Dear Carolyn: I am in the midst of an acrimonious breakup after a 13-year relationship, but not marriage. He is living in his new apartment, but he has not moved out — he still has keys to our/my house, which I owned before our relationship. I'm working with a lawyer, who has advised me against changing the locks.
Yet I can't tell you how many friends are questioning my judgment. I hear "just kick the bum out," "kick him to the curb," "change the locks and never talk to him again." When I tell them of the legal advice I've received, they second-guess it. Or are they second-guessing me? They assume that since there is no marriage, it is as easy as breaking up in high school.
Yet my lawyer assures me the law could interpret 13 years in many ways. I'm fragile and hurt. And I'm very tired of being told what I am doing is wrong by friends who have no legal knowledge. Any suggestions on how to respond? I'm getting angrier. Or should I listen to this overwhelming chorus?
— Getting Angrier
Getting Angrier: “For non-lawyers, you all have a lot of opinions on the law.” Or: “I have a lawyer, thanks.”
Then, nothing else. Change the subject, walk away, leave, etc.
I’m really sorry your friends are adding to your pain instead of helping to relieve it. If you’ve noticed any friends who haven’t jumped on the advice wagon, or if there are some you know to be reasonable, then talk to them one-on-one to let them know this is wearing on you and you’d be really grateful for a friend or three who will just listen and/or trust that you’re doing your best.
Re: Keys: Your lawyer's advice puts you at physical risk. Consider getting a lawyer who understands this. Your safety is the top priority.
Hi, Carolyn: I've been thinking of taking a wine class, something I've wanted to do for years, but I'm paralyzed by the prospect of actually DOING it. I keep thinking, what if everyone else there is already an experienced oenophile? What if they're all already friends and I'm the odd man out? I don't usually experience this kind of anxiety about trying new things, but I have a lot riding on this — recent divorce, death of very close friend, trying to rebuild my former social life — and maybe my expectations are just too high.
Paralyzed: Actually, you have no more riding on this now than ever before. It’s just a class. It’s just wine. And worst case, it’s just feeling out of place for an hour or so.
Now it just feels as if there’s more riding on it. And that’s valid, because you feel it, but it’s still dread of an imagined outcome, which is two detours off reality. Your future happiness does not depend on this class. Your fondness for or access to wine doesn’t even depend on it, mercifully.
It might help to call the instructor beforehand, to introduce yourself and say you have some newbie concerns. That’s what I did when I balked at starting yoga, worried I’d be the lone breadstick in a roomful of noodles. (I went, I managed, I’m still not even al dente.)