Taking Sides

Facing chairs out doors

If you are a friend or relation of a divorcing couple, sooner or later the question of divided loyalties will arise.

Obviously individual circumstances are critically important, but a few general rules apply:

- While you may well have to listen to ex-partners being bad-mouthed, take these revelations with a pinch of salt - anger and accusations become exaggerated in the immediate aftermath of a split-up.

Do not relay private revelations around your social circle. If you gossip you may well be seen as a stirrer, who is making a bad situation even worse.

Try to be sympathetic and supportive without being overwhelmingly partisan. It is quite likely that your support will be enlisted, but you do not have to add fuel to the fire. Further down the line, friends may well appreciate your phlegmatic good sense.

If you find yourself naturally aligned with one half of a divorcing couple, but still wish to maintain cordial relations with the other, be completely open about it. Cloak and dagger contact will come back to haunt you, and may well be interpreted as an unforgivable betrayal.

If, on the other hand, you are placed in a position where contact with a close friend's ex is interpreted as disloyalty, do not provoke someone who is already feeling vulnerable and enraged. Go along with it (it may well be temporary), and perhaps drop the ex a note or email, explaining that, at present, ongoing contact is impossibly difficult.

In situations where there is potential conflict - perhaps you are hosting a party, and feel that you can only safely invite one of the ex-partners - be completely up-front about your actions, explaining your motives to both parties.

You may, of course, feel completely partisan support for one half of a divorcing couple - especially in circumstances where there has been infidelity etc. Resist any temptation to say I told you so, or to belabour the sins of the offending partner. At least you know exactly where your feelings lie, and the question of divided loyalties will never be an issue.

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