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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Divorcing Friends While Divorcing...

“A bridge has no allegiance to either side.”
― Les Coleman


A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook friends to help me by sharing some subject matter they would like me to delve into. Well, all I can say is, “Ask and you shall receive!” Not only did I receive suggestions in abundance but all of the topics were of quality. While many of the subjects I had opinion on (and will definitely write about over time), the one I chose to start with hit so close to home that it made sense for me to start here…

My friend asked, “How do we deal with (or carry on friendships with) our friends who go through divorce (or brake up), especially if we were close to both parties involved? Do you pick sides? Should we keep in touch with both parties? This subject came about again last night over drinks with some friends. We all have friends or know of people that have gone through this. What do you say Mrs? What’s your experience? I will keep (my experience) to post later in response to your future post :-)”

I’ve always believed that you should never come between, involve yourself in, or offer any strong advice to anyone else’s relationships. This includes while they’re together, if they’re having a disagreement, or are even on the verge of divorcing (or breaking up). The words I’ve always lived by and believe in strongly are, “Never say anything that you wouldn’t say if their partner had died.” Meaning, don’t be quick to bash either side. No matter where they are in the course of the relationship, always show respect. For me, in order to be a true friend, regardless of whose friend I am (or was friends with first); the object is to stay neutral. That includes no bashing, while being a confidant. I feel that this is the best way to handle conflict in your friends’ relationship. Separation and divorce are not nice happenings, no matter what the surrounding circumstances may be... You don't want to compound the injury and add to the unpleasantness by voicing your opinion or taking sides, in a time where both parties are dealing with turmoil. Even more important for me however, is that I always keep in mind the possibility of them getting back together (which happens more time than none). Who will look like the absolute jackass in that situation??? I’m definitely not putting myself in that position…

Disputes, whether minor or major, are so personal and complicated. Even when you are the best confidant a friend can have, you need to always remember a few things. The most important thing is that there are 3 sides to every story. Both parties will have a side, and then there will be what actually happened. No matter what went down, it’s not up to you to determine the truth.

I actually just lost a good friend during a couple’s separation. I guess I didn’t step up to the plate enough for her, according to the prerequisites and criteria she had laid out in the “being a good friend when shit falls apart” handbook… Although I did meet her first and we were great friends, I couldn’t go along with the constant low-blows and negative comments made about him, that would surface in all of our conversations. Yes, he cheated on her. Yes, he treated her wrong. And yes, while I agreed on upon whom the blame was to be (for the demise of their relationship); I refuse to be a bashing cheerleader. People make mistakes. People end up hurting each other intentionally or unintentionally, so I refuse to be placed in the middle and pointed in one direction. Remember, there are 3 sides to each story. There are reasons for every action and there are underlying feelings that don’t totally go away, even when you are at you angriest!
I tried to remain neutral, while agreeing and telling both of them what I felt about the situation and how they got there. I also refuse to not be involved in a friendship with her husband. My friend didn’t like that I would help babysit the kids when it was his turn to have them, she would ask me to have a talk with him and tell him how bad of a man he was. The end came when my sister-in-law was having a big party for my brother’s 50th birthday. As she knows them too, she wanted to invite them both. My conversation with my friend went south real quick… I said, “They want to invite you guys as they feel uncomfortable taking sides but want to make sure you guys would be okay to be in the same room. What do you think?” Her response was, “Well you guys are adults. I can’t tell you what to do! I don’t understand why you would want to invite him; everybody is showing him support and caring about him, but what about me? I’m the one who got screwed…blah blah blah. You guys do what you have to do!” 

That was it for me. I realized that she wouldn’t be happy until the day I stood next to her and chanted how much of a loser he was and gave him the icy, cold shoulder. She wouldn’t be happy until I carefully plotted with her on how to reduce him to a pile of dog poop. To put things in context for you guys, we are not talking about a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship here; something like a little month old relationship. No, we are talking about years together before marriage and years together during marriage. We are talking about two beautiful kids, and we are talking about a history before me and probably beyond me. She wanted me to support her side completely and without question and while I did, I wasn’t willing to badger him, which at the end wasn’t enough for her. I do regret losing her as a friend, but it was inevitable… I didn’t want to end up ping-ponging between them and getting caught up in the drama and hurt. At some point they got back together, separated, got back together and again separated - proving my point that I would’ve been the one on the out anyways…

So for me, the best advice in the world is to mind my own business. Separation, arguments and divorces are very personal; regardless if you believe you were given all and truthful details. Don't get between them! Don't get involved even if you’re invited. People have killed each other before, during, and after a divorce. Don't play counsellor, don't play healer. The absolute best thing you can be is a friend - someone who will be there to listen and to hold their hand, but also someone who knows when to withdraw. Some will appreciate it and some won’t, in this case she didn’t. People change as they grow. Feelings change and goals in life change. Just don't take sides. Love and respect them for the people they are and the relation they once had…

What about you guys, how do you feel friends should handle themselves in this situation? Should it be “ride or die” no matter what or like me, no sides should be taken?
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