Divorce is probably the hardest experience we will ever go through, especially if we didn’t want the divorce. During separation and divorce is when we need friends and family the most. Everyone’s divorce is different, but almost every divorce includes losing friends and sometimes even family.
For women, especially, a friend listens to our rants, calms us down, is furious about what our ex-husband did, helps us think up revenge schemes (but doesn’t let us do them!), answers her phone or replies to our text no matter what time it is, and lets us sob as long as we want to if that’s the grief stage we’re in.
After my divorce, one of my closest friends let me come stay with her for a long weekend and let me just cry through the weekend. The days she worked, she left me food and drink and a sunny backyard to just wallow in my grief. She let me quietly cry my way through church on Sunday, and then took me to a great Southern restaurant and got me boiled peanuts as we walked around her city.
But what happens when we find our friends disappearing during and after our divorce? The truth is, many of us surprisingly find ourselves losing friends during divorce and even losing family members that we have loved our whole married life.
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Losing Mutual Friends In Divorce
When I was going through my divorce, after more than three decades of marriage, I had some true friends who did all the helpful things I described above. Other close friends did their best to encourage me, but still managed to stay close to my ex, too.
I’ll admit, if your ex just left or had an affair or suddenly decided “I’m not happy anymore. I’m out of here.” it is hard to watch your friends accepting him like nothing has happened.
Most couples have good couple friends. We did too. Divorce is hard on our friends. When we divorce, those friends often don’t know what to do with us. They might not know the real story of our divorce. They may want to be loyal to both of us, so sometimes they aren’t really there for either of us. We get complicated. We’re struggling emotionally, and maybe financially.
Losing mutual friends in divorce is especially hurtful. Often these are friends who were in college or graduate school with us, or were in the military together or were lake friends, church friends or neighborhood friends. And often if our husband (or wife) is a professional, many of our friends were fellow professionals or corporate employees or friends at work and their spouses, and they all still socialized together while I was the one excluded from all of those get togethers.
Later, many of our friends were through our children’s various sports, music or school activities. There is a time in your married life when your closest friends are those you sit in the bleachers with … or stand on the sidelines of soccer games with … week after week, year after year. They may be other swim team parents, band parents, choir parents or whatever our kids were involved in.
During divorce, things get awkward. Ex-spouses stand on different ends of the sidelines. We sit apart during swim meets. It made me desperately sad, and I thought, “I hate this! This isn’t how this is supposed to be!” And I’d almost always cry on the way home after everything. But it was how things were, and like I said, it was hard for our friends to navigate that, too.
Then when our last child leaves home, we aren’t around those friends as much as before, and friends are busy with their own families, and the loneliness starts setting in. We may think to ourselves, “I have no friends after divorce!” That’s not true, but it takes some time to adjust to the solitude we are sometimes facing.
Losing Your Best Friend
Often our spouse is not just our spouse, but our lover and our very best friend. If the divorce is agreed on by both spouses because the marriage had fallen apart or they argued all the time or had too many differences, it’s not so hard. But, if one spouse thinks his or her life is good and even great, and they are blindsided by the divorce, we lose not just a husband, but our closest and best friend.
The loneliness during and after divorce is devastating. The lack of physical intimacy is a huge loss. One woman in my very first RADiCAL group said, “I’m definitely not ready for another relationship right now. In fact, it’s the farthest thing from my mind! But I’ll admit, I’d like to put a sack over my head and sack over some guy’s head and just have a good screw!” Most of us could definitely identify with that feeling after having sex whenever we wanted it for most of our adult life. Losing our best friend after divorce is heart-breaking … for longer than we expect.
There are always jokes about crazy in-laws and there are definitely some of those around. But for the most part in my work with divorcing women, I hear about their sadness at losing their second family (their in-laws.) I was very close to my ex-husband’s family. I was about 17 when I first met them. After we got married (I was just barely 21), we visited with them often. We played cards, celebrated holidays, and were at big and small family gatherings together for more than 30 years. Suddenly all of that was gone.
I still consider my ex-husband’s family as part of my life, but the truth is, after divorce, it’s hard to keep those ties intact. Life gets busy and we aren’t usually included in our ex-family gatherings anymore.. The loss of parents-in-law, and also nieces, nephews, sisters, brothers-in-law and all of his extended family that at one time embraced us, leaves a big hole in our heart that is hard to fill. Today, my ex-in-laws are not as close as we once were mainly because of the busyness of life and the simple logistics of trying to stay in touch. I still feel sad about that.
Most family members rally around their own during divorce. In some of my interactions with RADiCAL women going through divorce, more often than I suspected, I’ve learned their families either felt embarrassed because of the divorce or weren’t really there for them either. And then, occasionally, what’s worse is if our family still wants to stay in touch with our ex. It’s sometimes a feeling of betrayal all over again when friends and members of our own family still want to chum around with and still socialize with our ex-husband after all of the destruction.
I Have No Friends After Divorce
Because of the loss of family and friends after divorce, we are often lonely. Especially if our children are already out mostly on their own and we are alone for the very first time, it’s a very, very difficult feeling to endure. Especially at the first. We feel like we have no friends after divorce and even at church all we can see are happy families sitting together.
When we did our own research a few years back, loneliness is almost always listed in the top three most difficult issues to deal with during divorce. Loneliness after divorce is hard on our physical selves and our emotional selves as well as our social selves.
I remember how lonely I felt even after book club. I felt like I didn’t fit in even though these friends had been friends for years. We all chatted about our life as much as the books we were reading. I felt lonely with my married friends. Even if we have family and friends, we often feel like they really can’t relate. We sometimes feel like we are one little tiny boat in an ocean of people who are all closely connected with someone else.
After divorce, we encourage you to renew old friendships and foster new ones. Join a MeetUp group or get better acquainted with your neighbors. Get back to church and get into a small group. The only trouble is, when we need to be reaching out, we often feel inadequate and our self esteem is gone because of our divorce. Also, early on we are often on auto-pilot, barely getting dressed and to work everyday and trying to keep it together, ourselves. For awhile after divorce, we don’t have the energy to reach out.
It’s also okay to “hit the pause button” on friendships, as one of our experts tell us in our interview with her. Sometimes we need a period of solitude to take a deep breath and think more rationally about where we want to go from here … including with our friendships.
That feeling of isolation after divorce is the main reason that we include a private, protected members only online community of divorced and divorcing women from all over the world. None of us use our real names and there is no contact information unless we want to share it. The MDRcommunity is a great place to connect with other women who understand how your heart is hurting; who won’t get tired of listening; but who also encourage you and inspire you to move forward.
Membership in our MDRcommunity is for all of our MasterPlan members, and it’s an amazing place to talk and listen and be there for each other. Everyone in the Community is determined to not let this divorce destroy her or define her future. We may have lost some friends and family during divorce. The MDRcommunity is comforting and reassures us that we aren’t crazy, and yes, this divorce journey is as hard as we think it is. As RADiCAL women, we can support each other and help each other as we all make the trip together.
Don’t try to struggle through this alone. It’s just too hard. Join us today!
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