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How to stay friends with both people in a divorcing couple.
November 6, 2006 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Friends of mine are getting divorced. Is it possible for me to stay friends with both of them? If so, how?

In case it matters, here are a few details. As far as closeness goes, we've been friends for 5 years or so, but not extremely close friends. They are the closer-than-acquaintences-but-not-vacationing-with-us kind of friends. My husband and I would see them every few months for dinner, and we always had a great time together. They live a few blocks from us, and the guy in this ex-couple and I work at the same place (a big place), without daily interaction, so I'm a little closer friends with him, but not much. Their divorce came as a shock. As far as I know, there was no reason like infidelity or bad behavior to cause the divorce.

Any and all suggestions welcome. Thanks!
posted by chippie to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's going to depend more on them then you, but one thing to avoid would be becoming a conduit for information between the two.
posted by extrabox at 5:25 PM on November 6, 2006


It should be possible to stay friends with both parties, so long as you don't get involved in the divorce itself. If either of your friends talk about the divorce, listen, but don't actively take any side. If they try to ask you to pass information on to the other side (about signing divorce papers, etc.), only offer to let the other person know that the first person is having trouble contacting them. Don't pass the specifics of the request on.

As soon as you start to take sides, you will lose the other party as a friend, possibly both. If you stay neutral, you will help temper any anger or resentment. Both parties will appreciate you for this.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:26 PM on November 6, 2006


Yeah, in fact try to avoid saying anything at all about the other party when you're with one of them. If you can establish independent relationships, it should work. If one or both of them is trying to establish exclusive property rights to former mutual friends, it's probably not worth the effort.
posted by languagehat at 5:27 PM on November 6, 2006


If you'd like to remain friends with both of them, that's great, and it's certainly possible. Whether or not it actually plays out like that, however, isn't necessarily in your control. Either one or both of the soon-to-be-ex-spouses may feel (fairly or not) that friends should have to "choose" between them. This could be amplified if the divorce turns out to be acrimonious rather than amicable (regardless of whether or not there was infidelity, etc.).

As others have said, avoid being a conduit of information between them; avoid giving advice or inserting your opinion of the proceedings to either of them, too. If you want to be friends with both of them, you can't act as an advocate for either of them.
posted by scody at 5:31 PM on November 6, 2006


This is a hard one. When one of them sees you and then they know you are seeing the other one, it is painful. Often the response is for both of them to avoid you. Divorce is often a time of choosing sides, which is kind of sad, but all too often real.
posted by caddis at 5:37 PM on November 6, 2006


My advice is to do what makes you feel comfortable.

The "conduit" idea is really the worst enemy. I've been in the same situ at least three times in the last six years always with the same friend and her formers. Yea, serial relationship killer.

So now I'm "friends" with at least three ex-boyfriends, all of whom use/try to use me as the "conduit". I'm not taking the bait. The guys are cool, we can hang out or whatever, but I won't be leverage for either side. So, I'm comfortable with it.

You be comfortable too. If you find yourself being compromised, cut 'em loose. Sorry to sound crass about it, but you can't take care of real friends if you don't/can't take care of yourself first.
posted by snsranch at 6:09 PM on November 6, 2006


My ex-wife (with whom I'm still friendly) and I have many, many mutual friends and always have. It was never a big deal. In fact, I never remember it being an issue at all. If you like both of them, be friends with them. If you only like the guy, don't feel you need to stay friends with both. But don't make a big deal out of something that may not be a problem in the first place.
posted by johngumbo at 6:13 PM on November 6, 2006


I think it depends on how nasty a divorce it is. My ex and I had a really close mutual friend and when I found out the ex was cheating it on me it made staying friends pretty impossible. What the ex did (long story, soap opera...) was pretty awful and for the friend to still stay buddies with the ex meant he and I couldn't be friends. You can't be friends with someone who treated me like total shit, ya know?
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:23 PM on November 6, 2006


I've been through a very amicable divorce, and to the disappointment of my ex and me, some of our friends did take sides, even though we both reassured them repeatedly and strenuously that we didn't want to interrupt any friendships.

If it's a contentious divorce, I could see how staying friends with both parties could be a little delicate; if it's amicable, it should be a non-issue.
posted by adamrice at 7:23 PM on November 6, 2006


Well, I'll be the lonely voice on this one.

I actually think it's very much up to you whether you stay friends with each of them or not. You need to be willing to call them and take responsibility for making plans with them. You need to be willing to do this for a long while, even if they don't reciprocate at first. They are both going through a traumatic experience, you must be willing to make allowances for this.

I also don't think that it's a big deal to talk with them about their ex's. They will be curious. So, just treat it like any other topic of conversation. Of course, you shouldn't be their go between but that is an entirely different thing. You can quite easily discuss a mutual acquaintance without agreeing to constantly relay messages.

Feel free to give them advice. They are your friends! It is perfectly natural for them to come to you for advice and for you to give to them. You obviously shouldn't badmouth an ex, but mostly because that ex is your friend too, and it's a bad idea to badmouth friends.

In short treat each of them like you would any friend that has gone through a bad experience. It's really that simple.
posted by oddman at 8:24 PM on November 6, 2006


I appreciate all of these thoughtful answers. I'm going to try to stay friends with both and see how it goes. News of the divorce is very recent, so we'll see if/when it gets rancorous, and I'll figure out where to take it from there.
posted by chippie at 9:57 PM on November 6, 2006


Refuse to take sides, even if that means telling one or both to stop trying to get you to choose a side. And then good luck. Even when it's amicable, the old mutual friends things is a total bitch, and it's not only up to you.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:14 AM on November 7, 2006


This is very much dependent on whether they remain friends.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:41 AM on November 7, 2006


Hi chippie, you could almost be talking about me — I'm going through an amicable divorce and my childrens' mother and I share a lot of friends.

I'd say all the advice above is good. All you have to do is be friendly and non-judgmental. Your friends don't want you to solve their problems. At most they may want a sympathetic ear. You can say things like, "When X happens, it is really hard. It must make you feel like Y", i.e. paraphrase the emotion. Listen through their words, which are probably going to be a little scattered anyway, to hear the emotional truth that they're really trying to express.

And adamrice, that sounds very unfortunate. I hope it won't happen, but wouldn't be surprised if the same thing happens in our case.

The really sad thing about dividing up friends is that usually one of the stress factors that leads to divorce is when the spouses don't have enough outside one-to-one friendships to bolster their emotional foundation. So splitting up friends is just decreasing their emotional support, precisely when they most need some help rebuilding things again. Darn, I don't know if I explained that very clearly.

I guess one other thing to think about is that each of them is going to be different separately than they were as a couple. Obviously something in the couple dynamic wasn't working, and they may now be able to express previously suppressed aspects of their personalities. Someone told me recently, "Take time to get reacquainted with the people you think you already know, you may find that there's a person in there you really like." If you approach each of them with this positive exploratory attitude, as opposed to pity, you'll all be in a better place together.
posted by Araucaria at 2:09 PM on November 7, 2006


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