Divorce is not just about breaking up with your spouse. Divorce is also about losing friends and that’s probably inevitable.
My current guest, Kyle Bradford was married for almost seven years and when he divorced he lost many of his friends. Here’s Kyle:
Losing your friends is a common occurrence with any divorce and I think it really has to do with, how did the friendship start.
My ex-wife was a stay-at-home mom. We lived in Tennessee, so her days were filled with meeting other women in the neighborhood and play dates and pool and tennis and all this other stuff. So, she had the opportunity to connect with these women and really, when you’re in that type of environment, Mandy, when you’re the husband you’re just along for the ride.
The wife comes in and says, “Hey, we’re going to go down to the Johnson’s tomorrow night and grill out,” and his response is, “OK, whatever.” At least in my world, in the environment, in the culture and the community that I live in.
When that marriage breaks up, when any marriage breaks up, it’s not only divorce of the husband and wife, it’s also a divorce of the relationships that they built around them. If your next door neighbor finds out that you’re getting divorced and that relationship started because a few wives got together, I will almost guarantee you, that when that relationship ends, the two wives will continue to be friends and here’s why. They have already talked about how unhappy one of them is already, so they’ve already prepped them for what’s about to go down, almost invariably.
And the husband of the marriage that is still intact, what’s he going to do? Of course, he’s going to go with whatever direction the wife goes in. Very rarely, if ever, have I seen a situation where the wife goes with the ex-wife to be friends and the husband goes with the ex-husband. It just doesn’t happen.
It’s like the clotting effect of friendship. It clots to wherever the one goes, so that’s where they both go. That’s what happened to me. All of the relationships that we had built were all the results of her and the environment of the community we lived in and I was just along for the ride. So, when the marriage broke up, the friends went with her and I was left out in the cold from a friendship prospective. It took years to really rebuild anything.
One of the mistakes that I made from the get-go is I began dating again way too early. I didn’t go out looking for friendships. I was going out to look in some way to seal the vacuum of what had just been taken away. I started dating almost immediately and that was the first mistake. The second mistake is, I did not surround myself with a group of men intentionally, who were at the same stage of life as I am. I didn’t get myself an internal support group. I didn’t try to reach out to my local church to try to find some sort of community of men there.
I had no one speaking into my life about some of the decisions I was taking and that was a huge mistake. Any man that gets divorced, you cannot—you think you can—you cannot go at it alone. If you go at it alone, you will invariably make mistakes that you will come to regret later on in life.
You need to put yourself in community of men that are going to be there to walk along that journey with you and to keep you from falling off the trail. Otherwise, you’ll do the same thing I did. I hurt a lot of very, very nice people along the way, because of my own selfishness and really because I did not do the right thing.
The Divorce Coach Says
We make friends through shared interests and activities. It’s part of the social system that when those interests and activities change, friendships will change. This will happen regardless of what anyone perceives as causing the divorce.
We’ve also all experienced how singles mingle with singles and couples socialize with other couples. Think about your own experience of before you were married and while you were married. How did your friendships change? The same is likely to happen once you’re divorced.
I say this because it’s important to realize that this is just part of how our social lives work. Don’t not to go jumping to conclusions about certain friends choosing sides.
I do agree with Kyle that it would be very rare to see a married couple remain good friends with two people who were previously married. Not only might that create challenges for the married couple’s relationship but knowing that your friend’s spouse is friendly with your ex is bound to change your relationship dynamic. You’re likely to become more guarded about the information you’re sharing if you think that information will get back to your spouse. That will create distance between you and your friend and you’ll become less friendly.
There’s another reason friendships with married people dwindle post-divorce and it’s the ‘contagion factor.’ Divorce obviously isn’t catching like the flu but when friends divorce it does cause you take a look at your own marriage – avoiding divorced friends makes it easier to stay in denial. So when married friends stop calling, it may not be about you at all.
And yes, some friends will consciously and intentionally choose a side and as hurtful as that may be, it is what is. Try fighting that and you could quickly find yourself back in a social circle that resembles high school.
So Kyle’s advice is smart – take the time and effort to develop new friends. A great resource for this is Meetup.com – it’s a great way of meeting new people through shared interests and activities. Those activities might be new adventures for you, could be something you’ve been active in for a long time or could be a way of returning to a hobby you used to enjoy but gave up when you got married.
What has surprised you about your changing friendships?
Kyle Bradford is a divorced father and founder of the website ChopperPapa, ‘High octane observations on manhood, divorce, relationships, fatherhood, and other intellectual roadkill’. He also hosts a monthly podcast, FatherhoodWideOpen, ‘Intelligent conversation on issues facing fatherhood and masculinity with the people who think and write on them.’ He lives, writes, and works in Atlanta, Georgia.
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