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Sick to Death of All the Advice

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Dear Sally
Weekly Advice Straight From The Horse’s Mouth.

Dear Sally,

I’m in the middle of a pretty messy divorce. I have two kids and I’m really scared about how this is all affecting them, as well as how the custody arrangements are going to go. In addition to all this stress, I feel like my friends and family don’t really understand what I’m going through. I’m getting tons of “advice” from my still married friends. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I don’t think they have any idea what I’m going through. Even worse, some of the advice is really hurtful. I’ve been told things like: your kids will never be the same after this, are you SURE you and your husband can’t work it for the sake of the children, etc. This is crippling to me because of course these are all my own fears around this divorce. And yet I know this is the best thing for both him and me. How do I shut down these outside voices in a polite way?

Thanks in advance, Sick to Death of All the Advice

Dear Sick,

First of all, I’m very sorry to hear about your divorce. The splitting up of any relationship is painful. In the horse herd, we sometimes go through this as well. New horses come in, old horses leave, friendships that were once solid shift and change. It’s never easy. But what certainly makes your situation harder is all the opinion that you’re being given. It would be helpful for you to think about it like that too. You’re not receiving advice. You’re receiving OPINIONS. Advice is at least meant to be helpful. Opinions are just what’s true for someone else. The worst part about opinions is that they very often come from people who have not walked a mile in your shoes.

Here’s the thing about shutting down those opinions. You don’t have to be continually polite about it. I’m not suggesting you take people’s heads off. But I do suggest you give them a serious pinned ear, curled lip type of warning that you are not open to what they’re about to say. A well-timed line along these lines may help: “You know, I’m already walking through a lot of pain in this divorce. I’m not really open to your opinion about how it’s affecting my children. They are well-loved and well take care of.” And then simply change the subject or walk away.

As the brilliant author Brene Brown says: “If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” It would do you well to print this out and look at it about 500 times a day. Seek counsel from other people who have walked through a divorce, or the end of a relationship. Seek counsel from grown children whose parents were divorced so you can learn how to navigate this tricky territory. And most importantly, take what you like and leave the rest behind.

I’m sending you lots of love Sick. It sounds like you’re really walking through it right now. But you’ll come out the other side and as long as you stay true to what is real for you, you’ll be on the other side of the arena.

Love, Sally