Just in case you missed this key fact while being married to an attorney here it is: law school changes the way you think. This is intentional on the school’s part and is done to properly prepare an attorney for the line of work they are entering. Everyday a law student reads, studies, and analyzes case after case in preparation for their next class. The professor then selects a random student and verbally quizzes them about one of the cases until they fail. The questions at first are open-ended, meaning that multiple answers can be correct, and then rapidly become close-ended, meaning that there is a right or wrong answer. This is called the Socratic Method of teaching which has been very effective for centuries.
More than likely you have already had an “ah-ha” moment just reading that description as it is likely to resemble your last disagreement. It probably started innocently enough with an open-ended question from your attorney spouse. You answered the question but then for some reason your spouse did not like the response and began asking question after question until you became so confused that you just said whatever you needed to just to end the discussion. Thinking that turn-around is fair play, you then attempt the same tactic only to find that you are shut-down after the first remark. This leaves you angry and confused however if you try to verbalize your emotions, the response is generally unsympathetic.
Don’t ask questions. Your attorney spouse has a black-belt in answering questions the way they should have been asked, dodging questions they don’t want to answer, and anticipating your line of questioning long before you might even know where you are headed. So don’t ask questions especially if you already know the answer and are trying to get your spouse on your side. This will back-fire every time. Instead make statements. “I want pizza for dinner” instead of “what do you want for dinner”. “We are going to the Jones’ house for dinner” instead of “do you want to go to the Jones’ house for dinner”. Just be careful not to sound too bossy in your statements because once again you will be met with resistance.
Don’t over explain. Your attorney spouse is already likely to over explain nearly everything and have multiple reasons for even simple tasks so don’t fall into this trap and add to the over explanation. If you do your spouse is likely to find the hole in your explanation and then the entire discussion becomes questionable. For if one small part of the argument is wrong then the whole thing can be thrown out. The best way to avoid this is by not over explaining. If you have to repeat the same explanation over again, this is preferable to going on and on. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no” and keep your statements simple.
Don’t get emotional. Your attorney spouse has been trained to keep their emotions in check while inciting you to an emotional state. Remember the professor at the beginning? Just put yourself in the shoes of the student and imagine how frustrating it must be to know that the goal of the professor is for you to fail. Yet if the student shows any signs of frustration, the professor attacks even harder. This is done because if you get emotional, then your arguments are not likely to be as rational and therefore can be easily broken down. So do your best to keep you emotions in check during a disagreement. There is nothing wrong with taking a break if you feel out of control and agreeing to discuss the matter later. But then you must discuss it later as in within the next 24 hours or you will be met with additional and avoidable frustration.
By understanding how your spouse has been trained to think and working with that way of thinking instead of against it, you can minimize the disagreements and reduce the tension at home. Stop trying to change your attorney spouse and instead change your response and get over the idea that your spouse needs to change for you. After all, they will not be an attorney for long if they abandon the way they were taught to think in law school.
Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort. If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment. Or you can send me a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org.