Advice

Our friends are divorcing, and my husband and I are caught in the middle

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

For years, my husband and I have been very close friends with “Jack” and “Jill.” We were in each other’s weddings, we’ve vacationed together, we have spent holidays at each other’s homes. The four of us have shared so much over the years — so we were completely shocked when Jack and Jill recently told us they were divorcing.

It turns out they already were in counseling and even had a trial separation. The entire time we shared date nights and barbecues, and never guessed anything was amiss. They said they put on a good front because they hoped to work things out and didn’t want us to look at them differently.

Initially, they said they planned to remain friends. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked out. Very quickly, their divorce went from respectful to acrimonious. The last few times we saw them — individually, not together — all they seem to want to talk about was each other. Jack goes on about how Jill was frigid and withheld sex and made him feel emasculated; Jill has called Jack controlling and emotionally distant and uncaring about her dreams.

These are personal details we definitely don’t need to know, and we are in an extremely uncomfortable position. We love these two people but are caught in the middle. I want to be supportive. My husband is so sick of it he just wants to distance himself from them entirely. I feel like that’s abandoning our friends in a time of need, not to mention leaving a huge hole in our lives. I keep hoping with time, the current negativity will smooth over and we can get back to normal and all be friends again. Advice?

Wanda says:

For starters, it’s time to accept that in terms of your friendships with Jack and Jill, there’s no “getting back to normal.” Where you are now is the new normal, and our fun-loving fab foursome is definitely a thing of the past. While it’s perfectly reasonable to mourn the loss of your go-to couple, growing pains in adult friendships are certainly not unusual.

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Our lifestyle landscapes are always shifting, and there are many reasons we drift or break apart from our buddies. Break-ups, babies, big moves — all kinds of circumstances can slam into one’s social circle like a meteor, and divorce is a biggie when it comes to affecting ancillary relationships. It can leave people feeling like they have to choose sides, and it can create dynamics like your present scenario where friends uncomfortably find themselves fielding TMI confessionals from spurned spouses.

Jack and Jill may be done with each other, but they each clearly aren’t done with your friendship. In a way, that they’re leaning on you both in such a deeply personal way makes sense: the friendship you described sounds almost familial. Because they’re amid a very difficult divorce, they’re not clearly seeing the awkwardness you’re experiencing. But the truth is, no matter how uncomfortable you feel, Jack and Jill are dealing with something way more complicated and challenging; being the best friend to them at this time may mean you sideline your own emotions and focus on being supportive.

Wayne says:

Wanda is right — the band is broken up and there will be no reunion tour. But that doesn’t mean everyone has to go solo. In fact, your friendships — now plural — can continue growing, just in different directions and in different ways.

First things first, though — you two should not allow their conflict to create drama between you. The tension or disagreements caused by this situation need to be settled soon and approached like the solid couple you are: with communication, compassion and compromise. You’re no good to them if you’re not being good to each other. And the last thing we need here is two couples breaking up. Keeping the peace, trust and respect in your relationship remain the priorities.

From there, realistically you can continue having close friendships with both of them. You just need to lay down some ground rules. You aren’t there for the venting, rumors and drama. You won’t hear any negative talk about one another anymore. You won’t disclose the other person’s emotional status or activities. And you will not be put in a position to choose sides.

You will, however, be there to help, listen and love, like you always have. Need assistance moving? We’ll bring the truck and the pizza. Feeling lonely or sad after a tough day? We’ll bring the shoulders to cry on and the wine and beer. Want to get out for a night? Be our third-wheel and let’s roll! You aren’t their lawyers or their counselors. You’re their friends, and this is exactly the kind of situation that close friends are for.

Wayne and Wanda

Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@adn.com.

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