I believe we step into the arena of separation and divorce in a somewhat naive fashion and come out the other side far wiser than we were to start with.
There are unspoken rules in a separation between a couple, a taboo and uncomfortable subject – your mutual friends, or as I prefer to call it ‘The conditional friends’. Let me explain further, these are friends who remain so on one condition, that you remain married to your husband.
Once the separation commences, you might not see these people for dust. As far as they’re concerned, you’re almost a leper who must be avoided at all costs. The question is, why on earth are they unable to support both the husband and wife going through the painful process of divorce?
You see, the friends reaction is reliant on 2 conditions:
1. Who gets there first, who tells the details about the end of the marriage (from their point of view of course) before the other partner is barely out the door. Once this happens friends are somewhat forced to take a side.
2. How insistent one of the partners is that a friend must take a side. This is set in stone and divergence from this is seen as ‘letting the side down’ and must be avoided at all costs.
There are additional points to the above, deserving of an Oscar nomination for best supporting role. As in…
1. Playing the victim: Either one of the partners looks disheveled, unkempt and is almost begging the question “are you okay?” and out pours the “poor me, you have no idea what he/she has done now”.
2. The “I can’t wait to tell you the next installment of the divorce:” This can mean that friends are stopped whilst in the supermarket or whilst shopping to be handed the next chapter of the divorce and the custody arrangement, finances or how the ex is behaving. It begs the question, do friends really want to hear about your custody arrangement and all the examples of when he/she didn’t pick up the kids on time, whilst buying fruit and vegetables?
3. The “I’m going to make myself smell of roses and bring up every incident in our marriage to make them look bad:” How long can you spend listening to a catalog of events from the wedding night, to the birth of your first child, rehashed whilst you’re at a dinner party.
These are all however techniques used unconsciously to get mutual friends to back a side.
I am not being flippant as having being through it myself, I know how incredibly painful and traumatic it can be, however, that does not mean we have to throw out our sense of self respect along with our marriage.
I have lived through different aftermaths of divorce where friends are concerned. When my first marriage broke down seventeen years ago, my ex husband’s friends were incredibly supportive to both sides, simply because none of the above points illustrated were used by either one of us to manipulate friendships. We didn’t speak badly about each other and I’m pleased to say that all those years on, we are still on friendly terms and I am still included in their social functions.
When my second marriage ended however I was not so lucky, or perhaps I was lucky, who wants friends who, at a drop of a hat, or as soon as signs are detected of problems in a marriage, run for the hills. They did me a favor, I saw their true colors and realized one very important point, certain friends do not want to be in the midst of confrontation.
Only a couple of my old friends stood by me through the aftermath of the divorce second time around, their support was unwavering and I will be forever thankful. Our mutual friends however hid behind their feelings of discomfort and ultimately the only option they knew and this was to cut off our friendship.
Through the grapevine I would hear about their sense of guilt for not being in contact and a myriad of excuses would follow, but I knew the truth – they were backing the other side. I had no issue if this was the case and our mutual friends stood up and openly admitted to it, but they didn’t. Instead I am subjected to a variety of greetings when they see me ‘you look amazing’, ‘we must be in touch’, ‘I must get your number as I’ve changed phone recently’, ‘we must have you over’, you get the idea?
The bottom line is that they had not been there for me when I had needed them most and it is just far too late to make up for it or to listen to the pathetic excuses. There is a Spanish proverb that says ‘once the vase is broken, even if you try gluing it together, it is never the same again’ – This is exactly how I feel about these friendships. The fact is that at this point in time in my life, I have absolutely no want or desire to reach for the glue and attempt to stick it back together, the moment has gone.
It is with the end of the marriage that you truly know who your friends are, and it is absolutely shocking to realize that the people you were once friends with, shared a bottle of wine with, made dinner parties for and invited to your functions will slam the door in your face once you are going through the process of divorce.
I believe friends should support both parties, invite them to their functions allowing the divorcing couple to behave in a mature and appropriate fashion, but for mutual friends, this is just too much trouble.
Before you divorce be aware that not only will your husband be your ex, but there is a chance that so will your mutual friends.