So you were married for what feels like forever. The only life you can remember is with your now not so significant other. Your college years spent bar hopping with the guys is but a distant memory, as well as those nights spent partying with your sorority sisters. Your friends from your wild twenties, even wild thirties, have long since traded their funneling skills for baking funnel cakes, and J-ELLO is no longer associated with shots as it is with kids’ desserts. For as long as you can remember, you have been functioning as a unit, traveling in social pairings with your spouse as you settled into the quiet of married life, socializing with other like-minded married couples who, similar to you, traded in their Greek letters for the ABCs of marriage and parenting years ago.
Then, suddenly, you find yourself navigating the world alone. Separated, and soon to be divorced. No longer part of a team, but single. Yet the only life you know is coupledom. The dynamic is different now, and though your married friends pretend nothing has changed, you know, and they know, it has.
“Which one do we keep after the divorce?” coupled friends whisper in hushed voices as they see you approaching from down the street or from two aisles away at the supermarket.
Figuring out who gets the coffee table and who takes the silver pales in comparison to who keeps which friends after the divorce. After all, inanimate objects do not get to decide, but people do and, like so much else with divorce, the end result can hurt.
While telling others of my impending divorce, a high school friend recalled the shock her husband expressed as he learned of my break up. My friend from before I met my husband, it had never occurred to me there would be any doubt about who she and her husband would remain friends with following my split. But her husband posed the question, “So do we keep, him or her?”
As it turns out, they “kept” me. But, the truth is, I know they would still be nice to my ex, as I would hope, were they ever to run into him. After all, they knew him for years, and our marital issues are separate and apart from our relationship with them, though I am pretty certain they are not proponents of infidelity. However, if this couple were to go out of their way to befriend my ex and his new partner, which happens to also be the same woman with whom he cheated on me, I must admit I would be less than pleased.
Just that situation occurred months into my separation. My cousin’s wife’s younger brother and his fiancée contacted my then soon-to-be ex in anticipation of a visit to Asia and met the two for dinner during their trip. I discovered this meeting had occurred months after the fact, and felt betrayed. Though we were never close, I was of the opinion that this couple extended from my camp so to speak, and his allegiance should have been obvious. It was not. Oddly enough, it was my ex-husband and his girlfriend who later were invited to this gentleman and his fiancée’s wedding, and not myself despite our familial connection. Later I was forced to greet this same couple at my own daughters’ b’not mitzvah, now as invited guests of my ex-husband’s. Somewhat awkward, but I have long since moved past it.
After all, who was I to criticize? During my separation, I became close with one of my ex-husband’s cousins. I speak to her on the phone, and take turns with my ex attending holiday celebrations in her home. Though she is my ex’s blood relative, I consider her to be a trusted friend, and was not willing to give her up in the divorce, nor was she willing to part with me. Our friendship began when I was still married, and has managed not only to survive my divorce but flourish well beyond it.
Another close friendship of mine emerged with the wife of a couple my ex and I used to socialize with during our marriage, our connection first arising out of a work friendship my ex had forged with her then husband. Though we later fell out of touch, when I spotted her estranged husband on JDate a couple of years back, I reached out to her and we have been close ever since. Though we were never good friends on our own, and only got together as couples, we have since developed a great bond, sharing our divorce trials and tribulations, offering each other support, and doing plenty of laughing along the way.
And then there is the couple that, to this day, remains divided. My ex met this particular gentleman through work early during our marriage, while this man was still single but dating the woman who would later become his wife. We socialized as couples over the years and I became friendly with his significant other, though we never socialized without the guys. When my marriage deteriorated, I reached out to her because we had always been friendly, and she knew my husband and I for a long time. My ex had not yet offered his version of events but when he did, my friend’s husband, who was never particularly close with me, made his allegiance to my ex known through his wife. As she recounted to me, she let her husband know immediately that I was still to remain her friend and she would not take sides for the mere sake of it. I commend her for the sentiment and am thankful for the support she extended during such a difficult time. Though we have not spoken in months, I know she is only phone call away, and feel comfortable enough to reach out and see her again one day.
What it all boils down to is this. The time when we enjoyed an active social life together as a married couple is now over. Despite the fact we effectively functioned as a pair, the independent value we each brought to those friendships should continue to be acknowledged and respected. If friends are no longer willing to recognize our worth now that we are single, and instead choose to make arbitrary judgments and part ways because of them, then those people were never truly our friends to begin with. In so many ways divorce forces our hand, pushing us to accept realities of which we were either unaware or simply had chosen to ignore. The truth can be unpleasant. Yet it is during those rare occasions when someone who we least expect surprises us, takes our hand, and tells us we still matter to them, that we are reminded divorce is not only about sad endings, but also about beautiful new beginnings.