You’re getting a divorce. In addition to the friends you brought into the relationship, you and your ex have made many friends together through your children’s activities, your jobs and the places you have volunteered. You both rely on their friendships to help with childcare and have established a social circle that meets both your needs. In addition, you have been talking to these friends about the difficulties you have been having in your marriage and want to be able to keep this support system. It has been so important for you to have close friends to talk to about all the things that have been difficult as your marriage is ending and you work on transitioning to your post-divorce family.
Sometimes the friends you have made are in a couple and have offered each of you the support you have asked for. It is likely they have talked with each other about the difficulties about which you have each confided in them. It may be that they feel they need to choose between the two of you now that a decision has been made to end your relationship. Although this is not necessarily the case, this is often a situation those divorcing find themselves in. It occurs most often when those divorcing are in conflict with each other.
This can sometimes be when the drama begins. Perhaps one of your friends has asked you to tell your ex she does not want to have contact with him anymore or that another friend will only allow his children to play with your children when they are in your care. While this might occur when there are allegations or experiences of substance abuse or domestic violence, it sometimes also occurs so people do not feel they are in the middle, trying to manage both relationships.
While this is not guaranteed, you can help your friends feel comfortable with maintaining a connection to both of you by being civil with each other. This not only helps the possibility of both of you maintaining those friendships, but also helps your children feel comfortable with those around them, by extension. Many children have reported the embarrassment they feel when their parents fight or are mean to each other either out loud or non-verbally when in public.
How do you feel when a friend asks you to “relay a message” to your ex? Does it help you feel justified in your angry feelings towards him or her? Would you like to protect your ex from the negativity of the people you thought were friends to both of you? Perhaps you cycle back and forth between both feelings depending on the day.
Whatever your inclination might be, it may be helpful to know that the relationship between your friend and your ex are their responsibility and not yours.
Your relationships with your friends are your own. If they wish to discontinue their relationship with your ex, they are free to have that conversation with him or her. If they believe they are supporting you by doing so and you feel otherwise, you can let them know. Your friend is free to have any conversation he or she would like to have with your ex about their friendship or lack of one, but you are not responsible for managing their relationship. They are. You may want to think about whether you have a need to be involved in their relationship and the problems that arise when you believe you are a conduit for the “good” or “bad” news from other people to your ex. You are not.
Because people will often feel they are being helpful or simply because people like to talk, relying mostly on the friends that are local may create an atmosphere, whether in a small town or in a neighborhood in a big town, where everyone might know and talk about more than either of you are comfortable with. One way to decrease the amount of “talk in town” is to confide in friends or family that lives somewhere else. It is important to have trusted people in your life to think with, cry with or vent with. If at all possible, choose those people who are not involved in you or children’s daily lives. It makes the possibility of having your divorce less of a public event.
© Copyright 2011 by Shendl Tuchman, PsyD. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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