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Ex-Etiquette: Use friends’ breakup as discussion point for your own marriage

Q: The couple my husband and I spend most of our time with are now divorcing. Truth is, he’s been a player for years – we knew, but they had two little kids, and we felt telling her would contribute to breaking up their family, so we kept quiet. She found out anyway and has left him, and my husband wants to remain friends with him. I don’t. I’ve seen what his actions have done to his family, and I want nothing to do with him. How do I get my husband to stay away from him?

A: If you don’t want to have anything to do with a cheating friend, then don’t. You can’t really “get” your husband to do anything. He’s an adult and will most likely resent you telling him what to do. You can, however, initiate a conversation that sets the pace and identity of your own marriage. That means sitting down with your husband and deciding what you stand for as a couple.

A marriage is a living, breathing entity – and a direct reflection of the two people who are married to each other. How you act, both together and separately, tells the public how much you respect yourselves, each other, and your union. Once you two are clear on that one, it’s then up to your husband to figure out whether it is appropriate for him to continue to be friends with this guy. That may be a tough call for him, especially if he has been friends with him for a long time.

Here’s a red flag that you may want to consider: Birds of a feather flock together. Or, at least, that’s what most people think – and public perception is important to a marriage. The friend being a cheater doesn’t necessarily mean your husband is a cheater, but that’s what people will think – unless he can do something to separate himself from the cheating behavior of his friend. It could end up being quite embarrassing for you as his wife and for your marriage if his friend’s behavior is well-publicized.

In terms of good ex-etiquette, I usually tell friends to try their best not to choose sides when friends break up – unless it’s an obvious issue, like the ex was violent or abusive or actively living in an addiction. In those cases, supporting “the victim” is understandable.

However, if a friend does ask you to take sides, it’s best to be honest about your position (ex-etiquette rule No. 8). If you have no issue with the ex, explain that you are not angry with either party and that you would like to remain neutral. Understand that that position sometimes makes people quite desperate, but after the fog clears, the voice of reason is often quite helpful – especially if the couple decide to reconcile. Remember ex-etiquette rule No. 3 – “Don’t badmouth” – and make sure both of your friends know that anything discussed with either of them is confidential and that you will not breach confidences.

Finally, this all boils down to trust – and it’s on both you. The more honest and transparent he can be, the more trusting you will be. The more trusting you are, the more likely he will be transparent. And, strange as it may be, you will probably find you won’t have to “get” him to do anything.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the founder of Reach her at