This morning I was having a discussion with a colleague about their uneasiness at being the “bad guy” in an impending break-up and the looming prospect of divying up mutual friends. Part of the conversation dealt with how to manage joint events where under normal circumstances both would be invited — but also recognizing that a joint-invite was just that: a joint-invite. Eventually the conversation circled back to how to manage the neutral friends (the ones who don’t initially side with one ex or the other) and how much effort you put into maintaining or building a relationship with them.
It made me reflect on the break-ups I’ve had in the past and how much I grapple with the fair and reasonable division of people, places, and things. Actually, I don’t. I don’t like having anything become mutual in a relationship because if/when things go south, I want to be able to live my life without that person being around as they live theirs. I’m adult enough to admit that I’m extremely territorial in that regard, and I don’t think it’s unfair to expect a mutual “fall back” from one another’s family and friends once the relationship ends. I’ve been pretty up-front about my discomfort in that area with people I’ve dated after that issue became a problem for me. I want to be able to make a clean cut and have you drop off the face of my earth (or vice versa) if we decide “we” will turn into just you and me.
It sounds easy enough, but I’ve found the longer you’ve been together and the more your lives become intertwined, it’s not so simple, especially for family and friends. It’s even more complicated when it’s not just two people, but (as is my case) children are involved. In the latter case, there usually isn’t a clean cut when you still have things like custody to worry about. Inevitably, it becomes a circle of relationships, rather than two parallel lines (guess which one I prefer). It’s even more pronounced with the boom in social networks and ways for people to connect to each other. It ends up becoming almost a passive act to keep someone in the know or aggravate an already tense situation. At what point do loved ones find it appropriate to cut those ties after the love is gone?
It’s a bit unrealistic to expect people who end a relationship will have a sit-down and decide which friends they think it’s fair or necessary to stay in contact with and which should become hands-off. However, I do think people should respect the nature of these friendships/acquaintanceships and think about how their choice to remain in the other person’s may or may not affect the relationship they have with their friend or family member. If the only reason Tom knows Sally is because she dated John, what compelling reason is there for Tom and Sally to maintain a friendship (no matter how “passive”) after Sally and John have parted ways? Frankly, it’s disrespectful to the initial relationship to maintain one that wouldn’t exist were it not for the dead one.
And why am I personally so opposed? It leaves the door open to a messy situation. One where people are reporting on the life happenings of someone to a person who no longer deserves to know. I remember being FURIOUS when a friend of mine told an ex from the dark ages that I was pregnant. Not because I cared that they knew, but because it wasn’t their place to tell anything about my life to someone I didn’t willfully have in my life. If the person didn’t find out from me, than maybe I didn’t deem them fit to be privy to the details of my life. A friend should respect that part of the G code unconditionally.
I’ma be real about it: I don’t
outwardly give a damn what my exes have going on, and I don’t want my friends coming back to me with updates, however they get them. If I’ve made the choice to sever them from that aspect of my life, I would hope that my friends are mindful enough to not bring that kind of stuff to me. If I or the other person saw fit to update one another on our lives, we would do that and wouldn’t call on the assistance of outsiders. But in all honesty, I’d also prefer that they sever that tie as well. *shrug* If they choose not to sever that tie (because they’re grown and that’s their prerogative), they also can’t be surprised if I temper my interactions with them as a result.
Whatever. Maybe it’s just me. (Or maybe it’s not. I really do think there’s a section about this in the Man Law and Women’s Code).