When it comes to divorce, it's not just the couple that goes in separate directions. Everything gets divided up. From investments, debt, furniture, family photos, pets and even time with the kids, what once was "ours" gets reclassified as "yours" and "mine."
The details of the division are then memorialized in the divorce documents. He gets the NASCAR memorabilia; you get the Scentsy distributorship. He gets the dog; you get the cat. He gets the kids the first and third weekend of the month; you get them the second and fourth. You may not like either the exercise or the outcome, but you at least understand that it's part of the drill.
But there is one group of assets that is entirely left out of the formal divorce process: your friends. Because friends are a primary source of comfort and support, and further because there's nothing like a divorce to make you need heaping helpings of both, how this very valuable group of assets gets divvied up can have a big impact on how easily you bounce back.
In a perfect world, friends wouldn't have to take sides in the wake of a divorce. (And adorable elves really would bake delicious cookies in tree trunk bakeries!) But we don't live in a perfect world; we live in the real world.
And here's another bummer: While you don't have much say over which friends you get to keep after your divorce, you do have the power to drive friends away. Just try launching a campaign to convince them how terrible your ex is and see how fast your cell phone stops ringing.
You see, it's up to your friends to decide who they'll stay close to after your split. They know both of you and they'll make the decision that's best for them. And that's okay. Although it might be really hard to appreciate this right now, both of you need support to get through the process. And that goes double if you have kids. So resist the urge to lobby and just relax and let your friends figure things out for themselves.
Once the dust has settled and your friends have decided who gets custody of their friendship, then there will be work to do. You'll need to evaluate the friendships you're left with, determine what category they fall into, and proceed accordingly.
The following guide will help you with this exercise.
Steady Eddies: These are the friends that you can count on through thick and thin. They have always been there for you, and right now is no exception. Out of this ever-loyal group, pick two Steady Eddies to designate as your "A" Team, then feel free to confide in them in painstaking detail. When it comes to the rest of your Steady Eddies, exercise a little restraint and give them the abridged version of your horror story of divorce.
If you are put on the spot to answer questions about your divorce from friends who are not your Steady Eddies, stick to the "two sentence" rule: "It's been hard, but I'm getting through it. Thanks for asking." Then change the subject. The less of your personal business you have floating around out there, the better off you'll be in the long run.
And here's an important tip: Even though you're going through a tough time, don't forget that friendship is a two-way street. Remember to ask your Steady Eddies how they are doing once in a while, and then be quiet and listen while you let them have a turn to talk.
Crisis Junkies: Crisis Junkies are parasites that live off of other people's drama. And there's nothing like a divorce to bring Crisis Junkies out of the woodwork. Divorce is to Crisis Junkies what summertime is to ticks: It's their favorite season. And the nastier the divorce, the more Crisis Junkies you'll find crawling all over you.
The problem with Crisis Junkies is they are not hanging around out of genuine concern; they're using your hardship as an elixir for themselves. Your problems make them feel better about their own lives. And your dependence on their friendship makes them feel more important.
Given this dynamic, Crisis Junkies are not rooting for you to get back to your even-keel self. They have a vested interest in keeping the drama going. Steer clear of Crisis Junkies during your divorce. You have enough to worry about right now without adding parasites to the list.
Fake Friends: Fake Friends are those acquaintances who want to buddy up to you during your divorce for one reason only: entertainment value. Divorce makes for juicy stories, and that's entertainment gold. That being the case, not only can you not count on a Fake Friend to keep your confidences, you can actually count on them to betray them. After all, the pay off for having a juicy scoop comes when you share it.
In case you are having trouble determining whether a friend is a Fake Friend or a Crisis Junkie, here's an easy way to tell: Crisis Junkies don't mind logging in long hours with you during your darkest hours -- in fact, they're happy to do so because those are prime parasite feeding opportunities. Fake Friends on the other hand just want to get the story and run.
But if you get to the point where you're trying to figure out whether someone is a Fake Friend or a Crisis Junkie, you may as well save yourself the time and trouble. Either way, she or he is not someone you need to be associating with right now (or ever, really), so no further analysis is required.
Invisible Friends: Invisible Friends are people you previously thought were your buddies who have suddenly vanished. The loss of friends at a time where you are slogging through a divorce can be hard to take. The temptation is to conclude that they are siding with your ex or they have somehow abandoned you in your darkest hour. But this kind of thinking simply reflects how much stress you are under right now.
The truth is you don't really know why they're MIA. Maybe it has something to do with your divorce, but maybe it doesn't. After all, as big as your problems feel right now, personal problems are not your exclusive domain. So, reach out to your AWOL friends if you want to, but if they blow you off, try to move on without reading into it. Friendships come and go over the course of one's lifetime. Maybe this one will circle back around, maybe it won't. And either way, that's okay.
Once you've assessed your post-divorce friendships, tend to the Steady Eddies, keep the Crisis Junkies and Fake Friends at arms' length, and gracefully let go of Invisible Friends. Remember, change is an inevitable part of life. And during a divorce, change is definitely on the menu; in fact, it's not just what's for dinner -- it's what's for lunch and breakfast, too. But to the extent your circle of friends changes as a result of your divorce, it won't just be through attrition. You will make new friends, too. So stay friendly, my friends. But always remember to friend responsibly.