Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Divorce Coach? WTF?

Maybe in five years or so, we will ditch this whole "coaching" nonsense.

It started maybe a decade ago, with "life coaches" - people who sometimes were revealed to not have their own shit together were telling other people how to live their lives.  What was funny about it was that the people who hired a "life coach" clearly had a lot of excess money to throw around, so it sounds like they aren't doing too badly in the game of life, even without coaching.  If you can afford a life coach, chances are, your life doesn't need coaching.  Catch-22.

The fad sort of sputtered and died, particularly as a lot of people with sketchy credentials got into the game and were later exposed as charlatans.  I suppose, too, the cost was just too much.  I noted before that in the swinging 60's and depressing 70's, it was trendy to see an "analyst" - as was illustrated in movies such as Annie Hall or the Bob Newhart Show on television.  At a cocktail party, you would name-drop what your "analyst" said and that was a total status move - illustrating that you not only had enough money to pay an analyst, but also enough free time on your hands to see one, and to naval-gaze for hours on end.  The guy working 10-hour days in the sewers doesn't have the money or time to get in touch with his feelings.

But back then, the cost was less and many company insurance plans covered the costs.  In the layoff era of the late 1970s and 1980s, it became less and less affordable for a lot of people to "see an analyst" and I think the cachet disappeared as well.  In the new dog-eat-dog world of the 1980s, it wasn't seen as status to see an analyst, but weakness.  Besides, with all the drug-addled homeless clogging the streets, the Psychiatrists and Psychologists had their hands full with people with real problems.

But people seek out gurus. They listen to podcasts - to hear what pearls of wisdom "Dr." Jordan Peterson or Andy Taint have to dish out.  They join cults or religions (the difference being?) and pledge their lives to old stories written in a book - sometimes only decades old.  They follow celebrities or stars or politicians, convinced someone else has the answer, and if they just looked hard enough for the right guru, they might find it.  It is sad, because they never think to look for the answers themselves.

So the "Life Coach" and "coaching" became popular, but since the field was largely unregulated, it was prime for abuse - much as religion is.  At least with an "analyst" they have some sort of degree in Psychology or Psychiatry - and the licensing bodies of those fields at least nominally prevent abuses.

But "coaching?" - far less regulated.

A reader writes, asking me about this latest trend - the Divorce Coach. This raised the hairs on the back of my neck, because the divorce industry makes money when people get divorces. It is the fundamental problem with any profession, and I have seen abuses in the medical and legal fields before - abuses that the abusers don't recognize as abuse or even realize as abuse.

You go to a tire store with your car, chances are, they will try to sell you tires.  That's their business, and they don't pay the rent and overhead by telling you that your tires are just fine.  Besides, if they did, and you left the shop and had a blowout and a wreck, you could sue them.  So they sell you tires.  When the only tool you have is a  hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

So when you go to a doctor, particularly a specialist, they tend to look for the problem they are trained to look for.  And living on Old People Island (average age 74 and climbing), I hear a lot of "horror stories" about "unnecessary procedures" that occur because the doctor in question specializes in those procedures and tends to look at the world through that narrow lens.  They are not committing malpractice, they are just subject to tunnel vision.

The same is true of lawyers.  You go to a lawyer wanting a will drafted or a trust set up, and they will mostly likely oblige you.  Few, if any, will tell you that maybe in your circumstances (where you have few assets and are married) that you might not need one.  They make money doing these services, and when a client comes in the door demanding such services, well, you take their money and given 'em what they want.  If you don't, the client goes down the street to the next lawyer and he takes their money.

And in the case of divorce attorneys, well, the same is true.  People hire a divorce attorney and there is this monetary incentive for the lawyer (whether it is recognized by them, or subliminal) to proceed with a divorce, rather than, say, suggest counseling.  What's more, there is a financial incentive to drag out the proceedings and be as antagonistic as possible with the attorney for the estranged spouse, rather than try to amicably resolve issues.  If the client wants to "win" at the game of divorce, it only ensures that the lawyers win.

A divorce attorney friend of mine pointed this out - she noted that if people would just take their emotions out the equation and agree to a fair and amicable separation of assets, the lawyers wouldn't be making as much money, and everyone could move on with their lives.  But people are emotional beings and many "adults" have the temperament of a small child.

And sadly, the Internet comes into play here.  Online discussion groups for men and women (which are, of course, separate) encourage divorce and acrimony.  I think our Russian friends are helping this trend along to encourage people in America to be miserable.  On some "relationship advice" groups for women, I have seen the same knee-jerk reaction that "if he even so much as looks at another women, you should divorce him right away!"  And they say this, because that is what they did and they want you to join the bitter, angry, divorced women's club, too!  Misery loves company.

On "men's groups" online, the misogyny rages.  Women are no damned good and the testosterone pushes men into making divorce into a game of mortal combat.  And in this regard, I am not exaggerating.  Every day, it seems, you read a story about a man who murders his wife and kids (and sometimes her parents) thinking that "I'll show them who's right and wrong!" - but only shows the world how wrong they were and how right their wife was.  What is really puzzling are the people who kill their own children because "they love them so much" and thus won't give up custody.  We all know now, why you lost custody in the first place.

And yes, women also fall into this category as well - murdering their own children to show the world they care.  But they didn't.  And children become trophies in the game of divorce, with parents fighting for custody even if they really don't want it.  It becomes a bargaining chip in the game - along with the child support payments.  I met a guy who hired a "men's divorce lawyer" (another trend) to "win" at his divorce, using scorched-earth tactics.  And part of this was fighting for custody by tearing down his ex-wife's reputation.  Since she couldn't afford an expensive lawyer, he ended up getting custody of the kids - and then promptly ignored them.  He really didn't want custody so much as to not pay child support and to not let her "win" at the game of divorce.

What a waste.  And the children have no choice in the matter - I feel sorry for them.  And I feel sorry for society, as in 18 years we will have to deal with the fallout of children who are now adults, having to cope with the emotional scars.

So, I have great trepidation when I hear about Divorce Coaches.  Is this just another professional or quasi-professional you now have to pay in addition to your lawyer - thus draining your bank account even further?  Divorce is a serious and expensive business.  You and your spouse will double your living expenses by maintaining two homes.  Sounds stupid, but during the post-2008 recession, the divorce rate plummeted as people couldn't afford it.  I met a guy that I bought a used washer and dryer from, who was living in the basement in-law suite of their mini-mansion.  He and the wife wanted to get divorced, but there was no way she could afford the mortgage on her own, and they were "upside-down" on the house, so they were stuck with each other.

Human relationships are foremost economic agreements, but people like to think they are emotional ones.

You can get a certification in Divorce Coaching, but I would not put too much faith and credit in that.  As a lawyer, I am licensed by the State of Georgia and the Commonwealth of Virginia - and subject to the disciplinary boards of both.  When I was practicing, I could have lost my license - and livelihood - if I did something wrong.  I am not sure how this applies to Divorce Coaches - unless they are also Attorneys.

So what are Divorce Coaches, anyway?  The American Bar Association, which is a lobbying group for lawyers, defines it as follows:

Divorce coaching is a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate, and guide people going through divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs, and concerns. Divorce coaches have different professional backgrounds and are selected based on the specific needs of the clients. For example, some divorce coaches are financial planners, mental health professionals, lawyers, or mediators who have experience dealing with divorcing clients. (gobbledegook in italics)
This is interesting, as indeed, in a divorce, there may be emotional issues (the cause of most divorces) and if you can separate emotions from the deal, you are more likely to come to an amicable agreement. And a big part of divorce is financial as well - and many people fail to figure out how much divorce will actually cost them - and it does cost them. One reason why a lot of people fall down the economic ladder from the middle-class is due to divorce.  A single Mom trying to raise three kids on her own will struggle, even with child support payments. A remarried Dad will also struggle as he now has two families to support.  It is often a lose-lose situation.  No one "wins" at the game of divorce.

But of course, there are legitimate reasons to get divorced.  If you spouse abuses you, then maybe it is time to seek the exit.  And abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or financial.  The number one cause of domestic disputes is financial - spouses don't talk about money and as a result, end up with debt problems.  They try to discuss it and it turns into a raging argument about money.  "You buy too many shoes!"  "Oh, yea, well what about that new fishing rod you bought last month!"  A race to the bottom ensues.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid divorce is to not marry the wrong person.  What do I mean by this?  Well, the tell-tale "red flags" usually manifest themselves early on in a relationship.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend has severe mental health issues, those are not going to go away, but likely get worse over time.  My Dad married my Mom, knowing that she attempted suicide more than once.  Why they got married is anyone's guess - I think my Dad thought she came from a wealthy family.

I knew a woman who married a man who was a drunk.  He loved to party in bars and drink with strangers - buying a "round for the house" with his paycheck.  Fun and games when you are in your 20's, but when that paycheck has to pay the mortgage and a Dad should be home with his kids on a weeknight, it becomes a nightmare.   They also had radically different values - she a Liberal Democrat  agnostic, he a Bible-thumping fundamentalist and right-wing Republican. They made each other miserable for 20 years.  What was the point of that?

You read all the time on "relationship advice" columns about boyfriends who spend all their free time hanging out with their "buds" and drinking and doing drugs or bar-hopping or just sitting around playing video games.   These are young men who don't want a real relationship with a woman but a "bang-maid" who will pick up after them, make them food, do the dishes and laundry, vacuum the rugs and perform sex acts.  Sort of like a Roomba with an attached Fleshlight.  And no, he isn't going to change magically overnight, once you put that ring on him.

Sadly, it is a common occurrence. People get married in their 20's when their minds are not fully formed.  Worse yet are people who marry in their teens - often after an unwanted pregnancy.  These things are set to self-destruct in most cases.

Could a Divorce Coach help once the whole thing falls apart?  Perhaps.  But I am guessing that the vast majority of Americans can't afford to pay yet another person in addition to their attorney, just to get some common-sense advice.   Then again, a lot of Americans have no common-sense and get all their cues from the television, which encourages them to think emotionally, not logically.  And when you think emotionally, other people make a lot of money from you.

When I searched on the image above, I found lots of cheery images about divorce coaching, including lots of photos of smiling women divorce coaches as well as lists of "reasons why you need a divorce coach" in pastel colors in curlicue font.  Just a guess here, but this nonsense is being aimed at women.  I guess all those "Huns" whose MLM schemes fell apart, needed a new line of work!  There is life after divorce, and life after MaryK.   The way these "Divorce Coaches" pitch themselves makes it seem like a divorce is a spa treatment and pedicure rolled into one (ask for the package discount!).

Maybe it makes sense.  But maybe while you are talking to your "certified divorce coach" your soon-to-be ex-husband is talking to a pit-bull divorce lawyer and is already in the process of having you evicted from your own home.  Think logically, not emotionally - hire a lawyer, not a "coach" and try to figure out an amicable distribution of assets.  And try marriage counseling first.  If you are getting divorced over money, well, your money problems are just starting. And if you are getting divorced over "infidelity" - maybe counseling might help.  If you are getting divorced because of abuse, then hire a damn good lawyer.

A divorce coach?  Only if you really can afford that - and most of us, can't.