Dealing with Your Friend’s Divorce
By: Beth McHugh 2006
You knew the marriage was a bit on the rocky side and had been for a long time. Or perhaps the news has just come out of the blue and you are shocked to the core. Either way, when your friends announce they are divorcing, be prepared for some shrapnel to fly your way!
The breaking up of a marriage has widespread ramifications for all who know the newly-divorcing couple. Of course, the couple themselves, their children, and their respective parents are all the most affected by the news. But what about you, the long term friend of the couple? It’s not so difficult if you do not know the spouse, or only have a distant relationship with them. But, in many circumstances, you may be on excellent terms with both partners in the marriage and when things get ugly, you may be expected to take sides. What can you do?
Erin and Chris have just this very problem with their friends Ally and Ross, who have just dropped that bomb that the marriage is over and Ally has moved out. Erin went to school with Ally and they have been friends through thick and thin, but Erin really likes Ross and thinks he has been treated badly by Ally. While she understands that Ally is frustrated with the marriage and has given out a number of warnings that there was trouble brewing, Erin can’t help but feel sorry for Ross, who is so devastated by the news he is having trouble at work with underperformance.
Meanwhile, Chris just thinks Ally is, well, a bitch, for dumping a great guy like Ross. He and Ross have also been friends for years, and he has been taking Ross fishing to try to lift his spirits. Naturally on these fishing expeditions, Chris can see that Ross is extremely upset even though he says very little. One particular day, Chris became so frustrated with the situation that he came home from an outing with Ross and got into an argument with Erin. While Erin could see both sides of the situation, she had just got off the phone from Ally who’d been telling her some of the reasons why she felt Ross was an unsuitable marriage partner, and Erin found herself agreeing with many of Ally’s observations.
Next minute, Erin and Chris were taking sides in Ally and Ross’ marriage and were arguing bitterly, until their ten-year-old daughter walked in and asked them what the problem was. Fortunately, the interruption brought them back to reality. They were arguing about someone else’s marital problems!
The only solution to this problem is to butt out. If you happen to be friends with both partners, you can find yourself in a real dilemma, particularly if you allow yourself to be the confidante of both partners. If you do this, you will find yourself in the midst of a three- or even four-way divorce battle, depending on whether your own partner takes sides.
In Erin and Chris’ case, they made a decision that, whatever was going on the lives of their friends Ally and Ross, was not going to interfere with their own relationship. This meant making a conscious decision not to take sides or discuss the divorce in any but the most pragmatic manner.
Next, Erin told Ally that she was planning on remaining friends with both her and Ross, and that she would be supportive of both of them when they were feeling down, but suggested that counseling may be helpful to deal with the divorce process and she wasn’t prepared to take sides. She was very clear with Ally in stating that she loved them both, and would continue to do so. Fortunately for Erin, after an initial argument, Ally came to understand that she was causing her friend stress and took her advice and sought counseling.
Divorce is difficult enough without getting embroiled in another person’s
marital dilemmas. Remember, it is their problem to deal with,
not yours. Try to support but not take sides, and draw your mark in
the sand regarding what you will and will not do as early in the process
as you can. Even if things have become very heated, it is not too late
to take affirmative action.