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Dr. Irene S. Levine

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When a Friendship Breakup Spills Over to Family

Posted: 07/18/11 12:51 AM ET

Two friends split and the tension spills over to their husbands and children.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

My ex-BFF and I had a recent falling out a few months back after a close seven-year friendship. Not only did we become good friends, so did our husbands, kids and extended families. We did a lot of activities together as couples and families.

Now that the friendship between her and me has come to an end, I'm struggling with the fact that my husband remains friends with her. He will occasionally get together with her husband and watch a movie at her house or will chat with her at sports activities and they are both involved in the same community programs.

I question his loyalty but I know that we are not in high school and I'm trying to stay positive and mature about the whole thing. The falling out was between her and me; my husband wasn't directly involved.

I would expect the husbands to remain friendly, but it all just seems to be too much. My husband has made it clear that he does not talk to her about our falling out and really does prefer to stay out of it. The adult side of me understands this and wants to remain understanding and mature. The child in me wants her to have nothing to do with my family.

Why should she still get the benefit of my family when our friendship is now over? How should I handle this?

Signed
Susan

ANSWER

Hi Susan,

When two people break up, whether it's a marriage or a friendship, the tension often spills over to the people around them. This is what has happened with you and your friend. It's not just you and your ex-friend who were affected -- but your family and her family were casualties as well.

Given that your husband and children have close ties to this other family, I think you should try to make this situation as comfortable as possible for them. I realize that this might feel awkward, especially if your husband's visits to your ex's house are frequent or excessive.

If you would feel more comfortable with her husband coming to your house, you might suggest this to your husband as an alternative. If the visits between the families since the breakup have all been in one direction, perhaps it's because your husband's been trying to be sensitive to your feelings and is trying to spare you from having to face the other family. It's worth discussing with him.

I think you need to reframe the situation so it's not "she," your ex-friend, who is getting the benefit of her family but rather your family who is getting the benefit of their own ties to the other family. Also, remember that your ex is probably just as uncomfortable as you are.

Does this help at all? There isn't any simple solution to this problem but, hopefully, the passage of time will make the situation less tense.

My best,
Irene

Other posts on The Friendship Blog about the collateral damage of a friendship breakup:


 
 
 

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