Having friends, at any given point and time in life, is a gift. Most really are remarkable people. After all, we cannot choose our family, yet we can choose our friends; and if we are fortunate enough, those friends can become our family. This will not be a minor factor in life if we come to the crossroads of a divorce. It is then we may find out how much our friends really do mean to us, and who really is a lifelong friend.
The very concept of having friends is something we can take for granted. It may be a universal truth that it is more difficult to make friends, or true friends, as we get older. As time goes by, we see that making friends and having friends is not as ubiquitous as it was in the days of the playground, in the halls of high school, or even in college. We so often, all of us, come to a point of realization that those days are behind us, and what we may miss most about the past are our friends.
A new adventure awaits, and as your marriage comes to the crossroads of divorce, it would be no small question as to what will happen to your friendships. Will you have to split the friends as you split the pension, silverware, and furniture? Like the divorce, the answer may not be so pleasing to your heart and soul. Yet regarding friends, you may discover just who is and who is not there with you on your new journey.
Time and change wait for no one, nor does fear.
After a divorce, friendships could either be strained or could end entirely for two very basic reasons: those being either fear, or grief. It could be your friends are shocked by a sudden end to your marriage, or it could be they saw it coming long before you did. All the same, life after divorce is uncertain, and your friends can fear that which is unknown. Confusion can come quite easily in the wake of divorce, and your friends may not know how they should proceed. They could be scared to the point of disappearing altogether in the name of not doing something wrong, being perceived as wrong, or perhaps the fear of making things worse for you, or worse yet, for themselves.
The agonizing feelings a spouse can feel when divorcing is not lost on friends. Even given the fear, they may simply not want to choose sides. When you divorce, a friend may be left with three general choices: stay “loyal” to the friend they met first, stay “loyal” to the friend they feel closer to, or (sad as it is), choose no side at all and leave. In rare instances, friends can maintain relationships with both parties to the divorce, yet that requires an understanding and agreement by all involved.
Our friends are human beings like anyone else, and no one likes to grieve. For grief, we may not like to admit that many of us try to ignore it, run from it, or quite simply avoid grief at any cost. The grief of your divorce will encompass all loved ones in your life, friends being no exception. Any even half decent friend will grieve for you yet their ability or willingness to tolerate this change may not be adequate for your friendship to endure.
Imagine the time before you were divorced, it was rather easy to go out with friends as a “couple.” Friends like to do this sort of thing, and when one is not part of a couple, you may find yourself uninvited among your own friends. “Single” is not their “ordinary.” One can feel left out, and their life may have been changed dramatically for the worse regarding friends.
Friends may not wish to avoid you intentionally. They may simply feel closer to your former spouse, and wish to remain friends with your ex. Or perhaps business is involved, and they must remain loyal to your former spouse. It is equally possible that your divorce truly scares them, not simply for the fear of change, yet for the fear of contagion. They may not wish to “catch” the divorce, with that very idea unfolding before them. Psychological studies do exist that show that there is an increased likelihood of divorcing from a spouse when a friend or someone in one’s social circle has gone through that process. The risk for others may not be as worth the taking as it may have been for you. Indeed, your friends may find that your divorce has them uncomfortable in their own marriages. These feelings may come to be unbearable, and a friend’s departure may become inevitable in turn.
How do I need you now?
We have all had good friends, bad friends, and everything in between. It is not too bold to say the friends there for us when we are down in life are the friends we truly have. Being around people is good for all of us, especially as we grow well into adulthood. The social support provided by friendship will become all the more apparent after a divorce. Up until this point, you were married to your “best friend.” Having actual friends after the marriage ends will become indispensable, and you may find yourself leaning on friends more than ever before.
The truth is some people cannot get over divorce. I often suggest to my clients not to overstay their welcome with their friends. At the very least, do not constantly talk about the horrors and tribulations of your divorce. Friends may grow tired of you, and though still your friend, they quite simply do not wish to be consumed by these unfortunate events.
Never has there been a better time to reflect. Having the good fortune of friendship is something else. If you are going out for drinks, working out, or watching a game, these apparently simple activities mean the world to a person going through a divorce. You have people who care about you, and yes, you are most certainly fortunate to have them.
Leaning on friends is a good thing. That is what true friends are for. However, the “battle” with your former spouse may never be over in your mind, and you may find yourself nearly always trying to justify yourself to your friends regarding your divorce. Are your taking your friendships for granted? That would be most unwise. Think upon a very important point: you have friends. That is more than some others can say. Try to take the time to gain a special perspective. Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?
How do I love thee? Measuring expectations with reality.
I mentioned before that “single” is not the norm for most people. Again, it is possible that friends could avoid you because your status has changed to that word that makes them so uncomfortable. While it is true these days that people are generally more accepting of divorce, it is still seen as a stigma in some circles, be they religious, “old school,” or for no particular reason, judgmental people.
When it comes to a single person, be they divorced or simply not involved in a relationship by circumstance or choice, single is not “in.” The expectation many have is that somehow everyone will be involved in a romantic relationship of some kind, at all times apparently. To be otherwise may be viewed as intolerable.
A marriage can end, and the very perception of such a failure is more than they can handle. It is almost as if getting divorced and the prospect of being single again is like deciding not to drive a car, or live in a house. One way or another, you are rejecting someone else’s “normal.” These are just some of the feelings that may be enough to push a friend away from your life. A failed marriage, a broken home, anything that may bring about a feeling of shame, this change in your life could be placing a label upon you that your (admittedly not very good) friends would never want to even be a part of. Some people cannot handle their self-worth being compromised, or even questioned. The relationships or marriages your friends have could very likely be tied to their own ego, sensitive though it may be. That is why they could leave you entirely, as your own spouse has also departed.
Yes, there are people out there who cannot be single. Not for a moment in some cases. Relationships really can often seem like possessions, something compulsory that can never go away. You and other single people are a living examples of how this is really not so. Indeed, being single again after a divorce may also mean a newfound freedom. If you have a sense of freedom now that you are single, more power to you. Retain that positivity. Yet does everyone really like that?
When you were married, you were part of a couple, and more pleasing to the eyes and perceptions of others. With your newfound eligibility, your friends may consider you to be a threat. Their own spouses could get a taste of this new freedom, thus potentially jeopardizing what they have. For some friends, this cannot be allowed. That one single person in the group may be more than the elephant in the room. This may be doubly true if any of your friends’ marriages are currently on the rocks. A divorced friend could be the last thing they need.
Some people actually feel more “alive” after attending a funeral, appreciating life in the face of its end. Your divorce is a reminder that nothing is forever, even if we believed we wanted it to be. A friend is not a good friend if they reject you for fear of their own marriage ending, yet still, even the knowledge that they are being a bad friend may not necessarily outweigh what your now former friends truly value. Not a pleasant thought, but you may have just found out exactly what type of “friends” you actually had all along. When life gets real, it can very well show you who isn’t.
Easy to remember, and so hard to forget. There is only one direction to go.
As with marriage, friendships can come to an end. You certainly may not like the experience of being “dumped” by a friend, and the feeling of outrage and pettiness that comes along with it may seem too much to bear. As with your former spouse, accepting these changes will not come easy. Nevertheless, it is important to know which of your friends will be willing to salvage their life with you, and which will not.
It is equally important to spend time with your true friends after a divorce, and maintain a quality social life for the sake of your overall mental health and wellbeing. The friendships you had that are now gone will not be replaced so easily or too soon, yet this is a time to begin new acquaintances, to engage with people in your community that you may have not had the chance (or option) to do so before. Commit yourself to finding some activity where you could potentially meet new people, and yes, make new friends. It remains a difficult task, yet could be a rewarding one.
You will never forget your life with your friends, even those departed, and we are kidding ourselves if we say or believe it does not hurt. While there is no forgetting, there is accepting. Letting go may seem impossible, yet that is only until you have actually done it.
The feeling of abandonment at the loss of a friend will always hurt, possibly even more than the loss of your spouse. That pain is real, and a reminder that friends matter. Fair weather friends are (were), sad though it is, not very good friends. The real friends we have are there for us when we are down, and we for them. Old acquaintances may be forgot. If you are feeling bad for the loss of friends, you are feeling this way with good reason. Your life is now different, but you can make it a great life.