Gnats and Lions: Navigating a Divorce like an African Safari

Gnats and Lions:  Navigating a Divorce like an African Safari

By M. J. Goodwin


My cousin, a wonderful young man who is twenty-four years younger than I am, got married this weekend.  It was a fabulous weekend with a lot of heartfelt sentiment and family time.  Even though attending weddings is a little awkward for a divorce lawyer, one can learn from the festivities and apply those lessons to the failed marriages that are the focus of my practice and have been for almost twenty-three years.

One of the groomsmen gave a remarkable toast about the nature of marriage.   To paraphrase, he said that marriage is akin to an African Safari and that hunters on safari do not fear the lions (the big things) but rather, they dread the gnats (the little, annoying things).  He said that one of the great hallmarks of a successful marriage are navigating and dealing with the gnats, as opposed to the lions.  His words were very true.  He was pretty smart for a young man of twenty-four.  He attributed the words to his grandfather.

Sadly, most folks have succumbed to the gnats by the time they make it to the divorce lawyer.  The daily buzzing and biting of the dirty dishes, the carpool, who didn’t make the bed, who spent too much on clothing, who was inconsiderate, who was selfish has slowly eroded the marriage.  In those cases, the gnats won.  There are other cases where lions are to blame.  Adultery is a lion.  So is domestic violence.    So is alcoholism and drug use.  But even in those cases, some of those lions, particularly adultery, have their vicious bite because they were preceded by gnats.

But the gnats do not have to dictate the divorce.  In the divorce, it is preferable to deal only with lions (the big things:  adultery, physical violence, finances, custody) and avoid the gnats (who was five minutes late, who hung up, who was rude).  If a litigant can remain focused on the lions and ignore the gnats, the litigant will have a cheaper and less stressful divorce.

The important thing to remember, not just in marriage and not just in divorce, but in life, is that there will always be gnats.  There will also always be lions.  But there will be more gnats.  It is ultimately how you deal with the gnats that defines you.

M. J. Goodwin has practiced in Family Court in Anderson, SC since 1991.  If you need a divorce lawyer in Anderson or Abbeville Counties, call 864-375-0909.




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