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Surviving the Divorce: Who Gets Custody of the Friends?

Debra had the experience of going through a painful divorce, but she is now happily remarried.

Divorce Affects Everyone Around You

Divorce is tough on everyone, and your friends might feel caught in the middle—especially if they were unaware of your issues and your divorce seemingly came out of nowhere. It's common for close friends to either drift away or choose sides during or after a divorce. It's natural to think close friendships will last a lifetime and that friends will stay loyal regardless of your situation. But, nothing brings out the true colors of those bonds better than a divorce.

You may feel completely alone while your friends figure things out.

You may feel completely alone while your friends figure things out.

What Should You Do About Dissolving Friendships?

There are several ways you can address the friendship custody battle.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. Give them time to adjust and reach out to you.
  2. Talk openly and honestly about your situation without pushing them to see your side of the story.
  3. Your divorce can make people feel awkward and without the right words. Give them space to grieve the separation without interference. They may also assume you prefer privacy during this challenging transition. Always give the benefit of the doubt and don't take their silence personally.
  4. Realize you are not responsible for their emotions, feelings, or actions about their interpretation of the circumstances surrounding your divorce.
  5. As much as it hurts, you may have to let them go or give them space if that is what they choose.
  6. Don't try to seek their approval or change their minds.
  7. Understand people will react to your situation based on their conditioning, personal/religious beliefs, or experiences.

A dear friend shared this quote twhen we simultaneously dealt with divorce:

“What other people think about you is none of your business.”

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The most important thing to remember is never to put your friends in the "middle" position or expect them to choose your side. It's common to attend a mutual social or even an annual event that you once shared when you were still couples. Don't attempt to seek their agreement, and don't complain about or bad-mouth your ex-spouse if you do attend such events. If your friends are choosing the opposite side or putting an apparent distance between you, you need to respect their choices, like it or not. The more you attempt to influence them, the faster they'll pull away.

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Other Reasons Friendships Dissolve (And Why Sometimes It's for the Best)

Your friends could be facing confusion and indecision in their marriages and could be thinking, "what if my husband/wife decides this is a good idea and suggests we part ways, too?" People can become frightened, particularly when long-term couples divorce, as they feel they have had safety and comfort in their longevity and are safe from marriage demise.

Some people enjoy drama and may only pretend to care about or support you. They could be using your transparency for the sake of relaying information or gossip back to your ex, so be cautious about the details you choose to share regarding your situation.

The decision to end a friendship may be on your part. It could be the perfect opportunity to end a toxic friendship that's wavered and be a blessing in disguise.

Be Patient

Relationships should be "give and take" from both parties. It's OK to send a friendly message now and then to let them know you're thinking about them, you're doing well, or suggest a casual meet-up (try not to make the conversation all about you and the divorce if they do agree to meet up). If you are not getting a reciprocal response from them, move along without laying on a guilt trip or persistent badgering. Once the ball's in their court, there's nothing more you can do, and you can take peace in knowing you did your best.

We may never understand the choices our friends make, much like our friends can't understand the choices you made during your divorce. It may feel like you've lost everyone at first, but you most likely haven't. You'll find some of your friendships will strengthen due to your divorce, or you have something in common with them you never knew. Most importantly, you'll learn from this experience, and should any of your friends find themselves amid a divorce, you'll have a better view of empathy and be able to preserve the friendship.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Debra Roberts

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