Dear Dr. Frankie,
Can you please help me understand why so many women in our community resort to juvenile tactics when a relationship ends? Once we reach a certain age we should see how petty this behavior makes us look. I have several friends who rely on passive/aggressive behavior to resolve conflict…
I have two friends over the age of 50, who recently broke up with their girlfriends. They go out of their way to do things or make comments on their Facebook pages to belittle the other. Why can’t they just move on already? They kiss their exes in front of each other, which resulted in a fight at a party (and one was kicked out). Then there was the dividing of the Facebook friends, which I refused to do. My friends were quite disappointed when I refused and stayed friends with both. I had no intention of enabling their ridiculous behavior. One friend went to parties and had pictures taken with the youngest women they could find to post on Facebook, just to get back at the other.
Last night a different friend over 55 years of age told me I should unfriend her ex of about one minute, because my allegiance should be to her. She said if I really cared about her then I shouldn’t have anything to do with her verbally abusive ex. Well her ex lives out of state so there’s very little chance I will be meeting this chick at Starbucks for a latte. I think my friend’s ex needs to work with someone regarding her anger/emotional issues. I actually know a good psychotherapist who could really help her when/if she is ever open to the idea. So I want to keep her friend status in case she wants to reach out to me when she is in the area.
What is wrong with our community and why are these women who are old enough to qualify for their AARP memberships tormenting themselves like teenagers? The wounds that they create go so deep I think neither may ever recover from them.—Perplexed
In my experience we’re never too old to regress! Regardless of our age we have the ability to resort to juvenile behaviors, especially when someone has hurt us deeply. If these women didn’t have feelings for their ex’s they wouldn’t dedicate their lives to finding new and exciting ways to hurt them. It’s a primitive human reaction to respond to pain by acting out. This includes partaking in behavior to make an ex feel as terrible as she feels. What better way to accomplish this than by reaching out to a large group of mutual friends and acquaintances via social media. It’s no coincidence that bullies love Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc… as a platform to embarrass, insult and humiliate their targets. Social media offers a distant and sometimes anonymous way to spread spiteful messages and reach a greater number of people for the maximum devastating effect.
Clearly your friends struggle to take the mature, honorable path of coping with their hurt and anger. They have a choice to either boost their own tattered ego by partaking in self-care, or to publicly humiliate and demean their ex to make her feel as crappy as she feels. Ideally she would have the insight and ability to take the high road and manage her anger by engaging in healthy activities that will boost her self-esteem. Consider helping your friends make the right decision by encouraging (or dragging if necessary) to take up a new hobby. Enroll in a pottery class, learn a new language, join a gym, travel, walk a dog at the SPCA, engage in a daily ritual of meditation or mindfulness, join a writing group or a book club. The possibilities are endless! This is a wide, vast world with endless possibilities to partake in self-realization and self-improvement.
Show your friends how to channel their anger away from hurting the women they once cared for, into self-betterment. Studies show that we benefit greatly from engaging in acts of kindness. Acts of malice and spite only cause pain and damage to everyone involved. I too have moments of wanting to act out in ways that I wouldn’t be proud of. I often alleviate this pressure by journaling about my negative thoughts rather than acting on them.
Every relationship offers us an opportunity to self-reflect and become a better person…or not. In my experience people whose decisions come from a place of love and kindness, will reap the benefits 10 fold.
None of us are above having moments of regression. Giving yourself the space to express the non-adaptive feelings in a healthy way will propel you forward, and give you greater understanding and sharper tools to utilize in your next relationship.
On a practical note, have you considered simply blocking or de-friending your drama-addicted friends from your Facebook page? If these women didn’t have an audience there would be less temptation to act in this way. Many of my friends are actually deactivating their Facebook accounts altogether, and most have found that they don’t even miss it.