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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 4:34 pm | Fair 61º


Brian Burke: About Your Divorce (Letter 81) — Madness in the Maternity Ward

Dear Nick and Nora:

Madness in the Maternity Ward

When I asked if Paul believes Rose uses the divorce to put on a show for her family — and if they encourage her to do so — Paul had replied “yes” to both questions.

To explore this topic more thoroughly, I asked, “Do you have any idea about why she wants to keep their attention?”

“Yes, I do, and I could be way off, but I’m sure she’s humiliated. Rose was the belle of a lot of balls — no pun consciously intended — and she can’t be who 'everyone thinks she is' and who 'she thinks she is' when she’s been treated this way. She’ll do whatever she can to keep her family’s anger directed at me, which sort of misdirects what she fears is disappointment in her. The point is that she may feel she didn’t get the attention she deserved from her family. She was pretty and popular and fun — and that was always acknowledged. She was the beauty, the socialite, the one with taste while the rest of the family loved grease and sports.”

“Do you think that she stokes their anger and then their anger stokes hers?”


“How long will it continue? Forever?”

“It feels that way,” Paul replied. “But I’m starting to have some hope. Rose is not going to spend the rest of her life hating me; there are much better options. I doubt that anyone in her family is going to want to be friends with me, but they’ve got other things to do and to think about. Plus, I’m the baby’s father, so they can’t hate me without hurting her. They won’t do that.”

“Have your parents been in touch with her parents?”

“I don’t think so. My best guess is that none of them want to do anything that might upset the other. I think they all want to come out ‘looking good,’ or at least better than me, which shouldn’t be hard.”

“Do they want to punish you?”

“Rose does. You know that.”

“What about her family?”

Paul thought about it. “Probably. But what can happen realistically? I know I’ve got to do as much and more than any court in the world would make me do for Rose and the baby. I accept that. I know and they know that whatever I do for Rose, it won’t be enough. It won’t be enough because she’ll believe she needs more, and it won’t be enough because there could never be enough to make up for the pain I’ve caused her. I get that.

“But we all know that if I can’t provide enough by a most generous measure, my parents will step in to make up the difference in a flash — even if I asked them not to. We also know that Rose’s parents will be there with anything, remotely reasonable, that she couldn’t get from me or my folks.”

“Do you think the fury will come to a natural end?”

“A month ago I would have said no. Now I think it will.”

“How long will it take?”

“I’ve heard you say 29.9 months so many times that I’ve actually dreamed about it — a nightmare I guess. But I’m starting to understand.”

“Can you think of anything you could do to make the interval between separation and the conclusion of the case shorter?”

After a minute, Paul replied, “Not really. Well, maybe. For Rose, the humiliation is a big thing; I don’t know if it’s ever happened to her before. I’ve tried to think if there is anything I could do to undergo humiliation of my own that would neutralize hers.”

“Have you thought of anything?”

“What if one of her brothers horsewhipped me in public?”

“Paul, no one has ever suggested that in one of my cases. It’s brilliant. I think it would probably work.”

“Wait. That was a rhetorical question. I know what you mean, though. If one or both of those guys whipped me or beat me senseless in public, it could have the perceived effect of balancing the humiliation equation.”

“Will you accept an assignment?”

“As long as there is no physical pain.”

“No. No physical pain. I’d like you to think up one act that you could perform unilaterally that would diminish — say by at least 10 percent — Rose’s sense of humiliation. You don’t have to do it; just figure out what one might be.”

Paul agreed, “I’ll try. I really will.”

We both seemed talked out when Paul said, “There’s one other thing …”


“It’s about Laura.”

“Oh, Laura …”

“Well, kind of about Laura and Rose.”

“Laura and Rose?”

“Yes. You see, that’s the final straw as far as I am concerned.”

“Paul, does it surprise you to hear me say that when it comes to Laura, whatever you say seems to conceal as much as it reveals?”

“No. She’s the most private person in the world. I probably told you that. I’ve always protected her privacy. I always will; it’s one thing I can do for her that I can do as well as anyone. But I also know that I can make the commonplace sound unnecessarily mysterious.”

“So what was the final straw?”

“The morning after the baby was born, Laura was on call at the hospital and there is something she’s doing with my dad where she examines all the new babies and talks to the moms. I don’t know what it’s about, but I think the conversation with the mother is just to say that the baby looks great — assuming the baby does look great.

“So Laura examined our great-looking baby, and then she carried her into Rose’s room. Rose saw Laura with the baby and started screaming, really screaming, ‘What’s she doing with my baby? She’s got no right to look at my baby! Is she trying to ruin this birth for me? Why does this hospital let such a despicable person work here? Is she really a doctor? I don’t believe it!’ And on and on — yelling. Security was called, my dad was called, I was called. It was horrible.”

I agreed. “Horrible. Why would she do that?”

Paul said, “I’m afraid that was vintage Rose. It’s complicated. I don’t get it. Although it was the worst, it wasn’t the first time something like that has happened.”

“And after she stopped screaming?”

“I was left to ‘comfort’ her, while my dad and Laura went to ‘talk about it.’ My dad called my mom, so even she was in on the damage control system.”

“What did you do?”

You’ll find out 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 [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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