We all turn to family and friends when going through difficult times in our lives, but as a Long Island divorce lawyer, I have seen that some of the best of intentions can go horribly wrong during your divorce.
We’ve all grown up hearing that family and friends are the ones who are there through thick and thin. These well-intended love ones will want to be, and usually are, a shoulder for you to cry on. During an extremely stressful time such as a divorce, they may even offer what they think is the best advice on a variety of topics ranging from where to get a cheap divorce, divorce attorney reviews, child custody, father’s rights, and even (what they believe to be) their own free legal advice.
At first you may find this comforting that they are sharing in your pain with you. However there will come a time, likely sooner rather than later, where you need to be alone with your own thoughts, feelings, and understanding of the situation to figure out the proper next step for you and your spouse. No two relationships are the same and so too, no two divorces should be the same. Letting another couple’s divorce experience color yours is not fair to you, your spouse or your children and will likely complicate matters and add to your family’s stress level.
What Do You Say To Well-Meaning Friends & Family?
How do you tell these loved ones that while you appreciate their help, you would rather discuss the upcoming PTA meeting or monthly Sunday brunch than your impending divorce?
1. Tell them the conflicting opinions are confusing you: The last thing your loves ones want to do is be the cause of your stress and emotional discomfort. While one friend might be in your left ear telling you to keep things amicable and give your spouse half of everything, another might be in your right ear telling you that your spouse does not deserve even a penny. Both are trying to help, but the two extremely different opinions can cause your mind to race at a time when your thoughts are already all over the map. Just tell them this is a decision you need to make for yourself, in consultation with your divorce attorney. If they truly have your best interests at heart, they will understand.
2. Make sure they know there are two sides to every story: No one likes to take fault in a divorce, and naturally your friends and family are going to see your spouse as the wrongdoer regardless of the facts of the situation. This may bother you or not, depending upon your unique situation. If it does, there is nothing wrong with telling your family and friends that while you are upset over the divorce, you do not hate your spouse. They may not understand this sentiment, but it is also hard for people to understand something with which they were not personally involved. The spouse bashing may lead you to feel animosity toward your friends or family, and these can have long-lasting implications for your future relationship. It’s difficult to forget what someone says about someone you once loved. So, for the sake of your relationships with your friends and family, try not to let it get to that point.
3. Remind them that all marriages, and therefore all divorces, are different and unique: You may be offered advice based on their experience, or even the experience of your friend’s cousin’s neighbor. However your relationship, and therefore your divorce, is not the same as the forty-eight year old mother of three in Westchester or the twenty-two year old who married her high school sweetheart on the day they graduated college. Your marriage is your marriage, and your divorce is your divorce. What worked for those they have heard stories about may not necessarily work for you and your spouse.
4. This is not an episode of Law and Order: The most damning thing your friends and family may do is provide you with what they believe to be legal advice. You may have that one friend who spends every Sunday on the couch watching Law and Order reruns and now thinks they know every law in New York State. Remind them that while you appreciate their desire to help and offer you guidance, you are going to listen to the legal advice of your divorce attorney. If you wish to soften the blow, simply tell them how complex divorce litigation can be, and that with all the intricacies of New York divorce law you would rather just get all the information from one source than piecemeal from two or three.
5. Suggest other things to do: Your friends may hear divorce and automatically go into safe mode. If you are a woman, they may assume you want to stay home and lay in bed, if you are a man, they may assume you want late nights filled with drinking and clubs. If that is not the case, make sure to tell them. Many people do not know the best way to act when a loved one is going through something they themselves have never experienced. The best way for them to know how to make you feel better is by telling them or showing them. They will likely follow your emotional lead, and if they see the things you are doing to make yourself feel better they are likely to plan similar activities.
An important thing to remember is that your friends and family are trying to help. As difficult as this is for you, your friends and family feel for you and are trying to help, but may not always know the best way to do that. It’s awkward for them, so do not be too hard on them, but remember that you have to protect yourself and your children first and foremost. You’ll want to preserve and protect these relationships because at the end of your Long Island divorce, they will be the ones who are there for you.
Have Questions About Divorce? Compassionate Long Island Divorce Lawyers Are Here to Help
The experienced and compassionate Long Island divorce lawyers at Robert E. Hornberger, Esq., PC can help you sort out the conflicting advice you may be receiving and chart a course for your divorce that works for you and your family. Contact us today at 631-923-1910 or fill out the short form on this page for a complimentary divorce consultation.