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No one gets married expecting to get divorced. But unfortunately divorce happens all too often, and when it does getting the right divorce advice is crucial.
A guy I worked with a few years ago returned to counseling last month. When Daren and I first started working together, he came to marriage counseling to help save his marriage. He ended up deciding to get a divorce and our work transitioned into divorce counseling.
While we were catching up on how much his life has changed over the past year now that his divorce is final, he said the following:
The best divorce advice I ever got was from you. You told me to be very careful who I took advice from and you were really right."
Where Good Divorce Advice Comes From
Where does divorce advice comes from? Well, as it turns out, everywhere. But whether it’s good advice or not is a different story.
When Daren was struggling to save his marriage there was no shortage of people who gave him advice on what they thought he should do -- leave her, stay, take a break for a while, etc. When he separated and filed for divorce the advice giving only increased.
As the divorce was happening, everyone he knew had suggestions for him. In our counseling meetings I cautioned him to be careful who he listened to because most people, even though they have good intentions, lack the expertise to really have good, effective divorce advice.
Family members, friends, work associates, neighbors -- the list was endless of people Daren knew who were married, divorced, or had had relationships go bad. Almost all of them had advice for him that they thought was good -- and some of it was.
The problem for Daren was that he couldn't tell the good advice from the bad advice. His head was already swimming with all of his own thoughts and questions, and the endless advice he kept getting only confused, overwhelmed and paralyzed him.
So, Daren and I put a plan together to help him. We decided he would stop talking about his divorce to all but a couple of people. He chose to rely on me, his divorce counselor, for advice. He also kept sharing with his best friend what was happening just to be able to talk to someone but got no advice. He had started dating and a new female friend became an emotional support. That was it.
When people would ask him about his divorce, ex, or the kids, he'd ask them if they could please talk about something else. Since these people cared about him it was usually no big deal to get them to respect his request. After Daren implemented this strategy, getting through his divorce became a little easier.
3 Tips If You’re Getting Divorced
Divorce advice is clearly everywhere. Each divorce is different, however, and most advice is pretty generic.
I will caution you, as I did Daren, to be careful from whom you accept advice. Here are 3 additional tips for you to consider if you feel divorce is inevitable:
- Seek Counseling First. There are so many things that happen in relationships that can create feelings of discontent, make seem like the love is gone, and leave you feeling like divorce is the only option. In my years of experience counseling couples with marriage problems and considering divorce, I’ve seen time and again how, with help, relationships can get better. It takes work, but very often the love is just buried and not completely dead. Before you call it quits, do yourselves a favor and find a marriage counselor and explore all avenues for making things work. And if you do decide to divorce, you’ll be much better prepared to make it less costly and destructive.
- Hold Off On New Relationships. One of the things that typically happens as soon as people think their marriage is over is they start looking for someone new. The desire to be loved is powerful. And if you’ve been in a loveless marriage, and likely sexless one, for a long time, new connections and affection feels really good. BUT, dating while separating or divorcing is a bad, bad idea. You’re in the middle of an emotionally turbulent time and, even if you are certain your relationship is over, you aren’t in a position to see things clearly (don’t argue – you just aren’t) or be a good partner to someone new. If that new person is really someone you should be with then being patient is the way to ensure a happy future together. So, hold off on dating until the divorce is finalized and you've recovered.
- Don’t Burn Any Bridges. Divorce can bring out the worst in people. Everyone who’s close to you will have an opinion about whether you’re doing the right thing or not. Try not to let your own emotions get the best of you as you respond. Creating ill-will with your soon-to-be-ex, their family, or friends can come back to bite you. Emotions have a way of changing overtime, and it can be very hard to repair relationships damaged during a divorce.
If you're where Daren was, struggling in your marriage or going through a divorce, learn from his divorce success story and be very careful who you take advice from. When you take advice on your marriage or divorce, be sure it's from an objective, knowledgeable and experienced professional. The risks are too high to settle for anything less than the wisdom of an expert.
What's the best divorce advice you ever got? Please comment below.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published January 12, 2010 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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