There are certain times in your life when people think they have the right to cross lines with you -- and usually those times happen to be when you could really do without the intrusion. Like when you're pregnant and people elbow on up to you and rub your belly like they're trying to summon a genie out of a lantern. Or when you're going through a divorce and people heap their unsolicited advice on you like they actually know what they're talking about. Most people mean well, of course. But just because their intentions are good doesn't mean their advice is.
When you're operating at a hundred percent, you can usually tell good advice from bad advice. But when you're going through a divorce, you're not your normal, level-headed self. That means there's a high risk that you could take garbage advice seriously -- or even worse, follow it.
That's why I've created the handy Divorce Advice Decoder that breaks down the most common tips people give you when you're going through a divorce. With the Divorce Advice Decoder, you can quickly determine whether a tip is something you should take or they should shove.
"He's really going to regret divorcing you." If people are telling you this, it's safe to assume that your divorce wasn't exactly your decision. (Or if it was your decision, you came to it reluctantly after trying as hard as you could for as long as you could to make things work.)
This tip doesn't even sound like advice -- it's more of an observation and that's what makes it so dangerous. Your friends mean this as a compliment. They think you're awesome and they're convinced that at some point your ex is going to realize what he threw away and then he'll be really sorry. Maybe he will; maybe he won't.* But the accuracy of their prediction isn't the issue. The problem is their statement can get inside your head and stall your forward momentum. Suddenly, you're wondering if you should hold off on your divorce and wait for your soon-to-be ex to come to his senses so that neither of you have to deal with this whole bummer of a divorce.
The bottom line is this: Putting off what has to be done today because your friends think your ex is a bonehead who will later regret his actions is a really bad strategy. So, when your friends say this to you, interpret it as, "He's a fool," and keep moving ahead with your divorce.
"You need to get back out there as soon as possible." This is terrible advice. Think of it this way: If your house got destroyed by a tornado, would your first order of business be to run out and buy new furniture? Of course not. First you have to figure out where you're going to live. How damaged is the house? Are you going to rebuild or move? Are you going to rent or buy? Once you have all of that worked out, then you can go furniture shopping.
This order is important because you buy furniture to match the house, not the other way around. Furniture shopping may sound like a lot more fun than repairing a damaged foundation, but if you skip ahead to the furniture shopping before you've shored up your house, you can end up jeopardizing the quality and suitability of both your house and the furniture.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, in this analogy you are the house and your next relationship is the furniture. Your house is not structural sound right now. Demolition is underway, and reconstruction will follow. It's definitely a work in progress. What you end up with remains to be seen. Wait until the work is complete, then you'll be in a much better position to make smart decisions. I've never met anyone who wished they had started to date sooner; but I've met plenty of folks who regretted rushing ahead.
When your friends tell you to "get back out there" what they are really doing is rooting for you to have fun again. You're working on getting to that point, but as the legendary opera singer Beverly Sills once said, "There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going." Get your divorced finished and your life rebuilt. Once those things are done, then you can think about dating again. In the meantime, enjoy this time on your own.
"You have to let go of your anger." This might be one of the least helpful things to say to someone who is going through a divorce. Being angry is a normal emotional response to divorce. Most people I know don't enjoy being angry. If they could decide not to be angry, they would. But emotions don't typically work that way. You have to work through them, and it takes some time. Telling someone who is really mad to "let go" of her anger is sort of like telling someone who broke her leg recently to get up and run already.
When people tell you to let go of your anger, interpret it as a reminder to make sure you're using your anger in a way that's helpful rather than hurtful. There's a lot of power in that anger you're experiencing -- so don't waste it by directing it toward your ex. Figure out changes you want to make in your life, and use your anger to fuel your transformation. When you're done, you'll have constructed a new, positive life for yourself and you'll have burned off all of your anger in the process.
"You'll feel better in time." I realize that when people tell you this (and they will -- over and over again), it doesn't sound the least bit helpful. In fact, it doesn't even sound believable. But as corny and trite as it sounds, it's not just a platitude; it's actually spot-on advice. It won't make you feel better right this second; but it's helpful to know that as miserable as you might feel today, you won't feel this way forever -- or even for all that long, all things considered. Your misery is a temporary illness, not a permanent condition. While no one can give you an exact date, it's safe to say that in six months you'll feel much better than you do right now; and a year from now you will be amazed at how far you have come.
So, keep your tissues handy for now, but rest assured a happy, healthy life awaits you in the future. You're heading in the right direction -- but you have to keep moving. Time will help you get there, I promise.
*Spoiler alert: If he's a narcissist, he won't ever regret it because that would require admitting that he made a mistake. Narcissists never make mistakes, so there are never any to admit to. See how that works?