Actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt announced that they are separating. This comes after eight years of marriage, and the birth of one son, Jack. It’s always a shock when a seemingly stable couple decides to split. It appears that Anna and Chris are now finding some of their differences in family life difficult to reconcile, given their respective careers and professional demands. Chris needs to travel more for his career which is at a high point, making it necessary for Anna to handle many home responsibilities solo. Additionally, there may be other issues that they are not in agreement about. There is no question that once the decision is made to break up, disentangling your life from your partner’s is almost always difficult and messy on so many levels. In addition to the obvious hardships, there is often collateral damage. One of the areas in which it can be particularly complicated is with the family and friends you share in common, and deciding how those alliances will shake out once you are no longer a couple. If you are in the same business, as is the case with Anna and Chris, that group probably also includes your colleagues.
There are so many possible scenarios: your brother has become good friends with your ex-husband, your kids go to the same school as your sister’s and your ex-wife is used to spending mornings with her after drop-off, or your parents still invite your ex to holiday dinners. You might expect all of that to stop automatically now that you’ve split, but sometimes it isn’t that clear cut and people want to continue relationships even though you might prefer they don’t. Your instinct may be that they will be joining you in the separation and parting ways with your ex as well. However, demanding that they stop being involved in your ex’s life can lead to conflict. How, then, can you begin to navigate this so that you can become more comfortable as you try to move forward in your new life?
The first step is to evaluate what your hopes and expectations are in terms of family and joint friends and colleagues. Do you want them to unquestionably take your side and never see or speak to your ex again, or are you simply hoping they will let you know when they do interact with your ex or invite him or her to an event? Once you have a sense of that, consider the relationships these important people to you have with your ex. Have they become great friends, or are they just passing acquaintances who see each other a few times a year? Obviously, the request would vary depending on the intensity of what you are asking someone to give up. If they are very invested in their relationship with your ex, are you able to accept and make room for it? You can look to do this by trying to recognize that it is something separate from you, instead of seeing it as a threat.
Rather than trying to control their behavior, telling them what to do and what not to do, explain to them the way it feels for you, that their staying in touch with your ex might even feel like a betrayal, and let them know how that might affect your relationship with them. For example, it might be harder to talk to them about your feelings, or it might have an impact on the amount of time you spend together. Additionally, you can also let them know there are certain things you have already shared with them that you hope they can respect and keep private, and how important that would be to you. And finally, you can ask them to give you a heads up if there is a possibility that you and your ex will be invited to the same event. This will give you the opportunity to decide if you do or don’t want to go, rather than being blindsided by your ex’s presence when you show up. Keep in mind there can be many extenuating circumstances that can be confusing – a family illness or even a death – so it helps to be as clear with yourself as possible about what you can handle, so you can be equally honest with the people you love as you move forward.
The goal is to figure out what it will take to give you the most peace in an already difficult situation. As Anna and Chris work their way through the murky waters of separation, hopefully they, too, will be able to minimize the collateral damage.