If the advice you receive from family and friends during a divorce was all perfect, there would be no trouble. But it isn’t. Here are 9 tips to help you decide whom to turn to for advice when you are going through divorce or separation.
1. What’s the motive?
Watch what the advisor wants. When people are hurting for you, they lose sight of reality and they make mistakes. Their pain can turn on your ex in the form of revenge. These thoughts drag the divorce for years instead of ending it peacefully. Ask yourself, are they acting based on what’s good for you? Or are they acting out of a destructive emotion like fear, shame, revenge or others?
Ask yourself, what is in my best interests? What is in my child’s best interests?
2. Distance from the outcome
The best advice came to me from people who maintained a certain distance from the outcome. They weren’t invested in keeping the marriage intact at all costs, nor were they invested in seeing that it ended. Nita’s mom wanted her to divorce when she realised that her daughter would be living with the in-laws. It didn’t matter that Nita had a good relationship with her husband. Sadly, the divorce went through.
3. Judge not
The best advice came from people who did not judge either me or the ex. When you head for divorce, suddenly everything you and your ex have ever done looks like a mistake. It isn’t. It’s just the way things look through the dark glasses of divorce. To my dad, it was, “What’s done is done. Let’s move on.” His advice came at the right moments and turned out to be the best I have received.
4. Standing outside boundaries
People who didn’t overstep the boundaries kept a dispassionate view and gave wise advice. Those who stepped well within the boundaries of my divorce – which allows a certain amount of intrusion into the privacy of marriage – were satisfying their curiosity and there is some bit of that in all of us. They were also the ones who judged. That takes us back to Judge Not.
5. Those whom you don’t need to ask for help
Those who didn’t force me to ask for help gave saner advice. Some might feel their help is being taken for granted. Some find it too stressful to offer help.
Veena’s relatives felt that help should be withheld because she hadn’t paid heed to their caution about her spouse’s addiction and their advice to correct it. They felt that Veena must ask for help before they would offer it.
Sometimes, you can’t do without their help. Be patient, don’t lose heart, temper or sanity. And take their advice with caution.
Related reading: How to fight right in divorce
6. Delinking advice and support
The most consistent advice came from people who were ready to lend a hand whether or not I took their advice. Veena’s relatives were generous with help, but Veena couldn’t bank on it. It veered from great helpfulness to backing off completely. Their advice shifted based on their action.
7. One right thing
There is no single right way or right thing to do. The ones who gave me the leeway to hear them out and choose what I felt was the better course of action gave good advice. Naturally, I made mistakes and they allowed me to do so. Their lack of vehemence is, I believe, a reflection of their ability to step out of the situation and assess it like a fly on the wall. Anyone who can do that is a Godsend.
8. Your stress points
The best advice came from those who understood my stress points. For family, it’s tough to stand by, doing nothing while you suffer. But that’s just what they must do at times. Simply be there. Some did just that. And because they understood what was likely to stress me out, they knew when to give support, when to give an empathetic hearing, when to advise and when to force me to introspect.
9. When family disagrees
People are coming around to the view that abuse in any form is valid grounds for divorce. Any reason short of that may not get you a nod from family. Honestly, their acceptance isn’t your problem, unless you make it yours.
Divorce isn’t a straight-line path: “Take this highway, cross these milestones and you reach the destination within this time period.” Emotions, the ex’s requirements, the ex’s family’s requirements, children, many things are involved. Learn to sift through the advice, take the good stuff and leave the negative stuff behind.