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The Greek Chorus Phenomenon in Divorce

Bad divorce advice from well meaning friends and relatives
One of the perverse things that appear to characterize most divorces is what I have come to call the Greek Chorus phenomenon. The Greek chorus is an ancient dramatic device in which some group, often off stage, is forever warning one of the actors about terrible events that are about to befall him. In divorce, both partners inevitably attract a well meaning but woefully ignorant group of people who offer advice about how they should manage their divorce. Such notable experts as your hairdresser, manicurist, drinking buddy, co-worker, sister and other assorted friends and relatives all pretend that they are expert enough to give advice. Their expertise is drawn from TV programs, bad movies, worse books and magazine articles and perhaps their own divorces or those of their friends and family. But the problem is that very few of your advisors know anything about the real world of divorce. They all tend to assume that divorce has to be an ugly war of attrition in which you should be prepared to fight. They also assume that your spouse is out to cheat you and do you out of what is rightfully yours. The most common advice they give is to fight, to assume the worst and to get to the bank before your wife empties the bank account.


Avoiding Bad Divorce Advice
Steer clear of friends who stir up trouble in a divorce

I almost never hear about friends who counsel you that the divorce can be managed with decency and civility, that you should act gently and generously and that you should demonstrate peaceful intentions rather than hostile behavior. For some reason amateur advisors seem to get strange pleasure getting you agitated and warlike. Perhaps it’s their appetite for soap opera. But whatever the reason, it is most destructive.

Head of Nike (Ii Century Ad), Agora Museum, Athens, Greece

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Who Needs to Hear About Your Divorce
And who should be encouraged to stay out of your divorce

The implication is that you not discuss your divorce with anyone but professionals. Discuss it with your counselor, your mediator, your lawyer, financial planner or accountant. But don’t discuss it with your relatives, friends or co-workers. If one of them brings it up thank them for their interest and support, assure them you are getting all the advice you need and politely decline the offer of a free consultation. This particularly applies to your own parents, whose protective instincts may motivate them to join a battle that may not yet exist and is probably unnecessary. If you have children you should tell your parents that this is a time when their grandchildren could use some extra attention and encourage them to maintain a warm relationship with your wife. It is sad when we see grandparents squander the goodwill of a former daughter-in-law or son-in-law because they have become embroiled in a battle in which they do not belong.

Greece: Wrestlers
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Establish Healthy Boundaries When Discussing Your Divorce
Welcome emotional support, but avoid unwanted divorce advice

The suggestion made here is not always easy to implement. At the beginning of a divorce most people are frightened and apprehensive. They worry that they will be victimized by their spouse and they worry about the kids, the money, the house and how they are going to make it. And because they have heard the same tales about nightmare divorce they often assume that such a divorce lies in store for them. So it is not surprising that you seek solace with your close friends and relatives. And there is no problem with that so long as you establish the necessary boundaries between emotional support and unsolicited advice.
About Sam Marguilies

Sam Margulies, Ph.D., is one of the most experienced mediators in the United States. Since 1980, he has mediated hundreds of civil disputes and approximately three thousand divorces including many complex multi-million dollar matters.

Nationally-Renowned Mediation Trainer

Since 1983, Dr. Margulies been engaged in training divorce mediators and has conducted civil mediation training programs. In 1983, he became president of the New Jersey Council on Divorce Mediation and designed the first hands-on training program in which trainers mediated divorces under direct observation and supervision of faculty. In 1990, Dr. Margulies became director of the Institute for Dispute Resolution of the Seton Hall Law School. He has taught graduate courses in mediation at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and has provided specialized training programs in negotiation and mediation to corporations and educational systems.

Professional Memberships:

Sam Marguiles has been a member of the following professional organizations.
American Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution
New Jersey Bar Association Section on Dispute Resolution
North Carolina Bar Association
Practitioner member, North Carolina Association of Family Mediators
Practitioner member and one of three original Founders of the Academy of Family Mediators
Associate member, New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators
American Arbitration Association Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution

J.D. Rutgers Law School
Ph.D. Political Science, University of Oregon
M.A. International Relations, New York University
B.S. Psychology, New York University

Other ADR Experience

Dr. Margulies has served as arbitrator in numerous cases for the American Arbitration Association as well as in numerous matters contracted directly by the parties.

He developed New Jersey’s first divorce arbitration program in 1990 and has served as arbitrator in numerous divorces.

He has also provided negotiation coaching for businesses and individuals.

From 1978-1986, he was engaged in private practice in law and served as negotiator for innumerable contracts and settlements.


Sam’s office is located in Greensboro, North Carolina, just one hour from Raleigh and Charlotte. He regularly sees clients in his office, as well as through telemediation. Visit SamMargulies.com

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