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.   

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