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My best friend is getting a divorce - and I'm ecstatic Add to ...

The question

My best friend is getting a divorce - and I'm ecstatic. His husband never treated him properly, and I think it's long overdue. Do I have to act sad because my friend is? I'm trying to enforce the silver lining, but maybe I should just pretend to be devastated?

The answer

The strongest friendships are based on a number of core elements: love, respect, trust, unconditional support and acceptance, and honesty. It sounds like you are struggling with knowing how to achieve a good balance between these different components of your friendship, all of which you value.

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On one hand, you are happy (and I suspect relieved) that your best friend is ending his relationship due to genuine concerns that you have had about him not being treated well. Your heart is in the right place here.

You are making efforts to have him see the positive in the situation, which can help him to remain optimistic and hopeful despite his difficult current situation. On the other hand, you're likely worried that your real feelings may not be perceived by your friend as supportive.

Acting disingenuous never works out well in our close relationships. Inevitably our true feelings will come out, and there can be a negative impact on a relationship that can be difficult to repair.

That said, you have to be sensitive and empathic to what your friend is going through. The most important thing right now is that you are the most supportive friend that you can be. Bite your tongue slightly on your true feelings (e.g., saying you feel "ecstatic" likely will not serve any useful supportive function, may come across as hurtful, and may be interpreted by your friend as a "I told you so" type of response).

But you do not need to completely "act" in a way that is at odds with how you truly do feel (e.g., convey that you felt his husband did not treat him well). Your friend will likely read through any efforts you make to pretend that you feel otherwise and, as you are best friends, I would guess your friend already has a sense of how you feel about his situation.

Ask your friend what he needs from you: tell him you love him, that you want to be supportive, and that you want to know what you can do that best help him.

Send psychologist Joti Samra your questions at psychologist@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Dr. Samra.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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