Being supportive to a friend in a marriage mess
Q: My friend and his wife are expecting . . . and separating. The cause of the separation seems to be (significant) "stress of pregnancy" issues that I think are temporary. But, I think their behavior now, and their hurt, may prevent their reconciling after the kid is born.
While I recognize their choices are none of my business, it's hard to watch my friend nurse his hurt and think about dating other women, rather than look toward a very near future in which there will be no reason to separate and at least one big reason to stay together. As a bystander, what kinds of things are okay to say/do in support of the marriage? What kinds of things are over the line?
A: Assuming you're that kind of friend, how about: "Maybe you should wait till your wife gives birth before you openly contemplate dating other women, you moron." You can also flick his forehead.
Absolutely, there are things you don't know, as you acknowledge. For one, she could be as big a moron as he is, if not bigger. It could just be his hurt feelings talking. And it could be over between them for reasons that have nothing to do with pregnancy stress, where the prospect of a child merely precipitated a meltdown that was coming all along (and that the child was possibly conceived to pre-empt, ugh).
Whatever the case may be, you do know your friend is a mess, and you know the baby's coming, mess be damned. And, your friend is confiding in you. And, while the baby obviously has a timetable, absolutely nothing else does.
So the most productive — and compassionate — tack might just be to listen as he talks his way through this, and remind him at judicious intervals that his best move might be no move at all. He loses nothing by waiting to see what effect the baby has on his life before turning that life on end.
Why would you even want to be friends with this guy?
Q: My ex-boyfriend, who cheated and left me for "Liz," has started reaching out to me as though he wants to be friends. He seems to call when he wants to vent about Liz, whom he describes as controlling and abusive. It's possible he is also a little flirtatious with me, though I'm sure he would deny it. I'm suspicious of his motives. If it were anyone else, I'd say lose the abusive girlfriend, but I don't want him to misinterpret my interests, and part of me still wants him to suffer a little for leaving me. The answer seems obvious after saying all that, but is this a friendship that's not worth having?
A: When the guy who cheated on you and dumped you calls you to bad-mouth the woman he left you for, and when you don't (politely, of course) tell him where he can stuff it before you stop taking his calls, the question becomes: Why are you ignoring this seemingly (screamingly) obvious answer?
There's always a reason. Whatever that reason is — you want him back, you want to "win," you want to rewrite the unhappy ending, you pine for drama, so many possibilities — facing it is the only path out of your rut. Not just with this guy, but with future ones as well.