The Collateral Damage Of Divorce: You Might Lose Some Friends (And Family Too)

by Alison Chrun
Originally Published: 
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I feel like there’s a saying somewhere that goes something like, “Men come and go, but friendships are forever.” Maybe I’m delusional, maybe I’m naïve, but I swear this is a thing. Or was a thing.

Either way, there should be a gigantic, neon warning sign on the marriage certificate that states, “If this union shall end in divorce, one of you will keep the friends, and the other will suffer in isolation and misery.”

I made many of my most meaningful friendships during my marriage. They included his family and friends, but also people we collected together along the way. I became close to his friends’ significant others and seemed to form deep bonds with them — vacationing annually together, girls’ trips, visiting each other in the hospital during our babies’ births, raising our kids together, and sharing some of the most intimate parts of our hearts with one another over the years.

Until one day — poofthey were gone.

I truly wasn’t prepared to lose some of my best friends while going through a divorce. If there’s anything that can test one’s sanity and will to persevere, this is it. I’ve never felt so dark, so buried, in my entire life. Losing my spouse was one thing, one thing I chose to walk away from with the heaviest heart, so that we could all find happiness. But I didn’t choose to lose my support network, and I didn’t choose for people to “pick a team.” I never anticipated this part.

I guess when those on the outside don’t understand why you walked away, judgment takes hold, and sometimes, like in my case, you’re kicked to the curb. And it’s devastating. It’s a pain so sharp, it has knocked the air out of my lungs over and over again. I didn’t know I could hurt this much. I didn’t know making a decision, a decision that I believe to be the best for my family, would cost me everything.

But it has.

And it really sucks.

The most hurtful days fell on the week of the Fourth of July. My ex-husband and I agreed that he would have the kids for the second half of the day, and I would have them for the morning. My ex was scheduled to pick them up at noon, so we had plenty of time to grab brunch and hit up the park.

But then he called me and asked if he could come get them early because all of their friends and cousins were already gathered, and wanted to see them. Without hesitating, I agreed because I wanted my kids to be happy, and I knew this would make their day.

I was fully prepared to let my kids go and enjoy their holiday, but I wasn’t prepared for what it would do to me.

I spent the rest of that day torturing myself as I scrolled through social media watching my kids, my ex, and all of his friends frolic on the beach, barbecue, and watch fireworks as the sun went down.

It’s like I had died and was watching my old life through my phone screen. No one invited me, no one called me, and I felt as low as one could feel. The self-deprecating thoughts began: Maybe this is what I deserve since I walked away, maybe I’m unlovable, maybe no one ever cared for me the way I thought they did. I sunk into my couch and went to sleep as the fireworks popped off in the distance. I felt like I was stranded on an island, and no one was going to send a search party.

Divorce sucks.

Losing pieces of your old life sucks.

And losing friends really really sucks.

So, yes, I’m having a bit of a heartbreak, but not everyone has ghosted me. Going through a divorce is like planning for a wedding or preparing for a baby, you find out who those ride-or-die friends really are, and it makes you cry rivers of joy knowing people like that exist in your life.

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I can count on one hand who has stuck by my side — not chosen my side, but supported me without judgment or expectation. So many people feel as though you owe them an explanation when going through a divorce. They want to know, and they often want to pick a side. But unless you’ve been through it, no one quite understands the overwhelming emotional undertaking that is a divorce. Especially when children are involved.

Whether you’re the one walking away from the marriage or not, you take on your emotions, your spouse’s emotions, your kids’ emotions, and then everyone else who feels you owe them an explanation. It’s a lot. It’s too much. And I don’t care how strong we are, we need friends who will just listen without judgment. And I thank God for the few I have.

These are the friends who don’t give a shit if you haven’t answered their calls in two weeks — they still call or text you every day to say, “I love you. I’m here for you when you are ready. You can do this.” They are the friends who leave cards on your doorstep that are filled with words of support and encouragement. They bring Chinese food and wine over unannounced and don’t leave until you’ve stopped crying. They offer to take your kids off your hands for an afternoon while you attend your weekly therapy appointment.

They don’t leave. They don’t go silent. They don’t take the divorce personally. They don’t pry. They don’t make it about them. They are diamonds in the rough, and I hope they know just how much I truly appreciate them during this difficult time.

There’s no two ways about it: Divorce fucking sucks. But when your true friends and family rise to the occasion and put you back together over and over and over again? That’s the silver lining. That’s the light in all of the darkness. Quality over quantity.

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