Divorce is not a solitary event. It’s not just you who is affected. It’s not just you and your soon-to-be ex. Or you, your soon-to-be-ex, and your kids. There are your parents, your in-laws, your friends, your community, even your work.
Some people will feel compelled to take sides. Some may start doling out advice. Suddenly it’s, “I never liked him!” “What took you so long?” “Why can’t you give it another chance?” “You’re making a terrible mistake.” The people in your world are happy they way you are, the way things are. They don’t want you to mess it up! Others envision you being their new partner in crime. Some have your best interests at heart. Some cannot bear the mirror they perceive you are holding up to their own relationship.
While it’s true that you want to and should be able to lean on your real friends throughout a significant life event like divorce, going into it understanding that some people may not react the way you think they will may save you some additional heartache. If you have some people that you can really rely on, those few special people who will just listen, maybe even just crawl down into the hole with you and hold your hand and say, “We’ll get through this,” count yourself as one of the most fortunate people alive. If you have very little of that, like I did, you need to revamp your friend-choosing process. I had built my world around people who used a very rigid and set list of rules from which everyone had to live. As much as compassion, mercy, and understanding were talked about, they weren’t practiced.
Now is a critical time to surround yourself with people who demonstrate compassion. Who understand and extend an empathetic attitude. If you don’t have those people currently in your life, find them. They really are out there. Look for people who are living their lives in a way that you admire. Ask yourself what you admire about them. Be prepared to go on several “dates.” I’m not talking about romantic dates. I’m talking about friend dates.
Just like the romantic dating world where you try to look for the right match for you, friend dates are the same thing. You may meet up with various people for coffee, hiking, book group, etc., thinking that someone seems interesting. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes they are perfect for scrapbooking and wine, but that’s it. This is totally okay! People do need people. Even introverts have a few friends who are primarily for doing “hang out” activities.
Some of the relationships you form as you move through a divorce are based on that life event. Once you and your peeps have made it to the other side, you may drift apart. That’s okay too. Allow yourself to cultivate and have a number of different relationships at a variety of depths.
One important note is that while you are going through a challenging time, it is okay to back away from some friends who are not supportive.