My Best Friend's Divorce Includes Me
June 7, 2012 7:29 AM   Subscribe

My best friend is getting a divorce. She won't talk to me for unknown reasons. I think we're done being best friends. Help me rationalize and cope.

My best friend (Tina) and her husband (Larry) have been very close family friends for about the last decade. They're so much like family - we have spent holidays together, vacationed together, our kids are close friends, backyard bbqs, etc. Tina, in particular, has been my best friend.

In January, Tina lost her mind and decided to have an affair on Larry. Larry was the one that came to me for support. Of course I heard him out and was as supportive as possible - I was very clear that I didn't want to take sides - I love them both. The whole situation has escalated into a divorce... Larry asked me for money to help him move out and I refused - underscoring the fact that I couldn't take sides. I reached out to Tina several times early on and never heard anything from her. Larry tells me that she's certain I'm going to judge her for her affair and that I'm probably on Larry's side anyway. I've emailed heart-felt messages telling her that I know she's going through a hard time and that I'm here for her if she needs me and that I love her, etc, etc. No response.

Tina has been off the grid since January. I haven't seen or spoken to her since I initially heard about the affair and the divorce from Larry. The whole thing is getting uglier and uglier (according to Larry)... restraining orders and police involved. I'm staying out of it and have recently started avoiding Larry.

I'm worried about my friend. I'm getting the vibe that she doesn't want to be my friend any more because she's getting a divorce. This is unsettling and difficult for me to rationalize. I'm trying to figure out what I've done wrong and/or what I could do to help the situation and get my friend back.

Added complication - Tina owes me $400. I get a distinct feeling that Tina feels like she's not going to have to pay this since she's starting a new life that I'm not a part of. I'm not gonna get my $400 and I should just write this off, right?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like Tina believes you've aligned yourself with Larry, because Larry said to Tina on multiple occasions, 'when I was talking to Anonymous, Anonymous said..' underscoring your closeness to Larry, not Tina. Tina believes you can't be her friend and Larry's too. I think all you can do is send her a note saying you're there when she needs you, and wait it out. It sounds like she's got more than she can handle going on.

The 400 -- I don't know where this came from. Are you in bad financial straits? If yes, than ask for it back and expect to close the door on the friendship. If no, then forget the 400 unless you get lucky and some day you see it again. I don't see anyway for you to cleverly introduce this idea (hey, pay me back that money) while she's taking out restraining orders on her ex-husband, unless I have that reversed, which wouldn't change anything.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 7:34 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

A few months back my husband and I had some serious issues and I left the house. During that time I found it really hard to see mutual friends because of the pain I was going through. For them I know they felt pushed to the side - but once my husband and I started counseling and getting through it, they welcomed me with open arms.

I wasn't pushing them away because I wanted a new life without them, it just hurt so much and I didn't want to answer the questions at that time. Even though it looks like your friend might be permanently leaving her husband, she may in time come back to you once she's healed a bit.

To a logical person, your friend should be able to tell you all this now but going through a separation is like going through a death. You're so up and down and even when you're the one leaving, it's painful, sad and lonely. Being reminded of your relationship just makes it worse.

Give it time and she may (or may not) come back. As of now, I'd write the $400.00 off.
posted by Danithegirl at 7:37 AM on June 7, 2012 [13 favorites]

I'm trying to figure out what I've done wrong and/or what I could do to help the situation and get my friend back.

I know it sucks, man, but you can't be doing this. Their divorce is not your fault, Tina having lost her damn mind is not your fault, and you can't control Tina. There is no possible thing for you to do here because you don't even know what she wants since she won't talk to you. This really sucks, but you've done all you can and your going to have to let this one go.

Possibly, someday, likely years from now and maybe never, shit will have calmed down and Tina and Larry will both have some perspective on this situation and maybe there will be a chance for you to reconcile. But for now it seems clear that Tina has decided "no friend of Larry is a friend of mine" and you can't make her change her mind.

And yeah, I'd kiss the $400 goodbye.
posted by Diablevert at 7:40 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

You didn't do anything wrong, Anon.

Sounds like your friend Tina is having a bit of a crisis. Her life is blowing up. Maybe her response to that is to retreat from everyone. (I'm not saying it's a mature response)

Honestly, I would just ride the wave for now. Wait until the divorce is over and then try to reach out to her.

As for the money, you're correct.. just write it off.

Second options: Stop sending emails and letters. Drive to Tina's house, maybe grab some coffee or ice cream or whatever treat you know Tina likes, and show up at her front door. She might pretend she's not home, but if she doesn't then you can, in person, tell Tina that you support her too and if she needs you blahblah all the good friend stuff.
posted by royalsong at 7:40 AM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

I don't think you're getting the $400 back. Also, it sounds like she is 'going through something' (obviously) and has dropped her previous life (including best friend and husband) in the process.

I think maybe you will just end up being friends with Larry and stay open to responding to Tina in the future if she contacts you. But if she hasn't since January, it's unlikely to happen in the near future.
posted by bquarters at 7:42 AM on June 7, 2012

In cases of divorce, someone gets the friends. In this case, Larry gets you.

I'm not gonna get my $400 and I should just write this off, right?


I'm trying to figure out what I've done wrong

You know she had an affair, which is humiliating for her. You were also present as an observer in her marriage, which means she can't spin you a revisionist narrative about how neglected and stifled she was with Larry, thus absolving her of responsibility for her affair and allowing her to move forward guilt free into her new life. That's what she has new friends for.

None of this is your fault, but basically: Tina has dumped you, you get Larry whether you want him or not, you'll never see your $400 again.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:44 AM on June 7, 2012 [33 favorites]

I'm worried about my friend. I'm getting the vibe that she doesn't want to be my friend any more because she's getting a divorce

Tina is drawing lines and (for reasons known only to her) has put you on the Larry side of the line. This is a hugely contentious, ugly divorce, and events like these tend to crack social groups in half. This is often true of even relatively amicable breakups. I need to be clear that this is not your fault. You are one aspect of a giant, complicated mess. But since you haven't done anything to drive Tina away, you can't really do anything to bring her back. So -

I've emailed heart-felt messages telling her that I know she's going through a hard time and that I'm here for her if she needs me and that I love her, etc, etc. No response.

You've done all you can.

I'm trying to figure out what I've done wrong


and/or what I could do to help the situation and get my friend back.

Also nothing. Spend time being kind to yourself. It's painful to lose friends but if you give yourself a little time, you'll come to see that there was nothing you could have done here, you'll process it all and you'll move on.

I'm not gonna get my $400 and I should just write this off, right?


You will drive yourself crazy if you try to assess Tina's motivations for not paying you back, or in fact for doing anything at all. Who knows what's going on in her head? Only she might, but there's a good chance she doesn't. This isn't your mess or your fight, no matter how much you care about these people.

Just walk away. Maybe someday she'll get back in touch and maybe she won't. You've told her she can always reach out if she wants to. The ball's in her court, so leave it there.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:45 AM on June 7, 2012

I can't answer the rest of it, but kiss the $400 goodbye.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:47 AM on June 7, 2012

As others have said, you can't control Tina. It sucks that with Tina's crisis that she's decided that she doesn't want you in her life right now, but there's nothing you can do to alter that decision.

Back away. If you feel that you want to keep Larry as a friend, then do so. You shouldn't have to choose. If you were nice to Larry for the sake of your, and Tina's friendship, you can let that relationship go. Now is not the time to put strain on yourself.

Busy yourself with other friends, projects, family, etc. Don't dwell on this situation, it will just depress you or piss you off.

I'd be mightily pissed off about that $400. I'd be prepared to write it off, but I'd call Tina and follow up with an email about it.

"Hi Tina, it seems like with everything that's going on, that you've forgotten about the money I lent you. I know you've got a lot on your plate right now, but when you get a minute, if you could mail that to me I'd appreciate it. Take Care!"

Nothing big, no guilt trip, don't even mention that you feel slighted, or miss her or whatever. Just, "Bitch, pay me." She may have forgotten and wouldn't want an obligation to you. If she's just gone insane, and she feels she doesn't owe you, you can sue her, but if you can afford to, write it off. (Although I'd love to see this case on People's Court.)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:54 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Total speculation:

You say Tina lost her mind, but maybe she didn't. Whatever happened with her may not have been all of a sudden. That would mean there was something going on, hidden from you and other observers, for a long time. You don't know what it is. Maybe it was hell behind closed doors, maybe it was just the slow spirit-killing disintegration of love and trust in a relationship. But she may need to not be around someone who thinks that her relationship was fine until she "lost her mind", and who is not friends with Larry, too.

A lot of your assumptions about how things were before her affair may just be wrong. She may, in fact, have been putting a lot of energy into you believing that things were much better than they really were. Closeness now would require both letting you know that she was on some level bullshitting you for a while, and her believing that you will believe her now. And why should you? You're friends with Larry too, you don't want to "take sides".

She may need someone who IS on her side completely. You have declared that you aren't.
posted by endless_forms at 8:05 AM on June 7, 2012 [17 favorites]

A friend of mine confronted me once about why I didn't confide in her during a time when I was having some very intense, dire, personal problems. She was very hurt that I didn't keep her abreast of how I was feeling and what was going on with me. I'd sent her a card when the clouds began to lift to let her know that things were looking up, that I appreciated her support, that I thanked her for being a friend and understanding that I needed some to myself to sort things through privately. She actually mentioned that card during this confrontation. Her comment? "I mean, all I got was a card to let me know what was going on!"

My whole opinion of her changed from that point forward. Any sympathy I might have had for her and guilt I might have felt for not being a better, more communicative friend evaporated instantaneously.

This is a very delicate situation. You really have to resist the temptation to make this situation about you and your friendship. To Tina, it looks like you've sided with her soon to be ex husband. And, to be frank, you say you're not getting involved but you really are already involved; Larry pulled you in on his side, whether or not you were conscious of it at the time. I'm sure this felt like an act of disloyalty on your part to Tina. You might think this ironic, given that she cheated on her husband, but really? It's none of your business. You don't really have her side of the story and she clearly doesn't want to give it to you right now.

Give her space. If you really want to salvage this relationship, back off completely. Stop talking to Larry. Trust that if and when she can, she will swallow her pride or feel strong enough to be in touch.

If you approach her for the $400 right now, you might get it back. But she'll probably think, rightly or wrongly, that you're a jerk for leaning on her for $400 when her whole life is in a shambles. If you're not in absolute dire straits financially, let it go for now and revisit it in an e-mail in 6 months. Whatever you do, resist using this as a pretext to reach out. It will only backfire on you.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:08 AM on June 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

You are making this an awful lot about you. It is not about you. When people go through shit, especially if there's depression and various flavors of acting out, they may not be able to face the people who are seeing them go through it.

She probably doesn't have the internal resources to comfort and reassure you right now. If you want to remain friends, you may need to let her get through her stuff for now. You've let her know you care about her and don't judge her, and with any luck that's the thing she'll remember when she resurfaces or decides she needs to change her support structure or whatever.

Mid-divorce is a bad time to expect loans to be repaid. You're probably going to need to write that $400 off.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:22 AM on June 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Restraining orders and police...? Does she have a restraining order against Larry? If so, I can see why she doesn't want to talk to you. If he's pushing her boundaries or repeatedly attempting to contact her in a way that's unwanted (which is abusive), she might get the impression that you're on his side and are only contacting her to either

1) guilt-trip her about not talking to him/the affair/etc
2) pump her for information that you will then give to Larry

I know that's not true, and you know that's not true, but sometimes "not taking sides" is impossible because one of the parties manipulates the situation to make it look like you're on their side. Or sometimes "not taking sides" makes it seem like you must not care about both people, because things have gotten so bad and they're hurting each other so much that to not take a side is to condone horrible behavior towards a friend, which means that they don't feel like you genuinely care for them.

I'm going to go against the grain and say that if you're going to be avoiding Larry anyway, skip this "no sides" stuff, talk to Tina and say "I am 100% on your side, Larry is being ridiculous, I have no idea why he keeps telling you I'm on his side when I'm NOT. I am all about you. You are my best friend and nothing Larry says will ever change that."
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:30 AM on June 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

Sometimes folks just go crazy and dump you. This sounds like one of those times. I think she's way gone.

But given the craziness of this situation, you might be better off staying off the train tracks. That way you're not in her trainwreck.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:30 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hung out with one of my best friends this past weekend. About five years ago, she cheated on her husband with a coworker 30 years her senior and moved in with him. We didn't talk much during that time, and this weekend she confided to me that the whole episode was "a blur" and she had no memory of who she told what to (we lived 1000 miles apart at the time and were trying to make plans to meet up, but she wouldn't tell me where she was living, that she was having an affair, etc.). She was shocked that she hadn't told me anything at the time. Your friend is going through a lot right now, and probably feels like her friends are judging her, especially with you being close to her husband. Can you send a card or something to let her know you're there if she wants to talk? And forget about the money for now, if not forever.
posted by jabes at 8:31 AM on June 7, 2012

In January, Tina lost her mind and decided to have an affair on Larry.

Larry tells me that she's certain I'm going to judge her for her affair

Well, it does sound like you are judging her for her affair, at least a little bit. is it possible that any of this sentiment might have come across unintentionally in your messages to her? At this point, I think you have done all you can and should do. I don't think that your friendship is gone, but Tina is going through something incredibly difficult and will likely need some period of time before she feels comfortable reconnecting with friends.
posted by Nightman at 8:33 AM on June 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sometimes when people are going through very self-destructive periods, they consciously or unconsciously decide to withdraw from their closest friends, because those people serve as reminders of the destruction, and life-rafts back to safety. She may not want safety. And, she may not want to be around someone who's aware of the fact that her whole life is falling apart, because that would just make it all the more clear: her whole life is falling apart.

Sadly, I know this from personal experience.

It's hurtful, but I don't think it's about you. It's about her, and she just doesn't realize how unkind she's being. I don't think she's necessarily "crazy," probably just acting out some buried trauma or conflict that has been brewing for a long time.

I think you're already doing the right thing. Send messages of support and wait out the hurricane. And try to forgive her for being self-absorbed right now. I'm very glad that my friends were able to forgive me.
posted by crackingdes at 8:57 AM on June 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Your friend might just be embarrassed or ashamed of cheating on her husband, and the fact that her husband is coming to you to talk just exacerbates her shame.
posted by Kololo at 9:03 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

When friends separated a few years back, the groom called me for "support"....only turns out he was calling all of their mutual friends to circle his wagons and make sure his side of the story got out first. And what do you know, this guy also hit up everybody for money, too (I don't know about you but I found that really out of bounds). Maybe your friend won't confide in you because she can see her ex manipulating you and she needs to keep that craziness out of her life. I can't say I blame her.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:14 AM on June 7, 2012 [11 favorites]

Another possibility... When the ex and I split up he asked me to sever ties with our mutual friends. I agreed because a) they were his friends first (he didn't like my friends, natch) b) it seemed like he needed them more than me and c) I was instigating the divorce, so I felt guilty. As the cheating spouse, your friend may have made a similar sacrifice.

Decades later I learned that some friends thought I had rejected them (an impression the ex may have cultivated), which made me very sad as I pined for them for years. For what it's worth, just a few months ago and twenty years on, one got in touch. I explained that I had promised to maintain radio silence and he responded, "Surely the statute of limitations on that has expired by now!" I don't know if it has or not, but I don't care. I'm glad to have that friend back in my life. Now my view is akin to my stance on warring family factions at weddings; invite everyone and let them make their own choices about whether to come if loathsome Aunt Bee is also attending. I really regret agreeing to give up those friends and if one of them had come to me that would have been great.

TL; DR You may need to wait a few years for the dust to settle, but then try again.
posted by carmicha at 9:35 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

There's really no such thing as "not taking sides" in the divorce. These people are enemies now. They are trying to destroy each other. You can't be allies with one without putting yourself in opposition to the other. (I say this from personal experience observing many friends get divorced. The people who "take no sides" wind up estranged from both sides. You can only stay friends with one of them, and unfortunately it does require cutting off the other.)

What's unfortunate here is that you've taken Larry's side already, or at least Tina sees you as having done so, when really you'd have preferred to be on Tina's side because you were closer with her and Larry's doing awkward stuff like asking you for money.

If you really want to "take no sides" then don't get in touch with her. But if you miss her enough that you want to kick Larry to the curb, go over to her house and tell her so.

However, be prepared for her to want nothing to do with you, not necessarily because of Larry but because you are part of the life she had with him, part of a two-couple pairing, and she wants to leave all that behind.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:42 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

PS: I didn't mean to gloss over the police and restraining orders information, but you didn't provide any detail on that and I don't want to make assumptions about which party has an order against which party. For the purposes of your question, it doesn't really matter - once a couple is at this point, the split is adversarial. According to the rules of adversarial divorce, no friends are counted as neutral parties. You are allied with Larry, whether you want to be or not. I am really sorry that sucks so much.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:58 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Well, I think there are some divorces/breakups where you don't have to take sides, but if the police are involved...this isn't one of them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:08 AM on June 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sometimes you just need to go off into a corner and lick your wounds and you don't know how long it will take, but when you're hurt and embarassed, you sometimes want to just be alone. It seems your friend wants just that.

And maybe Larry has mischaracterized your "not choosing sides" as being in his camp or she perceives it that way. At any rate, if there's a restraining order, you really shouldn't be Switzerland.
posted by inturnaround at 10:26 AM on June 7, 2012

You needed to take sides. If Tina's your best friend and you want her to be her best friend, then you need to take her side. That doesn't mean you support her affair. But it does mean you support her. It means you are not the person who consoles her husband. It means you tell him to move along when he comes to you for support. It means that, if she's having to get a restraining order against him, you cease contacting him. Tell Larry she's your best friend and that you have to be there for her, through thick of thin, no matter what she's done.

Honestly, I'd call her and leave her a message saying you messed up and that you're cutting off contact with him for now. You have no idea what's been going on and no idea what he's been doing to lead her to get a restraining order. It sounds like she's scared and that she's had to cut contact with you because you've violated her boundaries by being a sounding board for her husband.

That doesn't mean an affair is okay. It's a hard thing to wrap your head around. But sometimes we don't tell even our best friends what is going on in a marriage, not the really ugly stuff. She probably has all sorts of mixed up feelings.

People talk about not choosing sides. But you did choose sides. This is your best friend, not some casual friend. You chose Larry. If it's incredibly important to you to get your friend back, you need to cut contact with him, tell her you've done that, tell her you'll wait for her as long as she needs. Tell her that you know she's got the police involved and that you realize now that you have completely screwed up and that you're there for her and not him. That's if you want her. And wanting her is going to mean losing him. There's a restraining order and police. If there was ever a time to choose sides, this is it, not matter how awful an affair is.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:51 AM on June 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's not clear from your question, but it sounds like possible you first heard about the affair, and then the divorce from Larry? And their divorce is contentious? If the only info you have on this entire situation comes from one party, I'd be very wary of everything you've heard. At best he's got a biased perspective; at worst he's lying maliciously. If Tina is your friend you should give her the benefit of the doubt, even if she won't talk to you.

As for the money, either a) she's gone off the deep end and never intends to repay, or b) she still intends to pay it back, but you hounding her about it now is going to ruin any chance at friendship or of seeing the money again. Either way I'd let it go.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 11:06 AM on June 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Restraining orders and police...? Does she have a restraining order against Larry? If so, I can see why she doesn't want to talk to you. If he's pushing her boundaries or repeatedly attempting to contact her in a way that's unwanted (which is abusive), she might get the impression that you're on his side and are only contacting her to either

1) guilt-trip her about not talking to him/the affair/etc

2) pump her for information that you will then give to Larry

This. And I assume that someone has seen Tina since January, right? Ages alive and well?
posted by fshgrl at 11:10 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

As someone who's been through a contentious and bitter divorce, let me give you some potential input:

If Tina feels Larry has actually wronged her (and with restraining orders involved, etc, she may well), and you have been at all friendly to Larry about this "hearing him out" for example...she has probably already written you off as untrustworthy. One thing you tend to do in a divorce is cut off anyone who's not absolutely loyal- because there's a lot of tale-carrying back and forth otherwise, and it affects the divorce itself. "I saw her with XYZ, I'm sure she still has a lot of money." "I saw the kid with uncombed hair." "I saw AffairDude sleeping over." Things like that. She just frankly doesn't trust you enough right now to allow you that access - and honestly, she's got reason to. There is literally nothing you can do until the divorce is over to rebuild that trust, because anything you might possibly say is also /exactly/ what you would say if you /had/ taken sides with Larry and were trying to pump her for information.

Wait until after the divorce. And don't ask about the money.
posted by corb at 11:29 AM on June 7, 2012 [6 favorites]

Some people just can't roll with the idea that their mutual friends can be impartially friendly to each partner after a big breakup.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:57 PM on June 7, 2012

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