You win some, you lose some.
Not long after I left my husband, I got a Facebook message from a neighborhood mom I knew only slightly. She wanted to know if I had time to get a cup of coffee. I sat in my kitchen, surrounded by moving boxes, unsure how to respond. I was busy trying to settle into my new apartment, schedule an appointment with our divorce mediator, and adjust to single life after being married for a decade. I wasn’t sure I was up for cryptic coffee invitations, but, being a born people-pleaser and also unable to stifle my curiosity about what she wanted, I replied ‘Sure’.
Little did I know, this was the first of what was to become a pattern in my life as a newly divorced person; friends you thought had perfectly good marriages suddenly start cornering you to confess they’ve been thinking of leaving their spouses.
I felt like the canary in the coal mine – people thinking of following me into the depths of divorce wanted to see if I was still singing.
Five years later, I’ve realized that when you get divorced, your friends will fall into one of five categories. If you’re divorced, you’ll recognize these types. If you’re thinking of getting divorced, brew yourself a cup of coffee and allow yourself the opportunity of a preview…
The ones who are afraid of you
Once you’re divorced, your couple friends will see you as a threat to their own marriages. They may continue to try to make an effort to maintain the friendship, but it’ll be awkward. Instead of congratulating you on your freedom, your new life or your courage, they’ll furrow their brows and say things like “I’m so sorry”. They might tell you how they overcame their own marital struggles and gush about how happy they now are. Wives cuddle up to their husbands or pull them away from you, as though if they didn’t you might try to snatch them away. It’s risky for these couples to hang out with you because you represent their greatest fear. If you can’t talk it through, or they can’t get over themselves, these friends might turn into…
The ones who disappear
These are the friends who just drop off the radar. Who knows why? Maybe they liked your ex better and they’re now hanging out with him. Maybe they’re just busy. Maybe they’re afraid being friends with you will mean being pulled into drama they don’t have the energy for. Whatever the case, these people are doing you a favor, because guess what? There might be drama surrounding your divorce and you might be a little – or a lot – emotionally needy, but if your ‘friends’ can’t handle it, you’re better off without them.
The ones who want to confide in you
These are the acquaintances who ask you to have coffee, or a drink, or who corner you at a party and tell you the intimate details of their marriage. I felt like The Great Gatsby’s Nick Carraway – “privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men” – only in my case it was mostly women who weren’t having sex with their husbands anymore, for one reason or another. I was fine with this at first, happy to share my experience and listen to people vent, but after a while it really got to me. Wasn’t anyone happy? It’s disheartening to realize marriages you thought were solid actually aren’t. To quote Nick Carraway again, “I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart”.
The ones who confess their feelings for you
Once you’re single, any of your friends who’ve been hiding a secret desire to fuck you will tell you about it. These might be married friends or single friends, your friends or your ex-spouse’s friends. While this can be flattering, it’s also kind of gross – like it’s open season now that you’re divorced. On the other hand, if you want to go for it, go for it. (Maybe not with the married friends, though.)
The ones who are there for you no matter what
I’m happy to report that the overwhelming majority of your friends will fall into this category. Sure, your friendships will change once you’re divorced, but a true friend will stand by you regardless of your marital status. I was lucky; my divorce was fairly amicable. My ex and I were mostly able to maintain our friendships, and people didn’t feel they had to choose sides. Some friendships have grown much stronger since my divorce, and some have fallen away, but that would have happened anyway – that’s just the nature of life and relationships.
Now that I’m no longer in an unhappy marriage, I truly believe I’m a better friend. I’m happier and more myself because I’m not trying to keep up a charade. That’s the kind of person I want to be – and the kind of person I want to be friends with.
GIFs via giphy.com, tumblr.com.
Comment: Are you divorced? What have your friendships been like since your split?