Sometimes, when there isn’t a perfectly clean solution to a problem, I find the simplest question helps break the impasse: which is worse? To stay in an unhappy relationship for another month and see if things get better, or call it quits now? To hang on in a miserable job situation to see if it will improve, or to make a change and try something new? To remain silent on an issue to keep the peace or speak up and try to have your perspective understood?
The way I may answer these questions is not necessarily how most people would, so what I have learned over time is to warn people that a person’s advice is always going to be tainted by his/her own experience. Personally, my history proves that I will leave an unhappy relationship; I will always look for a better job if I am dissatisifed with my current situation; and I will speak my mind. I am independant, assertive and full of opinions– but not everyone is built this way, and while I usually make decisions at lightening speed, others operate on their own timeframe.
By observing my clients all these years, I have learned that most people are quite afraid of change. Many tried to take the path of least resistance and have admitted to staying in unhappy marriages for ages because they did not want to upset the apple cart– better to stay with the devil you know versus the one you don’t know. But I wonder this– what if they asked themselves, which is worse: 1) to start dating again in your 40’s or in your 50’s?; 2)to model for a child an intact, but unhappy family unit or to have them go between two homes with much happier parents?; 3) to end a marriage sooner and reduce the risks of claims to longer alimony or greater stakes in marital property, or keep the status quo and have these claims grow stronger?
Ultimately, each person has to decide what course of action to take in his/her own life, and when my clients doubt my opinion, I encourage them to go get a second opinion. This is standard operating procedure in the medical field, and it should be just as standard in the legal profession. I give second opinions all the time– especially when someone is debating a settlement agreement versus going to trial. This moment is exactly where that key question of which is worse needs to be answered– and not by someone’s friends, who have only heard one side of the story all along, but rather by an expert with over a decade of experience in these matters.