• Keeping Friends

Should my friend have explained the circumstances of my divorce?

Published: June 12, 2015 | Last Updated: June 13, 2015 By | 10 Replies Continue Reading
After divorce, a woman’s husband accuses her of adultery and her friend doesn’t come to her defense with mutual friends.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

Ten years ago I had to divorce my husband of 25 years because he wouldn’t get help for bipolar disorder and became too dangerous and violent. When I did, he returned to the town we were from and told our former large circle of friends that I committed adultery rather than about his mental health disorder.

Only one person called to verify his story–the others just bought it. I told this one person the truth. Yesterday I found out that for ten years she has listened to the gossip about me and never once told anyone it was not true. I’m devastated.

She also said she has never told anyone that she and I are still friends and stay in regular contact. All this time I thought she had set the record straight, but she has remained totally silent. I’m devastated. Am I wrong or right?

Signed, Paula

ANSWER

Hi Paula,

It can be very difficult for someone with bipolar disorder to reveal an illness to friends, especially if the illness led to aggressive, violent behavior and the demise of a marriage. While I understand your ex-husband’s decision not to disclose, it was certainly wrong of him to “cover up” by accusing you of adultery.

As a consequence of his actions, it seems like you lost some friendships. While unfortunate, this often occurs after divorce when friends take sides. It’s admirable that you had the good character to move forward without telling tales about the circumstances leading to your divorce.

However, before you toss your girlfriend aside, is there some possibility that she felt a responsibility to not get involved in gossip—and private matters between you and your ex? But I’m not sure why she never raised the possibility with your circle of friends that something else might be going on (without going into the details of your husband’s illness) or why she chose to keep her ongoing friendship with you a secret.

My sense is that this isn’t a case of your friend being right or wrong. If this long-term friendship is important to you, speak to her and find out what her thinking was. If the friendship isn’t a meaningful one, another option is to just move forward with your own life and leave the friendships you had during your marriage behind.

And pat yourself on the back for emerging relatively unscathed from a very tough situation.

My best, Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS

Comments (10)

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  1. shiloh says:

    This actually happened to me also. My ex told a mutual friend that I left him for my current husband when in truth I didn’t even know my current husband when my first marriage broke up & divorce was finalized. My ex is now in prison for actions taken in his disturbed state of mind; that fact doesn’t contribute to the story except to support to some degree the common bond that just like the letter writer, my ex also has a serious mental illness.

     

    To the letter writer: it never entered my mind to blame my friend for correcting a wrong done by my ex. I would never put that burden on her.

     

    If she chose to generally deny the lie (I don’t believe that trash; that doesn’t sound like the Ruthie I know), then that’s fine; but if she doesn’t, that’s totally ok too.

     

    If someone, friend or acquaintance, chooses to believe a lie spoken in gossip about me, rather than asking me for my side of the story, then theirs is not a friendship I need or want. At least your friend asked you for your side of the story where so many others didn’t. That’s a pretty significant step on her part.

     

    In the end, my friend asked me for my side of the story (it took years but she got around to it). I told her the truth; I then wrote my ex and told him what he did was cheap and low and I have corrected the story. I then let go and moved on.

  2. Maddie says:

    It’s your responsibility to set the record straight. She kept a confidence. All you needed to do was say you never committed adultery and it was for other reasons. You don’t need to bring up the mental illness.

    I’m not sure why you hold your friend responsible for this.

  3. hanna says:

    Wow, I would do the same thing the friend did. If the wife does nothing to clear her own name, I would assume that she preferred the matter not be discussed. I know a few women who have taken that approach after leaving abusive marriages.

    I can’t imagine that a marriage that ended ten years ago comes up in conversation that much anymore.

  4. lottie says:

    Agree entirely with Pat,and others.That would have hurt me more than the old friends who have not kept in touch.I think she is worse,and probably fuelling the situation more adding snippets to whoever listens. 10 years and she never spoke up for you.
    I would like to shove her into the middle of next week,where does she live.What a witch. Lottie

  5. JAM says:

    I think Irene was fair. Many times on blogs or “help” sites the answers and advice are too generic and broad to be of much help. But I found Irene’s response really on target.

    First, I believe it is Paula’s responsibility to attempt to “clear” her name as best as possible if she wants to maintain these friendships. It stinks and is unfair that she should have to go around defending herself, but because her ex sent out missiles, she has to make choices. She can either defend herself and set the record straight, or let her husband’s testimony stand. But if she won’t defend herself first and foremost, why should she expect others to do a better job for her?

    Secondly, at least her friend did reach out to hear both stories. However, if Paula is not making the effort to clear her name and defend herself to any and all of her past people that she chooses, it seems understandable that the friend would not make more of an effort than Paula herself would. So I would not rest too much responsibility on her friend who seems perhaps frightened, confused, and trying to maintain both sides.

    Third, Paula, I’d probably give my friend a pass. Then decide how much defending myself was worth the while (based on the value of these relationships). I’d consider the one friend separately and go easier on her. I’d also focus on making new friendships that are free of this mess, and therefore less complicated.

    Lastly, I’d spend a lot of time in self healing and doing kind things for myself. Healthy, self, supportive things. Like Irene said, I’d congratulate myself over and over for getting out when I could, and make the most of the beauty of life at this point.

    Blessings and best wishes,
    JAM

    • JAM says:

      I also think many of the other points made are valid as well. It is quite possible your one “friend” is not much of a friend after all. That is for you to decide based on her behaviors and vibes. It is hard to say if she was absorbing gossip or feeling conflicted and bad about it all. That is for you to explore or let go.

  6. Amy F says:

    The only two people who can really know what goes on between a couple are the members of the couple. Others can go by their observations and what they’ve been told. If your case, I wouldn’t have called you to verify, because I wouldn’t gage cares whether or not you committed adultery. Your marriage, your business. Whether or not I knew your version of the events (and I’m not doubting you, just saying that in most conflict, each person has a different version), I’d say exactly what I wrote in this reply.

    Just because none if your friends called you, doesn’t mean they believe you cheated. In fact, your friends might not have wanted to hurt you by repeating his gossip. If your ex is an out of control, unmedicated person with bipolar, his behavior speaks for itself.

  7. Pat says:

    I don’t think your “secret” friend is much of a friend. It doesn’t seem as though she considers you to be her friend, if she doesn’t set the record straight, or even acknowledge that you’re friends. I think she was very wrong to treat you that way; it was hurtful and unbelievably insensitive. She must not have objected to listening to the gossip or people would have asked her why. My sense is that your spineless friend is completely in the wrong here, and I’d move on to find new friends, as the rest chose to believe your lying husband, and the one woman who knew the truth doesn’t stand up for you.

  8. Dionne says:

    I would not consider her anything more than an acquaintance, if even that. If she was much of a friend, others would know she was your friend. Also, it would have cost her absolutely nothing to open her mouth and say she didn’t believe you cheated.

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