In a Divorce, Who Is in Your Circle of Influences?

When people see those they love and care about going through a tumultuous marital breakup, they want to help. Really, they do. In the end, however, they are quite likely to cause more damage than good. Unsolicited advice can come from your parents, your siblings, your ex’s family, your extended family, your friends, and professional associates. Even hairstylists have been known to weigh in. Some people going through a divorce will not make a move without consulting their mother or business partner or best friend. That is all well and good, but it only works as long as you are leading the parade, not them!

See if any of the following types of people fit into your circle of influences.

The meddlers:

These individuals may have the best intentions, but they often cause more grief than good. It could be the mother-in-law who wants to meet for lunch to discuss what she thinks will be best for your children, or the business partner who tries to persuade you to meet with him or her to talk over giving up your interest in your spouse’s company. Perhaps it is an uncle who has been through a divorce and thinks he knows the ropes. Listen to these people, but the trick is to not allow them to control you or make your decisions for you. You might smile appreciatively, but keep the steering wheel firmly in your own hands.

The troublemakers:

These people seem to pounce when you least expect it, trying to wreak more havoc than already exists. This could be your mother, who decides she will go after your ex herself, and finally put him in his place. It could also be your assistant, the one you thought you could trust, who is suddenly involved in a “he said, she said” dynamic, acting as the go-between for you and your ex when you are too busy or too angry to speak to one another. Try to anticipate or block the Troublemaker from entering your divorce sphere, because the clean-up could take years and prove extremely costly. Troublemakers love control. In fact, they thrive on it. Remember: this divorce is your drama, not theirs.

The pot stirrers:

These folks can take trouble making to a new level. Not only do they create a problem, they keep stirring it up. The pot stirrer might be a brother or sister who makes harassing phone calls to your ex, or it could be your ex’s sister who lunges at any opportunity to tear you down in front of your children. These people seem to thrive on upping the ante, stimulated by the power they wield. Steer clear of the pot stirrer, or humor them. Never fall into their traps — the climb out will feel like a trek up Mount Everest.

The neutrals:

Also known as the “hands off-ers,” these individuals can be more helpful than you may think. They include parents who let you know they are in your corner, but refuse to get involved in any of your squabbles. The friends who let you know they won’t take sides are part of this group and may be demonstrating more loyalty than you think. The business associates who support you in handling your own affairs are also considered Neutrals. Keep these people in your corner.

The supporters:

This group makes up your staunchest allies. You know who they are: they listen intently, comfort you when you have an “I cannot cope day,” don’t judge you, and keep their personal opinions to themselves. If they do provide advice, it is sage advice. They refrain from bad-mouthing the other side, instead keeping you focused on the right path. Take comfort in knowing that everyone usually has at least one supporter in his or her circle, and quite possibly more. Be cautious, since sometimes meddlers, pot-stirrers and troublemakers will attempt to pass themselves off as supporters.

While all of these people may mean well, they can create added strife and discord in an already tenuous situation. If you are going through a divorce, surround yourself with only those you consider trusted confidantes — and yes, among them there might be a mother or father. Listen to those you respect, but never let them control you. Curate your circle of influences with care.

This article is excerpted from Divorce: It’s All About Control; How to Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars by Stacy D. Phillips.

Stacy D. Phillips is a Certified Family Law Specialist licensed by the State Bar of California’s Board of Specialization. Recognized as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Los Angeles Law” by the Los Angeles Business Journal and selected by Super Lawyers as one of the “Top 10 Southern California Super Lawyers,” Stacy is the founder and Managing Principal of Phillips Lerner ALC, a pre-eminent family law firm in Los Angeles, California.

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