My Friend Can’t Move Past Divorce

Dear Robin:

My husband and I were best friends with another couple, I’ll call them “Bob and Carol,” for over 25 years.  We vacationed together, raised our children together, played golf and tennis together and felt as if we were all part of an extended family.

Sadly, Bob and Carol divorced almost five years ago and as a result, we only see them separately.  Here is the problem in a nutshell: Carol cannot seem to move past her anger over the divorce and this is putting a tremendous strain upon our relationship.

While it seemed at the time the breakup was fairly mutual, she has now decided that she was the victim in the divorce.  She gets angry when my husband and I see Bob, and especially so if she finds out his new girlfriend was with him when we socialized (she is not dating).

I have heard her denigrate Bob in front of their grown children, and their body language makes it clear they do not appreciate hearing her speak this way about their father.

Every time I see Carol for “girl time,” she spends most of the time complaining about Bob and his new girlfriend (who seems lovely, by the way).  She also makes repeated comments about how she was financially ruined by the divorce, even though I know she got half of everything and a tidy sum of spousal support.  Bob is a very successful businessman and Carol has never had to work, so I imagine there is plenty of money.

I’ve been reading your blog long enough to know you will ask me if I have talked to her about this and yes, I have.  She said I couldn’t possibly understand her predicament, which is probably true, and that the divorce has devastated her life.  That just seems odd to me because she never showed affection towards Bob and she often complained to me privately over the years that she was no longer in love with him.

What should I do?  I love Carol (as I do Bob) and I want her to be happy, but I am finding myself making up excuses not to see her so as to avoid being put in such an uncomfortable spot every time we meet.  Am I being insensitive?

-Portland Native

Dear Portland Native:

I am assigning you and your husband the names “Alice” and “Ted” because, duh.

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(I’m assuming you weren’t THIS close…)

I certainly don’t think you are being insensitive.  In fact, you have put up with this whiny bitch for five years – in my book that makes you a saint.  If it had only been a year since the divorce, I would have more sympathy for Carol.  Five years post-dissolution and she is still playing the Princess Victim role?  Fuck that noise.

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There is so much to rag on here but my time is limited, so I will use my personality analysis skills in rapid-fire mode to elucidate you as to the reasons you need to bail on this friendship, at least until she comes to her senses.  Readers, any additional detail you see below was gleaned from a series of texts exchanged between Alice and me.

1. First and foremost: she speaks ill of Bob in front of the children.  This is by far the most damning thing you shared with me, because it shows she is so petty, selfish and self-rituous that she is sacrificing the happiness of her children to further her own status as a victim.  More on that in a moment.

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Yes, the children are grown, but they still love their father and clearly don’t appreciate listening to their mom bash him.  As I’ve mentioned before, kids of all ages internalize this crap because the parent being maligned is 50% of where they came from.  She may as well just tell them she hates them and at least be more direct and save a little time.

2. She constantly whines about money but you told me she is buying (or trying to buy) a new and very expensive home, she drives a luxury car, she vacations on a regular basis and she is considering buying a condo at the coast.

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As if all that weren’t enough, she has an advanced degree but has never even for a moment considered getting a job and supporting herself.  Perhaps she would be less bitter and obsessed with Bob if she got off her ass and did something with her life.

You may want to give her a heads up that alimony reform is picking up steam across the country and in Oregon.  She may want to consider a Plan B for her life that doesn’t involve riding around like a barnacle on Bob’s boat.

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(not for long, I pray)

3. She has made numerous efforts to derail your friendship with Bob and his new lady friend.  While I can somewhat understand feeling hurt when your friends are hanging out with your ex, I reserve that understanding for really outrageous cases.

For example, if Mr. Patience and Understanding were to burn the house down on his way out the door with his 19 year old mistress named Cookie, my shoe collection and our good dog, I’d be bummed out if my three remaining friends were still buddy-buddy with him.

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But this was a run-of-the-mill dead marriage divorce and everyone got their fair share of the pie (baked entirely by Bob, I would add).  And that’s what brings me to my next point:

4. There is nothing worse (well, genocide I guess) than people who refuse to claim their own share of the blame when a marriage ends, instead portraying themselves as the injured and aggrieved party in a dispute created wholly by the other party.

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For years Carol complained about her marriage and threatened Bob with divorce.  When he finally had the balls to leave her, she decided to re-write history in her favor.  That’s pretty pathetic, but it’s also somewhat pathological.  Her ethics and integrity are even worse than mine, and that’s saying something.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  You have been friends for a really long time, so I suggest the next time you get together and she orders up a big bottle of whine, you tell her this:

“Carol, you know I love you.  We’ve been friends for years, and I want you to be happy.  I also want to enjoy our time together.  I have spoken with you in the past about how this continuing conversation about Bob makes me feel, but you seem unable or unwilling to leave him out of our talks.  I can’t do this anymore.

More important, my Advice Goddess tells me that your refusal to move past the pain of your divorce is keeping you mired in unhappiness and preventing you from making the best out of what time you have left in your life.  You seem stuck in the past and married to your misery.  You don’t date, you don’t work, you don’t seem to do much of anything but nurture your hatred of Bob and his girlfriend.  This isn’t healthy.

If we can’t find a way to spend time together without you bashing your ex, I need to put this friendship on hold.  I want my time with you to focus on the positive, not the negative.”

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Maybe this tough talk will be just the kick in the ass she needs to emerge from her cocoon of self-serving sorrow and be the butterfly most of us are able to become post-divorce.  Leave the door open for Carol in the event she changes her paradigm.

However, you need to stop being her emotional dumping ground, because you are serving a very specific purpose as an enabler in her quest to change the facts.

GwdDenialism

Please keep in touch and let me know how your conversation goes.  Thanks so much for your letter!

-Robin

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Debbie

    Damn, this scenario seems all too familiar with an ex wife I an unfortunately too familiar with. Why do people like playing the victim? Don’t they realize how unattractive it is?

  2. Melinda DesCamp

    We talked about this very phenomenon in Psych today.

  3. Chad

    Great advise. I hope more people read this one.

  4. kdog

    wow, move on lady….maybe he needed to “park his stuff in another garage” for her to move on (quote from yours truly, Robin).
    Go get laid!!!! It works……

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