Speak for Yourself – Except During a Divorce

There is an interesting lesson to be drawn about interpersonal communications and the value of using an intermediary to improve communications during a divorce from a poetic play written more than 100 years ago. Cyrano de Bergerac was a 17th-century French poet and swashbuckler whose story was immortalized in a play by Edmond Rostand. Look here to learn the full story of the play.

So, what does this sword-yielding duelist have to do with communication in a divorce? We learn excellent lessons for divorce communication from the entwined story of Cyrano, Christian, and Roxanne. Cyrano loves Roxanne but is unable to go directly to her with his love because his large nose that makes him feel unattractive and ugly. He fears his appearance will put her off totally. While contemplating what to do, Cyrano learns that Roxanne has fallen in love with the “handsome” Christian. Made to promise to protect Christian, Cyrano not only does so but becomes Christian’s intermediary to Roxanne without her knowing. He writes beautiful and poetic letters to Roxanne, pretending to be from Christian. When Christian tries to woo the beautiful Roxanne himself one night outside her Chateau window, Christian is unable to remember the prepared words Cyrano gave to him and declares that he wants to speak to Roxanne words. Cyrano, tired of being in the middle and knowing the folly of his actions for Christian bows and says, “Speak for yourself, Sir.”

Christian proceeds to make a fool of himself, trying to speak romantically and seductively to Roxanne. Cyrano’s love for Roxanne takes over, and he pushes Christian out into the shadows of the night in front of her balcony while he stands below the balcony, whispering to Christian what to say.

No lawyer who has been doing divorce practice for any period of time is going to tell their client – like Cyrano to Christian – to “Speak for yourself.”, especially at the beginning of your divorce case. All the pent-up emotions, perceived and real wrongs done during the marriage, and newfound freedom to not have to “cow-tow” to their spouse anymore creates an emotional time bomb that is a hair-trigger away from going off.

Many times, in court, I have heard the other side read emails and texts months after they received them. You can’t squirm enough when you listen to the content. Voice messages and recordings are even worse. Whatever the context or diving force that was present at that time when a party thought justified lambasting, cursing, degrading, and denigrating the other 50% of their children’s DNA could have dissipated by now, and you cannot replicate those emotions in a cold courtroom.

Judges and juries look for what is going to be in the best interest of the children. Yelling, firing off angry and demeaning diatribes at your soon-to-be ex-spouse does not fall into the category of “best interest”. After I once introduced into evidence a relatively long and spiteful recorded proclamation that my client’s wife had just given to my client, the Judge opined that she might Order both of them always to record their conversations. She felt they would both would be nice to each other just like my client was in the recording because he was the one making the recording.

Get a Cyrano to communicate with your divorcing spouse. Get someone who can express collaboration and helpfulness rather than hate and spitefulness. Get a friend, a parent, a sister/brother, or your lawyer or firm to be your Cyrano. The Judge is going to look for the parent that is bigger and can put aside their feelings for the betterment of the children. The Judge is going to try to find which parent is better at cooperating – not fighting.

I have ghost-written thousands of emails, letters, and texts for my clients. I love to do it because I know exactly how to respond and layout information in a way that fits into the theme of the case. Introducing those carefully crafted emails, texts, and voice messages into evidence or laid out during a mediation has many times won the day for my client. The context and substance over a long period showed our communication to be emotion-free and focused on the children – the goal for any custody determination.

At the end of the play, many years later, while Cyrano is dying, he visits the widowed Roxanne and asks if he can read Christian’s final letter to her before going off to war where he dies. Of course, Cyrano had written the letter – the best of all the letters he had ghostwritten. When he finishes reading it aloud, Roxanne then knows that Cyrano had written it and, now knowing who had been behind all those beautiful letters declares her love for him.

The hope in a divorce case is by communicating with your soon-to-be ex the correct way from the start of the case, which is usually only possible by using a Cyrano, you will set the tone for successful direct communication in the future.

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