Hope I can keep this to the point, but because it's me, I will have to reign myself in. I wrote about this issue before but had the thread deleted because it was so unbearably juvenile and high school that I was embarrassed to have been the one who wrote it. However things are heating up now and I need some advice on how to deal (or not deal) with at least one of the parties in what is threatening to be an ugly divorce. Although it deals with workplace companions, we are mostly friends outside of work, so I am putting this in the General Category.
I have known and worked with Paul for about twenty years. From what I can tell Paul has always been a true gentleman, patient, kind and good hearted. He is married to Annie who is pleasant to talk to but who is also (my own personal experience proves this true) unable to get through the day without creating drama. Can she not find her car keys? She calls Paul at work and insists he comes home to help her look. Two hours later the keys are discovered wedged up into a corner of her purse. Does her mother require medication? Paul has to drive over to administer it because Annie is afraid she'll do it wrong and poison her Mom. Did the cat throw up? Paul needs to come home immediately because the cat might be sick and Annie can't bear to clean up the result hairball that caused the problem.
Annie is on medication for everything from anxiety and agraphobia to depression and dolor. She has been in therapy countless times for her panic attacks which will cause her to pull off the road while she is driving and--yes, call Paul at work to talk her through them. Now that her mother is suffering with senility her siblings think that Annie and Paul (who live closest) should take care of Mom (and Annie thinks so, too) and none of them will entertain the idea of assisted living. You know who spends all his time taking care of this woman, right? His OWN parents didn't expect this level of care from him.
Annie and I are friendly. We sit together at company parties and so on...but she is scary intense and cannot seem to understand the simplest things or how not to invade another person's privacy. (I had to stop myself from answering all her very pointed and graphic questions about a hysterectomy I had years ago). In my limited experience of her, Annie is extremely immature and exhausting to be around. (She makes me look like I should receive the Most Capable Person of the Year Award.) Although I was initially disappointed in Paul's decision to have a separation, the more that filters through (not from Paul, but from other coworkers) to me has cemented my belief that Paul has done the right thing for his health and sanity by filing for divorce.
And here is my problem: Annie has decided that she needs to call me and keep me apprised of the situation. Fortunately, she calls when I am not at home and leaves long, rambling messages (and has to call back to finish them) on my voice mail. It's more than a little bit creepy as she definitely wants me to feel that Paul is being unfair and cruel. (He served her with the papers on the twentieth anniversary of their engagement which was probably not the brightest thing he has done and he admits it.) She repeats in these lengthy messages that "I know you can't take sides, but....." and follows up with some new wrong Paul has committed.
Then, at work, Paul will tell me the same thing with less detail. I have put my hands up to say "I support you in your decision, but TMI! TMI!"
The male contingent of my department tells me that Annie has been physically abusive (I have suspected this myself for a number of reasons) as well. I've tried to avoid discussions like this because...I don't want to know, despite my curious nature.
So the question, if there is one, is : Can I support Paul in his decision while still not taking sides exactly? Should I return Annie's calls? (I haven't so far because Annie can suck the life out of you when she's happy and carefree and I can't imagine what it might be like to have to talk to Annie for hours on end when she's NOT happy and carefree. I have had lengthy conversations with her about my experience with taking anti-depressants and anti anxiety meds where, when the call ended, I wanted to down a whole bottle just to cheer up again--and she was in a GOOD mood while we were talking.) She has asked me to contact her so we can have lunch. I would rather pick up dog poop from the cnodo lawn with my bare hands. And frankly, I am a little leery of getting anywhere near her if she is, as my other coworkers and friends suggest, getting physical with her anger.
Do I ignore the calls? Do I tell Paul NOT to tell me detailed information? Do I change my phone number and move to Timbuktu? If you have had any experience with this sort of "friends going through an ugly divorce" situation, I will appreciate any advice about being nice, polite and--safe.
(And yes, I did choose those names deliberately.)