She got the Queen Anne dining-room set. You got the CD collection. She got Rover and the kids — and, as you’re finding out, the wives of your buddies, which means she got your buddies, too.
When a couple splits up, who gets their friends? Usually friendships that were made prior to the nuptials shuffle out to the pre-marriage arrangement. But many of the relationships that currently make up your clique were created by both of you jointly: You met Annie and Ken on your honeymoon; Phil and Anita’s kid played little league with your son; Frank and Cindy are your kind and helpful neighbors.
All of a sudden the issue of “loyalty” comes into play. And now they have to choose sides. Or do they?
Not necessarily. When a couple divorces, their feelings over their personal trauma are expressed to their friends in sadness more often than in anger. And, although they shouldn’t, they may feel an irrational shame for going through the divorce in the first place. They seek solace in their friends, but at the same time, they don’t want to make their friends feel uncomfortable.
Friends don’t go blindly to one side or the other. Usually they respond with compassion and sadness for the family involved, and are at a loss as to how to express their empathy to both of the partners. They may want to stay friends with both of you, but are afraid that by doing so, they may offend one or the other.
They may be right. Then again, they may not, but how will they know if you don’t tell them that it’s okay to like you and your ex, too?
Here are some tips on how to keep up with your friends:
Tip #1: Let your friends know that you’re alive and kicking. Go ahead and give them a call. Bring them up to speed with what’s happening in your life. Ask them about their own triumphs since you last saw them. Be specific: “How is Annie’s painting coming?” or “Have you been playing golf?”
Tip #2: Encourage a get-together. Don’t be afraid to suggest, “Let’s go out on the links together,” or “Why don’t we meet for coffee this weekend?” Words are one thing — actions are another. Friendships survive because we take time to nurture them. Above all, don’t be miffed because your friends didn’t take the initiative to call you first. Their inaction was probably the result of their awkwardness in knowing what to say about your break up.
Tip #3: Let your friends know that you’re doing okay. They will express their condolences over the breakup. Accept these graciously, and be open as to your thoughts on the matter, but don’t dwell on the past. Instead, focus on the future you see for yourself, and let them know that you wish to include them.
Tip #4: Recognize that it’s inevitable that you’ll lose some friends in the fall-out of divorce. After all, people gravitate towards the person whom they felt the closest, or who continues to move in the same social circles, or who stays in touch. And that’s okay. Still, if a friendship is important to you, don’t just stand there, do something about it! Let your friends know you need them, now as much as ever. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your friends.