I was inspired to write today’s blog post because of the many messages I get asking for advice, and about my experience surrounding the ancillary changes that happen with divorce. Everyone knows that getting divorced is a really trying and heartbreaking experience…but not many people expect the subtle and strange issues or changes that can come up while you’re going through it. A common thread that I’ve seen appear recently is questions about navigating friend groups post-divorce. When you’re married to somebody, you most likely have developed quite a community of friends, acquaintances, friends of your family, and even work friends that you socialize with as a couple. One of the more awkward things to navigate as you disentangle your personal lives can be how you make sense of those shared relationships…separately.
Divorce is traumatizing enough without having to make sense of changing friendships as well! I have some experience with all of this, and I think it’s a really important conversation to start having…for couples navigating divorce AND for their friend groups. The more we can normalize this process, the better. Divorce is common, unfortunately, and knowing what to expect or how to support those going through it can only improve our community experience.
I’ll start with a little anecdote. When I was getting divorced, a therapist said to me:
“The thing nobody tells you is how triggered some of your friends and acquaintances are going to be by your divorce. Don’t take it personally. Take notes, but don’t take it personally.”
She went on to tell me how divorce within a person’s circle can stir up a lot of buried feelings and fears, and sometimes it makes it hard for some friends to truly be there for you when you’re getting divorced. At best, it makes things kind of awkward. It can be pretty sad to feel unsupported or to feel that kind of distance with people you were close to while you were married. Sometimes these friends come around, realize they weren’t supportive, do work on themselves, and readjust. At worst, it can make people pull away from you or turn away from your friendship. Period.
Divorce makes people uncomfortable. It’s disorienting for everyone around a divorcing couple, and it’s hard to know how to support people individually who you used to support together. It’s also challenging to figure out how to socialize with divorcing friends…especially if you were friends with both people in the couple. So, how do we know what to do, how to approach it all, and to stay true enough to ourselves in the process that we don’t run away from our divorcing friends just because everything feels so awkward and upsetting? I actually don’t have the answer to this question. LOL. All I know is what I’ve learned from my own experience, as well as what I’ve learned from being the “friend” on the other side. I’m putting some of my main takeaways below. Let me know if you have anything to add from your own experiences!
The Cream Rises To The Top
A crisis of any kind is when you’ll truly figure out who’s there for you, and who simply…isn’t. A divorce qualifies for this. I was so lucky to solidify a really fantastic group of girlfriends during my divorce. A group that was there for me every step of the way and made me feel supported, seen, and heard. I also had a few who did the other thing…who seemed to pull away, and even ones that outwardly expressed discomfort or anger about our decision. I’ll tell you it’s extremely ridiculous to hear other people’s opinions about your divorce. I can’t say that these friend interactions weren’t heartbreaking while they were happening. I was confused, hurt, and angry. But in retrospect, they proved to me that everything in life happens for a reason, and people come in and out of your life for a reason, too!
Don’t Choose Anybody Who Makes You “Choose”
Barring a serious moral transgression that permeates your boundary of right and wrong, kindness goes a long way for people who are already riding the waves of a divorce. And for the divorcing people: no matter how angry you may feel at your former partner, communicating to your friend group that you want them to all “choose” you really won’t get you what you want in the end. Life is long, everyone needs support, and trust me when I say that you want friends in your life who will offer kindness to somebody you used to encourage them to have a relationship with.
There Are No Rules
One of the things I appreciated the most during my divorce was how much of an effort some of our couple friends made to make both Kyle and I feel loved. We obviously share small kids together, and we obviously spend a ton of time together. It meant a lot to me that some of my friends would make a point of asking about Kyle and reaching out, and some of his friends did the same to me. To me, that showed that while Kyle and I are no longer together as a couple, that those people respect the fact that we will always be a family because of our kids. It means a lot to me that our kids are surrounded by people who support all five of us, and who know that ultimately our biggest effort goes towards making sure our kids are healthy, happy, and well-adjusted.
Your Friends Shouldn’t Be Angrier Than You Are
Beware the friends who want to keep you mad, sad, and toxic. While divorce is VERY hard, and strenuous, and confusing, it is possible to move through it and to keep moving forward with introspection, grace, and growth. In fact, divorce is a really great time to work on your powers of forgiveness, to re-humble yourself, and to let go of whatever isn’t serving you. If you find yourself spending time with friends– and they make you feel worse about your ex or your divorce than you felt before you got there, something is wrong. Friends who rile you up to make you descend into more toxicity with your ex-partner, instead of helping you along your journey of growth and release, are not the kind of friends you need. No matter what happened in your marriage, if a friend of yours is angrier about it than you are, that’s weird. Isn’t it?
If You’re An Adult, Grow Up
If you have kids with your ex, and you’re part of a friend group with other couples who have kids that are friends with your kids, it is absolutely possible to deal with the awkwardness and allow all those kids to happily keep their friendships. If you aren’t able to peacefully hang out at a park or birthday party altogether for the sake of a group of kids, please pick up the nearest telephone and dial a good therapist immediately. Kids should also NEVER have to hear details about their parents’ divorce from their friends, so make sure you don’t share details with or within earshot of children who are friends with a divorcing couple. This should be common sense, but shockingly, isn’t.
Awkwardness Is Ok!
Navigating your friendships after divorce can be awkward. It’s kind of awkward to run into people you knew through your ex and not know how to navigate the greeting. It’s definitely awkward to run into friends who ask you about your ex without knowing you’ve separated and to have to break the news in person.
I’ll go on record and say that it is extremely awkward and surreal to introduce a new boyfriend to the couple friends that you had when you were married. This weird mix of emotions happens…you’re really happy with a new person, and you want to share that happiness with the people you love and enjoy…but you also feel a little guilty. There’s something about being with the same people with a different partner that makes you feel for the first twenty minutes or so like you’re doing something wrong. And your friends can feel really awkward at first, too. It’s ok! Push through! It’s natural to feel weird in those types of new dynamics, and once you get through the initial discomfort, things do even out.
At the end of the day, we can all survive a little bit of awkwardness.
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