Socrates said “know thyself.”  True wisdom, he said, is knowing what you do not know. An indispensable part of knowing yourself is to recognize the limitations of your own wisdom—understanding what you know and what you have yet to learn. 

My name is Mandalin Love Blanton, not to be confused with the stringed instrument, or as my baseball loving boss likes to write, MLB.  I have now officially been at R+E for over one full year. My legal training has grown immensely, but more than that, I have had the opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes in relationships. As a single, 24-year-old straight out of college, there is much I do not know, or better yet, life experiences I have yet to have.  I am keenly aware there is much to learn about the law, life and relationships.

As a law clerk, you hope to learn how to draft legal documents, strategize with the partners and see the big picture.  One also hopes to beef up legal research skills in real life situations, and how to communicate effectively with attorneys and clients. A law clerk working at a divorce firm gets the special opportunity to look through the lens of their clients’ personal lives, which is honestly more educational than the legal training.

I specifically remember my first case I assisted Craig with on my own. It was a big file, and the relationship was a mess. At this point in my life, I did not even know how to categorize marital property and separate property or how expensive it was to raise children. The aspect most striking was the relational issues our client was having with her husband. These issues started as seeds in their dating lives and grew to be monsters upon marriage. The little problems seeming minute when couples first start dating are exacerbated when the challenges of marriage start to weigh on them.  While I have never been married, I have experienced these “little problems” and it makes me more aware of their potential magnitude.

The biggest takeaway as a law clerk at a divorce firm is that a good relationship with another person starts with a good relationship with yourself. Socrates had at least that concept figured out. I am a big believer in how another person treats you is less a reflection about how they feel about you, but more in line with the way they feel about themselves. If you are not secure in yourself and feel something is missing, relying on another human to fill the void creates co-dependency, which in turn develops into toxicity. At the office I have been witness to women who take their husband’s lives and make them their own, to the point of taking his interest, hobbies, personality trait and even small gestures and filtering that through themselves, losing their identity in the process. When the marriage implodes, they are left with an identity crisis which creates fear, and fear creates the need to control. I have also seen men who completely rely on their wives to do just about everything but go to work each morning and bring home a paycheck. When the marriage dissolves, they are then left with zero life skills other than how to work a job. Irrationally, they jump back into unhealthy relationships to have a new person assume the personal vacancy.

You have to know who you are first, and only then can you give another person the love you both deserve to experience. Knowing your identity is cultivated when you are single and you have to maintain that dignity of self when you start a life with another person. Healthy people can be with healthy people, but healthy with unhealthy will not work and you will know it when you experience it, or at least I am told.  This takes hard conversations, boundaries, introspective moments with yourself, cooperation, and an understanding of the type of person you want to be and the level of respect you expect from your spouse.

This is all so much easier said than done. I have learned people who at least attempt a good sense of self have more successful relationships. I believe when issues arise the first place to turn is inward. We all know an annoying friend who can never be wrong, with a victim mentality they think it always has to be someone else’s fault. This may be true in some circumstances; you cannot control how other people choose to behave.

Your thoughts and actions are your only truly exclusive dominion.

The root of conflict is almost always mutual misunderstanding or mutual fault. It takes a big person to admit when they are wrong. It is never fun to say, “I blew it.” But that is where a strong sense of self is imperative. A person who has been cultivating a strong identity while they are young, like me, are usually secure enough to admit fault. I want to learn this skill.  It seems those who have ignored any type of self-awareness crumble under the smallest criticism. Any potential wrong becomes a personal attack.

Reflecting on my one-year anniversary at R+E, I have plenty of room for self-growth. I plan on doing that first, so I can experience the best out of my future relationships. I have learned to start with me, and then expand a growing but healthy mindsight into my relationship with others. I have also learned how much cars actually cost, and how to spell the word “judgment” correctly every time.

Mandalin Blanton is an outstanding R+E law clerk from Mississippi College. She is a high achieving student with a competitive edge, whose family has worked in and around social services her entire life, making her a great fit for family law. Originally from Asheville, North Carolina, she graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in Psychology. Her growing experience in family law, coupled with her integrity and adaptability, make her eager to assist you regardless of the circumstances.