I just turned 36, and it seems like I’m in the season of divorce. When I was in my 20s, it was all about getting married. Every weekend I had a wedding to attend. Everyone was happy; everyone was in love. But now, not so much.
Not that I get to attend anything, naturally. There are no divorce celebrations as there are with weddings, although sometimes I wish that were the case. There are some marriages that need to end, and a celebration might just be in order. I have a feeling it would be a serious blow out.
But I must admit, it’s pretty difficult to go on group dates with two people, attend each other’s wedding, visit them in the hospital after their first child, allow your children to become friends, and then — boom — it’s done. Over. Finished.
Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you want to take sides, sometimes you aren’t sure how to act. And sometimes you are downright giddy that one person is out of the picture.
When my older brother got divorced, it was difficult. His ex-wife is still in my wedding pictures, along with baptism pictures, birthday pictures, and vacation pictures. But the wild thing is, when they split, I tried to call her and… nothing. She dropped me from all her social media, and to this day, I have no idea where she is. She was once a huge part of my life, but when she and my brother were done, she was done with the rest of his family too — almost as quickly as one might turn a page in a photo album.
When my dear friend Jason divorced, it was the same thing. I was in his wedding. Both he and his wife were in my wedding photos. But once they separated, she disappeared completely. I never heard from her again.
Same thing with my friend Sarah, and again with my friend, Jill.
I can’t speak for everyone who has watched friends get divorced. Perhaps others have been able to maintain a friendship with both people. But what it seems like for me, in the multiple divorces where I’ve been close with the couple, family or otherwise, that the friendships seem to split, much in the same way couple divide up furniture or vehicles. Sometimes if children are involved I might still hear word of the ex-spouse from the one friend, what they are up to and how they are doing, but for whatever reason, regardless of how close I was with both people, when one person exits the marriage, I am left with one friendship where there used to be two.
This used to really bother me until a few years ago when I was out to dinner with Liz, my old friend from college. We were discussing a mutual friend’s divorce, and she mentioned how she and her husband used to go out with the couple before they divorced. They even once went on a family vacation together.
“I still chat with Alison, but every time I spoke with James, it was just awkward,” Liz said. “He acted like I was judging him for something, but I honestly didn’t have anything to judge him for. It’s not like he did anything wrong. The relationship just didn’t work out.”
She told me she tried to be friends with James after the devoice, but eventually she realized the best thing she could do was let the friendship end, because every time they spoke, it felt like she was just reminding him of something he was trying to move past.
As Liz and I talked, I thought about all the times I’d tried to maintain a friendship with both people after the divorce, and how I’d experienced so many interactions that were similar to what Liz described. Eventually I’d realize that only one would remain my friend, while the other would move on. And while this all sound very callous, after witnessing it a number of times, it almost seems like a natural progression.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be supportive of both friends once the separation is announced. You should, unless one of them is jerk. But the reality is, divorce is a transition. It’s a moving on, into something different, a new relationship. And chances are, one of the best ways to be supportive after friends get divorced is to accept that one friend might move on–and to support that.
It’s tragic, sure. But allowing them to exit your life, and move on to something different and new might be exactly what they need to find happiness.