It was not a surprise when I lost friends after my divorce. I knew that was going to happen because practically every article I read about divorce said it would. However, it was a surprise when I lost one of my oldest friends.
We’d known each other since high school, and over the years, she and her husband also became friends with my ex-husband. They live a town over from us, so we would get together semi-regularly for barbecues and the like.
When my ex and I were going through our divorce, one of the things I promised myself was that I would never talk bad about him to anyone. This was partly to maintain my integrity in my own mind, but it was also so I would not dredge up negativity in my life. Divorce is already hard—I didn’t want to add to it by starting a he-said, she-said battle. My kids factored into this too. Many of my friends whose parents divorced when they were younger told me how much it hurt them when their parents talked negatively about each other. I hoped my ex would do the same, especially with mutual friends.
That’s not what happened. This mutual friend of ours heard negative things about me from my ex and only positive or neutral things about my ex from me. I didn’t lie—I just didn’t trash-talk him. I even made a point to sometimes say, “I’d rather not say,” or to be vague, like, “It hasn’t been easy, but we’ll get through it.” She’d been my friend for longer, but it still felt wrong to try to “convince” her to take my side. I naively hoped these old friendships would remain intact for everyone. Sadly, that was not to be. For this friend, my unwillingness to tell “my side” translated into my being the villain.
I never confronted her about it, because honestly the hurt was too much. I felt betrayed in a way that made me physically ill. Why should I have to defend myself to someone who had known me for so long? Why should I have to convince her that I was a good person, a good friend? Did she not know me at all? Why wasn’t I enough anymore? Why weren’t our decades of friendship enough?
But I did talk to my therapist about it. I burst into tears during one therapy appointment, so frustrated by the unfairness of it all. But my therapist said something that stuck with me and totally changed the way I looked at the loss of that friendship. She said, “Don’t let someone else’s limitations define your worth.”
My therapist reminded me to step back and look at what was actually happening here. I had kept my promise to myself not to say anything bad about my ex. Clearly my ex was bad-mouthing me. My friend saw both of these things happening, one ex-spouse talking bad about the other, and another ex-spouse saying only positive or neutral things. And she chose to deepen her friendship with the one who spread toxicity. She chose to ditch the friendship with the one who refused to gossip.
Don’t let someone else’s limitations define your worth.
My ex-friend’s limitation is that she didn’t have the ability to see a friendship that had spanned decades, to look back and see all the times I had been a good friend to her, nor could she apparently remember all the times my ex-husband had shown what a negative person he was even back when we were still together.
More than that, as I think back on this friendship, I have to admit that my ex-husband and my ex-friend may have more in common with each other than I have in common with either of them. They enjoy gossiping about other people, and they each tend to assume that they are the ones who are right and everyone else must be wrong.
So I suppose it makes some sense that it would end this way. It still hurt though. But the hurt I felt came from the blow to my ego and from the surprise of what had been such a long friendship ending so unexpectedly. This person I thought was a friend has a limitation: she gravitates toward toxicity and is unable to see, even with all the evidence that proves it, that I am a good person and a good friend, despite whatever trash my ex-husband might talk about me.
And her limitation does not define my worth. So many times I wondered to myself why I wasn’t enough, why she couldn’t see I was a good friend. I looked at our broken friendship as a failure on my part.
I have often wondered if I should just go ahead and tell her all the hateful things my ex-husband had done so she would know. Maybe then we could be friends again. But another good nugget of advice from my therapist is that we need to meet people where they are. And sometimes, where they are is just too far away, and more than that, constantly moving away from you. And you have to accept that.
I am still a good friend. I still have many good friends, in fact several friendships have deepened since my divorce. And my therapist’s advice has helped me accept the loss of this one who maybe wasn’t ever the friend I thought she was in the first place.