On Losing Your Cool With Your Ex: Don’t Do It. 

There will be times when you’re tempted to yell at your significant other during your divorce case.  It’s understandable; divorce is one of the most stressful life experiences people can go through.  The worst thing you can do during the divorce is allow yourself to show anger towards the other litigant.  It means they have the “victim card” to play, and they’ll play it to the hilt if it gains them an advantage in the courts.

That advantage, played out time and time again, usually goes to the wife.  The longer the couple is married, the more each spouse learns the foibles of the other and how to exploit them.  Usually the wife is the one who will learn just how to piss her husband off enough until he loses his cool and flies into a rage.  Then Bambi’s got enough leverage to go to her attorney, play up a sob story, ask why Bubba decided to yell at her like that, and the attorney gets to play Bubba up as someone with “anger issues” in court.

Worse still, if Bubba and Bambi have kids, those “anger issues” will play out terribly for Bubba.  More than likely Bambi will delve into Bubba’s history (real or imagined) as a drunk and drug addict, and then beg the judge for extra support, including alimony.  If you’re dealing with a small town judge, this is almost a certain victory for Bambi.

People in your life, especially those closest to you, will know the real “trigger points” that play you like a fiddle.  In a high pressure, high stress scenario like divorce those people, especially your soon to be ex, will more than likely pull those trigger points and play your response to their levels.  Know what your trigger points are, know they’ll likely be used against you, and when you see the gamesmanship occur, step back!

If you feel the need to respond to the other party’s jabs, learn to do so in a fashion that won’t sink your chances should you find yourself in court. Learn techniques like the “Jerry Intervention” or “Insult by Proxy” to deal with those moments when you need a cathartic release.  Other good mechanisms include Wim Hof breathing and self-hypnosis for relaxation.  If you’re focusing on your breathing or have the ability to trigger a relaxed state by saying “Relax” three times then people won’t get to your rage points.

Keep it cool, calm, and collected, and you’ll walk out the better for it.

  1. Some people will tell me that with my level of practice in the law I should not be giving a “life lesson,” nor do I know what the hell I am talking about.  I can state with absolute certainty this applies to every single family law case I’ve tried and other family law practitioners would affirm my point.