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Surviving the Divorce: Who Gets Custody of the Friends?

Relationships are our greatest accomplishments and worst failures. Coping skills are essential for healing and moving forward in strength.

Divorce Affects Everyone Around You

Divorce is tough on everyone, and your friends are no exception, especially if they were unaware of your issues, and your divorce seemingly came out of nowhere. It's common for close friendships to either dissolve or to choose sides during or after a divorce. It's natural to think close friendships will last a lifetime, and 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. Give them space to grieve the separation without interference. Your divorce can make people feel awkward or without the right words. 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 are choosing.
  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.

Perhaps you’ve read or heard this quote before. It was told to me by a dear friend when we were both going through our divorces and it's always resonated with me:

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

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 when the time 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.


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.

In Conclusion

Relationships should be "give and take" from both parties. It's fine to send a friendly message now and then to let them know you're thinking about them, you're doing well, or suggesting 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, simply 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 as a result of 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, 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


Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on March 26, 2019:

I know right!? My favorite quote ever that gets me past many rough patches where expectations are concerned!

Erica (The Prepping Wife) on March 26, 2019:

What people think about you is none of your business. Best. Advice. Ever! Seriously, I wish more people took that seriously. There would be so much less stress in life.

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Nina N on March 25, 2019:

No matter what circumstances are involved in a relationship, divorce will always be tough in both parties. My husband is a product of divorce and he tells me a lot of stories how hard it was after it happened.

Live Learn Better on March 25, 2019:

These are unbelievable helpful tips for friends affected by divorce. It's not just an easy pill for anyone to swallow.

Thank you for this.

Luna S on March 25, 2019:

Great list of tips, and I agree that sometimes losing a friendship with certain people is more beneficial than not.

Tracy C on March 25, 2019:

This is something that many people don’t think about. Whatever you do, don’t talk badly about the other person in front of mutual friends (or the kids). They don’t need to know the details or be forced to choose sides.

Mayuri Patel on March 24, 2019:

When one thinks of divorce, family is the only thing I think that would be affected. Never thought about friends. Loved reading your post and its so informative with good tips.

Lauren Forsythe on March 23, 2019:

There are a lot of reasons that I know divorce is difficult, but having to deal with the friendships never crossed my mind. This post made me think about how many friends my husband and I are couples friends with, and it would be really difficult to stay friends if our relationship ever dissolved.

Megan Kerry on March 23, 2019:

I can only imagine how difficult and stressful divorce must be. Not only do you lose your partner but also some good friends. Great tips on how to get through it!

Mary L on March 23, 2019:

I went through all of this when I got divorced in my early 20s. I literally lost more than half of my social circle. For most people, it was awkward and they just wanted to keep their distance. People forget divorce means losing more than just your spouse.

Candace on March 23, 2019:

Great advice! Unfortunately, divorce is sometimes inevitable. We should all strive to treat our loved ones with kindness and give them the time and space they need.

Depsite Pain on March 23, 2019:

In an ideal world, friends wouldn't be affected, but the world isn't ideal. There will always be divided loyalties. You've given some helpful suggestions.

Scott DeNicola and Vinne Monaco from New York on March 23, 2019:

Divorce is tough on anyone tied to the couple. The participants themselves, children and friends. I have seen first hand with other friends how quickly sides are taken. I agree that you need to give it time. The sides were usually drawn before the divorce anyway.

Trish Veltman on March 23, 2019:

Loyalties can be really tested at stressful, emotionally-challenging times like these. Your suggestions are great.

Snehal on March 23, 2019:

This is something that I think no one gives thought to. I was facing a similar situation when two of my best buddies got a divorce. I was all confused to say who is right and who is wrong.

Subhashish Roy on March 22, 2019:

Divorce of course has an effect on our relationships with common friends, extended families and much more. Intrusion into your personal life is also something which could be at times irrirating for many.

Sheri on October 22, 2018:

Love the blog title! It caught my attention right away! Thankfully I have never had to deal with this but you have provided great information for someone who has.

Debra Roberts (author) from Ohio on September 11, 2018:

dashingscorpio you nailed it perfectly! This was my situation to a tee and you are correct about the majority of the friendships status' and where everyone landed when it was all said and done. To be honest, I lost more family members than I did friends (that's another topic to write about), although there were a few friends that got away too. I realize now that it was for the best and out of my control. I also learned how to not pick sides and to be a better friend to those in my circle facing or following their divorces.

dashingscorpio from Chicago on September 11, 2018:

Generally speaking most divorced people end up with the friends & family they had (prior to their dating or marrying one another).

Most of the friends a couple makes usually are not "best friend" material. They're not part of one's "inner circle" of family and friends. Usually these people are "acquaintances" at best.

There are three basic reasons why couples get divorced

1, They chose the wrong mate. (They're too incompatible.)

2. A "deal breaker" was committed in the eyes of another.

3. They fell out of love/stopped wanting the same things.

It's not uncommon for (one person) to want the divorce while the other does not. The person who wants to stick it out oftentimes gets sympathy from friends because people feel sorry for them.

The person walking away from the marriage is seen as being the "strong one" for not settling or they're viewed as the "bad guy".

Ultimately if neither party is tearing down the other it then comes down to personalities. Rarely does anyone like {both people} equally. A divorce may simply reveal who they liked the most to begin with. So be it! Every ending is a new beginning!

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