Here's why it's a good thing
I wasn’t prepared to lose friends after my divorce.
I’d heard that it could happen, but I figured it wouldn’t happen to me. My friendship bonds were strong, and I was confident that they would withstand the divorce test.
I was wrong.
It did happen to me, and it was very difficult to deal with at the time.
However, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, I know now that it was actually a good thing.
Growth On A Grand Scale
It might not feel like it when you are in the first stages of separation and divorce, but you are experiencing major personal growth.
In the beginning, everything is a blur, and you feel like your life has gone backwards at a million miles an hour. It’s all you can do to continue on with some semblance of normality.
And that’s if it’s going fairly well. If it’s an absolute dumpster fire, well. Life can feel like it has no purpose at all anymore.
Regardless of the level of turmoil you go through, the inevitable outcome is the realization that you are no longer the same person you were before divorce.
There aren’t many cases where someone who has been through divorce and out the other side hasn’t evolved and deepened their understanding of our flawed humanity.
So, here you are, a different person. It makes sense that some of the people that you used to be connected to are not going to be in your life anymore.
If you’re experiencing this now, it can be helpful to take a philosophical approach to the natural cycle of friendships over our lifetime.
Different Social Circles
When I was in the last few years of my marriage, I was extremely confused and unhappy. I had some close girlfriends who were also unhappy in their marriages, and we would share our struggles. It was common ground, and it gave us a huge amount of comfort to be able to express ourselves in a safe place.
I also made many friends through having children. Back then, my whole life revolved around playdates, mom and bub groups, coffee groups, kindergarten, etc. I gravitated to these friends because we were all in the exhaustion together, and only another parent knew how it all felt.
Then there were our married friends. My ex-husband and I had a circle of other couples that we would socialise with. BBQs and get-togethers, concerts, camping trips, day trips to the beach or outings for the kids to all be together too.
There were many people around that I connected to in lots of different ways when I was married.
The Slow Decline
After my ex and I made the decision to separate, I began to notice an ebbing away of certain people. Some were more subtle than others; some did what could only be described as a ‘cut off’. Almost instantaneous.
The married girlfriends that I would confide in now seemed shut down or defensive that they were continuing on with their relationships when things were so dysfunctional.
When your marriage is in trouble, it’s safe to vent to other married friends who are also unhappy.
When one of you makes the decision to end your expired relationship, the one who has decided to stay despite being miserable now feels weak. They see you having the courage to make changes and follow through regardless of the outcomes, and it makes them uncomfortable.
I had two very close friends who were in this situation. They confided in me regularly that they wanted to separate, but they didn’t feel strong enough to leave and live on their own as single parents.
These friends just stopped contacting me after a while. We tried to limp along, but catch-ups became awkward because we could no longer talk about their marriages. The glue that held our friendships together was gone.
This one is understandable. Married friends don’t know which person to support in the divorce. Even when a divorce is amicable, you still can’t continue to catch up and socialize the way you always did. New partners come along, and it becomes awkward.
Nearly every single one of those married couple friends has gone, in the sense that neither my ex nor myself has seen any of them for years. They are just acquaintances from the past now.
Jealousy and insecurity can also be a factor for married couples trying to have friendships with divorced people. If their marriages are going through difficulty, they may not want someone around who is completely available for a new relationship. (It happens!)
Other Parent Friends
One particular friend stands out for the instant cut-off factor.
Our kids had weekly playdates. Both our sons were the same age, and our daughters were too. So we had a great set-up where we could have each other’s kids over to visit. We’d been doing it for about two years at this point.
This friend was one of those moms who was striving for the picture-perfect image for her family. I guess having her kids socialize with children from a ‘broken home’ didn’t fit the bill.
I’ll never forget the day she came over to pick her kids up, and I told her that we were separating. She looked shocked, disgusted and pitiful all at the same time. Reflecting on it now, I’m actually impressed that someone could pack so many looks into one facial expression.
I never heard from her again. Not once. She couldn’t have gotten out of my house fast enough. It was as though I had a contagious disease that she thought she could be infected with.
She is an extreme case, but there were several more who did pretty much the same thing, only in a more gradual way. Phone calls and texts just stopped.
All of these rejections hurt at the time. I was already feeling like a huge failure that my marriage was ending, so losing these connections hit hard. It’s a form of social ostracization and can leave you reeling as you watch it slowly happen around you.
The thing that you don’t realize as you are going through the divorce journey is that it’s not just the marriage that has dissolved. It’s also the version of you that was in the marriage.
Today, I feel like a completely different woman to the person who went through the first years of separation.
I know, without a doubt, that I wouldn’t have anything in common with the people who I used to be connected to.
I’m not a big social media user, but every now and then, I see the odd post from someone I used to spend time with back in those days.
There’s a very good reason that we are no longer in each other’s lives. We wouldn’t align at all based on what I’ve seen them talk and post about recently.
Just as with new relationships, you will go on to make new friendships.
I have met so many awesome people over the past ten years, and I’m grateful for them. I’ve also grown to have a huge appreciation for spending time by myself and getting to know who I am now.
Losing ‘friends’ was necessary. It was a positive, not a negative.
Now, I have the chance to meet new people who are more aligned with the person I am today.
Who I am today feels authentic. It feels genuine and true to myself.
If I’d stayed in a dysfunctional marriage just so that I wouldn’t lose the people around me, it wouldn’t have been worth all that I have gained. Not to say that I have it completely together, quite the contrary.
But divorce taught me that I can accept the imperfect parts of myself. It taught me that I’m courageous and that living an authentic life is an absolute non-negotiable.
If you are experiencing the loss of certain people around you after your divorce, take heart.
It is hard to accept at first, just as all change can be hard to accept.
The unknown keeps us in fear and worry.
But you will make new friendships. You will form new connections with people who are aligned with who you are becoming as you rebuild and reinvent yourself.
If anyone leaves your life because of your divorce, you are not meant to have had long-lasting friendships with them anyway. The chances are that you would’ve grown apart regardless.
Wish them well and move forward, safe in the knowledge that just like a forest fire, dead wood is being burnt away to make way for new life to thrive and flourish. Get excited about the fantastic people you haven’t met yet!