New Year’s Relationship Resolution

The freshness and hope of the New Year causes many to make resolutions, most commonly about money and exercise. By mid-January the best-laid plans often crumble into old habits and that new gym membership, which has increased our expenses, may not get the use intended. The outcome is increased frustration.

The problem is the expectation of perfection, which is especially troubling when we have those expectations in our relationships. Whether we are connected as a spouse, parent, child, sibling, friend, or colleague, we crave the many positive aspects of a relationship. We may expect those positive aspects without the regular nurturing required. We get tired and frustrated. Often it is easier to see the faults in another rather than in ourselves.

Family law attorneys see people at the height of relationship exhaustion and frustration. Words may have been spoken which cannot be unheard. Unthinkable acts may have occurred. If a marriage is involved, the relationship may be “irretrievably broken” (Minnesota’s legal standard to dissolve a marital relationship).

To most, the damage to that relationship alone is overwhelming, but it is by far not the only relationship damaged by the conflict. If children are involved, they are impacted. The extent of the damage depends in great part on how the adults handle the conflict. Mental health professionals tell us that the extent of the conflict is a major factor in how children fare after a major family change.

Family and friends are also impacted. They may not understand why the relationship is ending. They may be sad or angry. They may feel that they are helping by intensifying the conflict and setting unrealistic expectations for case resolution. While family law attorneys can assist in resolving the legal conflict and recommend resources to assist with the crisis, perhaps we can also share ideas that may help foster healthier relationships before a crisis develops.

A basic premise is that domestic abuse is never tolerable and personal safety must be attained. Absent abuse, we can and should be more objective about our role in our various relationships. Nearly every individual, no matter how well-spoken, can improve relationship communications. We all can learn to listen more and disagree without arguing. We can see the irony in that the things that bring couples together often are the same things that tear them apart. We can learn to look not only at the immediate circumstances when contemplating a major life change, but at the future and envision how it may impact our children.

If a legal process is inevitable, encourage your loved ones. Thank them for supporting you and your family law attorney in navigating the legal issues. Be the person that you want your children to see. Character is reflected in our response to life’s challenges. Resolve to respond with grace and dignity.