What is the Facebook protocol during a painful divorce?
May 7, 2012 11:34 AM   Subscribe

What is the Facebook protocol during a painful divorce?

Pretty soon, I will be divorced. Ultimately it was an immature formative relationship with a painful ending. For a year of separation, I tried to fix things, to make it work, but she wasn't committed to that. Even though we love and respect each other, I have some lingering anger.

We both spend a lot of time on Facebook. I feel awful about it, but I've begun to block her updates because it's just too painful. I'm not ready to see her being well-adjusted or having a good time, though I know it's petty of me. It just hurts too much to have that constant reminder. I also post my updates to a custom list that doesn't include her. I still feel hurt that she didn't want to work things out and I don't feel comfortable sharing the details of my life at the moment.

Since the separation, a lot of people have said, "block her from Gchat, block her on Facebook, get rid of the constant reminders, just try to move forward." I honestly don't know what's the best approach. Is it risky to block her from my feed - what if a mutual friend mentions something I've posted and she realizes she's not seeing my posts? Should I block her altogether so it looks like I've just quit from Facebook? I don't want to go about any of this dishonestly, yet I don't want to be hurt by these interactions, nor hurt her. But I rely on Facebook to keep up with far-flung family and friends, so abstaining from the site isn't desirable either.

I feel like this all sounds kind of petty, but it's reality, unfortunately. I just need to find ways to get through this without being reminded of what I've lost. Divorced people, have you adjusted your social media habits in ways that have helped you get through it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I really think the best choice is to unfriend and block on Facebook. If you have the sort of relationship with her still where you can explain that in order to move forward this would be the most helpful, that would be the best. Otherwise, just blocking is the best way to avoid that reminder.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 11:37 AM on May 7, 2012 [22 favorites]

Do what you need to do for you. If that means you block her stuff from being in your feed, do it. If it means you block her altogether, do it.

If she cared what you said and thought about stuff, she would have tried to work things out with you. Nobody says you have to share anything with someone like that.
posted by theichibun at 11:38 AM on May 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

I'd defriend her. At this point you're not up to seeing stuff about her on line. This is YOUR social media and for now, it makes sense not to have her pop up with updates and pics.

A divorce is not petty, it's deeply hurtful, and anything you can do to mitigate that hurt is in your best interest.

Honestly, what are you afraid of, her getting her feelings hurt? Dude, that ship sailed.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:42 AM on May 7, 2012 [22 favorites]

You need to UNFRIEND her.
This removes her completely from your feed.
Also check your privacy settings.
Sometimes she might be able to see your content (or you see hers) through common friends or even friends of friends.
Lock that shit down.
Unfriend even more folks, if need be.

As with everything Facebook, it can get a bit murky when it comes to their Ever Changing Privacy Settings.
posted by THAT William Mize at 11:43 AM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Is it risky to block her from my feed - what if a mutual friend mentions something I've posted and she realizes she's not seeing my posts?

Well, what if? I mean, the situation you describe is incredibly unlikely to happen, unless you have mutual friends who are are completely socially inept and she's actively keeping tabs on you. But, disregarding that, what if that happens? What is the worst possible thing that could happen? You're already getting divorced.
posted by griphus at 11:47 AM on May 7, 2012 [49 favorites]

Just unfriend her and be done with it. It seems like you're getting distracted by the Facebook word "friend." This doesn't need to be personal. The fact that the Facebook corporation invented a nomenclature for various website operations using the word "friend" is not something that has to affect your life or emotions. That was a corporate decision about how to create an appealing web interface, which has nothing to do with you. If you eat the candy called Nerds, does that make you a "nerd"? No, it's just corporate branding. Clicking the unfriend button doesn't mean you are literally deciding not to be friends with someone in the real world. It's just a button on a website that will do something you want to do, so do it.

You can also customize your privacy settings so that even if most non-friends can see your profile, she in particular won't be able to.
posted by John Cohen at 11:48 AM on May 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

It is always a good idea to maintain a pleasant relationship with an ex (and imperative to do so if you have kids) and facebook seems like a good way to ease into that by limiting, but not blocking, access. "Unfriend and run away" seems like convenient advice but it's pretty counterproductive. The poster has not indicated that she's done anything wrong.
posted by moammargaret at 11:50 AM on May 7, 2012

I'm not ready to see her being well-adjusted or having a good time, though I know it's petty of me. It just hurts too much to have that constant reminder. I also post my updates to a custom list that doesn't include her. I still feel hurt that she didn't want to work things out and I don't feel comfortable sharing the details of my life at the moment.

I don't think this is petty at all. I think it is completely understandable, normal, and to be expected. In fact I would be more surprised if you didn't feel that way. Go ahead and block if that is what you would prefer to do.

Is it risky to block her from my feed - what if a mutual friend mentions something I've posted and she realizes she's not seeing my posts?

You mentioned not wanting to hurt her. For one thing, I doubt she would be hurt by this. I think any reasonable person would completely understand. For another, she *divorced* you even though you were very clearly hurt and devastated by that. She did what was best for her even though it caused you this pain. Blocking her on FB is about a bajillion orders of magnitude less of a big deal than that. Even if she's "hurt" by it, I think she will be okay.
posted by cairdeas at 11:51 AM on May 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

I think explaining to her via email that you wish her well, but that you will need to block her or unfriend her or whatever to protect yourself while you process the divorce, is fair and generous and respectful.

Seriously, you guys are getting divorced. Unless she's a monster of narcissism, she will understand that you need to protect your feelings while you heal and move on. If she is a monster of narcissism, then it's doubly important for you to protect her feelings.

"No contact" periods work really well for most people who are trying to create an amicable atmosphere post-breakup. Odds are she will totally understand.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:54 AM on May 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'm sorry you're going through this. Definitely cut all ties. De-friend, unfollow, delete, delete, delete. You do not need to worry about how she's going to react to these things, you're getting a divorce. You do not need the painful reminder and the booby traps on social sites where you get support and comfort.

Best of luck to you.
posted by Kimberly at 11:54 AM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

This sounds like you don't really want to block her on Facebook, because it would be a painful final thing to do and because hey, what if she doesn't notice? (You're not saying, for example, that she would flip out on you and make the divorce worse if she didn't see your feeds. She's presumably aware that this is a painful divorce and that you are not happy about it, so it's not as though blocking her will reveal your true feelings or something.)

Block her, don't chat with her, etc. Tell her that you need distance to heal. If she's really moving on herself, she'll be relived (as painful as accepting this will be for you) that you are taking the steps you need to move forward. And you'll have a horrible week or two while waiting for the new habit to sink in, wishing that she missed you and so on. Then you'll start to feel better. It's dismaying but true.
posted by Frowner at 11:54 AM on May 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Shoot! I meant "If she is a monster of narcissism, then it's doubly important for you to protect YOUR feelings." Stupid medication.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:54 AM on May 7, 2012

Have you considered taking a break from Facebook altogether? At the beginning of this year, a friend of mine posted something like "I've got some stuff going on in real life so I won't be updating for a while. I'm still here, I'm still alive, if you need me you can email me or ring me". After about three months, she popped back up on FB, recovered and rejuvenated. I think the break did her a world of good.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 11:59 AM on May 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Unfriend her and block. If it feels dishonest, well, don't be dishonest about it--tell her beforehand that you're going to unfriend her and block her so that you both can move on. End of story.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:02 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

(Also, you might have to unblock her occasionally in order to see if she's attending an event with mutual friends, but that's the only problem I've seen with this particular tactic.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:03 PM on May 7, 2012

Just send her a note: "FYI, I'm going to un-friend you, as it is easier for me to focus on myself and my progress through this divorce if I don't see your daily updates. Don't take it personally." Then do so.
posted by davejay at 12:08 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

So you're saying that unfriending her is a more step than divorce? I think divorce is the more serious step, and that unfriending is a natural consequence, even if it turns out to be a temporary one.
posted by alms at 12:09 PM on May 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I'd tell her you're doing it. Not in a mean way, but just like "I think this is what I need to do to move on."

And fyi

(Also, you might have to unblock her occasionally in order to see if she's attending an event with mutual friends, but that's the only problem I've seen with this particular tactic.)

If you only have one person blocked, you will be able to tell if they are going to an event, because it will say "10 people attending" but only show you 9 people when you click to see who is going.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:13 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with every single response - unfriend.

For what its worth, in past relationships of mine that have ended poorly (anger, unresolved feelings, etc.) the recovery process is well supported with a clean break from Facebook, and really any opportunity for happenstance interactions with The Ex.

You need the space to move on, recover, and don't need niggling feelings like "oh I might see her on Facebook / other social media / at this location / at this meeting". You just don't need to know her right now.
posted by RajahKing at 12:15 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nthing unfriend. Otherwise it's like showing up at a job you quit.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:23 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just to clarify a technical point of Facebook: "Blocking" someone on Facebook effectively defriends them as well - you will disappear from her friend lists. If you ever unblock her, you will need to re-friend her if you want to be her Facebook friend again.
posted by noonday at 12:24 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you're a guy. Block her and don't tell her about it. Trust me. It's not rude. I've been down this road. I know I'm generalizing but I've found women are better at this than men.

Has she moved on and is asserting herself post-relationship on Facebook? You need to do the same, even if it's not real. You need to protect yourself and some guys are bad at that. Especially guys that are constantly trying to work things out. She does not need an explanation for why she's been defriended. You got a divorce with a painful ending.

You will never beat the following universal Facebook dynamic: she'll post something happy and you'll be sitting at your home in your underwear reading it. RIP THE BANDAID OFF. You have to block her. You should surround yourself with positive input.
posted by phaedon at 12:28 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a relatively similar situation, and there's actually an excellent solution for this (or was when I went through it).

Go to your facebook feed, scroll down until you see an update from her. Then, in the upper right corner of that update, click on the little pull-down tab, and click "Hide."

What this will do, is it will keep you as facebook friends, but mean that nothing about her shows in your feeds.

This means that you will have all the benefits of unfriending her (not seeing her updates, not hearing about how happy her life is), but without the negative effects of unfriending/blocking her (drama, friend issues, inability to friend her again when you do want to).

I did this quite happily and successfully for the six months that I needed. It gave me the space to heal. I thoroughly recommend it.
posted by corb at 12:29 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Defriend her, or if for some reason you don't want to do that, you can now "unsubscribe" from her so that her posts don't show up in your feed. It shouldn't matter if she somehow finds out that you are not sharing some posts with her...she's your ex-wife.
posted by aaanastasia at 12:34 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not divorced, but I ended a long-term relationship a few years ago (i.e., Facebook was already huge then) and had to navigate this. I frankly think that unfriending an ex on Facebook and blocking them on chat programs is the standard when you break up. The same way that when mature people break up, they return possessions to each other and give each other space: these are simply best practices that happen in a breakup so both partners can heal, and unfriending on Facebook is another perfectly normal best practice that gives both partners their space. I am puzzled by people who remain connected to their ex's on Facebook, since I think unfriending is the normal step. In fact, a year or two later I re-friended that ex on Facebook (we don't talk ever, we're just connected on FB) and it still strikes me as weird to be connected to an ex.

I can't see any reason why you would inform your ex of this. It could sound petty to them, like you're trying to prove how "over them" you are. It certainly doesn't achieve anything useful. If they try to check your FB page, they'll find out you're disconnected. And if they don't check then it doesn't impact them and saves you some heartache. Sending a message is the opposite of giving yourself and your ex space to heal, and has the possibility of coming across poorly.

If I may read between the lines, I think you're in a perfectly normal (though painful) grieving period, and there's a small part of you that wishes you could get your ex back, so you're very sensitive to offending your ex. This is normal - there were happy times before the sad, so your brain focuses on that sense of loss. But you need to realize that this desire is part of the grieving process and does not reflect reality. The reality is that you are now your own person, and you need to give yourself a safe place to be yourself without your ex. As you have already discovered, that includes avoiding your ex on social media sites. So the best way to treat yourself well is to unfriend them.

what if a mutual friend mentions something I've posted and she realizes she's not seeing my posts?

If your ex is a mature person, they will realize that you might have wanted some space to be your own person and not make a big deal out of it. In fact, you may be doing your ex a favor - perhaps they didn't give themself that space, but they probably need it as much as you do. My ex noticed that we weren't connected on FB anymore and sent me an email asking about it, and it wasn't a big deal - I just didn't respond, because mature people give each other the space to heal.

And if your ex is not mature enough to realize that being disconnected on FB is a good thing after a breakup, then it's even more important to unfriend them - having a bitter ex who can stalk you by FB or write on your wall is a liability and it's best to remove the opportunity for mischief and drama. So either way, unfriending is the way to go.
posted by Tehhund at 12:35 PM on May 7, 2012

I agree with corb that hiding her from the feed would be fine. However, I don't get this: "but without the negative effects of unfriending/blocking her (drama, friend issues, inability to friend her again when you do want to)." Drama? Everyone will understand why you would want to unfriend your ex-spouse. Friend issues? Can't you assume that any of your friends are going to be aware of the divorce and have enough tact not to comment about you on each others' walls? Inability to friend her again? No, you can unfriend someone and later refriend them.
posted by John Cohen at 12:35 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that it's a tad strange to think that unfriending/blocking someone is more serious than divorcing them.

From a non-divorce perspective but just a general "ending of romantic relationships" perspective, I think it's definitely acceptable for you to take steps to prevent old wounds from being repeatedly picked every time she appears in your newsfeed. Hiding her from your newsfeed would not be apparent to her, and so you would never see anything she did unless you intentionally clicked on her page or she commented on your mutual friends posts. If the possibility of these two things happening still greatly bothers you, then you have no choice but to delete/or block. I would agree with others that if you are on reasonable terms still just saying to her "hey, we both know this is an emotionally trying time for us, so I'm going to delete you from facebook until we're back in a place where we can talk again". I can't imagine she would react in any other than than agreement that it's probably a good move for both of you.
posted by modernnomad at 12:41 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been there. Though my divorce was amicable (didn't even use lawyers), I unfriended him. I didn't warn him, either. I just didn't want my newfound effervescence to negatively affect him, and I didn't want him seeing all our mutual friends commenting on my awesome new life. Even though he wasn't pining for me, he was going through some tough times after we split up, and I felt it was kinder for him to have radio silence from me.

I did, however, send him a friendly email to tell him I'd be getting married again. He was really happy for me. Whether that Facebook silence helped him move on or not, I can't say.

I think you should unfriend and block her. That way she can't see your posts on mutual friends' timelines. Optionally, send her a quick note to say it's probably easier on both of you if you're not constantly chattering in the same stream on Facebook.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:44 PM on May 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

With all the FB privacy settings, it's possible to limit what a 'friend' can see by setting the permissions carefully. You can really limit the permissions of your ex wife so that she has less permissions than the public. Unless you want to make a statement, there is absolutely no need to defriend someone if all you want to achieve is isolation from her feeds. You can also setup facebook so that her feeds don't appear on your wall, but your feeds appear on her wall.

The options for setting privacy settings for individual friends are limitless, no need to block/defriend. Some people interpret that as an affront for whatever reason. Besides, it may be useful to be friends if you need to access her wall for whatever reason.
posted by quanti at 12:58 PM on May 7, 2012

You do realize at some point she may defriend you first?

Might be best to go ahead and do it yourself. You need to give yourself permission to disconnect and anyone who doesn't get that is eligible to be labelled an idiot.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:59 PM on May 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you don't have children together then there is no reason to remain friendly. Block her. If it hurts her feelings then that is her pain that she will have to be responsible for. She should not be your priority anymore or ever again (this is only if you do not have children together). Let her go. There is someone out there who will make you her priority. Make room in your life (and your facebook page) for her.
posted by myselfasme at 1:53 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, my ex I have the best relationship with is also the one who cut contact with me for six years after the breakup. I was hurt at the time, but when he sent an email years later and briefly apologized, I understood and was glad to get on with the friendship. Other exes have tried to be facebook friends and such when they are clearly not ready, and it ends up being a muddled mess when they post snippy little comments here and there like mines, trying to get negative attention because they can't get their positive attention needs met. Not worth the drama, and I became disappointed in their character to the point that I didn't really want them as friends. They showed some ugly sides I wouldn't have seen if I'd sucked it up and defriended them for a while. Given them the favor of healing without me in the audience. I respect my ex who cut contact for six years and came back when he was truly ready for friendship. I don't think it was a coincidence that when he recontacted me he was happily married with a family. He moved on, filled in that place in his life and did not need any romantic energy from me. Now we are truly friends.

Play the long game on this one. Maybe after some time you will be ready to have a friendship with her again, and if she's of the same mind and worth being friends with, it'll be easy to re-connect and move on (the beauty and horror of facebook). Right now, be selfish and take care of yourself.

Also, myselfasme makes a great point about making room for your future partner and thinking from that perspective. You don't want that next great person having any insecurities or doubts about her status in your life (electronic or otherwise).
posted by griselda at 3:56 PM on May 7, 2012

What you are experiencing is completely normal, and totally valid. You need time to heal and move forward with *your* life, and you don't need constant reminders of what your ex is getting up to. You seem concerned about being good and fair and that's admirable, but you deserve to make some space to find your own peace.

I say this as the person who has been on both sides. When I was way younger I got messily dumped, and demands were placed on me for immediate friendship and I could *not* cope with it at all (it was as naive for him to expect of me as it was for me to expect of myself but both of us were inexperienced). It was messy. After a few embarrassing public and semi-private exchanges on the internet, we never spoke again.

Years and years later when it was my turn to end things (a marriage-slash-3 year relationship), I remembered that experience and at first *I* did the unfriending, and in my case I even made a new LiveJournal, all for the same reasons that ImproviseOrDie mentions. Well, also because in my case he was pining a bit and interactions quickly became awkward and passive-aggressive and it just didn't seem like a smart way to carry on. I was open with the reasons when he asked, and soon he cut the remaining ties himself. I took no offense.

We may be buds again some day, but I feel like that ball is in his court.

You should do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Your life is about *you* now.
posted by menialjoy at 4:26 PM on May 7, 2012

Can you just send her a message saying it's too painful right now and so you are going to block her from social media for the immediate future. I would understand that if I were in her position. I think most reasonable people would understand.

That way you're being honest about it. You can even emphasize that you don't want to hurt her, you just need to do this to heal.

Also, I'd consider "hiding" her posts on FB (if you can resist the temptation to look). That way you stay friends and you can unhide her if you feel like it in the future.
posted by bananafish at 4:39 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I vote defriending instead of just hiding her newsfeed for the following reasons:

1) As St. Alia pointed out, there's a good chance *she* will defriend *you*, and when you realize it's happened, it will hurt.

2) If you're anything like me, your curiosity will overcome you one day and you'll check out her profile, and you might very well see something upsetting there (evidence that she's dating, etc). If you defriend her, you're actually prevented from doing this (assuming her privacy settings are locked down).
posted by whitelily at 5:06 PM on May 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

One more vote for "just block/defriend her."
posted by J. Wilson at 5:47 PM on May 7, 2012

One vote for de-friend, with a generous side order of scuttle your facebook account for a while, step away from the computer, heal and connect with yourself and your immediate people, not your old electronic social network addiction. Those things are engineered to trigger insecurity.
posted by ead at 6:51 PM on May 7, 2012

If you block her, all she needs to do is sit down with someone you haven't blocked to see everything. For that reason, I'd either limit all those people's access or go the more subtle route of limiting what she can see so that she doesn't seek better access to your updates.
posted by salvia at 8:17 PM on May 7, 2012

Just de-friend her. It's really the best thing, and no one (including your ex) can blame you for that. Like someone else said, you're already getting divorced. It also sounds like you're more concerned about YOUR lingering need to feel connected to her, rather than vice versa, so you should absolutely cut the ties for your own mental well-being.

It still amazes me that people are willing to endure such painful world collision for some site that's less than a decade old. How would you have handled this if you got divorced in 1995? Same principles apply, cut all the communication channels you feel are hindering your emotional progress.
posted by Little Orphan Ennui at 9:24 PM on May 7, 2012

De-friend her. I've seen divorces play out on Facebook and it isn't pretty.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:05 AM on May 8, 2012

« Older Any port in a cell phone storm?   |   Can I find details about a manslaughter case from... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.