“CAN YOU STOP BEING A LAWYER, FOR JUST ONE MINUTE? CAN YOU?!”, Aces screamed as he walked out onto the balcony, slamming the door loudly behind him. I sat on the floor by the coffee table, knees pulled up to my chest, sobbing. The past 30 minutes a whirlwind. One minute, we were discussing some current event and, before I knew it, he was pacing the dining room, yelling. His face was bright red. His eyes cold. I peeked through the blinds out onto the balcony and saw him smoking a cigarette while tapping his foot repeatedly. He was angry.
It wasn’t the first time we had been in this situation. “Stop thinking like a lawyer!” “Stop acting like a lawyer!” “Stop questioning me like I’m on the witness stand!” “We aren’t in court, Rita!” “You over analyze everything!” Always the same conditions – discussion of some non-memorable topic, with no real importance to either of our lives – quickly escalating into an argument that resulted in me sobbing and him storming out. I never understood why. I always felt as if he were overreacting! To me, it was a lively discussion, a debate. And debates were made to be won or lost!
The truth was, it wasn’t just Aces. Sociopath had said the same thing, begging me to stop problem-solving everything and, instead, just listen. Mr. Adventure pointed out that I didn’t respect his opinions. Aiden often said I analyzed myself out of ever being spontaneous. Yet, I couldn’t see it that way. With Aces, we were having lively intellectual discussion! With Sociopath, I was being a supportive girlfriend helping him with his career search! With Mr. Adventure, I felt that, by stressing his opinions, he was discounting mine! With Aiden, I was spontaneous – I just had to make sure to plan it out so that details were covered and nothing would go wrong! I went to law school for 3 years and, by the time Aces and I were having this argument, I had been in practice for 7! That’s a decade of “lawyer training.” It wasn’t that I couldn’t turn it off – it was that I couldn’t see it at all. Because I was only looking at it all from my perspective.
So I was hesitant when Mike asked me out. Mike is also a lawyer. I first met him at a charity event that Singles in the Suburbs organizes every year called “Feed the FISH” (supporting Herndon-Reston Friendly, Instant, Sympathetic, Help). He questioned me on the validity of a waiver I drafted. And questioned me. And I think questioned me one more time. I had flashbacks to the instances with my ex boyfriends and felt that, one of me was hard enough – two of me was a recipe for disaster! But, I said yes. After all, that’s what the 35/35 Project is about. Getting outside of my comfort zone.
Mike informed me that he had purchased tickets for us to go salsa dancing! I was excited! My night of Blues Dancing still fresh in my mind, I was ready to hit the dance floor again! I looked at Mike and said “No lawyer talk. We aren’t lawyers tonight.” Which, to my surprise, he most whole-heartedly agreed. Salsa dancing is addictive! It just makes you want to move! I had a fabulous evening. So much so, that I’ve decided to enroll in salsa lessons at Born 2 Dance Studio in Vienna, VA. (I won a 10-class pack from a charity event at work and have been debating how to use it. Now I know!) Mike is a great salsa dancer! A fabulous leader, he made me quite comfortable being the follower and I was able to immediately relax and just let the dance and music move me!
On my way home, I started thinking about something my dating coach, Jess McCann, said to me at our first meeting. She had me list all the traits that I wanted in a partner. Then had me divide them up into various categories. At the end of the exercise, I was able to highlight those traits that I wanted in a partner – but, myself, do not possess. After discussion, I realized how unfair it is for me to demand from others what I cannot also provide. I am looking for a man without, what we will call, “lawyer traits”, while displaying them quite “loudly and proudly” myself.
In her article, “Marry a Lawyer? Proceed with Caution“, Dr. Fiona Travis illustrates that the traits that make a lawyer successful happen to make for a lousy partner/spouse. Lawyers are trained to: win, doubt, cross-examine, argue, attack, avoid vulnerability, think for others, deny weakness and hinder/delay. As a partner, we should: compromise, trust, discuss, admit error, accept fallibility in self and others, concede, respect partner’s opinions and ideas, allow for vulnerability and cooperate.
It was at that moment that I fully understood why Aces was so angry the night of our fight. I couldn’t switch off the lawyer and switch on the girlfriend. At all times, I was practicing law, when, with him, I should have been practicing love.
I know now to be more conscious of this going forward. To turn off those lawyer traits and, instead, listen without interruption, discuss without arguing and provide emotional support without problem-solving. To see things from the perspective of the one that I am with. After all, when you change your perspective you change your life!
You are good at practicing law; try practicing love!
-Dr. Fiona Travis