The Law Office of John M. Zenir
‘But You Don’t Know My Spouse’ How Understanding Emotion Can Impact Mindset
The summer heat recently got me thinking about my very first job. I was 17, and my buddy and I got hired at a local luncheonette and confectionary shop. For those who aren’t familiar with those terms, it was an ice cream parlor that also served simple meals like sandwiches. They were once quite common but are few and far between now. The shop was called Tiedemann’s, and every summer, the owner, Charlie Tiedemann, would take weekend vacations, leaving his shop under the management of two 17-year-old boys. We definitely took advantage of our position but didn’t get into any real mischief like you might assume. We always took care of the shop smoothly, and when we closed up for the night, we’d unlock the doors an hour later so our friends could join us for a long night full of ice cream, soda, jukebox music, and dancing. It was a time in my life I’ll never forget. My first job certainly taught me a sense of responsibility, but more importantly, it taught me the role that emotion plays in everything we do. Our customers were always the most pleasant people you could ask for because let’s be realistic: Who could ever be grumpy while ordering a chocolate sundae? The upbeat attitudes of the customers and the people I worked with were infectious, and that gave me valuable insight into how our emotions can shape our experiences. Fast forward to now when I have a career vastly different from working behind the counter at a confectionary shop. I now help people through some of the most difficult and heartbreaking family situations they can possibly face, and emotion plays a very different role in the job I do. In my line of work, I always hear the phrase “but you don’t know my spouse” from my clients. When we’re going through legal proceedings together, whether it’s a divorce or another family issue, there’s a period of time when the client runs through an entire gamut of emotions that are difficult to navigate, including stress, anger, and sadness. When they succumb to these emotions, they have a hard time believing the law is on their side or that the suggested lawful solution fits their particular situation. “But you don’t know my spouse” is the phrase they use to explain or justify why they’re feeling a certain way when it comes to how their case proceeds. And that’s not to say the range of emotions my clients feel isn’t justified; they have a right to feel how they feel because what they’re going through is incredibly emotional. The difference here is understanding how best to address and use our emotions.
It’s so important that we don’t let our emotions get in the way of achieving the things the law can provide. Even though not every situation is the same, the law is created to be a set of rules for everyone. Those general rules address concepts that are legally sufficient, not emotionally sufficient, and there’s a reason for that: so justice can be applied the same way to all. It can be incredibly hard to separate emotion from fact or circumstance. But if we can, we provide outcomes that will preserve our rights and create the best possible results. And when that happens, we often discover that the emotion that follows can be utilized in a much more productive way.
Joke of the Month
What’s the definition of mixed emotions?
When you see a lawyer backing off a cliff in your brand-new car.
-John M. Zenir
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