Divorce: Who Gets Custody of the Friends?
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 to them. It's very common for close friendships to either dissolve or to choose sides during or after a divorce. It’s natural to think that close friendships are built to 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.
What Should You Do About Dissolving Friendships?
There are several ways you can address the friendship custody battle.
- Try putting yourself in their shoes, give them time to adjust and reach out to you.
- Talk openly and honestly about your situation, without trying to get them to see your side of the story.
- Give them space to grieve the separation without interference. Your divorce can make them feel awkward or without the right words. They may also assume that you prefer privacy during this difficult transition. Always give benefit of the doubt and don't take their silence personal.
- Realize that you are not responsible for their emotions, feelings, or actions about their interpretation of the circumstances surrounding your divorce.
- As much as it hurts, you may have to let them go or give them space if that is what they are choosing.
- Do not try to seek their approval, change their minds, or convince them to take your side.
- Understand that people will react to your situation based on their own conditioning, personal/religious beliefs, or their own 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 simultaneously and it has always resonated with me: “What other people think about you is none of your business”.
The most important thing to remember is to never put your friends in the “middle” position or expect them to choose your side. This easily happens when it's time to attend a mutual social or even an annual event that you once shared when you were still couples. Do not attempt to seek their agreement and do not complain about or bad-mouth your ex-spouse if you do attend such events. If your friends are choosing the opposite side or putting obvious distance between you, you need to respect their choices, like it or not. The more that you attempt to influence them, the more and faster they will pull away. This is one time where you definitely must "take the high road and be the bigger person", as difficult as that may be.
Other Reasons Friendships Dissolve and Why Sometimes It's For the Best
Your friends could be facing confusion and indecision in their own marriages and may be thinking "what if my husband/wife decides that this is a good idea and suggests that 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 also 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 that you choose to share regarding your situation.
The decision to end a friendship may be on your part as well. It could be the perfect opportunity to end a toxic friendship that has wavered and be a blessing in disguise.
Relationships involve give and take from both parties. It's fine to send a friendly message now and then to let them know you are thinking about them, that you are doing well, or to 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, simply move along, without laying on a guilt-trip or persistent badgering. Once the ball is in their court, there is nothing more you can do, and you can take peace in knowing that you did your best.
We may never understand the choices that 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 will find that some of your friendships will actually strengthen as a result of your divorce or that you have something in common with them that you never knew. Most importantly, you will learn from this experience and should any of your friends find themselves in the midst of a divorce, you will have a better view, empathy, and be able to preserve the friendship.
I invite you to also read my article "Divorce Won't Kill You, But It May Feel Like Death".
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Debra Roberts