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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 11:36 pm | A Few Clouds 50º


Brian Burke: About Your Divorce (Letter 58) — What’s Better, Demand or Request?

Dear Pinky and Spike:

We have finally come to the end of the saga of Ralph and Rebecca. In the last letter, Rebecca took Ralph to lunch and said she trusted him to decide the appropriate terms for spousal support. What Ralph decided to pay Rebecca was extraordinarily generous and far more than a court would have awarded.

In this case, the words “I know you are a good, decent, honorable person and that you will do the right thing” were a better way for Rebecca to get what she wanted than, “You are going to pay because if you don’t my lawyer and the judge are going to kick your butt until you do.”

There are a lot of people — maybe most — who will give more in response to an appeal to honor than to a threat, even if they believe the threat is true. In this instance, Rebecca gets credit for her addition to the script the CFO insisted she use without additions or changes. She said to Ralph, “I still have feelings for you.” Being a man, Ralph assumed the feelings were positive.

Anyone can add A Rebecca to the soft sell, and it can be said sincerely because those “feelings” don’t have to be good ones.

Of course, Rebecca was delighted with what Ralph was willing to do and that ended the legal aspect of their case — other than the fact that they still had to pay off their respective lawyers.

Ralph wasn’t inclined to talk about his personal business at work. But, during the height of his crisis, he communicated harsh words about Rebecca to several people. After the case was finished he felt obliged to tell all of them about Rebecca’s change of attitude and that he was now sorry he had ever said anything to disparage her.

The CFO made a point of asking Ralph how he was doing and how the divorce was going. Ralph said that because of Rebecca’s generosity the divorce was over. The CFO got enough details from Ralph to make it possible to talk in an off-hand way to every eligible executive in the company about the loving ending to Rebecca’s divorce.

It was either too little or too late or both. Rebecca had frightened away the herd. None of the men in the company she had targeted as a potential second spouse showed a renewed interest in her. Six weeks after she finished her business with Ralph, she asked him and the CFO to write letters of recommendation so she could look for a new job.

Both letters contained overly positive descriptions of Rebecca’s qualities as an employee, and she got a new job in short order. Learning from experience, she rarely talked about the divorce. If she felt required to say something about it, she limited her comments to “He was wonderful and dear older man, but it didn’t work out for either of us.” Sometimes she added, “But we are still dear friends…” then, thinking about her monthly support check, she added, “And we are still in regular contact with each other.”

When Rebecca was interested in the subject she was a quick study. She married a man who earned more money than Ralph five months before her support ran out. She sent a wedding invitation to Ralph. He declined, but he added a note saying that he’d send the promised check as soon as he got an official notice that the remarriage had taken place.

Rebecca sent a copy of the marriage license, but he wrote back to explain that the license was permission to marry and not proof that the marriage had taken place. Rebecca thought Ralph a little petty, but she assigned her best friend the task of taking the license to the recorder’s office and then mailing “that certificate or whatever it is” to Ralph. When Ralph got the certificate he sent two checks to Rebecca. One check was for the first half of the support he was saving because of the marriage; on it there was a memo saying “by agreement.” The other check was for the second half of the money Ralph was saving because of the marriage; on it he wrote a memo saying “wedding present.”

That ended Ralph’s adventure with Rebecca. If asked if he “wishes Rebecca well,” he’ll say yes – but the truth was he didn’t. Nor did he wish her ill. He never thought of her, except for those sensual memories, which were so hard for him during the first few months after separation and now sweet recollections of their time together.

How is Ralph doing otherwise?

He’s a somewhat chastened man. His interest in an amatory relationship has all but disappeared. He has rededicated himself to his work, and it’s going well. He doesn’t see Rebecca. Even though his first wife is seriously involved with a brilliant professor of mathematics, she invites Ralph to dinner at his old house. He always accepts, and he and the professor have things to talk about that no one else understands. Of course, the real reason Ralph is invited is to reacquaint him with his children, who have reached the age of being busy. Whenever asked, Ralph provides transportation to various games and other activities, but otherwise these dinners are the only times the children are available. When Ralph gets into a deep conversation with her professor, Irene gently reminds him why he’s there, and he’s appreciative.

                                                                                  . . .

Back to Spike and Pinky.

They are both in town. They see each other occasionally, but they don’t talk about their divorce, which has been hung up on three issues: (1) What to do with Pinky’s huge collection of airline miles. (2) What to do with their company, which owns and operates a sequin factory. (3) What to do about the inherited money each “put into the marriage.”

These are exactly the kind of issues seen in Phase 2 of Stage Three (Quasi-Bargaining) of the Stage Model of Grief. It’s “The Stall,” which will persist until both parties have completed Stage IV – Depression, when some sort of a transformative process will be at its height. It’s a very painful experience and the despair is what forces the reconsideration of old ideas and beliefs, including some of which they are aware of for the first time in their lives.

At the conclusion of Stage IV, Nick (Pinky) and Nora (Spike) will be different people than they were in February 2011. Using their own criteria for “better” or “worse,” and after this 26-month experience, neither can be the same.

To those familiar with the case, there are simple solutions to the remaining issues. The lawyers have provided their clients with strong opinions and recommendations but thus far they have been ignored. Just as I have been ignored from the very start.

Nevertheless, it appears that Nick and Nora are ready for something as they have agreed to meet for lunch at the Biltmore to “talk about our case without lawyers.” I’ll report the outcome of the “lunch at the Biltmore” in the next letter.

Your friend,

— Brian H. Burke is a certified family law specialist practicing family law and mediation in Santa Barbara. A researcher and educator in the field of divorce and family conflicts, he is also the creator of the Legal Road Map™. Click here for more information, call 805.965.2888 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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