The Interlock Member Assistance Program

Surviving a marriage break-up

Having a place to turn for support and guidance during the rough spots can make all the difference in a lawyer's professional and personal life. Of the some 350 BC lawyers who contact Interlock each year, 40% are seeking help with a marriage or relationship problem. The following is the true story of one of those lawyers.*

Person talkingI never expected my marriage of 18 years to break up. For three years there had been a few problems between my spouse and me. Nothing serious, I thought, but I knew the problems needed our attention. I spoke to one of my law partners, who had been through one divorce and one near miss, and asked her about how she had worked things out on the near miss. She said, "We went to Interlock. Why not talk to one of their counsellors? Maybe you can work it out."

Of course, despite the high recommendation from my own law partner, I still had concerns. How much would it cost, what kind of service would we get, what time would I miss away from the office? I found those things out fast - it turned out to be free for lawyers and their families, and everyone at Interlock were highly qualified professionals who were most accommodating to my schedule.

So off to the counsellor we went.

Unfortunately, and through no fault of the counsellor, we only went to three meetings. Despite my initial optimism after those first sessions, I came home from work one day to discover my spouse had left me. I was devastated. Emotionally I did not expect this to happen, so I crawled into bed and did nothing for three days. I experienced nausea, headaches and sleeplessness. At first I did not know where to turn. I knew I could not go on missing work and hiding from the world. Then it struck me to call the Interlock counsellor we had seen, since she at least knew something about my marriage from our earlier meetings.

Despite my good education, I always thought that people who saw a counsellor had a sort of stigma about them. But as I began seeing the counsellor on a regular basis, I realized that it is always best to seek professional help, no matter what your problems are. The Interlock counsellor was excellent and helped me to get over the marriage break-up much sooner than I expected.

We did this by taking things in small steps, starting by discussing my relationship with my wife and what we had gone through. We discussed how to resolve the financial side of the break-up and the extended family situation, since in most marriages families are involved to some degree or another with both spouses. As the counselling went on, I became more stable emotionally and was soon able to cope with work and daily life again. Eventually, I got tired of speaking just about my marriage breakdown and my former wife, and I spoke with my counsellor about working on making "me" a better person. We found strategies for me to recognize the problems I had on a personal level and to improve myself. I also learned to identify what qualities I should be looking for in a life partner in order to better address my needs and desires.

Through this experience, I realized that counselling had been an excellent step to take. It's really not surprising when you think about it. We lawyers encourage our clients to seek out professional help and often refer clients to professionals who specialize in one area or another. None of us would even think about going to see an unqualified friend for dental work, so why would we expect our friends to be equipped to help in times of personal problems? Sure, good friends make for a nice support system, but to solve a problem, you really need a professional.

So I encourage other lawyers to seek help from Interlock and let their professionals help you, no matter what type of counselling you need. I promise, it will be well worth it.


 

If you are a lawyer or articled student and you or a dependant would like assistance with personal, family or work-related concerns, please call Interlock for confidential, professional counselling. The Law Society of British Columbia funds this service.

Lower Mainland / Fraser Valley: (604) 431-8200
National toll-free: 1-800-663-9099
Emergency after-hours: 1-800-324-9988

*Minor details have been changed to ensure the confidentiality of the author.