6 Things I’ve Learned About Friendship and Divorce
This morning, Freed Marcroft’s Instagram feed was flooded with the hashtag #friendshipday. Friendship Day is one of those holidays initially created by Hallmark to sell cards. It is now actually an official United Nations’ international holiday celebration of the transformative power of relationships between people. Friendship is a big topic around Freed Marcroft, as people going through a divorce are keenly aware of both its importance and its complexities. Our clients inherently know what the studies show — that our friendships play a critical role in our health and happiness and can even prolong our lives.
They also know that divorce tests friendships. Some rise; others fall. During a divorce, the shifting nature of your friendships can feel like another loss or abandonment to navigate. This was actually one of the most difficult pieces for me during my own divorce. I didn’t know where my friends — particularly mutual friends — stood on the divorce, or, frankly, on me. If I knew then what I know now, I would have navigated things differently.
In one study of 123 couples and 58 divorced people, researchers found that “almost two-thirds said they had couple friends who divorced or broke up. Over half said that the friendship ended with one person and one in eight said it ended with both; in about one-third both friendships were reportedly maintained.” So, the research backs up what my clients and I have experienced. Divorce can impact the dynamic in any relationship, and not all of them make it. As is so often the case, my clients have taught me much about what you can do to help your friends be your friends when you are going through a divorce.
Here is their wisdom so you don’t have to learn it the hard way on your own:
1. Resist the instinct to cocoon.
“Ugh, I avoided all our mutual friends I guess because I was afraid they would take her side. Then I was aggravated that they were hanging out with her — even though she had reached out to them and I didn’t. If I had to do it over, I would bite the bullet and stay in touch.”
Reach out to your friends instead of avoiding them out of fear that they will pick sides or judge you harshly.
2. Acknowledge the issue.
“I’m still friends with the people I talked to early on about my fear of losing their friendship.”
As Dr. Geoffrey Grief explains, “Having clear communication about the nature of the newly shifting relationship between old friends can give everyone a road map about where to go in the future.” Share with them your desire to stay friends, and tell then that you will not try to make them choose sides.
3. Resist the temptation to make them choose sides.
“I would catch myself wanting them to tell me that I was right, that he was wrong. I knew it was unfair to do to them, but I really struggled with it.”
This is really hard. Do it anyway.
4. Sometimes keep it light.
A year after my own divorce I had a buddy going through a divorce. All he wanted to talk about was why I thought his wife left him — we could never just sit and have a beer. I realized that I had done the exact same thing to my friends when I was in the middle of my divorce.
Venting when you are going through something big is natural, but be mindful that friendship is a two-way street. Make room to talk about your friend’s life and lighter subject matter. As an added bonus, this will help take your mind off of your divorce.
5. Find a good therapist.
“Dr. XXXX basically saved my friendship with my best friend. Once I started seeing her, I could talk to her instead of dumping everything on him all the time. Plus, she gave me actual suggestions of how to handle things instead of just commiserating with me, and whenever I followed her advice, it worked.”
It can be tempting to rely on friends for advice, but remember that they aren’t trained professionals. A mental health professional can provide a safe, neutral space, free of judgment, to help you understand both your feelings and behaviors related to the end of your relationship and the shifting dynamics that will inevitably occur after the split. Talking with a qualified therapist will both help you through your divorce and help keep your friendships, friendships.
6. Keep legal discussions between you and your lawyer.
“If I could tell people only one thing it’s not to get caught up in what friends and family say will happen or should happen. I ultimately figured out that basically everything they told me was wrong, but it really made me question myself and made it hard to make a decision.”
We have previously shared our client’s tip about being careful about listening to friends “legal” advice. If you leave legal talk between you and your attorney, you and your friends will both be better for it.
Freed Marcroft’s attorneys guide select clients through the legal aspects of divorce while remaining mindful of their overall wellness.
To discuss our helping with your situation, contact us today either here or by phone.