No one should go through a divorce alone. You need a robust support system, consisting largely of friends and family. But a funny thing happens in divorce: friendships seem to come and go. The people you trusted with your life disappear, while acquaintances you barely know come through in the clinch, and then there is the ever-fabled kindness of strangers. Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and can help or harm you. It's time to take stock of your friendships, and know who you can trust and who to avoid...
Replenishers & Depleters
There are friendships that bring joy, happiness, and light into your life, and there are others that bring drama, angst, and complications. Replenishers build us up, and depleters drag us down. We all know this to be true, but we don't often stop and think about it. During this critical period, pay attention to the people you have around you. There is no room for "friends" who bring you down. Share your time, focus, and energy with those that are a true support.
Is Divorce Catching?
When you are going through your divorce, you will notice that some friends will literally and physically move away from you, as if you had some sort of infectious disease. It is absolutely bizarre. They may reach out to offer condolences, or go through the motions of being polite, but behind those cursory gestures, the friendship has evaporated. These friends see you as a threat...a threat to their marriage, happiness, and fidelity. They don't want to be around you, or be reminded of what might happen to them.
Change Can Be Hard for Them Too!
No one likes change. Friends don't like to see other friends get hurt. They want you to move through the pain quickly, so that things can get "back to normal". Some friends will not be able to handle the changes in your life. Because they might affect them--what will happen to carpool? Or Friday night poker? Or joint family camping trips? And even if the changes don't directly affect their day-to-day existence, divorce is like a mirror being held up, showing others that their lives might have the potential to change too.
True Friends Have Certain Limitations
Friends can be the most amazing supporters. True friends love you for who you are, and want the best for you. They will come over and help you pack up your ex's things. They will keep you company on your first night without your kids. They will fix you up on blind dates with any single people they know, and when that well runs dry they will come over with a bottle of wine and help you write your Internet dating profile. One caveat about true friends, they will tell you anything and everything that you want to hear. When you are looking for an unbiased opinion, they are not your best source.
Who's Friend Are They Anyway?
Mutual friends are sticky subjects. In an ideal world, no one has to choose sides--we all stay friends, hands linked together, singing "Kumbaya." People say they want to be friends with both ex-spouses, but in reality this seems difficult to achieve. In marriages of long duration, couples and their friends can literally grow up together; it's hard to remember who became friends first. But just because you went to college with that friend, doesn't mean that your ex can't bond now over cooking or parenting. The best way to honor these mutual friendships is to allow the friends to choose or not choose sides. Let them initiate the contact, or quietly slip away.
Some people live and breathe drama. They can smell it from a hundred miles away. They gravitate towards it; they need it. When you are going through your divorce you will attract these types of "friends". At first they will be a welcome distraction, someone to vent to, scream and cry with, and go over every "evil" thing your ex did. These people have an endless capacity for the ups and downs of your emotional turmoil. And their attention will feel good for a bit. But beware: if things start to get calm, they know just how to stir the proverbial pot!
Fair Weather Friend
Certain friends cannot handle the deep, dark realities of life. And divorce is pretty much as real, deep, and dark as it gets. Don't go to these friends unless you are feeling fine or numb that day, and just want to talk about the weather. These friends can serve a purpose. They won't ask any difficult questions. They won't pry into your personal life. Usually, if given half a chance, they will only talk about themselves. So an outing with this friend can be a welcome break from the rigors of your divorce.
Who Will You Party With?
Most of us are friends with people like us. If you are married with two kids, chances are your friends are married with two kids. Suddenly you find yourself single, and maybe with a lot of kid-free time on your hands, and your married friends are all still busy with their spouses, children, and wedded lives. You have to find yourself some new friends! Friends who have free time, and want to spend it in the same ways that you do. Do you want to go out to bars, restaurants, educational classes, or salsa lessons? Chances are your married friends might go once or twice out of loyalty, but it's important to create new ties with people who understand firsthand what your new reality is like, and embrace the lifestyle wholeheartedly.