by Betsy Ross~
When it comes to divorce, it’s perfectly natural to want to circle the wagons and surround yourself with ALL of your friends and relatives who have declared their undying loyalty to YOU rather than YOUR EX. This tendency makes it all the more horrifying to learn that: your best friend’s spouse still has lunch with your ex, your mother spoke to you-know-who just this morning, or that two beloved neighbors visited your ex’s new home. Choosing sides during and after divorce can be a minefield for everyone involved and the best solution, though challenging, might just be to ‘re-frame’ your thinking and move away from the “Your either with me or against me” mentality.
Here are five points to consider when it comes to who gets the friends and extended family during and after divorce:
1. Take It Easy! While having friendly feelings for your ex may feel like a felony punishable by death, no need to dispose of your friends because they care about your ex, too. It isn’t a betrayal for friends to continue to care about both of you. It may be more a reflection of the genuine connection they had with each of you before the split occurred. Just because you and your ex have called it quits doesn’t automatically mean those around you can stop caring for and feeling attached to one or the other of you. Try to understand this and be patient with those around you…in truth, it speaks well of the friendship as your loved ones don’t just drop one of you like a hot potato!
2. Don’t Force A Choice While the second grader in you might be screaming for friends and family to choose you (and reject your ex), if you force people to make a choice, everybody loses. What often happens in this instance is that friends and extended family move away from you both (literally or just emotionally) in order to stay out of the line of fire. Try your best to control your urges to marshal all of the troops onto your team and let the dust settle a bit first. Remember, while you may have seen this coming, others may still be shell shocked at learning of the demise of your marriage. Give them some time to get used to the idea and allow them to figure out what happens next.
3. Beware of ‘Bottom Feeders’ Every town, community, and social group has its share of low life gossips who ‘feed’ off of the misery or misfortune of others. They have a tendency to come out of the woodwork when something has gone wrong or someone is suffering. “I can’t get enough of this stuff, I just love it”, is a phrase I’ve actually heard a neighbor say when repeating news of someone else’s difficulties or demise. While they might tempt you with their availability and never ending willingness to hear all of the negatives in your life, stay away from this type of person. Bottom Feeders generally take energy away from others, literally feeding off of their pain and struggles. There is nothing good that can come of spending time with a gossip!
4. The Social Director’s Expectations Frequently in the case of divorce, the spouse who ‘invested’ in social relationships (by returning phone calls, orchestrating invitations, and following through on organizing events) may expect to ‘keep’ the friends. This isn’t necessarily so as friends’ feelings toward one or the other of you may not be influenced by who planned the activities or even by how much energy you invested in the relationship. Feelings are a tricky business and there may not be any ‘logical’ reason why friends and family gravitate one way or the other. Better to accept that it is what it is and take responsibility to begin building and filling in the gaps in your social network.
5. There Are No Rules If attending your high school reunion, a wedding, or some other function means you will see your ex and you don’t feel ready yet to do so, skip it. Even if your best friend, your father, or your sister think you ‘should’ go or you ‘shouldn’t’ let your ex’s presence their stop you, it is up to you! Or, if attending an event means there will be many questions coming at you about your divorce and you don’t quite feel up to fending these off, give yourself permission not to. Only you know what you can handle at this point and what you cannot. If you are in doubt, ask yourself this simple question: Will attending this function/event be helpful to ME? If your answer is ‘Yes’ (because you are convinced your attendance will be fun for you, relaxing, or present an opportunity for you to feel connected and loved, then by all means go).
It may not be clear which of your friends will remain your friend during and after divorce. Some may try to straddle both camps and hold onto friendships with both you and your ex, while others may clearly pick one of you over the other. Whatever the case, forcing your loved ones to choose sides is never a good solution. It’s always better to be patient, understanding, and give those around you a little time to figure out what all of this means and how to proceed, after your divorce.