4 Simple Reasons Not to Take Divorce Advice From Your Friends
Posted by: Sue Atkins
As regular readers of my blog will know I am recently separated from my husband after 21 years and I know first hand how challenging, stressful and overwhelming this transitional period of life really is.
I have been running my “6 Week “Separation – Putting Your Children First” Coaching Programme” for many years now using techniques taught to me by Tony Robbins, Paul McKenna and Dr Richard Bandler.
I have also recently introduced the One Page Profile Technique which is a very simple, powerful and nurturing tool to help parents & children to go through this stressful time with more clarity, support and confidence as I believe that Divorce is a PROCESS not an event.
But how DO you support yourself properly and regularly as you go through this traumatic life changing time in your life?
Of course good friends are important but how do you cope in the middle of the night?
How do you get the emotional support you need weekly so that you keep up your positive mindset, your stamina, your sense of purpose and the bigger picture when life seems cruel, harsh, scary and frightening?
Friends are of course part of the picture but here is an excellent blog from the highly regarded Family Law in Partnership
“Advice from your friends when you are going through divorce and separation is always well intentioned but can be damaging.
We have picked out four reasons why.
See what you think and then let us know of any other reasons why you should or should not take friends’ advice in the comments below.
Friendly advice often comes from friends who have already experienced divorce and separation. When this happens there is a very real risk that their experiences will contaminate their viewpoint and subsequent advice on your own divorce. You might find yourself not only trying to resolve your own issues but also get dragged into trying to set right their own perceived imbalance or wrong on their earlier divorce.
What it sounds like
- “Watch out for that bit. My husband did not disclose that and so I ended up losing out on it. Make sure that you…”
- “They’re all like that! What happened to me was…”
- “Whatever you do, don’t let them know about your other account. They made me disclose mine and even when I did they made me share it!”
- “Don’t move out. Worst thing I ever did.”
We often turn to friends to learn from their experiences but in this context the experiences are often so raw that they distort the good intention your friends will have for you. Their intention will usually be to see you through this period in your life, usually better than they did. When we ask them what they think we open up a Pandora’s Box of grief, grudges and anger. When that happens even the best intentioned friends can give advice can inflame the potential conflict in your own separation.
Your friends will love you and be deeply concerned for you. That is a given.
They are there for you when you need to offload, to vent and to find your bearings.
They do amazing things like take your calls at three in the morning or listen patiently as you rage hard or simply sit with you in your silent times. They forego their own families to call round with cake, wine or coffee but their lives are carrying on and they cannot keep this up for all that long.
You find, after only a few weeks, that they are not as patient or available as they were originally. Your phonecall is no longer taken and they do not dash round with comfort food each time you get upset. In the worst cases you find your friends starting to avoid you, leave calls and emails unanswered.
They have got Friend Fatigue.
What it sounds like
- “Hello, Jean? Oh hi, it’s just me again. I left a message ten minutes ago and you weren’t available and I really need to speak to you about this email John has just sent me. Are you there? Jean? Hello? Okay, call me back as soon as you pick this up right?”
- “Oh Simon, not this again. We spoke about this last week didn’t we? You need to move on mate. You know what you need don’t you, to sort you out? I’ll tell you what you need to do, you need to…”
- “Look, why don’t you just speak to your doctor about it, and get some anti-depressants?”
- “Hello? Oh, Sam, it’s you, oh, er, hi. Look, Charlotte’s got her friends over for a sleepover, it’s pretty manic here and, you know, I can’t really speak right now… what’s that? Saturday night? Oh, I really don’t know. I think Paul said about going out or something. Next week? Yeah maybe. I might be able to do something… Let me check and get back to you.”
- “Hello? Jean. Sorry, it’s me again, I guess you’re not back yet. I left a couple of messages earlier. Erm. Okay. Hope to hear from you soon…”
It can be exhausting to support friends as they go through divorce and separation.
It is distressing for them to see you being upset. They may well be grieving the end of the relationship between you and your partner themselves, especially if they were close to both of you. Their own loyalties might be torn.
Your situation may well be triggering uncomfortable responses in them, for example, of their parents’ or some other close relatives’ separation.
When we rely on friendly advice we can over-burden our friends.
This makes sense. Counsellors and therapists have to have ongoing supervision for themselves. It is recognised that listening to people’s problems and pains takes a huge toll on the listener. The professional listener therefore puts support mechanisms in place. Your friends do not have that safeguard and so fatigue is only to be expected.
Make no mistake, they still love you and care for you but they simply cannot give you all the support you need at this time.
Friendly myths and fables
When friends meet and converse then they trade in gossip and stories. Myths and fables can quickly take root about how things are worked out or who is entitled to what. These myths can become very believable. Over a short period of time we can convince ourselves and each other that what we think, and the anecdotes we tell and retell represents reality.
That might not be so.
When friends pass on these fables we can suffer from distorted expectations of what the outcome will be. That can make it very difficult to then hear and believe the authoratitive version that the lawyers and, if need be, the Judge will have to work with.
What it sounds like
- “No, see, that’s not right. Take Pamela, for example. Once her husband left the house that was it. He wasn’t entitled to anything, she got the whole house, the car and the villa. So, once Sean has gone, it’s all yours. Obviously”
- “Yeah, it was in the paper last week, saying that Dad’s aren’t allowed to see their chidlren. I’d be very careful if I was you.”
- “Right, what you need to do, right, is open an account in Switzerland. Then you get your employers to pay your salary into that account and then you keep a float in your old current account, just enough to keep things ticking over. Can’t possibly go wrong. Paul did it, didn’t he, remember? What? No, don’t know what happened. I think he’s in court next week, isn’t he?”
Myths and fables establish themselves very quickly through telling and retelling.
Even when they sound suspicious our brains may well be inclined to believe in them not least because doing so provides some relief form the anxiety we are otherwise feeling. Another reason might be, as Daniel Kahnemann says in his book Thinking Fast And Slow, that our brains first try to believe a statement in order to make sense of it.
At worst, if we take actions on the basis of these myths then we could end up in considerable trouble or, at the very least, make things much more difficult between you and your partner. This can increase the work that is required to later untangle steps taken and the trust that has been lost.
The Boxing Coach
Some of you might recall the late Burgess Meredith’s wonderful character, Micky in the early Rocky films. Micky was Stallone’s boxing coach and manager. He was the guy leaning on the ropes at the gym and in the corner of the boxing ring during the fights, pumping the clenched fists, mopping Stallone’s brow and even cutting the eye when required.
Very often our friends can be like that. They can be fiercely loyal.
They give us the pep talk, pumping us up as we approach the next court hearing or even the next mediation session, steeling our resolve, grit and determination.
Read more here
I was walking my dogs today and the idea of creating a local, informal group called “The Unsinkables” came to me where parents going through a divorce could come every week to feel heard, supported and also empowered emotionally. It wouldn’t be a place to just moan, whinge and complain as that just keeps you trapped in the cycle of being a victim – I was pondering a place where parents could make new friends, encourage each other and create a new vision for their lives – putting the welfare of themselves as the primary positive role model for their kids at the heart of the healing process……
What do you think?