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Ask Ellie: Supporting heartbroken pal part of being true friend

True friendship is a two-way gift, not a one-way route to only satisfying your own self-interest.

Dear Ellie: I met a new friend some months ago and really liked her initially. We had a lot in common and enjoyed doing similar things.

She told me that her boyfriend broke up with her after 18 months. I’d never met him but he sounded like a loser, unsuited to her personality and lifestyle.

Now, she can’t stop talking about their past relationship, still analysing every little thing he ever said to her… e.g. “Why did he say that if he didn’t want to be with me?”

I feel like I’ve put in a lot of time being supportive but now I find this all very annoying and don’t want to hear about him anymore. He’s SO not worth the effort. She can definitely do better. How much longer do I have to listen?

Boring Sob Story

Some people take a breakup very hard. They feel that they’ve meant nothing to the person who dumped them. They ache with self-doubts, and cry at every memory that haunts them.

That’s when friends truly matter, even if they always thought the guy was a jerk. And yes, it’s sometimes a tough chore to listen to all that questioning of herself about what she did wrong when you could be having a good time together doing something you can at least enjoy.

Instead, you’re bored, while she’s devastated. Time to face your own reality: Your idea of friendship is totally self-serving.

Fortunately, many true friends react differently from you. Since she’s considered you a close friend, you may nave been able to help her immensely if you’d shown caring and kindness.

It doesn’t mean you have to listen to the same story repeatedly. You could have set understandable boundaries e.g. No calls/texts during work hours, but instead, a plan to meet for coffee after work once or twice during the week.

Or a weekend meet-up for a big walk together. Being in nature has a better chance of opening her thoughts to her situation — e.g., lucky to be rid of him — rather than you dismissing her pain as “boring.”

Dear Ellie: My wife, 42, wants a divorce but won’t say her reasons. She insists there’s no one else. I’ve moved ahead on the necessary details — finding a therapist, mediator, and lawyer. She rejected the therapist, said little online to the mediator, and has delayed discussing finances and potential settlement with her own lawyer.

We have two young children, eight and six. I sense that she just doesn’t want to be married. She claims to love our children, but now leaves all decisions regarding them, to me. I’m the homework Dad, the lunch-maker, the intervenor in their squabbles (increasing lately).

Could this be related to hormonal changes? Her disregard for my feelings makes me want to complete this divorce as soon as possible.

Foot-dragging Divorce

It’s unclear whether your wife knows why she wants this divorce. It’s easy to assume she has “someone else,” or she’s depressed, or reacting to uncomfortable changes from perimenopause.

You can only try to help her express what’s troubling her. But if she refuses to open up, you can’t be blamed for going ahead with the divorce … IF she actually participates in it.

It’s a tough time for you, and the children undoubtedly feel it strongly. Carry on as the dad they can always rely on. Also, talk to any family members and friends of hers who might understand her request and accompanying silence.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the man who’s reluctant to marry his current lover, because of his previous divorce settlement (May 5):

“I thought your advice unfairly portrayed that man as being fixated on resentment. The letter-writer could easily alleviate his concerns by agreeing on a pre-nuptial agreement, which is in my opinion, fairer in a lot of circumstances than most divorce laws.”

Ellie: I’ve read enough readers’ divorce stories during the course of this column, to know that countless women and men equally feel that they’ve been “done in” by a greedy ex-spouse.

This angry feeling happens especially in jurisdictions where women and men alike are directed by law, to equally split all their jointly-owned assets.

FYI — I’ve also heard from both men and women who don’t want a “pre-nup,” worried that time may prove the decision made therein, to be inadequate for their needs at a later time.

Ellie’s tip of the day

True friendship is a two-way gift, not a one-way route to only satisfying your own self-interest.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].