Carolyn Hax: For non-lawyers, friends have a lot of opinions on the law



(Adapted from a recent online discussion.)

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 moved out – he still has keys to our house, which I owned prior to 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 about legal advice I've received, they second-guess it. Or are they second-guessing me? They assume that there is no marriage, it is as easy to break 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

"For non-lawyers, you 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 about my friends. If you have noticed any friends who haven't jumped to your advice or talked to them about it, then talk to them about it. grateful for what you are 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.

– Anonymous

Hi Carolyn!

I've been thinking about wine, something I've been looking for, but I'm paralyzed by the prospect of actually DOING it. I keep thinking, what if everyone else there is an experienced oenophile? What if they're already friends and I'm the odd man out? I don't have any kind of anxiety about trying new things, but I have a lot of riding on this – recent divorce, death of very close friends, 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 like if there's more riding on it. And that's valid, because you feel it, but it's still 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.

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.)

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