Q: Dear Meredith,
My cousin is currently going through a painful divorce (what divorce isn't painful?), and while her soon to be ex-husband was the one who initiated the divorce proceedings, both of them are responsible for the failure of their marriage. I should also note that the grounds for the divorce are on differences -- there were no extramarital affairs, and no one was abusive. Also, there are no children or any properties involved.
Since we are all a very large and close extended family, we are all friends on Facebook. All of us were on excellent terms with her ex, and welcomed him into the family. And while her ex and I do not keep in regular contact, we still remain friends on Facebook. During this time, her ex has periodically been in touch with me during my father's terminal illness, asking about his health, and sending a beautiful card when my father passed away. All in all, he is a very nice guy.
Now for my problem. For the past couple of months, my cousin has been repeatedly emailing everyone in the family to cut all contact and de-friend him. Since her ex has shown noting but kindness and compassion to me and my immediate family during our period of grief and loss, I feel reluctant to de-friend him and cut all contact. I understand where my cousin is coming from, but it seems rude and passive-aggressive for me to do this. I don't want to be a bad cousin, but I don't believe it is her place to tell all of us whom we can and cannot speak to. What would you advise me to do?
– Trapped by Facebook Drama, Brighton
A: Don't think of this as your cousin telling you what to do, TBFD. Think of it as her telling you what she needs. This isn't about who's at fault in the divorce. It's about losing her husband against her will. She's angry, confused, and doesn't want to be reminded of this great loss. She certainly doesn't want to see her close family members commenting on his Facebook status.
I understand where you're coming from, of course. This guy made you feel safe when you suffered a great loss against your will. Still, my advice is to minimize the Facebook stuff as much as possible. Keep the Internet safe for your cousin. You might not even have to de-friend him. Isn't there a way to put him on a more private or distant list of acquaintances? (Facebook savvy commenters: Please help with this.) He might be less available to you this way, but that's what happens during a divorce. We all lose something.
If this guy wants to reach out to you, he has your e-mail, phone number, and address (I assume). He'll find you, and if/when he does, you don't have to share that information with your cousin. You said that you don't speak to him regularly anyway, so this shouldn't be much of an issue. For you, this is just about knowing that he's out there. That should be good enough.
Readers? Is the letter writer allowed to stay in contact with her ex and keep it a secret? Can someone explain Facebook privacy settings so the letter writer can make this work? Is the cousin being unreasonable by asking her family to cut off her soon-to-be ex-husband? Is the letter writer lacking empathy for the cousin? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.