I hope for your advice on the following situation. Sorry if it looks like a long story, but it is all relevant ;-)
I have a group of friends, we are 5 couples, who have known each other since high school. Now we're in our early fifties. We have had many parties, holidays, outings, etc. throughout all these years. On New Year's Eve we celebrated together and had another (last) wonderful night. On New Year's Day, during breakfast, one of my friends (call her C) decides to take a look at a website to see if the mother of the dog she wants, is already pregnant, while her husband (call him P) goes for his shower. She clicks on Facebook and Messenger is on. There she reads his correspondence with one of the other friends (call her B) in our group. They arrange to meet up without their spouses knowing. When P comes back from his shower C asks him what is going on. To make a long story short : first he denies everything, but in the end she learns that P and B have been seeing each other for 15 years!!!! Nobody had a clue, including V, B's husband.
C, understandably, is completely confused, sad, angry, ... They have been together for 34 years, they were each other's first boy-/girlfriend. So she comes over to me and tells me this story. Se says she wants confidentiality, because their three daughters don't know yet and she does not want them to find out through some stranger. So, of course, I keep my mouth shut. I even pretend not to know when B's son refers to it. This already does not feel right to me, but I really like my friend C and promised her confidentiality. As time goes on, C tells her story to other people (people I know, people I don't know ...), but she does not tell me I no longer need to keep silent. She kind of pretends to P that nobody knows, but, of course, he's not stupid and can guess why she's meeting up with me, and all the other people she told in the meantime.
So, the other day, we arrange to go for a walk together and I go pick her up. She asks me in and in the hall, just before entering the living room, she whispers : "Pretend everything is normal!" I enter and P is sitting at the table, right in front of the entrance. I say hi and feel extremely uncomfortable, so I avoid looking at him. As soon as we're outside, I realise I usually kiss him to say hi and this time of course I didn't, because I couldnt think straight.
I really want to do as C asks me, because she's a good friend, but this is getting ridiculous. Now I am so confused, even if I don't try to act the way C wants me to, I don't know how I want to act myself. On the one hand, I think he's a lying pig and he hurt her so, so much. She's a real housewife, her family is everything to her ... But on the other hand, he did nothing to hurt me. He used to be the friend you could count on, even though he has a difficult character.
The same with B. I haven't seen her since New Year's Eve, but I do go on walks with her husband, V. I try not to talk about C and P to V and not to talk about B and V to C. That is the easy part. Everytime we part, V tells me to say hi to my husband and I know the thing to do is also to say : "say hi to B.", but I just can't!! I told V I did not know how to act (he knows I'm autistic, but minimises it all the time) and I think he understands, or doesn't mind too much.
He does tell me that B is scared to leave the house, because she's so ashamed (bit late, according to me ...) and he asked me what I would do if I ran into her. I told him I'd probably say hi and leave it there. I never really liked B too much. She is very introverted and I know nothing about her private life (she has a son and I don't know who is the father e.g.), but I respect that she does not want others to know her stuff. And again, she did nothing to harm me, but she did hurt my good friend C and my friend V (her husband), so how can she be a friend of mine??
Please, anyone who has good advice to cope with this situation, let me know!
First of all, as far as I can see, nothing has changed, fundamentally. Two of your friends fell in love or whatever it is their relationship is based on and they chose to keep it quiet. Now it’s out in the open. You’re not clear what you’re struggling with. Are you saying that you are judging B and P and you’re struggling with your conscience? Maybe you feel that you are not in a position to judge another (which we’re not) but that some emotion or memory has been triggered in you and you’re finding it difficult to separate that from your friends so you’re projecting your feelings on to them and you are now judging them? Do you judge everybody who you see as hurting someone you love? Maybe this has been an unconscious thought pattern/habit you have built up but now you’re struggling with it? I’m not sure, I can’t tell. If you will be more specific as to what part of this you are struggling with I could help you. It sounds like you’re wrestling with your conscience and struggling to know how to order it, which I can understand. Remember that you’re not implicated in this in any way. You were not party to any of it other than acting as a good friend and confident to C, which any good friend would do. If she had asked you to keep a secret of, let’s say, an affair she was having with another mutual friend, you could decline that, but she didn’t. It’s not your call to make any judgements but if you feel hurt by what B and P have done, you could find a way to let them know that. Tell them that you feel hurt, confused and sad and would appreciate some time without contact to help you process what’s happened. You could just let them know that as autistic people we often need extra time to process things and right now you need that time. Be there for your friend by all means and if it makes life easier, put some distance between you and B and P for now. It’s an upsetting time for all of you. You all sound like you have a very traditional view of relationships and how they should be etc and I’m sure C and P have a lot to process as well. Be there for your friends as much as you can in whatever capacity you can but remember that you also need time to process this. We often need extra time to process and come to terms with changes and this is a big one so be gentle with yourself. This situation effects all of you, as a close group of friends. Process your feelings and judgements etc by yourself or with a friend or whatever, don’t project them onto anybody else. Ask yourself what this change means to you. Use a pen and paper if that helps. Own your own feelings of hurt and betrayal as well because that’s just as important. Listen to your friend and hear her but don’t listen for too long about how your friend feels about the others, if it’s largely negative as that’s get you down. When my brother left my sister in law and the kids on Christmas Day one year, I listened to her and supported her but after a while I had to take time out. I told her I totally respected her feelings but that I couldn’t listen any more to her talking badly about my brother. It wasn’t good for me. She understood. If you are more specific about what you’re struggling with I have many ways I could help you with that. Be kind to you. You’re clearly a good friend and a caring and sensitive person. C will have a lot to process, don’t forget about yourself.
I think I understand this issue differently to BlueRay. I see the issue more as a technical communication issue arising from other people communicating in a dishonest and unclear way and the problem of taking instructions from friends in a literal way out of complete loyalty.I have bumped into this same kind of situation often. I hate it when people share secrets with me and then swear me to secrecy. Unlike Blue Ray I feel this isn't because of our own ethical standards on the contents of the issue - but our ethical standards on our own communicative behaviour - and the discomfort due to our inability to understand properly how other people think and what they expect.
Someone swears you to secrecy - and so forces you to be dishonest and act a certain way (in this situation: behaving as if you do not know, but you DO know). And at a certain point it becomes horribly complicated when other parties are in the know but you aren't sure and you have to keep up the pretence because the first person who swore you to secrecy hasn't lifted your promise to secrecy.
I think it is a beautiful example of how very intelligent people on the spectrum can get caught out in the intricate web of social communication. I think NT's kind of figure out where to let things slip and that kind of thing. Or don't worry too much, thinking well it is their issue.
I think there also are autistic people who don't worry too much about what others think. But there are autistics who stick to communication rules faithfully and are very aware that they do not want to disappoint others. Autistics who want to avoid that others get mad with them, invest a great deal of scarce energy into this and tip toe around trying not to hurt others. And I think it is this subtype who will suffer most from this kind of situation.
We actually suffer and start worrying and can't oversee the communication web that is suffocating us. Just because one thing isn't right in the communication all the rest stops being alright (not being able to act normal, because you feel the other can see that you know that you aren't speaking freely because you are wondering if they might know that you know kind of bullshit that can really cause anxiety :(
I was with you when you said it’s a straight forward communication issue, i.e. sworn to secrecy ~ takes this literally ~ then don’t know how to act around others/ this doesn’t feel good .... so are you saying, lovesdogs simply needs to realise that she took the command literally and now she can drop it and everything will be ok?
If only it were that easy :-) I'm not at all sure about the "how to take it forward" bit. It is being processed and the little hourglass is spinning in my head.
Thanks so much for your thoughts!
The thing is, I'm not clear on "Am I allowed to be angry with P and B?" I mean, like you say, it is none of my business, but if somebody hurts your good friend, isn't it normal to be angry? You talk about projecting and things from the past, but to me it feels very ligitimate. Moreover, not only did they hurt their spouses, but really the whole group. We wanted to get together, but C asked to wait a bit till she makes up her mind. That means the whole group has to wait... You see, what I mean?
Fortunately, there always used to be more distance between me and B and P than between the others (they were my least favourite 'friends'), so I'm okay there. It is also a good thing that C and P do not usually gossip or are negative about others. I suppose they know I can't handle that.
I think I made up my mind : it's okay to be angry with both P and B, but of course I will always be civil. I hope I don't run into them very soon.
You really helped me !
I think you and BlueRay both are right!
To be honest, I expect NT's to let slip the confidentiality much sooner than me (or autistics in general) and that's what I am scared of. Then their daughters might find out through a stranger, or C's mother or sister ... And me, not until I'm sure EVERYBODY knows will I ever talk about it to anybody. Though, I must admit we have some other friends who know P, C, B and V and would love this bit of gossip ...
Thank you so much!
I’m the same Lovesdog, I take secrets to my grave, I will never let them slip out. We make good confidents. Don’t worry about the others, you are not implicated in this in any way. Instead focus on what a beautiful gift we have that people can come to us and we’ll hold their secret for them. You don’t have to talk about this with anyone, EVER. If somebody brings it up in your company, just asked to be excused from the conversation and just politely say you’re not comfortable discussing somebody’s day else’s life and private life. And that’s it. The only reason you might need to discuss it is to help you organise your thoughts etc and the best people to do that with are people not involved in any way, like us. Come and have a natter with us about it but never get into a conversation with others about it. I don’t think talking about people makes anyone feel good unless its in a way as to get more undetstand and clarity for ourselves.
I think you’ve handled this admirably and it’s a gift to be able to keep to ourselves what others tell us in confidence. I would say it’s one of the many beautiful gifts we have.
Thanks so much!!
A very wise ex-colleague once said : "Only say things about others you would also say when they're present." I will never forget this lesson and I hope I can live up to it.
Waaaaaw, never knew autistics are so nice!
Your colleague was wise. When ever I heard people gossiping, I would get involved to speak up for the person being gossiped about but inevitably it always left me feeling bad and nobody ever stopped their gossip, apart from around me. My son tried to teach me for years, to just say nothing but for some reason I couldn’t do that. But I do now, I’ve finally learned the lesson. And you don’t have to try to live up to what your colleague said. Not in the least. In fact, it’s good to look forward to catching yourself speaking about somebody else because if you do catch yourself, it’s another opportunity to pattern interupt that thought pattern (neural pathway), you can be delighted you caught yourself and it gives strength to doing better next time and soon there is no next time, you simply never do it, effortlessly. Autistic people are the kindest, most interesting and most fascinating people I’ve ever met. I couldn’t love them more if I tried. We’re just so gorgeous.
I have to restrain myself on so many occasions ... I know exactly how you felt in these situations!