You are going through a divorce and the soon to be ex-spouse is bashing you to all of your mutual friends and neighbors; suddenly your friends are in an impossible position of being forced to take sides. Consider how similar this dilemma is to the child of divorce, caught in the middle of two angry parents that they love. Even if what is being shared by your spouse is true, they have no business speaking poorly of you behind your back. Like the child of divorce, this creates a painful loyalty bind that is extremely difficult to balance for both child and adults alike.
The reason your spouse is sharing negative information with your friends may be because they are desperate for emotional support or validation. Though the need is reasonable, the poor judgment may be disastrous. Sometimes the negative sharing is intentional, vindictive, competitive and simply a selfish desire to add people to “his/her side.” Try to remember that the friends who know you are not likely to believe the gossip anyway. If your spouse has gone to mutual friends to get them to side with them, it is important that you not do the same thing. Find one friend, though not a mutual friend,and let them be the person you complain to. It is best to leave all mutual friends out of the venting and gossip. It will pay off in the long run.
Most friends caught in the middle of your divorce feel very uncomfortable and would prefer to not be a part of your drama. Unfortunately, that is not true about everyone. Those friends that hear only one side of a story and accept it as truth are not the most mature friends to have in the first place.
To maintain mutual friendships, it is important to reach out to your friends with the goal of having fun rather than giving them “your side of the story.” Try to avoid speaking negatively about the divorce or your spouse. If you are asked about the divorce, keep it general and give a simple update. “The divorce is going very slowly” is a better option than “She is dragging her feet just to punish me! Other examples of how to keep your friends out of the middle include:
|“The divorce is his fault!”||“We both contributed to the marital problems.”|
|“She is trying to take me to the cleaners.”||“We are not able to agree on the finances.”|
|“He wants to take our child away from me!”||“We both love our child and want to be with her.”|
|“She is bashing me with everyone!”||“I don’t want to put you in the middle so Ill spare you the nasty details.”|
|“He says you are writing an affidavit for him.”||“I hope you will not have to pick sides.”|
Carefully say as little as possible unless they challenge you with something negative shared with them by your spouse. Acknowledge that you value their friendship and you have no desire to put them into the middle. Let them know they can love you both and be very clear that your intent is to weather the divorce with as little damage as possible. You may even give them permission to signal you if you start to cross the line with negative comments. They will recognize your effort and commitment as a sign of loyalty and maturity. This will make you even more valuable as a friend. It is ok to talk about your grief and your anxieties as long as you can do so without negative comments regarding your spouse. Friends are able to listen to this without having to take sides.
Even though a divorce can be all consuming, try to focus on your friend and their feelings instead of your pain. You may possibly end up losing some of your friends but hopefully not all of them. Just try not to lose friends because you were the one who shared the nasty, boring details. Respect the awkward position they are in. They are mutual friends and likely hope to keep both of you that way. So find one friend, preferably not a mutual friend to vent to and additionally, seek an outside resource, such as a counselor to maximize your support. This will hopefully allow you to retain your mutual friends without putting them into the same loyalty binds that children of divorce are often forced into.
Widely known for her expertise in the area of divorce and the family, she provides training to educators, family law and mental health professionals, as well as “High-conflict divorce” and “Parenting Coordination”.She has trained parenting coordinators since 1997, and as a result, co-authored the first and only comprehensive model of parenting coordination. Respected in their field, Susan has conducted numerous seminars on the international, national, state and local levels on topics such as parental alienation and visitation refusal, interviewing children, therapeutic and supervised visitation and developmentally appropriate time-sharing plans.
She has been awarded clinical membership in the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and is a member of multiple organizations including the Academy of Professional Family Mediators, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.Mrs. Boyan maintains a private practice in Georgia.
Latest posts by Susan Boyan (see all)
- Seek and You Shall Find;Confirmation Bias with Divorce - July 1, 2015
- King Solomon’s Advice on Co-Parenting - June 3, 2015
- Part II. Different Paths to Seek a Divorce - May 21, 2015