How to Handle the Divorce "Shoulds"
By Susie and Otto Collins
Life can seem like a series of "shoulds."
You "should" eat at least 5 servings of vegetables a day.
You "should" study hard and get a higher education. You
"should" listen to your elders.
And the list could go on and
When you are in the midst of a divorce, a series of
"shoulds" might also emerge. This often takes the form of
well-meant advice from friends and family.
Sometimes the "shoulds" come not from advice, but from
beliefs that have been instilled in you from an early age.
You "should" put your children's needs first. You
"should" put as much distance between you and your
soon-to-be ex as possible.
You "should" look for diversions and start dating again. You
"should" wait and give yourself time before getting back
into the dating scene. And the
list does go on and on...
The trouble with all of these "shoulds" is that some of the
advice and beliefs could truly be helpful to you. Other
cautions and admonitions might not.
When you are already possibly feeling vulnerable, confused
and at a loss for what your next step "should" be, the words
of those you trust and care about can have a lot of power.
Those beliefs might even feel like the "best" thing to do
from a moral or ethical standpoint.
It might seem, to you, that you truly "should" do these
things in order to move through this divorce as easily as
Our advice to you is to listen to the "shoulds" that might
be thrown your way right now and DON'T act. Yes, we
encourage you to consider what those around you are saying.
Your friends and family love you and often have your best
interests at heart. Some of your friends and family also
might have been through a divorce and could have information
that you can learn from.
This doesn't, however, mean that you "should" do what they
say just because it is imperative from their perspective.
Ask yourself what YOU need.
As you move through this potentially difficult time your
life, it is really important that you listen to yourself.
As emotionally fragile as you might feel right now,
learning to trust your own knowing is vital-- even if it is
not in alignment with a "should."
Perhaps you're not practiced at tuning in to your own needs.
In fact, this might have contributed to the distance in past
If so, this is a great time to learn how to go within and
listen to your needs and internal wisdom.
Let's say that you feel like you "should" move out of the
house that you used to share with your ex.
Making a clean break with the past and getting out of the
environment that will only remind you of your ended marriage
just seems to you like what's done after a divorce.
This "should" might indeed be what you need right now.
But before you take steps to move, create some space for
yourself, go within and see what you want to do right now.
Don't worry so much about whether you'll want to live in
this same house for another year or another month. Just
check in about where you need to be at this moment.
Give most of your attention to what you determine your needs
to be right now.
Soften and consider all of your options.
You might already be chafing at all of the "shoulds" thrown
your way in the form of advice or even your own
It may even be that you are so sick of "shoulds," you close
down whenever any suggestion is offered.
This is understandable. If you find yourself in a hardened
and closed place, try to soften.
In the face of unwanted advice, request that those close to
you ask if you want a suggestion before they offer it.
When you do agree to listen to advice, really listen.
Know that you don't have to do anything-- but you might
consider it and then find it to be valuable and helpful for
As in our example above, you might discover that you want to
remain living in the same house you used to share with your
ex-- at least for now.
Taking a deep breath, you can soften and really listen as a
friend communicates his or her
concerns about you not moving.
You might even be able to appreciate this expression of love
and care for your well-being-- rather than chafe about the
person throwing "shoulds" at you.
From that place of appreciation and clarity about what you
want, you can see that the decision is up to you to make.
You may share with your friend-- and affirm to yourself--
that you want to live in the house for at least another
month and then see how you feel.
You might even tell the person that you can understand his
or her concerns and you are grateful for the love and
As you consider your options, remember that you always have
them. Your situation might feel severely limited at this
But, if you open up even just a little bit, you can almost
always find a possibility that you didn't see
Approaching your situation from a softened and more open
place can allow you to see options and then know more
clearly which direction you want to go.