I sat across from my neighbor almost three years ago after going to the movies with our kids. Over a plate of nachos, I told her my husband and I were splitting up. She leaned in close in disbelief. “What?! He had an affair?! You are divorcing?!”
I guess I’d just blurted it out. But I figured since for the past 12 years, our kids playing together every day, it was okay to talk about. After all, we’d discussed our sagging breasts while dropping off lasagnas to each other because the five kids between us came all at once, and we’d obsess over home improvement projects together.
I had never before told her about the affair though. You see, she and my ex-husband were really close and I didn’t tell anyone except my best friend and sister about the affair. I was ashamed, but there was more to the story too: I knew she wouldn’t know how to react, she’d pull away because the situation made her so uncomfortable. If I ever asked her for help or a favor, she couldn’t come through. And there were times I felt like I had to censor myself around her.
Was I too loud, too open, too honest?
I couldn’t put a finger on it, but what I do know is that after we’d spend time together that I felt “off,” but I ignored those feelings. I ignored it all telling myself I was being too sensitive.
Those tiny voices don’t lie though. And that conversation after the movies was one of the last real conversations we had. Our daily interactions stopped. There was no more texting, stopping by, or exchanging birthday gifts. And I let it all go without a word.
Divorce changes everything. Not just your marriage and family, but everything, including your friendships. It’s a time when you need people, not when you beg them to be in your life and take care of you. And true colors can come shining through. It’s funny how some folks automatically think because they are your friend, they now have this really hard job to do which they want no part of. And when someone feels this way, it’s pretty damn obvious.
One minute you are sailing along, pushing through life, and the next your find yourself standing in a sea of discomfort while you are folding laundry on a Saturday night without your children. You don’t have the desire to talk people into staying in your life because you are too worried about paying the heat bill, and wondering when they next time you’ll feel someone’s arms wrap around your waist.
There are urges to ask if you’ve done something to upset them, but no energy behind them. You develop this sixth sense and know they are pulling away because they are uncomfortable, they can’t fix it, they can’t express their thoughts, they make it about them, they see a corner of their lives through yours.
They, they, they.
You see where I am going with this, right? It is about them and their situation, not about you. And so, it’s easy to wave good bye. It’s easy to let them go. It’s easy because you have a whole other wad of shit you are dealing with but also…
You find those friends who know when to call because you are struggling. You find the people who have your back no matter what and can admit they want to support you but have no fucking clue as to how to go about it but they remain a constant in your life. You find the people who aren’t afraid if your situation reminds them of their life or their parents’ life. Your friendship is strong enough to withstand the discomfort, And believe me, it does.
I realized my divorce was a perfect time to clean shit up. I’m not just talking about my ex’s random boxes of mementos in the garage, but those friendships you put a lot of effort in and didn’t get even half the return back. I’m talking about the people in your life who have lots of drama sitting on their back and like to spread it around more than they want to see how you are doing. I’m talking about the friends who tell you how much they love you, yet there is something about that statement you don’t trust because their actions don’t match their words and, really, you’ve had enough of that bullshit.
When you are going through something traumatic, it’s funny how things are all muddled together, yet they become so clear. The bad relationships stand out, the sub-par relationships stand out. And because you are hurting, you have zero tolerance for them so it’s easy to watch the value they used to hold swirl down the kitchen sink. It’s satisfying to follow that by turning on the garbage disposal switch, flipping it off and never looking back.
Maybe it’s because it’s easier to take all the hurt, and set your ego aside and do a deep cleaning of your life all at once instead of dragging it out and taking bits and pieces of it at a time.
Or maybe it’s because you have a picture of what you want the rest of your life to be and you no longer want to feel a certain way. You’ve been through enough to know you are strong enough to make it without the wrong people in your life taking up valuable space, time, and, energy.
Yeah, divorce will show you a lot of things: who you are, who you want to be, and who really needs to be in your life.
I like to think of it as an instruction manual of sorts, and I’ve learned it’s really fucking important to follow it. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.
This article was originally published on