“What we need is a cup of understanding, a barrel of love, and an ocean of patience.”
St. Francis de Sales
“Patience,” more than almost every other skill you can possess, is an absolute requirement for a father working his way out of a relationship with the mother of his children.
Patience is a critical discipline for success in family law. Initially, a man is often too patient when he should be taking legal precautions. This typically occurs at the time leading up to and just after separation. Having failed to have acted sooner, and finally becoming involved in the court process, many fathers fail to understand the significance of finding and keeping a disciplined patience in the new litigation context.
Men who have spent years successfully handling any number of professional, business-related problems can become frustrated beyond belief in the tediously drawn-out, inefficient, and expensive family law system. Having to navigate through the psychological, procedural and legal mine fields of divorce is often the worst experience in a man’s life.
The name of the game in normal everyday working life is thrift, efficiency, timeliness, reasonableness, and effort rewarded by results. The experience for fathers in family law is delay, frustration, irrationality, more delay, experts with limited time, serious efforts often producing little or nothing, more delay, and a constant uphill struggle against the vestiges of biases once held by society.
Phase One, Patience
When a father fears his children are being removed from his life, and he from theirs, he experiences a mental tug of war between his heart, urging patience and consideration, time and space to try and work things out, and his mind. The mind warns against delay in seeing a lawyer before he is on the outside looking in on the life of his children.
Advice: As soon as a father sees an attempt by the mother of his children to change the relationship between him and his children, he should consult a lawyer. There should be no appeal to patience and delay on this point. There should absolutely be no giving in to any appeal by the mother for the father to accept such a change on any temporary or experimental basis “for the sake of the children.” More doors have been shut against fathers with those seductive words than by any other.
After a man retains a lawyer, the same mental tug-of-war remains. One side of the intellectual game being played says: “Do we negotiate? Would going to court ruin any chance of a negotiated settlement? Would taking legal action merely get her mad?”
These are always important questions that need to be carefully examined. But being too patient here can allow the mother to solidify her position and slowly but certainly chip away at the children’s time and rights with their father. If he is an “every other weekend and Wednesday afternoon” father hoping she will see the light and give him more time, every week he delays taking action helps the months go by. This lets a status quo develop that the courts are less likely to alter than if he had done something sooner.
Again, being patient here can prove to be a fatal mistake. If the facts of the case require a court action to be started, if only to “freeze” the situation and halt the further erosion of the father’s position, it should be done. Doing so never prevents the parties from continuing negotiations. Where parties have not been negotiating before legal action, they often then start to, if only through their lawyers. Good lawyers will always have one door very wide open for negotiations at all times, no matter how obstinate and unmovable the other side or her lawyer may seem to be.
Phase Two, Patience
Once legal proceedings have begun, no matter the reason, “patience” takes on a whole new meaning. This is true not only in terms of the tactics required to maximize success in the legal action, but also in terms of the psychology of the parties involved. We will look now at these two different, but totally related aspects of patience.
Patience as a tactic in legal proceedings.
One of the most misunderstood family court rules is this: once an order has been made by a judge on a certain matter, it is very difficult to change it – often impossible – until and unless there has been a major change in the circumstances surrounding the issue the order addresses, or there is a full trial on the issue. In practical terms, this means that you don’t lightly go into court without a well-thought-out strategy. But if you have to, seek limited goals, ones that leave open the opportunity to come back for larger gains once you are better prepared.
Many family law disputes in the courts settle early, but there are always some that become really nasty, driven by an anger and selfishness that is hard to comprehend. If such a person is the mother, and she resorts to false or exaggerated allegations of abuse or harassment, and can get great sympathy from the courts, her lawyer, and any health care professionals involved. Such women often plot and provoke an incident so they can call the police, or retreat to a women’s shelter. Sometimes the husband responds in the heat of the moment, totally out of character, in an inappropriate way. The cops come and the wife gets a restraining order against him.
If it were just an issue between two people who once loved each other, that would be one thing. But the real harm being done is that the mother will use these incidents as excuses to get the court to remove the father from the lives of the children. This most abusive and damaging act against the children by the mother is often hypocritically justified by her as being ” in the best interests of the children.” It is really her own interests that are being served.
Clients who come to us in this situation have a doubly hard job to get back into the lives of their children. The scales have to be put back into balance, with the father brought back into the lives of his children. Only when the pendulum is back in the centre can we begin to try and repair things. A great amount of patience is required of the client during this often long and lonely process.
There are no magic cures or slam dunks available in family law when a mother sets out to fracture the relationship between her children and their father. The process is very time-consuming and only with “an ocean of patience” can you see it through.
Patience as a required mental discipline
Patience is more than calmly putting up with extreme difficulty and even pain. Patience is having the clearness of mind and the knowledge to generate disciplined energy. The energy gives you the strength to continue being patient. It becomes a self-replicating process. The resulting positive power of disciplined patience gives you the wisdom to clearly see what is happening to you and your emotions. Controlling your emotions, rather than having your emotions control you, is what it is all about.
Twenty-five hundred years ago, Sun Tzu, a Chinese Taoist warrior, wrote the first – and perhaps still the best – book on war: The Art of War.
Some of Sun Tzu’s quotes that can help you in this “war-like” situation include:
“The best way to win a war is the complete and total surrender of the enemy before he mounts a defence.”
“To defeat the enemy psychologically is superior to beating him militarily.”
“To win without fighting is best.” “If compassionate toward yourself, you can reconcile the world.”
“Skillful warriors first make themselves invincible and await the enemies’ vulnerability.” “The defender must know himself.”
“When strong, appear weak. When weak, appear strong.””All war is based on deception.”
“Feign inferiority to encourage your enemy’s arrogance. By appearing lowly and weak, you allow your enemy to let down his guard.”
Try and understand these quotes as structural supports for your own development of inner patience. Only then can the psychological truths contained in the quotes be put into a sustained practice.
Some further thoughts on patience and procrastination.
Life is full of mixed messages and apparent contradictions. Many people find themselves stuck in a relationship that is coming unraveled and they experience the opposing forces of impatience and procrastination. It is hard to be patient when the walls are falling down around you. Like the deer stuck in the headlights at night, we freeze in repeated procrastination and refuse to take action.
Procrastinating means putting off to a later time something that should be done right away. Impatience is attempting to do something right away that should be put off to a later time. Understanding the important distinction between these two dynamics is difficult for one trying to deal with a collapsing relationship. A “push me – pull you” force tugs you in opposite directions. You hope that if you ignore the selfish demands being made of you by your child’s mother they will simply go away. But this becomes increasingly difficult.
Simple procrastination may have been a useful device in one’s youth or other part of one’s life. But when your partnership is on the rocks, procrastinators have to deal with this aspect of their personality and overcome it. What one needs is patience, and that is not the same as procrastinating.
“Patience is a virtue.” – Proverbs
Procrastinating is passive, the doing of nothing for avoidance purposes. Patience, as Confucius said, is not passive but on the contrary, is a concentrated strength. Strength is what you need now, in spades.
If you recognize yourself as a habitual procrastinator, seek out professional help, particularly at this point in your life. This aspect of your personality can be a dead weight that will hold you back at a time in your life when you most need to move forward. Get help in finding out what underlying fear you have of making decisions. Perhaps it is fear of making a mistake or upsetting some sense of perfection you mistakenly have about yourself or your life. Or perhaps you think taking action is a sign of caving in to doing what someone else wants you to do. Check it out. Your real self-worth will ultimately be judged by you and your children and friends on how creatively and openly you tackle, overcome and get beyond this stage in your life.
A third aspect of habit some people fall into during a relationship is to say “yes” to too many things, most often to avoid conflict. This caving in frequently twins with procrastination. The result can be an increased susceptibility to emotional abuse. Learning to say “no” can be an important first step for some men, whether victims of emotional abuse or simply letting someone else run your life.
There is another area where learning to say” no” for a father can be extremely difficult. Children are masters at learning how to play one parent off against the other, even in intact families. When the child’s mother, with whom the child probably spends more time, fails to properly discipline a child that child knows that dad won’t want to be seen in a bad light, or even have himself reported by the child to mom for not being “nice.” This subject is discussed at more length elsewhere.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN SELF-COUNSELLING?
If you are, here are some of the books Carey Linde keeps in his office that he makes available on loan to his clients. Click Here. There are also books of all sorts covering a wide ambit of the types of issues that are either always or often involved in Family Law from a father’s point of view.