When you get a divorce, it just seems to be an unavoidable side effect: a few people you thought were your friends suddenly fall away. Why do some friendships fade in the face of divorce? Here are some explanations — and some tips to find peace in your shifting social circles.
The United Front
Your good friend Lucy is married to Bob, who happens to be your ex’s BFF since childhood. Bob is cheerleader number 1 on your ex’s “team,” and Lucy may not want to risk discord in her own relationship by sticking by you. Yes, it’s painful knowing she’s choosing your spouse over you, but her behavior is her own choice — it has nothing to do with you and your worthiness for friendship.
Focus on friends you can count on. And in the future, once the divorce storm has blown over, don’t be surprised if Lucy surprises you with a text or Facebook message once it’s “okay” again to talk to you. It will be up to you whether to let her back into your life.
Their Own Divorce Baggage
Some people just can’t deal with divorce. Their parents had a bad divorce, they had a bad divorce of their own, or their own marriage is on the rocks. If this is the case, they’re not abandoning you; they just don’t want to think about divorce. Their actions are solely driven by their own emotional baggage and really have nothing to do with you!
Changing Social Status
There are genuine friendships, and there are social friendships. If your friendship revolved around the trappings of an upper class lifestyle with weekends at the country club — and you are no longer part of that club — your lifestyle friends may drift away. Your divorce has actually done you a favor by weeding out people who were only posing as friends. You deserve deeper, nourishing friendships right now.
You’ve Become a “Threat”
This is a syndrome that tends to affect women. If you find that you have been crossed off the party list, it may be because your friend now considers you competition! Or she may assume you’re “on the hunt” and wants to lessen your exposure to her husband. This is either because a) your friend is insecure and threatened by single women or b) your friend’s husband has a wandering eye. If you think that you’re being squeezed out of your friend’s for either of these reasons, and you really think it’s a friendship you want to save, go for it and address the elephant in the room. Once she knows your intentions, she may realize how off-base her fears are.
Your Ex is Bad-Mouthing You
If your ex is out for revenge, he or she may be determined to get all the friends, along with the house, the money, and the children. While this is a lousy, unfair situation, there is little that you can do about it, and trying to defend yourself will probably make things worse. People don’t want to feel caught in the middle, so it’s easier to take a side — even if that side is a high-conflict mudslinger. So what do you do? Hang out with your loyal friends and don’t worry about what other people think.
You Treated Your Ex Badly
Did you cheat? Mismanage money? Do you have an active addiction? Were you verbally or physically abusive? If your behavior caused your ex and your children harm, this is not the time to feel “misunderstood.” Your friend’s departure from your life is a direct consequence of your actions. Take accountability and get help. You don’t want these same behaviors to follow you into your next relationship, or continue to harm your kids.
You Friend is Burned Out Being Your Therapist
When you call your friend, is it all about you? Is your divorce the focus of every get-together? If so, your friend may feel burdened by your problems. Real friends will be there for you if they see you taking action to resolve your divorce issues. But no one wants to feel like they’re merely a shoulder to cry on. If you’ve worn out your friend’s welcome, it’s time to see an actual therapist and find ways you can manage your divorce instead of relying on friends to do that for you. [Here are some tips for working with an actual divorce therapist.]
You Will Be Okay
Losing allies at a time when you most need them adds to the destabilizing effects of divorce. But as painful as this may be, consider your “friendectomy” as an opportunity to examine what you might have done to cause the breakdown. Change behaviors that need changing, make amends when possible, and resolve to be a better friend.
However, it’s just as important to know when not to take things personally. Your divorce did you a favor by weeding out people who weren’t actually friends. Be grateful that you are no longer wasting time on these individuals and focus your energy on sustaining and creating mutually supportive relationships.
And when you’re ready, make new friends by joining a local MeetUp, joining a divorce support group, taking a class — or striking up a conversation in the afternoon carpool land at school.
When you’re going through a divorce, you need all the friendly support you can get. We’re here for you! Have questions about your divorce? Ready to start moving forward? Please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our friendly family law attorneys. Take the first step. Call us today: 888-888-0919.