I have a close, small group of friends who I have known for decades, and two of them are divorced, both more than five years ago. We have always shared things that bother or hurt us in our lives.
When I complain about some hurtful thing my husband has said, or about a problem in our retirement plans, they both remark, “At least YOU have a husband.” I know they both went through hell, but I don’t understand why I am not allowed to have feelings and express them anymore. I hate that our friendship dynamic has changed. Am I being silly about this?
Of course not, no. It’s a lonely feeling indeed to have your concerns rubber-stamped as invalid.
It would be silly, though, to exclude this from the list of things your share with them that “bother or hurt us in our lives.” This one is valid, too, and your friends can’t help you with a problem they don’t even know you have.
So (as always) be calm, be kind and be clear: “Yes, I do have a husband, and I am grateful for him. And I get upset when he says something hurtful to me. Is that not OK?”
This may sound like a rhetorical question, but I suggest you treat it as one you’d like them to answer. There could be several explanations for their dismissive response: They may mistake it for a look-at-the-bright-side suggestion, or they’re trying to be funny, or you’ve been smug about your marriage and they’re weary of it, just for a few examples. Each may have her own reason, too, for responding that way.
But you won’t find out if you never admit how you feel.
My brother is in the process of getting a divorce, and my sister-in-law has a history of sharing her woes quite dramatically on Facebook. I have an account, my parents do not. I do not use mine anymore because it made me feel less connected in general, and I also wanted to avoid reading my sister-in-law’s updates without cutting her off.
Now my parents want to know if my sister-in-law has been posting anything about my brother. Do I tell them to ask him? Do I go on Facebook myself, which is really an energy-depleter for me? Or do I open my account and let them look for themselves? Yuck.
— Working on My Boundaries
No, you do not have to look for posts you don’t want to see, on behalf of people who aren’t you, about a relationship you are not in.
That’s your boundary. It’s a good one to start with because it’s clear and it’s easily set by the truth: “I don’t know, I don’t check Facebook anymore.”
I suppose “easily” is not entirely fair. The challenge with boundaries is in the holding, not the setting. So, deflect them with the truth and with absolute confidence that you owe them nothing further. Besides civility. So when they follow up by asking you to check: “No, I won’t do that. I won’t get in the middle of this.” They object, you politely exit the conversation.
And next time you’re on Facebook for whatever reason, “unfollow” your sister-in-law. The trick to boundaries: Don’t make more work for yourself.
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