It’s a rare skill to listen to someone without offering up your two cents, and divorce advice is no different. Each and everyone one of us does this. For women, especially, it’s only natural to want to help our loved ones. So we dole out our well-meaning advice. We try to fix whatever’s broken. But we don’t know what we don’t know, and when it comes to someone else’s marriage, there’s just so damn much we don’t know. Will never know.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of this “well-intentioned” divorce advice, just know that you’re not alone in this. Most of it comes from a good place, though much of it is terrible. Here are some of the more common pieces of divorce advice we’ve come across and why they often miss the mark.
Wait until the children are out of the house, for their sake
One of the most common pieces of divorce advice is simply to not get divorced at all. At least, not until the children are old enough to live on their own. This, the advice giver says, is what’s best for your children. But the research shows that’s not the case. Getting divorced and removing your children from an environment filled with tension and uncertainty can be better for you children in the long run.
In this case, the advice giver skirts around everything left unsaid: teach your children that it’s more important to be miserable than happy, to do what’s easy rather than what feels right, to pretend that everything is okay rather than bare your mistakes to the world, to make fear-based decisions instead of taking risks and being brave.
Get it together already
Harsh. But it’s tough love, right? The problem with telling someone to get it together is that it implies there’s a time limit on how long each of us has to wallow in our emotions. To just be. To process the end of a relationship. But sometimes all we feel up to on a given day is planting ourselves in front of the TV and watching When Harry Met Sally on repeat. Yes, Netflix, we are still here.
We get it, no one likes to see someone they love in pain, so when someone tells you to shut off your feelings, to “X or get off the pot” just to make them more comfortable around you simply explain to them that that is exactly what they are doing. You are sad, and that’s okay. If they don’t like what they see, they can leave you to it. Your divorce recovery journey is your journey, and no one but you gets to dictate what that journey looks like.
You just need to try harder
Divorce advice about you needing to “put in the work” almost always includes phrases like “to get that spark back.” Most of these people mean well, but being that they are on the outside of your marriage looking in, they can’t possibly know just how much effort you’ve already put into reconnecting with your partner and “fixing” whatever’s wrong in your marriage.
Working on your marriage is a complicated thing. It might be that all of this burden is being placed on your shoulders—or maybe it’s the opposite. On the advice of your loved ones, you’re constantly having talks with your husband* about trying more, making more time, changing his behavior, and now, he feels as though he’s walking on eggshells. That everything he does is wrong. This isn’t good either.
You and your partner should not feel pressured to perform a role that no longer fits, to be what someone expects of you rather than be yourself. Sometimes we try so hard to make our marriages work that we fail to see that we’ve become two mismatched puzzle pieces being forced together.
And then there’s the flip side.
It’s time to find someone better
It’s hard not to cringe when someone tells you this. Are they implying that you chose the wrong partner? That your Ex isn’t a good person? The truth is there are often a myriad of, and not just one, reasons that cause a marriage to come to an end. There is no winning or losing side. And in the months or even years leading up to your divorce, it’s quite possible that you painted a pretty one-sided picture of your Ex. It’s possible that your loved ones don’t have the full story.
After divorce, we each have our own lessons to learn. Could we communicate better? Be more patient and understanding? Are we being honest with ourselves about what we want out of life? Maybe your Ex was exactly who you needed in your life at a given moment, and now, for whatever reason, things have changed.
And if you have children who overhear talk of finding someone better, it’s possible that they’ll develop a negative view of themselves. After all, half of their identity has been formed by their father. If he’s not “good enough,” then maybe you feel the same way about them, too.
Next time, you’ll get it right
Here’s another cringeworthy piece of divorce advice. Marriage, children, the house—for so many, these are the markers of someone who has “made it.” Someone who’s successful and has it all. But now, your marriage is over. If you were once a winner, then logic says you’re now a loser. They (meaning all the people who are still winning, all the “happily-married” couples whose lives you are envious of) have gotten it and are still getting it right.
By now, surely you can see the problem with this kind of thinking. The logic is flawed. For one, there might not be a next time, and you might be perfectly okay with that. But more than that, marriage, and life by extension, is not a game. And you are not a failure for deciding to stop playing one way.
You need a rebound
You need to move on! You need to get “out there” and have some fun. You need to get under someone to get over someone. No matter how they phrase their words, anyone who gives you this advice is telling you the same thing: jump into bed with someone else—it’s the only way to let go of your feelings for your Ex.
And hey, if this has helped you, then more power to you, but each of us is cut from a different cloth. There’s a time and place for casual sex, and while you’re recovering from divorce may not be one of them. Instead of helping you feel more alive and in control, it can make you feel even more alone and empty. At the end of the day, there’s that word “casual” attached to the sex. Casual as in no attachments, no feelings, and no promises. When you’re at your most vulnerable, sometimes you need to surround yourself by people who offer more stability than that.
You better dive back into that dating pool—you’re not getting any younger
It seems that for women our biological clocks never quite stop ticking. Our days are numbered in large, bold font with a neon arrow pointing to our expiration date for all to see. After divorce, we feel pressured to quickly find another of those plentiful fish in the sea. To snap one up and lock it down before the wrinkles settle in for good and we grow tired of covering up the grey.
And all this pressure? It puts you at risk of settling for someone who’s not really right for you and ignoring someone who might surprise you. It makes the whole dating experience more of a frantic frenzy than a journey that teaches you just as much about yourself as it does about any man. Give yourself the time you deserve to properly recover from your divorce before you start dating again. You can find happiness at any age, and anyone who tells you otherwise should be ignored. They’re projecting their own fears, but you know better than that.
Squeeze every penny out of that [insert insult here]
During and after your divorce, you’ll likely be experiencing many emotions, with one in particular often rising to the surface: anger. And your loved ones, who are also feeling angry on your behalf, might be stoking those fires rather than helping you put them out. But deciding to go after your Ex “for all that the’s worth” almost never makes those feelings go away. Instead, it prolongs your divorce proceedings. It creates resentment on both sides. It makes successfully coparenting nearly impossible.
In the moment, being angry might feel good, but in the long run, you’re giving both you and your Ex less resources to live your lives and raise your children with.
If you’ve gone through or are currently in the midst of divorce, we’d love to hear from you. What’s the worst piece of divorce advice you received? What “words of wisdom” do you wish you had ignored?
Whether you are considering a divorce, already navigating it, or are recovering from its upheaval, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do IT alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and divorce recovery. Experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free, 15-minute consultation to hear perspective, next steps and the best resources that will honor your life and who you are meant to be.
This article was authored for the all-women website SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.
*At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.