Friday, 21 December 2012

When your B.F.F splits from your husband’s B.F.F*...The politics of courting couples as ‘family friends’
[B.F.F.=best friend forever; yes it’s a pipedream but maybe you will be friends until the bitter end]

A sad reality of the times is a high percentage of couples end up saying ‘I do’ and then ‘I don’t’. In Islam divorce is the most disliked Halal action simply because it’s the splitting of what should be a solid unit (hands up if you have heard the saying that couples are formed in Heaven *gosh that sounds so much better in Urdu-sigh*). So basically although it’s of course allowed (no one should be forced to live with someone they simply do not love nor respect or simply don’t wish to be in a relationship with). And when it does happen, it sadly effects the family-especially the children who although will still have two parents; they won’t be under the same roof which is what the children are in a routine of seeing.
Of course culturally divorce is seen as a Taboo for a lot of Asians-in particular the Pakistani community. ‘Aunties’ (known as Massis in Punjabi) go into autopilot and assume the worst in the woman-it usually goes something like ‘she was too western’, ‘she didn’t adjust to her in-laws’, ‘she’s so lazy’, ‘she was badchaal (her character was bad-in other words she’s be desired as a Hussy/player), ‘she made her husband buy her presents all the time’, ‘she’s a bad woman because she wanted to live alone away from her lovely in-laws’, ‘she’s ungrateful-so what if her husband has a mistress’ you get the picture. Most of the time the woman gets blamed-regardless of the actual situ.
My mother is a ‘divorcee’. A lot of people assumed I would turn about to be an alcoholic nutter with no prospects in life. My mother seeked an Islamic divorce (known as a Khula) as my selfish father wished to keep his options open as his other wife was a kidney dialysis patient and well to put it bluntly he would need someone to care for my younger half siblings should his ill wife pass away. My grandmother (who unfortunately was also selfish in thought) didn’t wish for the divorce to go through. None of my mother’s siblings supported my mother until my late Nana said she was going to support her daughter. Well done Nana-may you be granted Heaven for actually doing what a good mother does.
Okay so back to divorce. It happens. People (even Muslims) fall out of love it can happen. You really cannot control your heart-it’s a matter of fact that we wish we could but we cannot. I’ve read about parents being critisised for admitting they have a favourite child-we all say we love our children equally but for some of us the love we have is stronger for a certain child because most of the time we can see ourselves in that child. We would still give our kidney to the other children though, so let’s just relax and not go on a witch hunt for those parents.
As couples we build homes from houses, we saw acorns that turn to trees, and we have children, a career, social lives, social circles we mingle in and friends. We are a unit, a strong one at that. What some couples do is ‘court’ other couples as friends. Now I am not talking about ‘dating’ other couples what I am referring to is when we form friendships with other couples-the brothers hang out together and the sisters meet up and have fun too. It’s not necessarily mixed sex mingling; it’s a case of when you get a call from your friend she will also ask if your husband is in as her husband wants to talk about the latest cricketing gossip.
 Eventually the relationship changes when you become parents. You may enjoy pregnancies at the same time and be fortunate to have children that become friends. You invite your friends over after the mad Eid rush has gone for dinner-this couple are like the family you have picked for yourself. It’s all great isn’t it? All rosy.
 When a close friend of mine got married I was rooting for the idea of my husband becoming B.F.F’s with my friend’s husband. I was convinced their native land of Pakistan would create a strong bond between them. My husband though isn’t into this ‘scene’ at all. It left me heartbroken. I had visions of Iftaris, Eids, Birthday Lunches, our children’s graduations, their Weddings...oh okay a bit far. But yes, I had a dream. But it didn’t work out. Good job too because this article would have been more autobiographical due to that said friends now situ of going through the big ‘D’.
So one day, you get a call from your B.F.F; she seems distant but you put that down to her husband working ‘longer hours’ and your friend having to hold down the fort with the three children, Masjid run, School run, Sports..Etc etc. You get a call from another friend asking ‘if your B.F.F. is okay because she didn’t turn up for the PTA Bake Sale’ (and she always takes part). Slowly a picture starts building of a problem looming. You ask your husband about B.F.F.’s husband-he knows nothing apart from the fact his friend is always busy and hasn’t returned his called for a fortnight.
Any self respecting friend at this stage digs deeper not in a noisy way but in a caring loving way- but carefully and may even do a surprise visit to said friends house. You turn up and are greeted with a shocking sight; a ‘For Sale’ board on your friends house. You knock on and are greeted by the remains of what was your friend-a frail, older looking friend (your children don’t go to the same School which initially cut you up but you learnt to love the idea of attending two lots of Sports Days).
Your friend tells you that she has separated from her husband, and is currently filing for divorce. You are dumbstruck-how could this happen to your friend? They were at your house only a month ago enjoying your Gobi Samosas with Chai. It was all a charade for the sake of their oldest child who was preparing for pre-entry tests to a prestigious private School-this leaves you crushed. You are then told the shocking truth that cracks had appeared in their marriage about two years ago when they had their last child. You comfort your friend and return home to your husband-and your friends husbands B.F.F.
You find out that your husband’s B.F.F. has finally returned the calls and explained that he has had to leave his family because he has been under considerable pressure from his in-laws and can no longer hack it. Your friend has told you a different version which includes the girl at work he shared a ride to work with. You start squabbling with your husband over the situation and your friends marriages bitter demise is now eating away at what you thought was your happy and stable marriage.
How on earth are you meant to handle this situation? You are like a pot of lava-you want to blow and tell your husband exactly how much of a slime ball his friend REALLY is. Don’t go in shouting the odds and encouraging your friend to do the same. What realistically will this achieve? Are you thinking about your friend’s welfare and those three children? Or are you simply reacting to the news you have heard. Be supportive and be a friend who can be relied on without the worry you will blow your top off every few minutes.
So what should I realistically do?
For starters don’t let this divorce affect your marriage. Yes she is your friend, yes he is your husband’s friend; indeed you see those children as your nephews and nieces but what will arguing with your husband achieve for the situation? So he has been told a different version of events to you. Not surprising but rarely do both people going through a divorce see eye-to-eye over the details.
What you need to do is the following (please note; this is advice only I am by no means a councillor):

1)      Sit down with your husband and talk about how you can support each friend in the best possible way. They are no longer a couple-but you two are. Act like one, support each other. Your friends divorcing will affect you yes-however it won’t have the same affect on you as it is on your friend so save your drama for a more applicable time.
2)      Talk to your respected friends and if applicable offer to be peacekeepers if they need to talk to each other and are struggling to do so in a reasonable manner. Often having a friend rather than family member as a mediator works best as you should be able to remain neutral whilst this is literally impossible for family members to do.
3)      Try to keep some normality with the children. If the children stayed over on a Friday night after dinner suggest that your friend still comes over for a meal and that the children stay as they have done previously done so.
4)      Avoid taking sides; yes you are in your friends ‘corner’ however taking sides will just fuel the fire of arguments.
5)      Support your friend in everyday things-if her ex usually took the children to their tuition and it’s only a 5 minute drive could you volunteer to help until the parents sort out the situation?
6)      Going through a separation has effects on those who are involved’ health especially the parents. Make sure your friend is eating properly and looking after her health-why not bake a few dishes (Pasta Bakes are quite simple) and take them over to your friend’s house and suggest she freezes them. Life goes on; and we all need to eat.
7)      Make it a rule with your friend not to discuss their former partner-this will help especially if one of the partners decides to remarry.
8)      And should that happen you need to talk to your husband about how you feel about having your husband’s B.F.F. and new partner over. It’s best to discuss these things before they become an issue. If you don’t see having your husband’s B.F.F. and partner over you may wish to chat to your friend about it so she’s aware of the situation. And the conversation needs to take place vice-versa (nothing would be stopping your friend from remarrying either). Surprises like this are best avoided.
9)      There is nothing stopping you and your husband from keeping your friendships intact and treating them as your solo friend rather than a power couple. It may take a bit of getting used to; however you can invite your friend around when you have the girls around for a cup of tea. Your friends can be adjusted into your existing social life with a bit of compromise.
10)   Never forget the real victims who have no say in what happens in any of this are the children. All effort should be made to create a bit of normality for them-by their parents, you as their family friend and other loved ones too. I’m not saying pretend everything is rosy, be realistic and if the children are old enough to understand then it is worth sitting down with them and explaining the situation in hand.
11)   Advise your friend as best as possible with a view of doing what is best for the children. If your friend is having a breakdown and wants revenge on her ex by ‘stopping him seeing the kids’ you need to handle the situation effectively and explain the detrimental effects this can have on the children; no one should use their children as pawn pieces. If the situation is beyond talking then there are Courts that can help with the situation. NEVER EVER encourage your friend to flee the country with their children! If their ex is a violent person they need to seek legal advice, and  should even speak to the Police to seek advice. The last thing anyone should ever do is flee the country and create more problems for themselves (and consider what effect this will have on the children).
12)   Whatever happens, please try and save passing judgement on your friend/her situation/the way it is affecting their children. Truth of the matter is, one cannot talk about how ‘they must be feeling’ because unless we have walked in their shows we don’t know what they are going through.
This entry was quite a sad one to write however when the above does happen the last thing we actually do is think rationally and do what is right-we act with our hearts often to regret later. Even though my advice may seem geared towards Muslims only it can be adapted for others too.

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