When you get divorced after you’ve been married for a long time the fabric of your life looks and feels completely different. It’s like putting a cream cashmere sweater in the washing machine with red socks, a bra and sneakers. If you were to wear that cashmere sweater with the same friends after that dreadful treatment of cashmere, they would give you the stink eye and think you’re from a different planet. In fact, anyone that knows anything about washing clothes might just think you’re completely inept for looking the way you do which means you can’t find your way in life especially in your thirties, forties, fifties, etc. Even if half your friends are forgiving about the cashmere, you yourself feel extremely self-conscience because at one time you were wearing an admirable sweater and now what you’re wearing makes you stand out for the wrong reasons (discolored, snagged and wrinkled) and perhaps it is only perceived, but it feels so real. This small little analogy sums up the divorce life with friends. Friendships change at the microscopic level when divorce occurs! Let’s look at the process at each step.
Step one: The big divorce reveal – When the divorce is looming, there are a handful of friends that want the “scoop.” When the divorce is looming, “scoop” people hastily gather around, giving you the attention and conversation, you craved when things were going well with your ex-spouse. The thoughts that enter the brain include, “wow, I never knew how much this person cared” or “I always knew they would have my back” or “I bet we will be lifelong friends” or “This divorce is not so bad when I have friends like this.” DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME & ENERGY WITH THESE PEOPLE. These people are only in it for the “information.” Once you need someone to talk to (1 year in), they are nowhere to be found. These people think of you as competition. Now that you’re out of the game, they have won and need to find competition elsewhere. Others who are single, will show their grave disappointment in the falling apart of your marriage and will disown you, because you did not live up to their “expectations.” It is sad and depressing that this happens, but don’t you want to know versus being blindsided like me?!
Step two: The divorce saga – Most separating couples that have lawyers on one or both sides are not amicable. That means one or both people will be engaging in unbelievable behavior. On the non-abusive side, this person is barely able to cope with all the mudslinging, threats, gaslighting, stealing and so on that the other commits during the actual divorce process. The non-abusive person needs a lot of support, so the heavy lifting “first responder” friends will most definitely come through at this time. They will bring food, go to court with you, be a listening ear and even invite you to their family gatherings. Bless the sweet hearts of these friends. After you lick your wounds from the friendship exodus that happens after a year in step one, a wave of gratefulness is restored by the pure kindness of the “first responders” in step two of the process. The abusive spouse loses all their friends at this point, except maybe one.
Step three: The divorce lull – After a few years, time makes the divorce abuse seem less terrible, but one person is still dragging the other person to court (divorce finalized or not). The “first responders” are no longer needed for dire situations, so they gradually go back to their life before they were needed so frequently. They don’t call and ask you to go to tea or seek you out for friendship/companionship. They were solely there to “get you through.” Now that survival has been achieved, new friendship acquisition begins. This is one of the most challenging steps. Making good friends later in life after a divorce is hard. It is hard for several reasons. You are still getting to know yourself in a, single state, so pinpointing who will jive with this new you is like throwing a dart at a moving target. To be completely candid, people in their thirties and beyond are busy with their own lives, so it is even more challenging to find moments that solidify your friendship. Overall, you must be satisfied with less friends or no friends for a period. Yes, I said NO good friends. Good friends are people you talk to everyday and truly, less people are interested in frequent regular interaction especially if they have families of their own (it is a hard pill to swallow). The abusive spouse will latch on to co-workers for support at this time and possibly change jobs.
Step four – The divorce homestretch (occurs if you have children). Once your children are school aged, there is a slight friend revival. You are hurled into new social engagements, so you are forced to engage. Some people will stick and some won’t. This stage is ongoing until the children graduate high school. At this stage, friends that remained dormant will come out of hiding and there will be renewed interest in doing things together and possibly, exploring life with singles as friends as well. Friends at this stage are “fluid friends” it is uncertain if they will be lifers or those just passing through.
The desire for friendship after divorce is a longing that I did not expect. The deep connection I expected from my ex-spouse almost transfers to others in the form of friendship. It is still missing on some level for me. I cannot seem to grasp it. Friends now, seem temporary or platonic. Do not be blind sided by life after divorce. Remember to avoid the “scoop” friends, treasure the “first responder” friends, stay strong during “no good friends,” and be grateful for those “fluid friends” that have the potential to last a lifetime. I am grateful I have more genuine people in my life now, but I still miss those friends I thought I had. You will too.