How to Deal When Your Friends Get Divorced A divorce can test your friendship and have you take a closer look at your own marriage. Here are a few tips to navigate the splintered relationships. BY DR. TRINA READ
Friends getting a divorce is a tough situation to navigate.
“ Divorce is the death of a dream you thought was going to last.”
Divorce happens. When close friends or family members separate, the divorce can cause a ripple effect of disruption. It's common that you and your spouse might not know what to do, or say, when it comes to interacting with the now-split couple. So here are some guidelines for navigating the murky waters of divorce while nurturing the relationships you care about.
First rule: Divorce etiquette will be tricky in proportion to our emotional reaction. Understandably we feel awkward with this change. And when we combine that with someone else’s divorce, it can often bring up uncomfortable feelings about our own marriage, "If it can happen to them…" I'll discuss these feelings more in a bit.
In the meantime, try not to choose sides. Divorcing spouses often lose friends and are excluded from events they normally attended.
Research shows the social network of mothers changes dramatically after divorce, with women losing almost 40% of her friends. Divorcees become socially isolated because their friends are divided due to loyalty conflicts.
While there isn't much research on the topic of friendship after divorce, most studies report that after a breakup friends fall by the wayside; partly because the divorcees become invisible while they're in the middle of their divorce. Other research shows divorced women decrease their closeness with friends acquired during marriage, but it’s unclear why this happens.
There will be talk, and a divorce can lead to a lot of ugly gossip. Do your best to not go there. It’s never a good idea to indulge in negative gossip—for everyone involved. Simply say you’d rather not be caught in the crossfire for fear it’ll come back to you, "He said that you said…."
While it's natural your newly divorced friend will want to talk about their separation, avoid the urge to tell the latest rumors about their ex or to trash talk. If you truly can’t resist telling someone or need to relieve the pressure of knowing too much, share your news with a disinterested third party so no one gets hurt.
Eventually your annual backyard barbecue will arrive and you're faced with the question, whom do you invite? It is a bit of a juggling act. It’s not your job to take sides as much as it is to support him and her. If one is asking you to drop their ex, tell them—kindly—you’re there to be their friend, but you’re not angry with the ex. Be sensitive and don’t tell either of them about any time you spent with the other person, ensuring anything discussed is confidential.
Unfortunately, there’s still a double standard that is commonplace, in which a single female won't get invited for fear she might nab your husband, while ex-husbands continue to get invites to encourage the male friendship. It's important to remain considerate of both parties.
Reflecting On Your Own Marriage
A divorce of close friends can really rattle your relationship and have you and your spouse questioning if you're on the right path.
For example, now that your friend is single, they might feel a profound sense of freedom, followed by shopping sprees for sexy clothes and hot interludes courtesy of their favorite new online dating website. And while you know how wrenching the separation was, all you see now are the fun rewards. It’s natural to feel jealous and envious when they are having a ball with their new single life and you are still married.
Hold your tongue, at least at first. Newly divorced people need to feel desirable again and getting back into the dating pool is the easiest way to do this. Even if you’re convinced they are making a mistake by dating someone who is completely inappropriate, they aren’t going to listen to you. All you can do is emphasize how dating is the best way to learn more about them self and what they eventually want from a new relationship.
Instead of feeling jealous or fearful of your own relationship, use this situation for positive change. Divorce is less scary to talk about in the context of someone else's situation because it’s easier to talk about issues in the abstract rather than directly. Being able to talk about divorce—how it happens, how it might happen to you, and how to prevent it—is one of the best ways to avoid it.
If your husband's friend cheated, for example, the situation can be a conversation starter that reestablishes the rules of your own marriage. If you have been taking each other for granted, it might motivate you both to pay a little more attention.
Divorce is the death of a dream you thought was going to last. And when it happens to someone close it will certainly test your friendship. Be sure to remember that before you consider uninviting your divorced friends from the annual BBQ.
News of a friend's divorce can bolster positive beliefs about your marriage or reinforce the negative ones. This is an excellent time to discuss what you can do to make your own marriage stronger.
Dr. Trina Read is the founder of VivaXO.com; a leading relationship and sexual health expert and educator; and is a best selling author, media expert, syndicated blogger, international speaker, magazine columnist, and spokeswoman. Trina has just launched Sensual Tastes Events, an interactive workshop blending the pleasures of food and sex education. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.