Just in case you missed this other key fact while being married to an attorney here it is: law colleagues change the way you relate. It all starts in law school were students are ranked against one another in a feverish attempt to climb to the top ranking spot. The rewards promised for such an accomplishment are better internships and subsequently better job opportunities. In order to get there however, many try to psyche their higher ranked colleagues out in an effort to bring down the top grades and therefore increase their possibility of climbing higher. The same principle applies to many law firms were the competition for the most billable hours and eventually partnership is equally cut-throat.
It is no wonder that at your last dinner party, your attorney spouse was a bit reluctant to take a new acquaintance and turn them into a friend. The questions, “What do they really want from me” or “How can they use our relationship to hurt me” or even “Why do I need another friend” swirl around in your spouse’s brain without filter. Having most likely been betrayed by a classmate, work colleague, or friend in the past, your attorney spouse is reluctant to enter into new relationships without an abundance of caution and ample amounts of time.
It’s all about competition. Everything about practicing law is competitive from competing over handling a case, to competing over a settlement or trial, to competing over hearings or briefs, to competing over billable hours, to competing over paralegal’s time. Someone is always competing with your spouse and trying to find the flaw or weakness. For your spouse who knows this all too well in the work environment then has a difficult time transitioning into a home environment where it is not all about the competition. Unless of course you make it about competing over who spends more time with the kids or who does the most housework or who has the most friends. This practice is not advisable.
It’s all about control. Think about it for a second, your spouse’s job is to control an outcome based on the expectations of their client. The opposing attorney’s job is the exact same agenda. Each attorney through their writings and speaking is trying to control what the opposing attorney is doing to achieve the best result for their client. Exhausting! Now translate this into personal experience where an innocent reminder about exiting off the highway can be perceived as controlling where and how to drive. Turning off the “I’m being controlled” button is not as easy as you may think when your spouse is confronted with it day in and day out.
It’s all about being right. Winning cases is more than about being right; it is about thinking and believing you are right even when you are wrong. Worse, it is about convincing others that you are right regardless of actually being right. For some attorneys, it does not take a lot of effort to constantly put on the “I’m right and you are wrong” face, as many of them come by this naturally. However, trying to turn this attitude off at home or at a dinner party is an entirely different ball game especially when confronted with a competitive, controlling person.
Trying to out-compete, out-control, or out-right your attorney spouse is a waste of time, energy and effort. In the end, they will win and the relationship will be destroyed. Instead, understand your spouse’s lessons on relating to others and work within instead of against their boundaries. Don’t compete with your spouse, resist the urge to control and forget about being right.