Just after Halloween last year, my marriage abruptly exploded. Weeks later, an attorney handed me paperwork to sign that said things like "irretrievably broken." By then I'd come to understand, with the help of a lot of therapy, that my marriage had been on a bumpy path toward unraveling for years. What had felt abrupt hadn't been abrupt at all. As I came to terms with the new direction my life and family were taking, another unexpected bump in the road came along: friendships.
Sisters before misters
Don't get me wrong, the women in my life rock. In the rough days following my break up, my lady friends, my sisters and my mom held me together. At one point I was literally curled up on a cold tile floor crying so hard I genuinely thought I'd pass out. My sister-in-law, who I adore, talked to me for a full hour until I got a hold of myself. Friends sent me cards and cheer-me-up care packages. Friends took me for surprise pedicures. Friends made me feel like I could keep breathing and keep walking. Friends reminded me that I was still loved.
The hard truth of the matter
But the thing is, divorce scares people. A counselor teaching a class I had to attend to get divorced put it this way: "These people are in unhappier marriages than yours was." Now this isn't to say every friend of mine is in a marriage that stinks. But many of them probably looked to my relationship and thought it was awesome. People used to call my ex and I the perfect couple. They thought it was working, and working really well. The next logical (yet not at all logical) step in that line of thinking is to think, "If it happened to them, will it happen to me?"
To be fair, I'm kind of obsessed with my divorce
Sometimes divorce feels like a spectator event. A lot of that is my fault. I don't mean this in a guilty or negative way, but when I talk to my girlfriends, I'm often talking about my crazy life. I'm adjusting to single life, I'm adjusting to single parenthood and I'm working through a complicated mess of emotions. I talk about divorce a lot. I vent about my ex. I unravel knots of hurt. I contemplate the big, wide open future. Can my married friends relate to this? Not really. Do they put up with this constant topic? Yes. Patiently. At times, I feel terrible for not keeping up with my friends as well as I used to. I know I'm missing things while I'm here in this swampy mess.
Learning when to move on
It's nearing four months since my ex-husband moved out. I'm closer to my girlfriends and female relatives than I have been in a long time. I'm nowhere near over my divorce but I'm slowly learning to hang out with my friends without talking about it. I owe them that much, just like they owe me the benefit of the doubt that my divorce and single status aren't direct threats to their marriages. When you walk a hard road, no matter how briefly or for how long, the friendships that stick are the ones worth cultivating and honoring. My divorce does scare some of my friends, some of them a little, and some of them a lot. That's okay. We're all big girls.
My tips for friendships during separation and divorce
- Recognize that your friends are a little freaked out. Don't take it personally.
- Friends who judge you for your decision to split up probably aren't worth having.
- Remember that your married, parent friends aren't on the same schedule you are.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Likewise, don't be afraid to let people know when you need to be alone.
- I know it's difficult, but try not to talk about your breakup constantly. Be a good listener.