June is traditionally a time of transitions. For kids, it marks the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation. For adults it’s often the end of singlehood and the beginning of marriage. For those not contemplating nuptials, it can be the end of nose-to-the-grindstone and the beginning of let’s-leave-early-and-play-golf.
It’s time to consider other beginnings and endings too. Even when these changes are good, coping with them can be daunting for you and your clients. Here are some examples to help guide you in easing your clients’ transition to new ways of life.
Q: I’m feeling bereft. After years of a successful partnership, my partner has received an inheritance and decided to retire early. I wish him the best, although his imminent departure leaves me envious and depressed. I don’t want to go on my own, but the prospect of trying to find someone else this simpatico just overwhelms me. How can I get over this?
A: It’s perfectly normal to feel sad when a close partnership breaks up, no matter the reason. Don’t try to force yourself to “get over it.” Instead, take the time to make a full emotional inventory of your experience in working with your partner.
As soon as you feel able, sit down and write out everything you valued about the partnership and your partner’s character and personality. Try to sum up all the highs and lows, the strengths and weaknesses of your working relationship. Describe the kind of relationship you hope you’ll have in the future (if you want one).
When you feel satisfied with what you have written (or spoken into a recorder, if you prefer), get together with your partner and share these thoughts and feelings about his decision to retire. You might have a ritual of closure that honors what the two of you created together.
If you make the time and space to do this emotional “homework” and communicate it fully to your departing partner, you’ll eventually find it easier to envision someone new taking over at least part of your ex’s important role.
Q: With the wedding a couple of months away, my client’s fianc?(C)e is balking at the prenuptial agreement he insists on. The contract is basically intended to protect assets he wants to leave to the children of his two earlier marriages. She has an excellent job and is reasonably well-off, but feels a prenup is a barrier to entering the marriage in good faith. My client isn’t sure how to proceed. Any suggestions?
A: Unfortunately, asking a future spouse for a prenup is like ordering a veal cutlet at a PETA convention. You’re automatically a bad guy.
As this couple’s advisor, you can help by making sure they see that both parties’ needs and feelings are normal and understandable. Because they’re deadlocked, I would suggest that your next step should be encouraging them to seek a counselor, therapist, or coach with experience in this area.
The fianc?(C)e needs to hear that your client’s request for a prenup is not a reflection of his feelings about her. Instead, it has everything to do with how burned he may have felt after his last marriage came apart, and how badly he wants to preserve his estate for his children.
More than one male client in this situation has told me that his only reason for remarrying was that he loved “this woman” with his whole heart; and since she wanted to get married, it became vital for him to ensure that his kids from an earlier marriage would be taken care of. Once a fianc?(C)e gets through feeling hurt and abandoned, she is usually able to accept her loved one’s need to be a good dad in this way.
I’ve also noticed that men in intimate relationships are likely to merge slowly over time, rather than all at once. I wager that the longer this marriage lasts, the more open your client will become to sharing assets with his wife.
Once the father’s need to give to his kids is heard and honored, a therapist or counselor can help him start thinking about an arrangement that will work for him as well as his soon-to-be-wife. Then they can come back to you (with good legal support) to work out the details.
Q: After proudly watching their youngest daughter graduate from junior college, my clients have asked me to help her stand on her own two feet. Her only plan right now is to work part-time at a garden center, live at home, and hang out with her boyfriend. She’s carrying several thousand dollars’ worth of credit-card debt, and her parents want me to coach her about living within her means and paying off what she owes. Do you think this has any hope of success?
A: First, I think it would be a good idea for the parents to sit down with their daughter and discuss how she feels about having incurred so much debt. They can express their concern about her ability to pay it off with only a part-time job and no savings.
If she seems vague about how she’s going to dig herself out of this hole, you might step in to show her how to set up her financial life more wisely. But to be honest, Mom and Dad have a lot more clout with this young woman than you do. Until she becomes more savvy about money, they might ask her to get together with them once a week to review her finances. If her spending habits are out of control, they can even make frequent attendance at Debtors Anonymous meetings a condition of living at home with them.