Spending the past 3 ½ years giving divorce advice on Divorced Girl Smiling doesn’t make me an expert, just a person who got divorced giving my opinion, along with empathy, non-sugar-coated honesty and some lighthearted humor. A reader just described me as someone who “offers a pat on the back, along with a good kick in the butt.” I’d say that’s pretty accurate.
While I was going through my divorce and dating afterwards, and during the past few years in the comment section of Divorced Girl Smiling, others have offered divorce advice. A lot of readers give great insight, very intelligent recommendations and useful tips. But I’ve also received what is in my opinion very, very, very bad divorce advice. Here are the highlights—10 pieces of the worst divorce advice I’ve heard:
1. The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. I’ve never liked this phrase. What it is basically saying is, don’t take time to grieve, just jump into something else to put a Band-Aid on your broken heart. Even worse, jump into casual sex so you can feel empty and even more sad. The thing is, I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to be a saint, and I do think new relationships take our minds off stressful and scary problems we have in life, but I think people need time to process what happened before jumping into a relationship. There is no timeframe, it is different for everyone. But for the most part, you don’t get over someone in a divorce by becoming involved with someone else. And regarding the casual sex, there is no worse way to lower already very low self-esteem, (which is low due to the fact that you are going through a divorce).
2. Wait at least a year before dating after divorce. After what I just said in point #1, it might appear that I am contradicting myself. Here’s why I’m not. Most people going through a divorce have been unhappy and felt alone/lonely for a long, long time. In other words, they didn’t just wake up and decide to get divorced. The problems most likely began years earlier. So, what are some reasons people date? For companionship, friendship, fun… and isn’t that perfect for someone in this situation? Should a person sit home alone and think about the divorce until the one-year mark? Definitely not. If they choose to do so that is completely understandable. But no one should tell someone how long to wait before dating after divorce.
3. Don’t let your ex-wife (or ex-husband) into your home. Not only is this driving home the point that you are bitter and angry and resentful and childish, but you are greatly affecting your children if you shut the door to your new place on your ex. Don’t you think your kids want to show the other parent where they are sleeping? (Especially young kids.) I think it’s really really sick to let your bitterness and hatred affect the kids in this way. It says a lot about a person.
4. Don’t date until you are officially divorced. People who judge others for dating before their divorce papers are signed are ridiculous. They are usually married (have not gone through a divorce) so they don’t understand that every case is different. Some people separate because they want to try being apart. Some people separate and feel like they are already divorced at that point. The only thing I would suggest is being honest when dating, and telling someone you are not technically divorced.
5. Act like you aren’t interested and it will make a guy more attracted to you. This might be good advice if you are in middle school, but games don’t work in dating after divorce or when older. I find that most people over 40 appreciate honesty and authenticity. I also find that if the situation is right, and you act interested in someone, he or she will actually be more interested in you.
6. Don’t ever get married again. This divorce advice almost always comes from married people who have never gone through a divorce, who also say, “If I ever got divorced, I’d never get married again.” To which I reply, “Every married person says that.” Also, I think some people who give this advice are unhappily married and wish they were you. I truly believe in happy endings and fairytales, and if you are the type of person who enjoyed marriage and monogamy, then I say go for it, but only if the situation and the person feels right. No fooling yourself this time!
7. Move on and stop feeling sorry for yourself. People going through a divorce need time to process and grieve and accept and heal. Part of that is having a few pity parties. You are fully entitled. Be angry that it happened to you. Be devastated. Be really upset. You can even play the victim (but only for a short time.) Feeling sorry for yourself is part of the grieving process in divorce, and if you go through that, you will start to be able to move on. Moving on is a lot easier said than done. There are certain aspects of my divorce that I just recently realized after 9 years that I hadn’t moved on from until recently. Moving on is different for everyone. When you do it is up to you.
8. Anger is for losers. This was the title of a blog post I wrote a long time ago. I completely disagree with myself. Over the years I have grown and realized that anger is actually healthy. It’s OK to be completely pissed off by what happened. Feel it. This way you can accept and be at peace with it. Just don’t hold onto it for too long. At some point, it needs to be let go.
9. You’re not getting any younger, you need to meet someone and you need to treat it like a full time job. The only part about this divorce advice that is accurate is the first part. I’m aging. Yikes. But why does a person who is dating after divorce need to meet someone? We don’t. Finding love again should be looked at as a blissful gift that might have been unexpected and is certainly appreciated. But do we NEED to meet someone? Nope. This is a time in life to enjoy. If that includes falling in love and getting married again, great. If not, that should be OK too.
10. Happy endings are only for movies. Bullshit. I’ve seen enough real people who got divorced and are now really, really happy. It didn’t happen overnight, and the people probably really worked on themselves and made good decisions, didn’t rush into things. But fairytales are alive and well. Believe that. If you want it, you can have it too.
Jackie Pilossoph is the creator of her website, Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of her novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationship column, Love Essentially, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press. Pilossoph lives with her family in Chicago. Oh, and she’s divorced.