As published in Ridgewood Moms, 7/28/15
Are you going through a divorce and starting to lean into your friendships for support?
Naturally, you assume that your friends will be there for you until…they’re not. Divorce is tough. It dismantles and realigns not only your marriage and family unit as you have known it, but it may also signal a shift in some of your most trusted friendships. It seems unfair that just as you crave it the most, some of your friends may not be offering the support, and time, and nurturing that you need. What you may want to stop to consider is this…
When you experience significant change in your life and in yourself, it does not necessarily mean that those around you are changing too. When you are in motion, others may not be, and so the dynamic of the relationship is altered.
As you move away from the traditional couple and family unit, many of your friends who shared similar demographics to you may feel threatened by the dissolve of your marriage and unable to see past that. They may suspect that you may look at their significant other differently and they may feel jealous, or they may see their own reflections mirrored back at them. In other words, they may fear that the reality of your fate, of your breakup, is now possible for them as well. In response to your new situation, your friends may not be able to overcome their own thoughts and fears resulting in a possible disconnect of their ability to maintain the friendship.
In addition, many of the people who you befriended during your marriage, your “couple friends” may be just that. These people may never have become your friends in your single life. Often, you are thrown together because one or the other gender becomes close, and you become part of the “group friend” experience by default. Once you are no longer a couple, this group, as you have traditionally known it, may not function the same way.
Essentially, you may feel as though you break up twice– once with your spouse and once with some of your friends. You may have a very different expectation of your friends once you are living single. You may be frequenting places with other singles, or you may be dating and the relationships as you have known them no longer mesh. Your ex may be closer to some friends and your friends may feel the need to be there for one of you, not both of you. Some friends may not want the drama that you may be experiencing to be their experience and they may make excuses in regard to getting together; essentially backing away from knowing you because it may take up too much time or energy. Juggling the friendship relationship jungle when divorcing is yet another “new” part of the divorce journey. At first, this may seem overwhelming but there are advantages.
As a result of your divorce, the OPPORTUNITY for new relationships, new friendships and new experiences has just unfolded in front of you. As we age, we often become complacent in making new friends and even in maintaining existing friendships. Friendships require work and cultivation and commitment. In your complacency, you may have been experiencing friendship auto pilot, simply accepting those relationships that you have already honed in favor of exploring new ones.
Life is an evolution. Whether your marriage lasts forever or ends in divorce, you should be growing and expanding your circle of friends with time. If you are not the same person that you were at 20, or 30, or 50, or 60 years old, then why should all your friends remain the same? As you move through each decade of life, you need to maintain as well as newly develop those relationships that are best suited for who you have become as an individual at each stage of life. While I am not suggesting that you abandon those who you know and love in favor of replacement people, I am suggesting that being open to the possibilities of new people and their roles in your life can be a rewarding addition to your day-to-day world. While most of your friends will be able to accept “new you” at face value and help you to carry an umbrella through the storm, being open to a mix of old and new relationships makes life interesting.
So if it is time for a friendship audit, don’t despair. Things change. People change. Awkward dynamics between you and your friends or your children and their children may improve with time, so be willing to have a bit of patience as you navigate who’s who. Remember the fun shape block toy that children use to learn their shapes? Only the cylinder can fit into the cylinder opening and the triangle into the triangular opening. The base of the toy and the shape of the pieces work in tandem, just like a good friendship should. If, after trying to adapt to your new roles, you find that some of your friendships have run their course remember that toy. Try as you might, you are not going to be able to get that square peg to fit into that round hole! Keep going…over time, the square peg will find a new slot and your connection possibilities will be limitless and in sync with post divorce you.