Many divorced people report a dramatic reduction in the numbers of their friends following their divorce. This can add to the distress and disorientation that so many of us feel during divorce. In this blog a divorcee shares their own experiences of friendship and dating during and after their divorce and seeks to answer “Why do friends disappear after divorce?”.
Why do friends disappear after divorce?
I lost almost all my friends during my divorce. Some friends retreat gradually, others just ghost you. It can be very lonely being divorced. Some people after a divorce even report feeling like a social outcast in their community. Perhaps they are the only couple to get divorced whilst active in groups they belong to.
Married for more than 15 years, I had many friends before my marriage began to hit the rocks. But by the time we had separated and were heading firmly for the divorce courts, I realised that I had lost the vast majority of all those friends. I am far from alone.
But the good news is I have been able to build a new group of friends, and ultimately, I even got back into dating. In this article and some future ones I will share some of the things I have learnt along the way. But first, why do we so often lose our friends and end up feeling the pain of abandonment?
Dividing the friends
A divorce is like a fracture that spreads throughout your friends and family. With the best of intentions many couples will initially want to both retain friendships with all the shared marital friends. The harsh reality is, however, that for most couples the friends end up being shared out like all the belongings in the family home. Of course, most don’t sit down and negotiate together as to who gets which friend. But over time a natural migration tends to happen. Those who were closer to one or the other of you are likely to maintain the friendship with that person only. This is similar to the way family members will normally tend to retain their relationship with the member of the couple who they are related to.
But what of the couples that you both enjoyed time with together. One of the sad consequences of divorce is that often those couples in fact end up pulling away from both of you. Why is this?
Divorce can feel contagious
Sadly, some married couples seem to fear that if they spend time with someone who has divorced it might lead to their own marriage getting into more trouble and even break down altogether. There is a view of some that even mentioning the word divorce or thinking about it could somehow make that become a reality in your marriage. Discussing the divorce of a friend and the reasons for that might, according to this view, somehow lead to your spouse beginning to wonder if your own marriage has the same flaws, and once that pandora’s box is opened perhaps you will find yourself in the same situation. For people divorce is something that happens to other people, and they do not want to admit it into their social circle.
In some cases, your friend might even fear you are a potential love rival who might try and take their husband or wife from them. Such irrational fears may lie behind some people withdrawing from you as a friend. It might not be anything personal at all.
The stigma of divorce
Sadly in some circles divorce still retains some of its stigma. And perhaps this goes some way to answer ‘why do friends disappear after divorce?’ and even why some single friends don’t choose a side, as such but rather opt out of being friends with either partner.
Sometimes feelings of shame and failure can become internalised, where we feel stigma against ourselves. Those feelings, mixed with a fear of how our friends will see us, may make us be the ones who pull away from our friends. We may also be reluctant to discuss what went on leading up to a divorce with people we feel will not understand. We imagine that all our friends have the perfect marriage when of course there is no such thing.
If you are feeling the additional pain of rejection by friends on top of your divorce you do not have to suffer alone. For me when I had no friends, I found the support of a skilled specialist therapist and a divorce support group invaluable. It didn’t stop the many sleepless nights of crying into my pillow, but it did gradually help me to heal. I was a late comer to the Restored Lives course and wished I had joined it months before. But nonetheless it also played a huge part in my healing too.
The benefits of a fresh start
The truth is for many people after a divorce a fresh start will be very beneficial. A whole new set of friends who never knew you as one half of a married couple could be just what the doctor ordered. One of those friendships might even lead to you finding a new life partner, depending of course on your views on dating after a divorce.
One way to find friends who understand what it is like to be divorced is to attend the Restored Lives course. Week by week you will discuss in a small group the talks, and sometimes really strong friendships can result. If nothing else you will realise you are not alone. Visit ‘Go on a course‘ for more details.
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