Divorced People Need Friends Too

Should friends be forced to choose sides in a divorce?

by Lois Tarter • Divorce Blogger and Author of “The Divorce Ritual”

When a couple gets divorced, their friends often find themselves in an awkward position.  Do they stay friends with both exes after the papers are signed?  Or, do they choose only one of them to continue their friendship with?  It’s clear that everyone faces many questions on how to proceed after a divorce. While each person should stop, pause and treat the others as they would want to be treated themselves, that’s not always the case.   

As a friend as well as a divorcee, I’ve been in this position before.  I had been friends with a woman since we were in grammar school.  Her husband had been really good friends with my then husband.  Not too long after their divorce, we had a big event so I invited both of them to the party.  My friend attended and when she found out that her ex was also invited, she became furious with me.  Our relationship suffered severely because of it.   I didn't know quite how to deal with it and it’s really hard when you’re in that situation.  On the flipside, I had some very close friends when I was married and after I got divorced, they still stayed close to both myself and my ex.  In fact, they have warmly accepted my remarriage as well as my ex-husband’s and remain friends with all of us.  Sure it’s an extra couple of holiday cards, but isn’t it more mature and what friendship is all about?  

Newly divorced people really need friends to help them through the process.  It’s important to put the negativity aside and support your friends no matter what.  The divorced couple should be thrilled when their friends stay friends with both parties.  However, sometimes you end up getting “sideswiped.”  It seems that it has unfortunately become a natural reaction for friends to often pick sides when a couple they know is divorcing.  While friends usually assume the divorced couple is at odds, sometimes they actually aren’t and the break-up was a mutual decision.  If they are at odds, picking sides will only make matters worse.  Nobody should take sides – not the divorced couple or the friends.  It’s important for all to stay neutral and for everyone to not lose sight of the fact that you all had a friendship before the papers were filed.  There’s no need to divorce your friends too at this sensitive time.    

Contrary to popular belief, divorce is NOT contagious.  Some married friends prefer to avoid the subject of divorce like a traffic jam.  If a married couple hears that friends of theirs are getting divorced, they feel it could “rub off on them.”  If friends of a divorced couple are having problems in their own marriage, I got news for you – those problems were there before they heard about your divorce!  I’ve even heard some stories about friends becoming paranoid and worrying that their spouse could run off with one of their newly divorced friends.  If you considered them real friends before the divorce, why would those worries even come up?   

Many friends will feel bad for you after a divorce.  They will try to sympathize with you or give you that “Are you okay?” look every time you see them for a while afterwards.  One way for a divorced couple to ease the transition for themselves and their friends, is to let everyone know that you’re both doing well and moving ahead.  Using social media platforms like Facebook to update all of the great happenings will certainly reflect the exciting aspects of your new lives.  As soon as you’re okay with the divorce, your friends will feel more at ease with it as well.  I had a friend who divorced her husband and the first time I saw her after her divorce, she greeted me with, “Yes, we’re divorced.  Yes, he was a difficult man.  But all is well and I’m very happy.  There’s no need to feel uncomfortable so put your concerns to rest.”  Her speaking up made our visit so much more relaxed.   

As divorce rates grow higher in the world today, you can’t forget about children.  It’s important to provide consistency for them.  If your children and your friends’ children liked to play together before the divorce, then it is important to try to keep your friendships just as strong as it was before.  Divorce is hard enough for kids to adjust to and you and your friends need to consider their needs and feelings.  Keep the friendships moving forward and have the kids see each other on a normal basis.  Loving and uncomplicated should be the vibe in front of your children and your friends’ children.     

Another way to help ease the transition for everyone is a divorce announcement sent out by you and your ex.  Whether it’s a mass email, e-card or a card put in the mail, let them know that you appreciate their friendship over the years and will continue to appreciate it as you both head into the next phase of your lives.  Your roles as parents and friends should not change even though your domestic life is.  In fact, you have both probably realized in this divorce process, that family and friends are at the top of the support ladder 

A great way to kick things off in your life now that you’re single is a divorce party.  You celebrated your marriage, which was a monumental moment in your life.  Isn’t a divorce just as monumental?  It marks a re-birth of you and it’s important to celebrate that moment in some way.  Inviting your friends to the event will let them know that you have moved on.  I have even heard of couples hosting a joint divorce party.  If you and your ex are on good terms, maybe consider throwing one together.  That might be the ultimate way to show your friends that the side they should be taking is no side.

Photo courtesy Belushi/Shutterstock

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First Published Fri, 2012-04-20 15:51

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