Like many, I have friends who were couples who have gone through divorces. Some are better at working with each other and finding ways to co-parent. They may not see eye-to-eye but they do their best. I also know some who don’t try. They won’t try. They refuse. It hurts their children. It hurts their extended families. It hurts their friends.
People have their reasons for divorce. That’s okay. What isn’t okay is treating others poorly.
And I’m not one to let that truth go unspoken. I’m the type of friend who is going to tell you the truth, even when it isn’t what you want to hear.
I’m going to tell you that you’re being mean and a bully. Put the past behind you and focus on the kids. I’m going to tell you when I see your kids hurting (especially if they say something to me). If you leave your children and never have anything to do with them, I’m going to say something. I’m going to say you’re insulting 50% of each child by hurting the other parent, because, guess what – each of your biological kids is genetically 50% of each parent. When you insult the other parent, kids start thinking part of them is offensive, too. Given the chance, I’m going to say the same thing to both parents. Some people simply can’t handle the truth.
However, there are situations where parents start substituting friends’ behaviors into the role of the other parent, and they start hurting their friends. They start blaming friends for their divorce problems.
It took me a bit to realize I was a substitute “bad guy” (the father, in this case). So, from this friend to parents going through a nasty divorce, this letter is for you:
I’m here to tell you to stop being cruel to me and others. You’ve lost so many friends already because they wanted to help you, and you refused to see what others saw.
You want a ‘middle man’ in your divorce. You want someone to tell your ex everything he is doing to hurt you or the kids, to relay messages. However, if they point out how your behaviors are similar, you hit below the belt with something like ‘You know nothing. Plus, you’re a terrible parent to your children.’
You want others to do things with you and your kids but if they make arrangements during his time with the kids, you blame them for ‘siding’ with him.
You want someone to keep your secrets but when the truth gets out, you blame them for telling even if you were caught in the act. Other times, you tell friends to not say anything because it would ‘piss him off’ and they respect your wishes. However, when he finds out, you blame them again. If they point out how you or your kids let it slip (even to a third party who inadvertently mentions it to him), you say ‘Now you’re blaming my kids and me for your big mouth.’ Stop asking friends to lie for you, and stop putting words in our mouths.
You want help, so we help you get help. Later you throw it back in our faces, saying we gave him ‘ammunition’ to use against you in court.
You want us to be cruel to your ex. If we refuse, you accuse us of having a ‘special relationship’ with him, and ask why we won’t do what you want. Honestly, for me, it’s because I walk on eggshells around you. Anything, literally ANYTHING, I say, you might twist and perceive as an insult, and I have to deal with the backlash. He’s never done that. He’s cordial, even when I bluntly tell him he’s hurting the kids or being a bully to you. He listens to observations and admits when he does wrong. So I stay in touch with him. Our kids miss each other, and I don’t want you to selfishly cut their friendships because you get mad at something I say to you.
You text in the middle of the night to blame us for your anxiety and to argue. You won’t talk face-to-face or even over the phone during the day. Just hurtful, awful texts at night. Then you get mad when those texts are ignored (because, hey, it’s 2 am). If you have a real problem, or are feeling depressed or suicidal, call anytime! Please! But don’t wake others with insults and blame (because many of us value sleep).
Then you blame your mental health issues but refuse to change. It’s everyone else’s fault you act this way. I know you refuse to do what your counselor suggests. You like being the victim.
You are correct in one thing. We are no longer close. You perceive your former friends as untrustworthy because we won’t be cruel or lie to your ex. We perceive you as negative (a complete 180 from the person I first met).
I’m done apologizing for things I did NOT do, and I’ve said those apologies too often as I tried to save our friendship. I’m done being your substitute ex-spouse.
I ask this: once you cut all your relationships, what then? You will be a victim of your own making.
Even though you have declared us ‘non-friends,’ I’ll be here. You just need to ask. An apology would be nice but not expected because I don’t think you will accept responsibility for your actions.
I’ve already forgiven you. I haven’t forgotten and will be wary but I have forgiven. I loved you as a friend; I will continue to love you as a human being, and I will continue to pray for you.
Your Friend From A Distance