Everyone – absolutely everyone – will have advice for you about weathering the end of your relationship. Aside from parenting, there is probably no other topic that everyone thinks they are an expert on!
Everyone knows someone with a separation or divorce story and. All the war stories will come out when you tell people you have separated. You may hear about your friend’s aunt’s horrible divorce. You might be warned about how your neighbour’s friend was screwed by her ex and his lawyer. Your friend at pilates will tell you all about how another friend got an order against her ex and you’d better get on to things like she did.
You will seek out some of this advice. Other advice will be given, whether you asked for it or not.
Most of the advice is well meaning and comes from a place of caring so surely you should take on board this advice? Not so fast. Sometimes all this advice can be more harmful than good for you.
How you respond IN YOUR HEAD to the advice can be a real kicker. You can get yourself completely wound in knots and overwhelmed by all the advice-
advice that scares you,
advice that is wrong,
advice that is intended for a unique situation but is given as general, “apply-all” advice,
advice that reinforces an incorrect view or perception you may hold…
Friends and family will want to be your cheerleaders. For many of them, it will be hard to separate their own fears or experiences from yours. For others, their love for you will mean they are not able to look at things from a neutral perspective. Many will tell you what you want to hear, not necessarily what you need to hear.
Here’s a fun fact – when you are amid a stressful situation (like right now), your amygdala (a tiny part of our brains that can cause huge, internal chaos) triggers your “fight or flight” response. It actually CREATES FEAR in you because, in our caveman days, we needed that fear to run from an imminent threat. Nowadays, rather than having you run from a sabre tooth tiger, your amygdala fills your brain with fearful, anxious chatter.
The good news is, firstly, much of that 'amygdala chatter' is of fears that are completely unreal or that need not be as large as they seem. Secondly, you can CONTROL this amygdala chatter. For now, though, just imagine all that amygdala chatter going on inside your stressed head and then you pile on a whole heap of advice from friends and family, much of which will just feed your busy, fearful, nervous, chattering amygdala! How awful is that going to be for you?
We all need support but that is different from advice. When advice is given, we need to activate our most discerning, smart-&-savvy-woman, filters. So, when your friends, family, hairdresser, ex (yes, your ex!) start to dispense advice to you, ask yourself: Is this advice…
…Wanted? – Ever noticed how others just assume you want advice and they give it without first offering or checking you want it?
…Asked for? Have you ever found yourself in a discussion with someone about a problem you have and they start offering solutions and you find yourself feeling frustrated and upset because you didn't want solutions, you just wanted someone to listen to your problem? If you didn’t ask for the advice, chances are you weren’t looking for advice but for something else, like a shoulder to cry on or an opportunity to just vent safely. Be clear about what it is you are looking for from the other person and ask for that.
…Serving your wellbeing? Remember your poor amygdala? Is hearing this advice right now, no matter how well intentioned, simply going to feed your worries, fears and anxious amygdala chatter or is this advice positively calming things down?
…Well intentioned? What is the advice giver’s motivation? Usually, the advice will be coming from a place of care for you. However, sometimes (particularly in the case of ‘advice’ from your ex or someone who is not neutral), there may be another intention behind it.
…An experience that needn’t be mine? Does this person’s experience or story of separation need to be mine or can I create an alternative experience for myself?
…Realistic to me? Is the situation described similar to yours? Is the advice simply echoing what you want to hear (not, perhaps, what you need to hear)? Does the advice tap into your existing fears? Is there an alternative explanation?
(You can easily remember these filtering questions by remembering “WASWAR” (Wanted, Asked for, Serving, Well Intentioned, Alternative Experience, Realistic to me) – kind of apt because a lot of the advice you get will be war stories!
If the answer to these questions results in a “No” then politely shut the advice down as quickly as possible, change the subject or indicate what it is you actually need in that moment.
Was this useful? If you think a friend could do with this, share the love and forward this to them! What would you like to know about managing co-parenting on separation? Do let me know by messaging me on Facebook or over on Facebook in The Divorce Lighthouse Group.