Divorce and separation comes with many forms of pain and loss including at times the loss of friends. In fact, the loss of friends and other close people comes so unexpectedly it compounds the pain and causes much more pain and confusion that you would expect.
So that begs the question of why? Why do close friends desert us during the throughs of divorce which can be one of the most painful times in a person’s life? Where is the support when you need it? While, I certainly don’t have every answer, from speaking my different clients, I did recognize a few common theories in these situations and here are a few of the prevalent reasons I see consistently.
1. They Take Sides (and it isn’t your side). Sometimes this is because of judgment or blame by your so-called friends and other times it is simply a product of having a longer history or relationship with your ex-spouse. In the end, if they take a side and it’s not yours, holding on to that friendship exposes you to the release of personal information to the other side and prolongs the inevitable “friend breakup”.
2. They See Divorce as Contagious: People stress over the state of their relationships and marriage all of the time, wondering if they are in a good marriage, if everyone’s marriage is like this, will their marriage last, etc. Sometimes being in the presence of someone else experiencing a marital breakdown brings too much close to home so avoiding you is better. It’s not personal and has everything to do with where they are in life.
3. They feel threatened. Not necessarily threatened that you are now eligible and could start dating or taking their spouses, but with divorce can come a new confidence and this may cause them to doubt themselves and their own self-esteem. Of course, there are those friends that do believe that now that your single you are no longer safe to hang around their spouse like you may have in previous years when everyone was married.
4. They weren’t real friends. So many times we form friendships of convenience whether it be with other married couples, people with kids the same age, or people we work with. That doesn’t reflect a lack of genuineness in these friendships rather it’s human nature to seek out what we have in common. When those things in common disappear so does the friendship. These are not the forever type of friends any of us “need” rather the loss of these friendships opens the path to the friendships more suitable for your place in life right now.
Just like any other time in life wherein changes in your life resulted in the loss of friendships, this too shall pass. Be mindful of your own beliefs about yourself, i.e. where you think should have be, what job you should have, whether you should be married, etc. It is generally these beliefs or expectations that cause our pain and insecurity, not friends leaving us. In other words, when we are confident in ourselves and where were at in life we are not so quick to focus on what anyone else is doing to us, with us or around us.
I assure you the real friends in our life remain with us no matter what, sometimes from a distance, sometimes with tension, but never leaving us. However, it is of course important to acknowledge the difference in your lifestyle post-divorce, expressing those feelings of wanting (or not wanting) to be included in dinners with them as couples, etc., Recognize your own life is changing, whether it be working a new job, having every other weekend free without a need for a babysitter, your life is different post-divorce. Keeping the lines of communication open and reinforcing that you love your friends can relive unspoken tension. Take the guess work out of it and let your real friends understand your battles as a newly divorced person while still being able to be there for them with their married couple battles.
In the end, acknowledging that divorce impacts you in so many ways, inclusive of the friendships you have, will stop the proverbial carpet from being pulled from under you. Divorce is a personal choice, one you likely made for your entirely family’s interests. Your choice to end your marriage is no different than any other choice you make in life- your choice. If friends cannot be supportive regardless of their personal views of that choice, there is no lecture needed- they are simply not the right friends for you at this time and moving forward. Clear your path to be yourself in a way you have never felt capable of and you will attract what is mean for you.