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Is the Law Ruining Your Relationship? Tips for Being a Better Partner

By Gray Robinson

There’s an old saying, “Law is a jealous mistress.” After two of my own divorces and representing hundreds of divorce clients, I used to joke that I knew many ways to screw up a relationship but not very many ways to make them a success. Now I have a better idea of how lawyers can have successful relationships.

is being a lawyer ruining your relationship

The Science of Love

I only recently discovered that the concept of love can be traced to the evolution of our brains from a clump of specialized neurons to the organ we have today. Researchers have found that the emotion of love is related to the concept of being safe. That makes sense when we understand that the people we “love” are people who make us feel safe. When we focus on behavior that supports people’s feeling of safety, it is almost guaranteed that love is the result.

Another aspect of relationships is the “dopamine effect.” Neuroscientists have discovered that this chemical motivates most of our behavior and is responsible for the concept of “falling in love.” When we fall in love, dopamine is produced in our brains. We plan and act in ways to attract the object of our affection. When the relationship is consummated, the dopamine effect turns off. (Otherwise known as the end of the honeymoon period.) Then we are left with the day-to-day challenge of maintaining and fostering feelings of affection and safety.

Nurturing feelings of safety and affection will certainly go a long way in keeping your relationship alive.

Tips for Nourishing Healthy Relationships

Most lawyers are either in relationships or beginning one when they start practicing law. Heavy time commitments and competing loyalties often leave our romantic partners feeling neglected or abandoned. Lawyers struggle to balance the demands of law practice with those of their partner and family. Here are a few techniques you and your partner can use to help foster a healthy relationship.

Time Management

Every hour committed to the law practice is time taken away from your relationships. If you are working 24/7, you must carve out time for your family or the relationship will suffer. When time together is short, it is important that you focus 100% on your family and partner. No work calls or texts, computer time or distractions allowed. Make sure that you are directly and indirectly showing you care enough to focus entirely on them.

Many lawyers believe that if they sacrifice for the short term, they will eventually be rewarded — whether making partner or building a successful firm or earning enough money to “take it easy” in the future. It is important that you and your partner have an understanding about when the sacrifice will end and you will be more available. You must be honest with yourself and not make promises you can’t keep. I lost two marriages because the long hours were never-ending and there was no communication or understanding about what my spouse could expect in the future.

Love Languages

Dr. Gary Chapman wrote the groundbreaking book “The 5 Love Languageson how people give and receive love. The key here is to determine what language your partner speaks and provide that to them so they feel loved. The languages are:

  • Acts of service. These are doing things for your partner and family.
  • Gifts. Giving gifts is evidence of the donor’s love and makes the donee feel loved.
  • Attention. Spending quality time focused on your loved one helps them feel loved.
  • Words of affirmation. Telling someone you love them helps them feel loved.
  • Physical touch. Hugs, kisses and touching is how they know you love them.

If your partner is someone who values and expects acts of service, hugs and kisses may not help them feel loved. If someone values physical touch, doing the laundry or bringing home a paycheck won’t help them feel loved. If attention is what they need, working long hours at the office or locking yourself away in the home office is not going to help them feel loved.

Communication

There will be times when your work commitments — travel, trial prep, court dates, deadlines — take you away from your family. If you communicate what to expect and how long the particular commitment will last, it helps lessen those feelings of abandonment. Most will understand the need for sacrifices in the short term. When nothing ever seems to change, however, they begin to feel unloved. This is why it is important to be emotionally present with your partner no matter how many hours you are working, and to share how you are feeling. This at least lets them know you care and that you want to be with them and look forward to being with them.

Safety

Finally, it is important to make your partner and family feel safe, cherished and nurtured. When you are in a bad mood or bring your work home from the office, this may not help them feel safe.

Related reading: “5 Ways to Leave Your Lawyer at Work” by Jamie Spannhake

Love is like a plant; it needs to be nourished and cared for to blossom.

Image © iStockPhoto.com.

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Categories: Lawyer Health, Lawyer Stress, Well-Being, You At Work
Originally published March 13, 2024
Last updated March 15, 2024
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Gray Robinson Gray Robinson

Sir Gray Robinson is a lawyer, writer, speaker, mentor, consultant and coach for lawyers who are struggling with their practices. He was a divorce lawyer for 27 years, handling hundreds of divorces, custody and support cases. Gray quit in 2004 due to stress and burnout and has devoted himself to helping lawyers and clients deal with the pressures of practicing law. Gray is the founder of Lawyer Lifeline, a restorative program that guides legal professionals through anxiety and stress to fulfillment and passion. In. 2023, he was inducted as a knight of The Royal Order of Constantine the Great and St. Helen, an organization that has existed since 312 ACE. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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