Whose Drama is it Anyway?


In this blog, Divorce Consultant and Relationship Therapist Andrew Pearce talks about getting drawn into undesirable situations particularly for separating couples.  

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got enough personal responsibilities without taking on other people’s responsibilities too. That includes the responsibilities of (often!) family members as well as those of other people, with the responsibilities arriving in the form of subtle (or not so subtle) invitations.

You could think of it a bit like “Shall we dance”? Most of the time I spot it for what it is (an invitation) and I can choose to accept or decline. Sometimes I am not paying sufficient attention and I end up dancing to someone else’s tune before I realise it. Then I’m on the hook and it can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. I’m left wondering…how did I get here?

Sounds familiar?

This becomes even more problematic when couples are separating. They know each other so well; they have been dancing to familiar, if dysfunctional, tunes for a long time; and the steps and patterns are ingrained and tough to give up. Through the divorce process and afterwards invitations are sent that can keep the unwary stuck in old patterns. You are simply going about your own business when something interrupts you and takes you off somewhere else entirely: calls/texts/social media, the giving or the withholding of information etc. and if you are not careful, you can easily become dragged into someone else’s drama.

A client asked me recently why their former partner was continuing to behave in this way even though they now lived in separate houses and my client feels as though they have moved on beyond this game. My client senses that their former partner is seeking to keep them on the hook for as long as possible. Perhaps to feel a sense of power and control knowing what impact their behaviour used to have during the relationship. Or perhaps to avoid the finality of letting go psychologically after so many years…who knows?

All we can change is what belongs to us. My advice would be to see the invitation for what it is and decline it and do not get involved.

Ask yourself:

  • Does this belong to me?
  • What am I meant to do with it?
  • Can I do anything about it?
  • Do I choose to accept or decline the invitation?

Of course, it’s often easier said than done. Personally I find it useful to talk this through with someone neutral to help me work out what’s going on objectively and to aid a greater perspective. That’s also what clients routinely say to me. So, if you find yourself getting drawn into situations you would rather avoid, perhaps give me or my colleague Jo Harrison a call and avoid taking the bait!

Andrew Pearce is a Divorce Consultant and Individual & Relationship Therapist at FLiP. He is a UKCP Registered Psychotherapist and Clinical Supervisor. At FLiP Andrew’s practice includes supporting individuals and couples across a wide range of family issues including divorce and separation.

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