But first! Bonus:
Warning: Naughty language ahead!
…And How to be a Kick-ass Supportive Friend in Return:
1. Your friend is not a different person now.
After the news of my divorce hit the streets, I actually had a friend tell me that her husband thought I was a “phony” and that he felt like now he needed to get to know the “real” me. He felt that if I was able to fake being happy in a marriage, I must be faking a lot of other things as well. Um.
Trying to save a marriage and keep a smile on your face for the sake of your kids and everyone around you doesn’t make you a fake. In case you haven’t heard, divorce is a club that no one wants a lifetime membership to. So, we try to not become members. We go to therapy. We look deep down inside our souls. We consult the gods, or whatever it is that floats your boat. And then we decide. We have to do what is best for the happiness of our souls. We strip down the layers and reveal a very raw version of ourselves for the world to see. And the sun burns our skin.
We aren’t fakes. We are newborns. We need a little help holding our heads up. Be gentle.
2. Divorce is not contagious.
Just because your spouse’s best friend got divorced doesn’t mean said divorcee is going to sprinkle divorce dust all over your rock solid, iron clad marriage. If there is concern for your relationship that a person who is freshly divorced may somehow hop onto you like lice in an elementary school, let me tell you, the problem is actually with your marriage.
Don’t use a freshly divorced person as a scapegoat for all of your tangled up marital woes. Remember the newborn baby thing above? This person has a lot of shit on their plate. Don’t pile your insecurities on there as well. They don’t have room.
3. The kids’ lives are not ruined forever.
Guess what? All parents fuck up their kids one way or another. Ask any person you know and they will have some story about a long time ago wrong their parent did while raising them that has completely paralyzed their ability to do XYZ.
Are there studies done showing that children who have married parents have more successful lives? There are. But what you aren’t reading is the small print. It is the children of happily married parents who thrive. The children of parents who hold hands, and go on dates, love one another and show the right way to love and respect their partner. There are plenty of children who have parents who remained unhappily married for their whole lives who are carrying around a hobo stick and bandana full of issues.
There are equally successful, happy people who had parents divorce when they were young—some remarried, some didn’t, some ended up being gay and entering a same sex relationship. The point is, your life and your definition of family is yours. Mine is mine. Hers is hers. His is his. Live and let live.
4. Only the most evolved human beings can be friends with both people.
More than likely, the chips are going to fall more heavily on one side of the game board. You many think that you will do everything in your power to be friends with them both. Invite them to the same parties and let them decide who comes (which, by the way, is exactly what you should do, it isn’t your issue to decide). But the men and women normally split the votes here. If the man in the marriage is closer to the divorced man, good luck being friends with the ex-wife. It gets ugly. Complicated. And one of the worst casualties of divorce that I was unprepared for was the loss of friends. Like, really old, good friends. But it happens.
However, if your heart is open enough and you are willing to be kind, you might be able to make it work.
5. Sorry seems to be the hardest word.
Maybe this is just me. But the first thing that people seem to say when someone gets divorced is, “I’m so sorry.” And I understand that and probably did it myself prior to my own divorce. It is natural. Divorce is like death. It is what we say to our friends when they lose a loved one to cancer. Because we are truly sorry for their loss, for their pain.
But it struck me one day, a friend of mine when I told her said instead, “Happiness is ahead for you. I know this is a hard time, but there is light on the other side.”
Choose your words wisely. “Sorry” made me want to go crawl in a hole and sleep.
6. For god’s sake, stop leaving them out.
You actually can still invite your friend out to dinner. On ski trips. To the beach. The only person who is uncomfortable with it is the person not doing the inviting. A few months after my divorce, I heard about my circle of friends having a get together to plan a Disney Cruise for spring break. This was a get together I most definitely would have been included in formerly. When I found out and mentioned it to a friend, he said to me, “Jen, you are divorced now, you are going to get left out. You need to get used to it.” Hmmm, why so? Refer back to number two.
7. They are probably going to go a little apeshit.
Divorce is a an ugly monster that occasionally shows its head on the body of your friend. They may go a little nutty for awhile. Date too many weirdos. Workout too much. Eat too much. Eat not enough. Drink more than they should. It is part of the grieving process, and we all handle it differently.
Be the good friend who is aware of what is going on in their life. I lost a shit ton of weight in my divorce. I had a woman ask me in the walker line at school what my secret was. I proceeded to tell her that I was getting divorced. She then said she hoped her husband cheated on her so she could get skinny (not that that is what happened in my marriage).
Be aware of your friends and their behavior. If your 45-year-old girlfriend loses 20 pounds in three weeks, don’t envy her. Call her and make sure she is okay.
8. It is okay to be happy for them when they meet someone new.
It is going to happen. Your friend is going to meet someone new. At first, it will seem so strange and out of the ordinary. You might even reject it by never asking them out (many numbers above can be referenced here). But once the dust settles, and you see that your new friend is in a healthy relationship, even if the ex is not, it is okay to have feelings of joy for your friend. Trust me, they have had plenty of sadness and gloom and doom for a lifetime. When their life starts getting shiny again, polish it with your love.
9. They don’t want to know what you think about divorce.
Trust me, they think divorce sucks. In a perfect world, they would still be married and dancing the dance they did at their wedding. But they aren’t. And the last thing they need from you is to hear what you think about a divorce.
I actually had a woman come up to me recently and let me know that she was an avid Dr. Laura listener, and that she didn’t believe in divorce and that no matter what it is going to mess up your kids (see number three). This was unsolicited. She just felt so strongly that she needed to tell someone her opinion, and I just so happened to be the lucky closest-proximity divorcee. I would like to say that I didn’t let it bother me. But it did. I couldn’t sleep. I woke up thinking about it.
Remember—divorce is forever, and divorcees are always dealing with it, especially if there are kids involved. Don’t stir the proverbial shit pot with your point of view. They already feel bad enough about it as it is.
10. Reach out.
If this article has touched a nerve, and you realize you have perhaps done some of these things to a friend, there is time to apologize. The divorced live in a different land of reality. But a little love and kindness and forgiveness is always welcomed.
We were once married so we understand your world. But, you don’t understand ours. And we get it. We are more forgiving than you know.
Author: Jennifer Bluestone
Editor: Emily Bartran
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