We have couple friends of almost six years that are like family to us. Our children call each other brothers. We get along like family, have conflict like family, have loose boundaries like family, etc. It used to be that everywhere we went or were invited it was usually assumed that all four of us would be in tow. Let me also say that we are both same sex couples, which is an important distinction to gender. I am more feminine and my partner is more masculine. They have the same dynamic, so as I explain I'll reference based on gender because it is important.
After discovering that my WS's boundaries for the relationship were poor, it became clear that the more feminine friend (FF), along with others not so close to us, was given free reign by my WS to complain about me to her in private over the years. In the interest of full disclosure, I will recognize that this behavior was not limited to me. At times when I was expressing frustration in my relationship FF would say snarky things about WS; however, I felt uncomfortable and would change the subject or suggest she talk to her. I feel like I should also say that any time I complained about my relationship with others, I was sharing the same information with WS (I wasn't getting that back). My WS, who needs to make sure the person in front of her feels "heard" would console or explain and never tell me about it.
So when we separated the couple declared "Switzerland." My WS is very private and only talked to them, so I backed off and gave them that space. As time went on, they were only spending time with WS. Also, talks I would have with FF became distant and she was less engaged. She would not show compassion or sympathy for how I was being treated and tell me that I had a decision to make. At that point I knew it was no longer "Switzerland."
During a brief week long attempt to R when WS was refusing to share texts sent between her and a few friends, including them, I retrieved her phone and read a text to WS that revealed FF shared that I accused FF of defending WS. I also read one in which she called me crazy. I knew already that she broke my confidence, as WS had said something I only told FF. After a final argument in which WS declared I would not "get her soul" by reading those texts (I didn't tell her I did at the time), I declared R was over and unfriended both WS and FF on Facebook. I canceled a lunch with FF in which we planned to talk about my feelings of her defending WS, too. Interesting to also note that FF and WS had planned a weekend hunting just two of them in a motel. Probably nothing, but the fact that neither understood how bad that looked is beyond me.
What followed was horrific. FF's partner (MF) and WS all engaged in a campaign to tell me how much I broke FF's heart and how mean I was for ending a friendship without talking. Truth was I knew that if I talked to her about it they would all discuss it and continue to judge me. I just could not put myself in a position to be hurt anymore.
So, after R I read all the texts and there was so much that FF said that was snarky and judgmental, along with shit-stirring. I attempted to have a conversation with her about it, but she minimized her actions saying that she didn't know how to help me and that two different people needed two different ways of being supported. I insisted that she was giving ammunition to someone that clearly hated me and was not being a friend of the relationship. Not only did she not get it, she accused me of being dishonest by hiding my anxiety when I was around them (because I told her it was difficult to be around three people who conspired against me during the worst time in my life).
We continued to hang out because we are like family, but it's been distant. Once WS didn't realize that she ended up alone with FF (a condition we agreed in that she not be alone with any feminine people, especially those that trashed me to her behind my back) and I hung up on WS while FF was there. FF texted me the next day to discuss why I hung up when I realized they were alone together. Really? How does someone not get that they aren't trusted or that they are no longer invited to be a part of the primary relationship after that? Another time she brought up a time they all had a great time together without me while we were separated. MF later asked WS if she "got in trouble" for that. Luckily WS told her that she doesn't "get in trouble" and that recalling that was hurtful to both of us.
Just over a week ago WS had a conversation with them (her own idea to protect the relationship) in which she made it clear that we had new boundaries we both established in an effort for WS to rebuild trust and to protect the relationship while we healed. She was clear about how their actions (including hers) during our separation were very hurtful to me, and hurtful for her in hindsight. They admitted to her that the tent of Switzerland fell and I guess they appeared to feel bad about it. FF said that she was afraid of or intimidated by my emotions (I am comfortable with expressing my feelings and tend to be a bit passionate), and WS explained that was about her, not me. That she used to feel the same way but realized my emotions weren't in the way of my capability to handle conflict, but my way of dealing with it. It was suggested that the four of us talk to move toward healing and left for them to decide.
We still hang out, but not as much. I feel resentment building because FF has said nothing in spite of knowing how badly I'm hurting. WS suggested that I might reach out to her to let her know it is safe. I'm not sure about that. My thoughts and feelings on this are all over the place. Yes, it has been a valuable and important friendship, but do I want to reach out AGAIN and risk being hurt by someone who betrayed me and seemed to care more about defending themselves than showing compassion for what they did? Is it really my job to fix it after I already tried...and after my WS did, too? Do I want to be close and rebuild trust with someone who requires ME to reach out after how badly THEY acted?
My IC and I discussed it and I have three possible strategies. The first is to just not be friends with them anymore, which removes a close friend (MF) of my WS and our son's loving relationship with theirs. The second is to continue with them as couple friends in which I just don't confide in anything with FF (this is hard because I am a naturally trusting person and would have to censor myself to do it...plus I just want to "be me" and can I do that worrying about being judged?). Third, I can just not be friends with them, but WS can continue her friendship with MF and our son can continue to see their's.
Anyone else have any advice or experiences that relate? What are your thoughts?
I have been following your journey closely. I have seen through your posts that your spouse continues to interact inappropriately with RL friends...both male and female.
I don't have great insight being straight. By that I mean in my mind men are hard wired to be attracted to women.
I have had to have boundaries with all women all of my married life....whether they are in single, straight, or lesbian. For me there is much risk in hanging out with a woman one-on-one.
By your posts your spouse is very much into women...she knows this, you know this.....and she has continually turned to other women for support. I just don't see how this is healthy for your relationship.
Then I think about her hanging out with your married MALE friend.....and can't imagine that is healthy for his marriage. Sure, she may not be interested....but men are hardwired to like and desire women. I think this is very dangerous...could lead to inappropriate behavior and undermine his relationship with his wife. Think it highly likely that with your female friend sharing and leaning on him with VERY personal matters....he will feel safe to do the same with her. Bonding will occur. Even if it doesn't get physical, infidelity is highly likely to occur.
I don't have great answers or advice for you. You do have a unique situation. I have read north of 40 books and the closest case studies I have found is where a man cheats with another man or a woman cheats with another woman....and reveals they are gay or lesbian. A shock to them and their spouses.
But in your case your partner is not doing this....
Perhaps a solution is to not meet one-on-one with anyone? Make it always at least 3 people? But is it less risky to have a married couple friend her? or two guys?
Wife and I went to college with a couple...they got married and we were in their wedding party, we got married they in our wedding party.
I share with her husband, wife shares with his wife.
Rarely do they discuss what we say in confidence with each other.
It works for us.
It would NOT work if I visited with his wife, and my wife visited with her husband.
What we have seen as we visit with them.....is that they are discovering flags in their marriage. Which is dangerously similar to what fed my wifes affair...the whole "wow, I'm not alone. I don't have to be isolted. You are what I need to fix me" syndrome.
You both are on my SI specific prayer list.
Are you both doing therapy?
Look at my and my wifes FOO issues....you don't even need to remember them. Just know that kids can find other friends, they only have one home to nurture, care for and make them feel safe. They may hate you for a short while for costing them a friendship, but their future families will reap the benefit of you working on making your family a safe, stable one for them to grow up in.
God is with us all.
We worked out the one on one time. We decided it was not ok with anyone who was feminine, and I get to decide who is feminine. However, I have chosen to avoid my interaction with masculine perons, too, by default. I don't think I'm at risk, as I have excellent boundaries for others expressing interest, have a good sense of when someone is, and have no history of violations for that. I have, however, had difficulty violating revealing personal information others don't want shared, especially WS. I have stopped that.
With regard to the friend, it's difficult because the relationship is really "family." Maybe comparisons to how people deal with family members is necessary?
I should also say that it has only been 10 days since WS talked with them. They are turtles in everything, so she may still attempt to do something or they may ask the four of us to talk. In the meantime, I have been engaging in group activities as planned by others and our children still play together. I have not planned time alone with just FF, nor do I intend to. This might be a situation in which I don't make a decision and let it run its course. Time will tell, I suppose.
I see you putting boundaries up with both sexes....not sure how to traverse this landscape....who is "safe" for you?
IMO, people need people....and more than just therapists.
Even after your process through this pain, it is not good for man to be alone.
We are hard wired to need and desire connections with others.
Our FOO f with that hard wiring....we wall our hearts off to protect them. But the hard wiring remains....thus false intimacies are so readily reached for. All of the fun, none of the pain!!
My concern is if you have boundaries of "no tresspassing" with everyone....you may become a "cat lady". KWIM?
[This message edited by blakesteele at 4:30 PM, June 27th (Friday)]
Actually I could get into a whole gender diversity training in response too easy, but I'll try to keep it simple.
There are lots of theories that conflict with our ascription to the gender binary (the assumption that those born with male sex parts will identify as men, behave masculinely and be attracted to those born with female sex parts who identify as women, behave femininely and are attracted to "men"). If you look back I just listed four categories lumped into one. Our attraction to others is actually based on some variety of each of those categories. Even among straight couples you see people attracted to "men" who are somewhat feminine in their presentation and "women" who are more masculine. Sexual orientation is merely a label we tend to use sex parts to define.
I'm not attracted to all women, and neither is my WS. I am attracted to masculine women and she is attracted to feminine women. Our boundaries are defined that way. She is not to have alone time with feminine people (straight or gay), and I watch my boundaries closer with masculine people. So FF's partner, MF, is perfectly fine to be alone with WS. I am, too, because I don't have the same boundary issues, but I limit the type of contact we have now. I have a male friend who I work out with, but I have limited the texting and will not spend time alone with him following this. I'm not attracted at all, but I don't want anyone (WS, him, or anyone else) getting the wrong impression. Ultimately it is about risk for the WS. But more importantly, it is about how others may interpret the boundaries of our relationship, too. If I spend a lot of time with a masculine friend, then it looks like I am "available" for manipulation or accidental breaches in boundaries. WS made the mistake of consoling feminine women, which was not only opening up the possibility of cheating with them, but for possible poachers.
I have identified one friend that we both are comfortable with me confiding in. She is feminine. WS and I talked about her confiding in a male friend of hers that helped her out during separation, but I don't think she's either felt the need or wanted to "bother" him. That concerns me a bit, but she will figure that out in her own time, I think. She's getting used to sharing personal information with others that are in her social circle--longer explanation possible but not necessary right now.
Does that make sense?
[This message edited by peoplepleaser at 4:45 PM, June 27th (Friday)]