joreth: (boxed in)

I've heard from a few people, none of them connected, but all of them in the very recent past, who have noticed some politicking in their social groups. Since this subject has come up coincidentally clustered, I thought the topic should be re-addressed. So I would like to write a letter on behalf of them to anyone with a social group to pay attention to this situation. Many of these people do not feel that they can bring it up because they want to avoid a confrontation or adding more drama, but it is something that hurts people. I will be writing this in first person, as I often do to make it more personal, so that people will hopefully take a look at their own actions to see if they might be guilty, even accidentally, of this or if they might be misperceived as having been in this position.

Dear Friend,

I assume we are still friends, anyway. You still seem to greet me warmly when we meet at social gatherings, and we still seem to have personal exchanges between us with no indication that there is anything amiss. But I've been hearing things lately that kind of upset me. I've been hearing about parties and events happening that I was not invited to.

Now, I don't want to make anyone feel bad or pressured to invite me to things that they don't want me at. But I'm just a little bit confused because you don't seem to not-want me around, at least not to my face. If there is a problem, I hope you would come to me to discuss it so that we can work it out. If it's something that you feel that we cannot overcome, then I hope you will take this opportunity to let me know that there are just some limitations or boundaries to our friendship and that's just how it is. I won't promise that I won't be hurt, but I do promise to accept your answer as an honest expression of your feelings and to try not to make it any more difficult for you to be honest than it already is to tell someone something unpleasant or difficult.

The reason I bring this up is because I noticed something else besides just not being invited to things. I get that I won't be invited to everything that every one of my friends hosts, just like I can't invite all of my friends to my every gatherings. Maybe I'm seeing things that aren't there, but I noticed that this lack of invitations started around the time I broke up with my partner. And I noticed that my former partner is still getting invitations.

I hope that this is just coincidence and that I am being paranoid and silly. I hope that this is an extension of my own insecurities and that you can set me straight. I hope that none of my friends are the types of people who would give up spending time with someone they like just because someone else no longer likes them. I hope that none of my friends would be willing to continue inviting the person who cannot maintain social cohesion while they stop inviting the person who is willing and interested in fostering pleasant, civil, friendly relationships with all involved. If I have done anything to make you think that I might cause any amount of awkwardness or strife at your parties over my former partner, please let me know so that I can correct either your misassumption or my behaviour.

I genuinely wish to remain on friendly terms with everyone involved and I feel hurt when I think that my friends may be willing to strain our relationship without even giving an explanation for it. I also genuinely wish to be disabused of this notion if it is false because I do not like assuming negative intent of my friends.

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out. I hope that we can move forward from here.

Many communities (especially the poly community) are too small to allow former relationship partners to start influencing who our friends should be. We should discourage those we care about from being unable to move past breakups and refusing to coexist with former partners in our social circle by not taking sides in relationship strife that we were not a part of, and by refusing to abandon our friendships and acquaintanceships so that our other friends won't have to deal with the discomfort of facing their former partners socially.

In other words, we shouldn't reward bad behaviour and punish good behaviour. If you know of individuals who have recently broken up a romantic relationship, and you were ever on friendly terms with both/all members of the relationship and no one has done anything related to the breakup that is so heinous that you are willing to stop being friends with that person, please consider having a general policy to always invite everyone who ever normally gets invitations and let those in the former-relationship decide whether they can handle being in the same room with their ex or not.

If one of the people in the former relationship is unable to maintain civility at social functions or to remove themselves when they know that they can't, or makes others uncomfortable with their own discomfort about being around their ex, I would like to suggest that, if anyone should stop getting invited to social functions, it be that person, not the other, even if "that person" is the one you are closer friends with. At the very least, that person should be given a talking-to about their party-fouls.

I would also like to suggest that, if this is happening, that we all bring it to the attention of those involved. Much like the Disappearing Act in my earlier breakup post, the passive-aggressive fade-from-friendship act when a friend starts taking sides in a breakup can be just as emotionally hurtful to the friend being left behind. It can also reinforce the behavior of someone who tries to edge out former partners from social circles after a breakup, sometimes unknowingly when they don't realize that they are doing anything wrong, but that those around them are made uncomfortable because the friend in question can't be polite, leaves the room, gives the silent treatment, makes jokes at the other person's expense, or generally creates a tense atmosphere that we can all feel.

I remember once being new to a social group and befriending two people who were in a relationship.  Then the relationship ended, and as my friendship with them was new, I was not privy to the details of their breakup, only that they did break up.  Well, I spent time with one half of the couple one day in a social event.  A few days later, I was at another social event where that half of the couple was not present, but the other half was.  In the course of conversation, something was mentioned that reminded me of something that happened the other day with the first half of the couple.  So I related the story, as it seemed appropriate.  As soon as I said that person's name, the entire room fell silent, everyone started making shifty-eyes at the other half of the former couple, and the tension got so thick that I literally started to feel as though it was more effort to breathe.  There was an awkward pause when I finished, that dragged out until someone came up with something to say that was completely off the topic entirely.  Former relationship partners should NOT make their friends feel this way or put them in this situation, and those who do should not be rewarded by continuing to be invited to events & having the other party not be invited and therefore losing out on valuable social relationships.

Take a look around your social circle. If you notice that people who recently broke up are rarely at the same social functions as each other in spite of having all the same friends, if these are your social functions, you might want to take a closer look at how and why this happens, but if these are other people's social functions, you might want to mention the trend to the hosts who seem to be doing this that it might be causing some hurt feelings, whether accidentally or intentionally. Especially in the poly community, but for any close-knit social community, we really need to learn to be mature about our breakups and set the goal for ourselves to move, to the very, very least, in the direction of polite civility with our exes and not putting our mutual friends in the decidedly uncomfortable position of being in the middle of a tug-o-war.

Date: 2/14/12 08:31 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
I think it depends on the breakup - in one case in an entirely other part of the country, when the relationship broke up it included a restraining order due to physical abuse...

Date: 2/14/12 09:16 pm (UTC)From: [identity profile]
I really like civility.

Although I have never experienced a breakup personally, I've been around many. The biggest mostly successful struggle involved children and the nearly Herculean efforts to maintain civility for them, despite some deep-running animosity among the adults.

I'll tell you the flipside to when the former couple attempts civility. It is when "friends" try to pry animosity out of one or the other. Sometimes, a person will stop attending stuff just because of the gossip mongers who prey on them. A person in pain is not entertainment!


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