When Advice Hurts, Not Helps During a Divorce

by Mel Mackler, MA, LMFT
Coaching and Education for an Emotionally Healthy Divorce

In the face of adversity, we all can use support and, sometimes, advice from friends and family that we trust and are close to us.  These two camps are always ready to come to our aid and defense when we are in stress or in anxiety.  This can be especially true when someone is going through a family break-up due to a divorce.

Divorce anxiety can fuel a sense of being in danger.  We are apt to scurry to an attorney for safety and protection before we understand the kind of divorce process the attorney practices, and before we understand which form of divorce process suits our family best.  There is a second area of vulnerability you need to be alert to: accepting advice and information from friends and family.

While emotional support and a good ear to vent into are two worthwhile supports to anyone going through adversity, it is important to be aware that advice coming from friends and family members who love us is going to be biased.  These people want to give us their best, but often give advice that is not in our family’s best interest.  Loved ones want to back us up, give us strength to fight back and to protect our children and our family’s assets.  Your fear can fuel their anxiety, and that can lead to impulsive and protective advice from your loved ones—advice that isn’t necessarily helpful.

Friends and family often do not clearly understand the method of divorce being used to achieve a cooperative settlement.  Many people have not heard of a collaborative divorce.  To many people, divorce is simply divorce—a confrontive process that puts one party at the advantage of the other. They will not understand that you have made a decision to work cooperatively with your spouse or partner and to minimize dissension.

If your decision has been to work cooperatively with your spouse or partner, then the advice from your supporters might cause you to move in a direction opposite from your goal.  Yet, in a moment of anger or anguish, it isn’t unusual for someone to grasp the advice he or she received and follow through.

It’s at these times that you should caution yourself.  Contact your attorney, your divorce coach or your therapist.  Discuss your fears, and the advice that your support team gave you.  Ask one of your professionals for his or her advice about following through with the suggestions your support team has made.  While this consultation may cost you a few dollars, it may save you a great deal more if the advice from your friends is inappropriate to your goals for your divorce.

It’s always so easy to react; and sometimes you’re going to feel it is imperative to react immediately.  Taking several deep breaths, then using your brain and your professional team before you decide what to do can be far more beneficial for the long haul.  Play it smart, not impulsively.