Dear Nick and Dear Nora:

The Mystery Woman.

As Paul arrived back in my office following Rose’s departure, I said, “Paul, there are a couple of things going on here that I should probably know about. I need to know more about both of your families, and I need to know about this mystery woman, Laura — who is she, and how does she fit into the picture?”

Paul said, “I met Laura on the first day of kindergarten. She’s been my best friend ever since. She’s close to everyone in my family, and even I can agree that she’s almost disgustingly perfect.”

“Does she live in Santa Barbara?”

“She does now.”

“Where was she before?”

“Palo Alto.”

“What did she do there?”

“She’s in medicine.”

“In medicine? What’s that mean?”

“She’s a doctor.”

“A physician?”


“Paul, I feel like I am pulling information out of you. Can you simply tell me enough about her so that I can try to figure out what she has to do with the mediation? Do you talk to her about the case?”

“Almost never.”

“Now the rest of it. For example, are you now — or have you been — intimate with her?”

Paul replied, “Rose thinks I am, but it’s really complicated. I’m not going to talk to anyone about sex and Laura because she’s an extremely private person. She’s confided in me forever, and I’ll never betray that confidence. Laura told me in kindergarten that she couldn’t be my girlfriend because she was going to be a doctor and that would take up all of her time. My dad’s a big doctor, and he’s been Laura’s mentor and protector since elementary school — and she’s been his protégée. When we finished college, she went off to med school, just like she said she would. I have to admit that it was hard for me. She knew exactly what she wanted, and she was going to get it. She also got all of the approval anyone could wish for from her family, my family and the community. I didn’t know what to do except to be as different from her as I could be.

“I had a couple of wild years. Then I met my business partner, who is an odd duck, but we’ve had fun and we’ve made some money. Then I met Rose, who is a party girl at heart, and she was as different from Laura as anyone could be. That attracted me, so we got married. I fell easily into the role of semi-wild, unconventional businessman who could make money and who had a dynamite wife and a good dog. The problem is that I am not semi-wild, and I’m not right for a dynamite wife. But I’d keep the dog.”

I asked, “What about the baby?”

“Rose told me she was pregnant the day before I was going to tell her that I couldn’t stay married to her. What about the baby? We have a baby! I don’t know what more I can say.”

“How does Rose’s family fit in?”

“Rose’s family is about as different from mine as they could be. It starts with grease.”



“Paul, I’m going to schedule you for a full appointment by yourself.”

“That might be a good idea.”

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 Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.