37

Situational Context:

My wife and I really like this man (lets call him Bill), he used to live next door to us. He and his wife divorced about 18 months back; it appears as though she has moved on. She still lives next door to us and so we have noticed that each weekend the boyfriend stays at her house.

I suspect that she is hiding the boyfriend from Bill. I also suspect that the reason for this is that Bill is providing some financial support for her. While this is purely speculation there is some evidence that supports these suspicions.

Emotional Context:

In relation to Bill, he seems unable/unwilling to move on. For example last night he posted on Facebook that he is very much still in love with his ex-wife.

The interpersonal problem:

My wife and I are leaning towards telling him about the boyfriend, as we feel it will help him move forward.

So the question is: In what way would we broach this topic? Bearing in mind both the situational context, and his current emotional attachments.

The goal is to avoid causing him any more pain than is necessary in delivering this news.

Update: I went out with the friend with the goal of supporting him in life, he is just a good guy. We rode bikes and stopped at a pub had lunch and a few beers. At one point he broke down crying, but not for long. We talked a lot about the only thing that he can control: his actions. This probably went on for about two hours.

Our discussion turned to he suspected that she was seeing someone else, and all I did was confirm it. The way it went down he was relieved to know and being that my main goal for the day was to support him it was well received. Hopefully this help him moves on. He suspected that she was going to end up with a doctor or something, but that is not the case, the guy she is seeing is unable to afford his own car.

  • We can't make decisions for you, but we can give you recommendations on how to tell him, if that's what you choose to do. Otherwise, this question as phrased will likely be voted as off-topic for IPS. If you'd like to rephrase the question, please edit accordingly. – Jess K. Nov 28 '17 at 15:53
  • 3
    @PeteB. I've suggested an edit to separate the contextual information from your question. As well as slightly adjusting your question to better reflect the interpersonal difficulty of this type of conversation. I've also voted to reopen the question based on that edit. – Digitalsa1nt Nov 28 '17 at 16:24
  • 1
    @Digitalsa1nt damn good edit! TY. – Pete B. Nov 28 '17 at 18:06
  • 2
    @WernerCD He has not asked me, and if he did I would tell him. – Pete B. Nov 29 '17 at 11:31
  • 1
    Do they have any non-adult children? – Philipp Nov 30 '17 at 10:06
56

It can be challenging to tell someone that their spouse or significant other is engaging in infidelity - often the messenger bears the brunt of the initial blowback and this can permanently damage a friendship - in this case, however, there is no infidelity - they are divorced. If she is receiving financial support as part of the divorce settlement, there is also nothing going wrong here. She is entitled to keep her business private and may be entitled to receive money as part of the divorce agreement.

BUT

Bill is your friend and he may not be aware of the whole situation so you should feel confident that telling him is actually in his best interest because he harbors feelings for his ex-wife and may be providing more support than he is legally required to do.

I would start by asking him why he still wants to get back with her when it is apparent that she does not share those same feelings. You don't need to tell about the new boyfriend just yet, but simply say it seems like she has moved on. Let him explain why he is doing it - really listen to him and understand his position before telling him - you don't want to rush the answer and crush him - you want him to express out loud what he is feeling which may help him realize it is less rational than he is acting.

After understanding him better, broach the idea of moving on for his own well being. Tell him he deserves someone who loves him and wants him exclusively. Focus on him being worth a better situation.

You can ask him if he knew he would never get back to together with his ex-wife would he want her to be happy - even if it was painful to him. Ask him if he thought his ex would want him to be happy (again assuming there is no chance they would reconcile).

Then you can tell him gently. Tell him you think she is seeing someone - you haven't met him but you've seen him around. You know it hurts for him to hear it but it may be the truth. Reiterate that barring getting back together (which is clear from her is not going to happen) that the next best thing is that they are both happy with someone else.

This may be a series of conversations but I think taking time to tell him is the best choice. Good luck!

  • 6
    I think this is the ticket. Ask him why, and then go from there. I may not tell him and I may. If the support was court ordered there is nothing one can do, but I believe that it is more voluntary. – Pete B. Nov 28 '17 at 18:20
  • 5
    Expect his mood to drop significantly. All this time he has made himself believe that it might turn out alright again, that bubble will (and has to) burst. IMO it is just as important to guide 'the landing', the support to move on. – Martijn Nov 29 '17 at 8:33
  • 1
    I divorced a couple of years ago, and I made a point of telling my ex when I was dating someone and it started to get serious. I felt strongly that it was not anyone else's place to inform my ex, and that it was a sign of respect for me to do so (for added complexity we have two young children together). As it turned out there were no issues; we have both well and truly moved on, but I would be very annoyed if someone had have taken it on themselves to pass on very private information about me to my ex without my consent. I would let the ex-wife inform him when she is ready to. – Jane S Nov 30 '17 at 5:11
  • 1
    @JaneS While it is fair enough that you (or the ex in OP's case) may get upset, OP does not seem close with the ex. OP's goal seems to be whatever is best for their friend, not their friend's ex... Whether risking upsetting the ex is enough for me to instead recommend trying another approach I couldn't say. – Jesse Jan 17 '18 at 7:11
27

How can we tell a divorced friend that his ex has moved on, and appears to have a boyfriend?

Short answer: Mind your own business here

Speaking from first hand experience, interjecting yourself in this situation by telling Bill is a terrible idea. What business is it of yours to deliver hurtful news that is not relevant or helpful to Bill moving on? Telling Bill this information will only cause him pain, so I would suggest that you let him find out on his own.

If you are interested in helping Bill move on, I would suggest you make certain to keep him as active socially as you can. Or maybe invite him over to grill out so he can see the situation himself.

  • 2
    Terrible idea. If I was being made a fool, probably being used by someone, I would like to know. I would expect that from a good friend: the truth. Sure, would hurt and all, but the pain would be worse if I found out later by myself and knew that one of my friends knew and didn't told me. That would be even more terrible. – dvc.junior Nov 29 '17 at 13:30
  • 1
    @dvc.junior How exactly is Bill being made to look the fool? Bill is divorced and what the ex wife does is none of his concern. – Mister Positive Nov 29 '17 at 13:38
  • 1
    @dvc.junior I am sure that as part of his generous financial support ( more likely court ordered ) there is no agreement that states she cannot move on with her life. Come on..... – Mister Positive Nov 29 '17 at 13:48
  • 1
    @IamNotListening This is not about she being allowed to move on. She can and she did. The whole thing is about Bill knowing it. If he knows and still wants to help her financially, ok, sure, his call. But if he does not know and is being led to believe that he still got a chance with her, when he does not, as a good friend, I would like to tell him direcly. – dvc.junior Nov 29 '17 at 13:54
  • 2
    As the original Ann Landers would have said, "MYOB." No good ever comes of providing unrequested information of a personal nature. – Carl Witthoft Nov 29 '17 at 19:14
5

If you're seeing him regularly in a social context, it doesn't require much more than:

So do you know anything about ex's new boyfriend? We haven't been introduced, so we don't really know if they're serious, but he's around enough that we notice him a lot.

And the discussion can be launched from there.

If you aren't hanging out or talking with him regularly, then you aren't really close enough to interject yourself into their relationship. I'm guessing this is probably the case since you're asking here about it. If you were seeing them socially weekly the topic of their ex would probably come up many, many times given your location and their continued desire.

Be careful. You don't appear to be omniscient, so your best bet is to ask exploratory questions, and try to avoid assuming anything or coming up with ideas or conclusions regardless of how much foundation you feel you have for them.

  • 1
    Can you elaborate more on why you suggest that intro? It seems like a very casual way to mention something that may affect him quite deeply. Specifically, if the OP isn't sure that Bill knows about the new boyfriend, why approach the situation as if he does? – Em C Nov 28 '17 at 21:15
  • @EmC As I suggest, if they aren't close enough that they visit a few times a week socially (ie, not in a work context, but just as friends) then he already knows his friend well enough and they already have a relationship strong enough to handle a frank conversation about something that affects him. If they aren't that close, then I recommend not saying anything. It's only "too casual" if the friendship isn't strong. That he's asking suggests that it isn't a strong friendship, but we don't have enough information to judge that, so this is my suggestion. – Adam Davis Nov 29 '17 at 12:34
5

From experience I can say that it is in your best interest to stay out of it. It typically will fly back and smack you in the middle of the face. You'll be the bad guy, both could wind up blaming and hating you for causing trouble. You have to continue to live next door to the woman. Really, just stay out of it. Don't be a nosy trouble making neighbor. Privacy: They're adults.

3

There are two assumptions you made that you need to be clear on before you tell Bill anything.

  1. You assumed he doesn't know already know about his ex's new boyfriend. You say you thought this because of a Facebook post in which he talked about still being in love with her. He could very well already know and simply be ignoring the fact that she has moved on.
  2. You also assumed your neighbor is okay with Bill knowing about her new relationship. Perhaps she isn't.

Now, I don't know you or Bill or your neighbor, and perhaps your assumptions are actually facts that you know for a fact, in which case, follow the advice in BryanTurriff's answer, or another one. Otherwise, I think you'd better have a conversation with your neighbor first.

Express happiness for her that she has found someone new, and that you think she and Bill will be better off separated in the long run. Ask if Bill knows about the relationship yet, and if he doesn't, ask if it would be okay to let him know because you think it will help him move on. If she says no, she doesn't want him to know, or no, she wants to talk to him about it herself, then leave it alone. It's her own business.

  • I think asking the neighbor first about this is the way to go. If she sais it's ok to let Bill know, then I would proceed with Brian Turriffs answer. If not, then let her do it. She knows Bill better than OP. – Kaspar Scherrer Nov 29 '17 at 7:40
  • I agree talking to neighbor looks like a good idea but does OP really need to ask for permission ? She surely knows Bill and OP are friends and won't be surprised if Bill learns about her new situation. – YoungFrog Nov 29 '17 at 8:17
2

There are lots of things that could go wrong here. You should first seriously consider whether or not your should tell him before you go onto how to tell him.

If he is a calm person, the news might help him to heal and move on. There may be some emotional outburst initially, but many people would be helped by this in the long run.

On the other hand he really may go to pieces. However it could still be argued that it is better for him to hear it in a controlled environment (ie from a friend, over a beer, whatever) rather than some other time and place where it could be more embarrassing or harmful.

A previous answer has suggested you should not get involved - and that could be good advice; except he may eventually hear from somebody else anyway, and as you live next door to the woman it might make him question your loyalty as a friend (ie "why didn't you tell me?"). As his friend, only you can gauge all this really.

Having considered all of the above and deciding that you need to tell him, an approach you could take is:

Bill, there is something I think you should know about. I have really thought long and hard over this, I wasn't sure if it was any of my business, but I wouldn't want you hearing from somebody else and then questioning my loyalty to you. We have noticed that your ex may have a new partner. I hope I did the right thing letting you know.

If I'm honest, this is really nothing more than a lot of disclaimers to try and get across that you genuinely want to help him, not get into his business. If you are going to use this, be sure that you mean it!

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.