Be Smart, Not Sorry: Who Are You Listening To?

JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator, Mediation Coach, Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

If you are going through a divorce, you may have noticed that everyone you talk with has an opinion about your situation. It can be comforting to listen to the well-meaning comments of friends, family, and neighbors and easy to take their advice to heart. Unfortunately, making decisions based on the casual comments of friends and family can lead to missteps and poor judgment as you navigate through the complexities of the divorce process.

As you gather divorce information, here are some points to keep in mind:

Selective Sharing. When people talk about their own divorce experiences or relate what they know about the experiences of others, it’s common for them to have selective memory. They typically recall only parts of a story, sharing details that support their own point of view. These lapses distort what might have been helpful information had the account been more objective and factual. When people talk, listen for kernels that resonate for you, but beware that you may not be getting the full story.

Your Case is Unique. While most divorcing couples can expect to face similar issues such as the equitable division of assets and liabilities and co-parenting responsibilities, each divorce has elements that are unique to the couple’s specific situation. What worked for your co-worker or your neighbor may sound good, but it may be inappropriate and counterproductive for you. It can be difficult for a divorcing individual to make this distinction. Many spouses, in fact, approach a negotiation armed with steadfast ideas that are based on how much alimony their best friend got or how much child support their golf buddy paid. These rigid ideas, usually based on skewed and incomplete “facts” about the other person’s case, serve only to sabotage the negotiation between the couple, distorting perceptions and expectations about what is fair and reasonable in their particular situation.

Accepting Advice. Not only are divorcing individuals offered a steady stream of advice from well-meaning friends, they are also presented with extensive and frequently complex information from divorce professionals. It should be obvious that opinions from non-professionals should be weighed carefully so that misinformation doesn’t cloud your thinking and distort your decision-making. But it is also necessary to give some thought to the advice given to you by lawyers and financial experts. Are there things you have been told that you don’t understand or that instinctively don’t make sense to you? Protect yourself by speaking up: ask the professional for an explanation in layman’s terms so that you understand the rationale behind the advice, how it will be beneficial to you, and/or how it will affect your case.

Internet Information. Google is a wonder and an endless source of information. The caveat emptor, however, is to never assume that web content is totally accurate or appropriate for the specifics of your case. The Internet is a great starting place for fundamental information and terminology, but always check with a divorce professional about how your research applies to your particular set of circumstances.

As you move through the divorce process, one of your primary goals should be to protect yourself. With that in mind, it is smart to proceed with caution when talking about divorce with friends and family. It is also wise to ensure that you clearly understand the advice being given to you by divorce professionals. A successful divorce outcome depends on clarity and factual information, not confusion and hearsay.

This article is the second in the “Be Smart, Not Sorry” series about successfully dealing with divorce. “Be Smart, Not Sorry” articles are available at Please feel free to direct comments and/or questions to JoAnne Donner at 770-842-9400 or at

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Be Smart, Not Sorry: Are You Lost In Your Story?

JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator, Mediation Coach, Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

Divorce is about the business of making financial and family decisions. It is also about emotions: stabbing insecurities that sneak up in the middle of the night, recurring regrets that haunt you during the day and, for many, crushing anguish and anger that deflate your spirit.

Many people relieve this emotional onslaught by repeatedly telling the story of their troubled marriage to whoever will listen.   Let’s face it: fifty percent of us have been through the turmoil of divorce and know firsthand that talking to someone can be comforting. The red flags, however, are not being selective in who you talk to and how often you repeat the same marital details. It is also a point of concern if, rather than making a decision about your future, you, instead, tell the same tired story year in and year out to friends, family, neighbors, and divorce professionals. As a divorce coach, I have met with clients who tell me they have been sharing the story of their deep unhappiness and resentment for years and, sometimes, decades.

But what is so bad about “just talking?” How is it self-defeating? If you are in the midst of divorce proceedings, getting lost in endless conversation about the dramatic details of your marital discord robs you of the energy and focus you need to make wise decisions – decisions that can create security for yourself and your children.   If you are weighing the pros and cons of seeking divorce, it emphasizes the nagging frustrations and disappointments rather than the practical information you need to make an informed decision about your future.

There are also other landmines in “getting lost in your story.” Randomly revealing pertinent details about your troubled marriage, such as sexual or financial infidelity or issues with addiction and/or abuse, may unexpectedly backfire, shifting you from a position of strength to one of weakness. This includes conversations with people who are not highly-trusted confidantes as well as to careless posts on social media.

Getting lost in your story is also counterproductive when dealing with divorce professionals.   Visions Anew Institute, an Atlanta-based non-profit that supports individuals going through divorce, stresses the team approach to dealing with divorce, pointing to the importance of legal and financial experts, as well as the contributions of therapists and coaches. Telling your story to a therapist and/or a divorce coach makes sense; sharing the drama of your situation repeatedly with a lawyer or a CPA is expensive and unproductive. It drains your coffers and cuts into valuable time that could and should be spent on legal and financial details and a strategy for creating a successful outcome and secure future.

If you are going through a divorce or contemplating one, choose your listeners wisely and self-monitor the content and repetitive nature of your conversation. Your goal should be to bolster, not drain, your ability to focus on the pragmatic, business decisions that can determine your future. Getting lost in your story is easy to do; the smart thing, however, is to step back and determine if you are stuck on that dead-end path. If so, reach out and create a team that supports you – the professionals you need to understand the legal and financial aspects of your situation and therapeutic and coaching assistance to help you shift from emotional overwhelm to emotional balance. It’s in your power to stop the chatter and begin building a satisfying and fulfilling future.

This article is the first in the Be Smart, Not Sorry series about successfully dealing with divorce. Be Smart, Not Sorry articles are available at Please feel free to direct comments and/or questions to JoAnne Donner at 770-842-9400 or at

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