Dear Carolyn: Do you have any tips on how to navigate relationships with two friends who’ve stopped speaking to each other? I’m still friends with both. I spend more time with one, but actually tend to think he’s more at fault in the falling out.
Should I completely butt out, or express my feelings to one or both?
I think it makes the most sense to stay friends with each as if neither is friends with the other, period – as in, treat it as a “what” and not a “why.” If you’re ever unsure which one to invite to something, then invite both and let them sort it out.
In the event the “why” becomes an issue, though, it’s fine to express your opinion, as long as you’re careful to acknowledge the limits of what you know. Stick to facts, not impressions, and ask for more information when you’re told something that sounds incomplete. Not only is that a matter of simple fairness, but also any additional information allows you to refine and, where appropriate, voice your opinion with the I-don’t-know-the-whole-story asterisk still in place.
That is, unless you witnessed the falling-out event yourself: In that case, you can erase the asterisk from your opinions – but that also means you should already have told the more-in-the-wrong friend your opinion of his more-wrongness. That is something we owe our friends – on both sides of a wrong.
Hi, Carolyn: In one of your recent columns, a woman said her husband accused her of being “too much of a mom” as justification for an affair. I’m not condoning his actions, but I’ve heard many non-birth parents say it can feel very isolating seeing a mother and baby completely enmeshed all the time. Partners can often feel like they have lost their spouse to the child.
How do you make a fair assessment of the situation? I don’t think it’s uncommon, and there are certainly some mothers whose lives become exclusively about motherhood.
Absolutely, yes, it does happen.
And when it does, adults point it out like adults and talk about it. They talk so they can find ways for both parents to spend more time together, one-on-one; they talk so they can come up with ways for the non-birth parent to spend more time bonding with the child; they talk so they can confirm their partnership as the foundation on which their child’s future will be built.
If that conversation goes south, then it’s a matter for counseling, because it’s too important to write off as something they’re “supposed to solve by themselves,” or whatever other excuses people use not to face difficult things.
They talk about all of this as opposed to cheating and blaming a new mother for it because marital sex with her is too dull and she is too mom-y and the porridge is tooooo cold!!! – which was the path chosen by the left-out parent in the column — an adolescent at best.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.