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We have all most probably encountered it at some stage in our lives - who
do we stay friends with after a couple divorces or separates?
The text book answer is to stay friends with both parties of course but
thats a mighty tall order to fulfil as we are dealing with human emotions
and judgemental attitudes here as well.
Fortunately I think that most normal friends witnessing a couple of family
splitting up can actually see both sides of the coin and actually do stay
away from taking sides.
However, in the real world the divorcing couple will normally expect you
to commit to one side or the other and this pattern often establishes itself
way before the final separation or divorce. This is due to our blame culture
where we often ignore our own responsibilities for the situation we find
ourselves in - its always someone elses fault - black & white,
when actually there will be many shades of grey that overlap and it is often
not until many years later and upon a lot of reflective thought that we suddenly
realise that we were actually partly to blame for the failure of that
So, how do friends handle the initial expectation from one part of the divorcing
couple to now ignore their former partner? It can be really tough for friends
of separating partners - you know, who do you invite to the family party
- him or her - can you invite both? - what will happen if they both meet
at the daughters wedding? - god forbid but what will happen should each one
bring a new partner? - The scenarios are endless.
Having experienced several friends now go through divorce and separation
proceedings and each one has found its own set of issues, I can say that
there is no set advice or guidance in the form of a one size fits all answer.
However, there are a few outline framework procedures that I would certainly
adopt in order to ensure that your former couple remain friends long after
the divorce or separation.
Firstly - always try to balance being sympathetic and understanding to your
main friend but without actually agreeing to any of their own conclusions
regarding blame etc. - remember your only hearing one side of a very unbalanced
perspective. This ensures that you do not reinforce your friends biased viewpoint
and you can still remain impartial - very important. This may require exemplary
diplomatic skills but if your conscious of this fact can actually be quite
challenging and rewarding - its like being tested yourself.
Secondly, make it clear to your main friend that you may still see or respond
to their former partner from time to time after the divorce or separation
for obvious and practical reasons. Most of our lives are intertwined these
days with other stuff such as the sharing of the school run or business contacts
for example. It needs to be made clear by way of simple inexplicit references
with your normal conversations that this will happen. This signals to your
main friend that divided loyalties are not actually that simple to divide
in the manner that they may be thinking. It also ensures that you are not
accused of being a Judas and losing the confidence or friendship
of your main friend when they find out that you have had contact with their
And thirdly, never, ever say what you really thought of their former partner
even if you think that having empathy with their feelings will help them
over this period - Just remember that a high proportion of separating couples
do actually end up getting back together again & releasing a load of
sympathetic venom last month will stick in your reunited friends throat like
barbed wire and your relationship with them both will never be the same again.
Within these three basic guidance rules will be a whole host of anomalies
that will occur that will need careful thoughtful planning on what your responses
will be for each individual case of a divorcing couple. It wont be easy -
it never is especially when dealing with a high emotional content. But trying
to frame your responses within these three basic guidance rules should ensure
that your friendship is retained and remains flexible for most situations
that may occur over the coming years.
Jenny Clair editor of Marriage-Divorce-Separation.com has formed a community
web site exploring the various issues of divorce, separation and breakdowns
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