Author Topic: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)  (Read 7880 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

DavidH

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1770
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #30 on: April 15, 2013, 12:50:28 PM »
Can I support Paul in his decision while still not taking sides exactly?  It's a very fine line you are proposing to thread here.  It's almost impossible to agree with one party in a divorce and not take sides.  I think you'd do better to say that you are sorry things reached a point where they're getting a divorce and you hope things work out okay in the end. It is also fine to say that you really don't want to be in the middle, and please don't tell you details.

Should I return Annie's calls?  You need to tell her, at least once, to stop calling you, since she apparently doesn't get the hint.  I know there is a great temptation to just block all communication etc, but at least once I think it is key to just ask the person to stop.  It doesn't mean that you can't block them too.

stargazer

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5469
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #31 on: April 15, 2013, 06:04:11 PM »
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.)

I don't know what you mean by choosing those names deliberately.  If I missing something obvious, someone let me know.

Why is this even something you think you would need to choose sides in?  You work with Paul - by your own admission you only see Annie at things like company picnics.  You are not friends.  Why did she start calling you - just treat her like any other library patron and say you need to help your customers.  Plus, if a MAN was physically abusive to a WOMAN, there would be no need to take sides because everyone would be screaming for his head.  Why does this just seem to slide by because it's a woman?  Why are you talking to her at all?

Moray

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1869
  • My hovercraft is full of eels!
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #32 on: April 15, 2013, 06:55:58 PM »
Don't discuss this with either of them any further. Just say you're not comfortable being inserted into someone's breakup. I also sure wouldn't be discussing this with any of my other coworkers, even if they initiate. Give the same reason.
Utah

CrazyDaffodilLady

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 1278
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #33 on: April 15, 2013, 10:01:09 PM »
I would absolutely refuse to discuss the matter with either of them.  It will backfire on you.  Anything you say to one of them may be used as ammunition against the other. Even if one of them is an absolute monster, criticizing the monster is an implied criticism of the person who married them.  And it's possible they will get back together, and you will become a villain.  It happens.

Annie is using you.  She is not your friend.  Anyone who fills up your voice mail is not talking to you or with you; they're talking at you, and it has little do with you as a human being.
It takes two people to play tug of war. If you don't want to play, don't pick up the rope.

FoxPaws

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 5394
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #34 on: April 15, 2013, 10:18:13 PM »
I don't know what you mean by choosing those names deliberately.  If I missing something obvious, someone let me know.
I think the names are from the Stephen King novel/movie Misery. The character of Annie was batcrap crazy and Paul was her hapless victim.

OP, the only practical advice I can offer is to shorten the message length on your phone to a minute. That's enough time for any rational, reasonable person to get their point across and having to redial ten times might make Annie give up. On all other points, I agree with most of the previous posters - take a GIANT step backwards from the whole situation. Nothing good will come out of getting involved.
I am so a lady. And if you say I'm not, I'll slug you. - Cindy Brady

JeanFromBNA

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2295
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #35 on: April 15, 2013, 11:06:29 PM »
Boundaries.  Boundaries. Boundaries.  You are the only one in this situation with a hope of establishing boundaries, so you must be the enforcer to protect yourself.

I used to work for a divorce mediator.  Every single case that came through the door, I started off sympathetic to one party, and when I heard the whole story/read all the paperwork, I was shocked that the opposite party had not murdered the first one years ago.  I am extremely cynical.  There are a lot of sick marriages out there, and there are a lot of horrid people out there, but nobody knows what really goes on in a marriage except the two people in it.

Annie has no boundaries at all.  What you may fail to see, is that Paul has very few/very weak ones himself.  He married this woman for a reason, because he was attracted to her.  DO NOT FORGET THIS.  Unless she had a total personality transplant since the wedding, HE CHOSE THIS.  I am not saying he does not have a good reason for divorce, I am saying that as healthy as he may look by comparison,  he picked sick.

Get out of this.  Stay out of this.  Don't let either of them talk to you about it at all.  You need to maintain a working relationship with Paul, which gives you a perfect excuse to keep throwing your hands up and saying, "TMI".  If Annie does manage to speak to you in person, just tell her flatly that you have to work with Paul and you cannot get involved. 

If you want to be extra kind and you have the phone number of a counsellor/religious leader to refer them to, great, hand it over and walk away.  Do not engage.  If these were the kind of people who did have boundaries, it would be great to try to support them. That is not the case here.

This Paul has volunteered to be a hapless victim.  He picked sick. 

You have received some great advice here, Yarnspinner.  I don't normally dogpile, but my gut tells me that the weight of opinion will help here.

blarg314

  • Super Hero!
  • ****
  • Posts: 8504
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #36 on: April 16, 2013, 05:23:15 AM »
I am not saying he does not have a good reason for divorce, I am saying that as healthy as he may look by comparison,  he picked sick.

....

If you want to be extra kind and you have the phone number of a counsellor/religious leader to refer them to, great, hand it over and walk away.  Do not engage.  If these were the kind of people who did have boundaries, it would be great to try to support them. That is not the case here.

These are excellent points.

It's important to keep in mind that it's really hard to get a true picture of what is going on inside a marriage, and often it's a lot more complicated than it appears on the surface. I've known a few guys who were married to really needy, not very stable, high drama women. In every case, the guy married her with lot of experience of what she was like, but chose it anyways (I think there was often a white knight, saving the poor girl impulse involved, which suffered when they realized that no, she wasn't going to change). I've also known people who looked like perfect gentlemen/ladies in public, and were significantly different in private.

At the same time, that doesn't mean you should cut loose divorcing friends completely, because a healthy network of friends and family can make a big difference as someone struggles through a divorce and rebuilds their life, from either side of the situation.  When someone is divorcing, there is a tendency for friends to avoid them, because they don't feel comfortable, leaving them isolated when they do need support.

I agree with PPs that keeping far away from Annie is a very, very wise move. Don't answer her phone calls - delete messages unheard. Don't answer emails. If she does get through to you, say "I don't want to be involved" or even "I'm really busy right now". From what you've said, Annie isn't your friend - she's the soon to be ex-wife of a coworker you are friendly with, and someone you actively dislike and have never wanted to spend time with. I also agree with PPs that she is likely looking for someone new to latch on to for panic phone calls and help navigating the basics of life. You don't want to be that person.

For Paul, it's a bit different. It sounds like you to want offer friendly support without getting dragged into the dirt with him. He's a long-time work colleague you are friendly with, rather than a good friend, so your support should match that.

So you can support him in a healthy way. Chat with him about non-divorce related thing at coffee breaks or lunch - friendly social contact can be a big help to someone going through a divorce. Pass him information to resources that can can use for help if it is appropriate - support groups, counselling, etc.

What you don't want to do is get dragged into listening to him bad-mouth his wife. If he starts with that, you can cut him off, with a "That's more than I want to know", leaving if necessary.  If he keeps away from the topic, then you can keep up the office-friendly interaction.


Yarnspinner

  • Hero Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 3941
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #37 on: April 16, 2013, 05:18:00 PM »
Sorry, I have been trying to get back on line for two days and every time I begin a response, something comes up that calls me away.

For those wondering why I chose the names:  Annie Wilkes and Paul Sheldon are the main characters of Stephen King's Misery.  I chose them after one of my very young coworkers said "Man, you know his wife went all Annie Wilkes on his *** the other day."  I think it's more verbal abuse than physical, but Annie is very tall and bigger than Paul and I wouldn't be surprised that she got physical.

Anyway, I want to thank you all for confirming what I probably should have realized at the start, which is to stay as far as possible and not answer the phone when it's Annie calling.  I should have clarified:  she isn't calling me at work, she is calling me at home.  And yes, I did have visions of me having to help with her sick cat.

The reason we are acquainted is because she wasn't willingly taking her meds or going to her therapy and Paul asked me if he could have her call me and ask about the change meds made for me.  (We were taking the same medication.)  For a while she called me every other week and would carry on for an hour at a time while I tried to get a word in edgewise. 

It is going to be a little trickier not to see Paul on a social basis as we move in the same circles outside of work and our department often has little "social" get togethers outside the job where we go to the movies or some theatrical event.  These are few and far between, however, and it isn't a problem changing the topic and bean dipping.

So thank you again for your kind words, your advice and support.  If anything changes, I will definitely report back.  For now, though, I will steer clear of the "misery".  ^_^

« Last Edit: April 16, 2013, 05:19:47 PM by Yarnspinner »

goldilocks

  • Member
  • **
  • Posts: 799
Re: Don't Want to Take Sides, But I'm Siding With HIM (Divorce)
« Reply #38 on: April 18, 2013, 11:43:23 AM »
Years ago, my husband's best friend came home from work and found that his wife had packed up the house and left while he was at work.   This was a shock, as friend seemed the perfect husband - he worked 2 jobs so that his wife could stay home with the kids, he was always in a good mood (when I saw him), the life of the party, etc.  General agreement was that wife just "went crazy" and left for no reason.

Well -come to find out, perfect husband came home drunk a couple of times a month and beat the **** out of wife.  He just didn't seem to think that was enough reason for her to leave him.

Stay as far out of this drama as you can.  She may be crazy, but as I tell my family and friends - I'm crazy as well, but I didn't get this way by myself.