In My Humble Opinion...

Why Reasonable Rebecca Makes for a Catastrophe of a Client

5/1/2016

As a divorce lawyer, I come across a fair number of “types” in the line of duty. From Mogul Mark and Hapless Hank to Victim Valerie and Martyr Mary. You’ve probably encountered a few of these folks in your own circle of friends and family. But there’s one personality type that tends to fly under the radar, and her name is Reasonable Rebecca.

Reasonable Rebecca doesn’t want anything in life other than what is perfectly reasonable, and she has a completely rational view of what that involves. Being reasonable is so important to her, in fact, that it is her defining characteristic.

Sounds like the perfect client, right? Wrong. Reasonable Rebecca can end up being more frustrating than all the other types put together. And that’s because in her desire to be reasonable, she ends up being quite the opposite.

It is not enough for Reasonable Rebecca to know that she is being reasonable; she cannot rest unless everyone perceives her as such. And that’s where an otherwise good quality takes a sharp turn toward PersonalityFlawLand—because “everyone” includes, well, everyone—even her husband, Jerky Jarod.

Jerky Jarod knows exactly how to exploit this insecurity of hers. All he has to do is pretend that he believes every jerky thing he does is reasonable, and that all of her objectively reasonable reactions count as nagging. Reasonable Rebecca cannot stand being characterized this way, and she chases the stick every single time Jerky Jarod throws it. The entire marriage is one long campaign of Reasonable Rebecca trying to get Jerky Jarod to see the errors of his jerky ways and the reasonableness of hers.

When Jerky Jarod drains their savings account on a gambling bender, or when he goes out drinking with his bros a couple of nights each week leaving her at home with the kids, or when she learns that he’s reconnected with his ex-girlfriend on Facebook and they’ve secretly meeting up, does Reasonable Rebecca take a stand? No.

Taking a stand seems like such a ball-busting thing to do. And Reasonable Rebecca is NOT a ball buster. So, Reasonable Rebecca tries to talk some sense into Jerky Jarod, pointing out to him how wrong his actions are and how reasonable her positions are. It’s not that she’s wrong about any of that—it’s just that she’s fighting a losing battle—again and again and again. And that’s not…wait for it…reasonable.

Jerky Jarod may eventually concede on the issue du jour, but the lesson never sticks. And just like Sisyphus, Reasonable Rebecca is sentenced to a marriage of pushing a giant boulder up a hill over and over, only to have it roll back down and and mow her over anew.

By the time Reasonable Rebecca reaches a point where she can’t take it anymore and files for divorce (or Jerky Jarod takes off with his ex girlfriend), you would think Reasonable Rebecca would finally give herself permission to stop caring about what Jerky Jarod thinks. But old habits die hard, and Reasonable Rebecca’s compulsion to be seen as fair is often greater during her divorce than it was during her marriage.

No one knows how to work this better than Jerky Jarod. All he has to do is tell her how unreasonable she’s being, or mention how their mutual friends, the So-and-Sos, think she’s being a bitch or a gold digger, and just like that she’s back to negotiating against herself, trying to convince Jerky Jarod of how reasonable she is.

In the end, Reasonable Rebecca is often willing to walk away with far less than her fair share of the community estate if that’s what it takes to convince “everyone” of how “reasonable” she is. What Reasonable Rebecca doesn’t get is that Jerky Jarod will never giver her the title she so desperately wants. When it comes to divorce, there are only two possible titles, as far as Jerky Jarod is concerned: (1) the "bitch" title for Rebecca, or (2) the "brilliant negotiator" title for himself. Her drive to be reasonable leads her astray and she ends up getting played. Despite her lawyer’s advice, she settles for a deal that is anything but reasonable—and she doesn’t even get the mantel for which she paid so dearly. Oh, the irony.

If you suspect you might be a Reasonable Rebecca, here’s what you need to know: While you are married, there is only one person you need to convince of your reasonableness: you. And while you are getting a divorce, there are only two people whose opinions matter on the topic of your reasonableness: you and your lawyer.

The minute you need to convince someone else of your reasonableness in order to feel good about yourself, you’ve stopped being Reasonable Rebecca and you’ve morphed into Codependent Connie. It should be enough that you are sure of the reasonableness of your positions. And if it isn’t, you need to work on changing your mind, not Jerky Jarod's.

Once you’re getting a divorce, you are relieved of the burden of trying to convince your ex of anything. And that’s a relief because if you were truly able to convince Jerky Jarod of what is reasonable, you probably wouldn’t be getting a divorce right now. Marinate on that for a minute.

Jerky Jarod is not your problem anymore. He can figure things out (or not figure things out) on his own. No more pushing rocks up hills for you. Effective immediately, you have a new assignment, which is as follows: Take all of that reasonableness and all of the energy that you used to spend trying to convince Jerky Jarod of it, and dedicate all of it to YOU. Now, that’s a project that is reasonably likely to yield some pretty amazing results.