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Civil Solutions: Keeping it Real!

I’m excited to launch my new blog, Keeping it Real! with this introductory post.  This blog will explore topics related to law, relationships, communication, parenting and co-parenting, and problem solving. Join me here at Keeping it Real! as I share personal and professional experiences that may be helpful to you in shifting perspectives to help you manage the meaningful relationships in your life by maximizing effective communication. My hope is that by taking this journey together we can improve our relationships and reduce suffering for ourselves and those whom we love. This first post is an introduction of who I am and the services I offer. My hope is that a basic understanding of Civil Solutions, LLC will serve as a solid background for the substantive, topical posts that will follow this introductory post.

Civil Solutions, LLC

Since 1998 I have been a practicing attorney in Mississippi. I owned an active litigation practice for 23 years before pursuing my new practice, Civil Solutions, LLC, as a consultant and mediator. My primary work through Civil Solutions is focused on helping individuals and couples who are seeking a divorce in Mississippi to reach agreement regarding divorce, child custody/co-parenting arrangements, and property settlement issues and avoid lengthy and expensive contested divorce litigation.  I do this through individual consultations, mediations with couples, teaching a co-parenting class called Communication Skills for Co-Parents” along with two other attorneys, Co-Parenting/Communication Coaching Sessions, and presenting Continuing Legal Education seminars for attorneys.  In addition, I consult with and assist individuals in negotiating disputes with businesses, insurance companies, and others with whom there may be conflict.  My personal and professional experiences greatly inform my work in these areas.  I have learned that problem solving in the legal and business world requires hard work, but is rewarding and cost-effective. Divorce is difficult under the best of circumstances, but it can be done in a way that promotes health and function of each member of the family, especially any children who are involved.  Parenting and co-parenting are challenging – always – but when separation and divorce require parenting and co-parenting in separate homes and with new people added into the mix, it becomes extremely difficult.  These are problems that persist in our communities and in our families and deserve intentional attention. My desire is to make a meaningful difference in how we communicate and relate to one another, and that is why I created Civil Solutions, LLC.

In addition to the services I offer to the community, I have a strong drive to serve the legal profession through volunteer efforts. I continue my very meaningful volunteer work through The Mississippi Bar to promote Collaborative Law in the family law setting, and to assist parents and families involved in the Juvenile Justice System. 

The common themes in all of my work and service are collaboration, cooperation, and acting from common ground.  In the legal world this falls into the category of “Alternative Dispute Resolution.”  In the real world, it’s just simple “problem solving.”  The goal is to manage relationships, through effective communication, to reduce our suffering and to preserve our peace.  At its core, Civil Solutions is about helping people work out their differences in a healthy, functional way.   Where conflict resolution is concerned, perspective and attitude make all the difference in the world.  The whole of my experience as a divorced, remarried, mother-of-two, trial attorney, mediator, consultant and problem solver is wide and varied, and is what brings me to this page to share with you some of the most poignant observations I have made over the years in hopes that we can start a dialogue about problem solving that first looks to amicable resolution of the many conflicts and disputes we face as we interact with others in our daily lives. Click here to learn more about my legal career and how Civil Solutions got started.

How can Civil Solutions help you?

Do you ever shy away from having difficult, but necessary, conversations?  Do you ever wish you had handled conflict with a loved one differently?  Do you ever wish you could take back a text or email that you sent in the heat of the moment?  Do you ever feel misunderstood and confused about why your spouse, ex-spouse, child, parent, sibling or friend reacted badly to something that you shared with them that was important to you?  Do you find composing letters, emails, and texts to be challenging? If you answered yes to any of these, and if you would like individualized help with the next tricky conversation/letter/email/text, click here to book an appointment for a consultation.

If you and your spouse from whom you are divorcing want to try to work out a property settlement or child custody/visitation/support issues, I may be able to help you reach agreement to avoid lengthy and expensive court processes and appearances. Click here to book an appointment for a one-on-one consultation with me to determine the appropriate next step for you.

If you and your spouse or former spouse wish to cultivate more effective communication and co-parenting, click here to book an appointment for one-on-one Communication and Co-Parenting Coaching, and/or click here to register for the next Communication Skills for Co-Parents class.

If you have a dispute with a business partner or other individual and want help with effective communication that can lead to a mediated resolution of the conflict, click here to book an appointment to discuss what type of mediation services are appropriate for your situation. If you aren’t sure exactly what you need but know that you would prefer to work out your circumstances in an amicable way as opposed to adversarial litigation , click here to book an appointment for a general consultation.

I am honored to have you join me in this journey of Keeping it Real!  If you have friends or family members who would benefit from exploring these topics,  please feel free to share the link to this blog with them. Together we can work to find a peaceful, functional way of clearly communicating with those closest to us in an effort to preserve relationships.  I promise to “keep it real” with you and hope you will do the same with me. If I can provide a service to you, please schedule an appointment with me. If you simply wish to come along for the journey of exploring these topics based upon my personal and professional experiences, check back periodically for new and updated blog posts here at this link: Keeping It Real!

My very best to each of you….

~Jenn

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PTRD

It was early in my dating relationship with my now-husband, Wes, when we encountered a pretty disruptive event on the road home from Mobile, Alabama one Sunday afternoon. We were on I-10 keeping up with traffic just outside Mobile, which means I was driving about 75mph, when something under the hood of my SUV loudly popped. I immediately lost power steering and all the warning lights on the dash lit up like a Christmas tree. I was in the middle lane of travel and had to navigate all the way over to the right so that I could take the next exit and attempt to safely maneuver us to a parking lot to try to assess what had just happened. Every time I had to stop I was scared it would completely die on us, so I did everything I could to slow without stopping. I had to make 5 or 6 turns to get to the Wal-Mart parking lot just off the exit ramp, and I struggled with each one. Whatever had just happened wasn’t obvious to either one of us when we popped the hood to look, but what we clearly understood was that we would not be driving my car the 90 miles between us and home. Fortunately, I’m a longtime AAA member so we called for help right away. A tow truck arrived within an hour and we towed my car to the dealership a few miles away . We then had to call a taxi to get us to the airport to rent a car to make the trip home, as we both had to work the next day. Everything in those two or three hours seemed to happen rather quickly and when we got in the rental car to head home I remember actually exhaling a little bit. But I was still flustered and anxious. We made it home and fixed something quick to eat. As we sat at the table and were rehashing the events of the day, I found myself apologizing profusely and commenting about all of the ways I could try to prevent something similar from ever happening again. In response to my third or fourth apology, he actually said, “It’s really OK, Jenn. This is life, Things like this just happen. We are safe. No one was hurt. We’ll make plans to go back to Mobile to pick up your car when it’s ready, and we’ll put this behind us. In the grand scheme of things this is not a major deal.”

My mouth fell open and I stared at him in shock and amazement. I said, “What? You aren’t upset? You don’t blame me for what happened?” He stared at me in confusion and finally said, “Why on earth would I blame you? You didn’t do anything to cause this. It is not your fault.” And I responded to him that I’d never before gone through a stressful situation similar to this – one that disrupted plans and required a great deal of effort to deal with – without feeling responsible, blamed and targeted. Wes then said, “Ahhh. I see. You must have PTRD.” “What is that?” I inquired. “Post Traumatic Relationship Disorder,” he said, and we both burst out laughing.

I have no idea whether the mental health community actually utilizes such a diagnosis, and I don’t use it here as any formal term or in anyway regarding an actual clinical diagnosis. The way I’m using it here is strictly to describe an effect of the baggage we carry from one relationship to another. When we are experiencing “PTRD Moments” we are struggling with expressing feelings about something the other has said or done and are tempted to respond based upon our past experiences with someone else. This causes confusion and frustration that wouldn’t have been there otherwise and further complicates an already tense situation. When we find ourselves in the midst of these “PTRD Moments” we need to clarify what is really causing our discomfort in the situation and understand that our reactions likely have little to do with what has actually just occurred between us, and has everything to do with habitual reactions we have developed from our previous significant relationships. This has been a total game-changer for my husband and me. If one of us reacts to the other in an out-of-the blue way, we can inquire as to whether this may be a “PTRD Moment,” which most of the time will diffuse the situation to a point that we can calmly discuss the actual issue at hand.

Long term, close relationships are tricky to navigate. Communicating our needs in a time of high emotion is difficult, even when we aren’t dragging our past relationships right up into the middle of the stressful situation. The next time you feel triggered by something someone else says, take a minute to take a deep breath and ask yourself if you are responding to what actually just happened, or if you are reacting based upon experiences you have had in previous relationships. You owe it to yourself and to the others with whom you are in relationship to honestly assess the origins of your feelings and reactions and to respond based upon the reality of what has occurred as opposed to the quick, snap reaction that was previously so well-rehearsed that it has become a knee-jerk reaction. With some intentional thought and self-analysis we can interrupt the old patterns and save ourselves a good deal of grief by truly communicating with the person with whom we are interacting. Are there legitimate disagreements to address, or are you transposing into the present moment your feelings and emotions from something someone else did to you some time ago? Did this person intentionally push your buttons to upset you, or are you simply having a “PTRD Moment?”