As people prepare for divorce, one of the things that gets overlooked is what will happen with their relationships outside of their marriage. Friendships, relationships with members of your extended family, and parents of your children’s friends can suffer as a result of your divorce. While this may be unavoidable to some extent, there are things that you can do – and not do – to preserve these relationships as you transition into your new life. Everyone’s situation is different, but an experienced divorce lawyer can help you get through your divorce with your friendships intact.
Check the Winner-Take-All Mentality
The best place to start is to realize that this does not necessarily need to be an “either/or” situation where your friends are either friends with you or your spouse. Faced with the possibility of having to navigate their new life alone, many people panic and think they have to win their friends over to their side. There is no reason that you cannot share friends with your spouse. It may require that you set some boundaries and that they respect them, and your spouse will need to have the same attitude. The important part is to at least recognize that you can both preserve these friendships with the right attitude.
Talk with Your Spouse
In even the most adversarial divorces, you will have to have some communication with your spouse. If you are worried about maintaining your relationships, it’s worth at least attempting to discuss this with your spouse. A brief conversation with them about how you hope that you can both maintain your friendships and that you are willing to do your part can go a long way toward emerging from the divorce process with your friendships intact.
Keep Your Divorce Off of Social Media
Regularly posting about your divorce on social media can wear on your friends before you even see them in person. It also can lead to people misinterpreting your tone or misunderstanding the role your divorce is playing in your life. What you post on social media could cause your friends to withdraw.
Don’t Ask Your Friends to Choose Sides
One of the mistakes that many people make is putting their friends in a position where they feel like they have to choose sides. They may not even realize that they are doing it, but friends will often withdraw from one of the spouses if they feel they have to choose between one or the other. Be respectful of the fact that they are also friends with your spouse and be mindful of what you are asking of them. For example, constantly leaning on them for help or venting about your divorce to them can create an extremely uncomfortable situation.
Don’t Expect the Impossible
You need to also give careful consideration to the circumstances surrounding both your divorce and your friendships. If one friend is especially close with your spouse, it may be simply unreasonable to expect them to remain close friends with you. Friendships tend to follow along gender lines in divorces that are particularly adversarial, such as where there are allegations of infidelity. Be realistic in your expectations and be patient – those relationships may come back around in the future.
Respect Your Friends’ Boundaries
Your divorce can also be hard on your friends. They may be experiencing anxiety over what will happen with your friendship. They may be saddened by the demise of your relationship. They simply may not know what to do. Many people just need time and space to adjust to this new reality. Whether they have expressly set a boundary or just seem to have pulled back, respect their need for space, and don’t be pushy.
Don’t Badmouth Your Spouse
As tempting as it might be, do not criticize or complain about your spouse to your friends. This is one of the ways that people put their friends in the position of feeling like they have to choose sides. It can also be exhausting for them when they themselves are struggling to accept your divorce. If your friend seems to be inviting you to speak poorly of your spouse, do not take them up on the offer. Make it clear that you do not want to jeopardize your friendships by disrespecting your spouse.
Have a Conversation
Some friends will withdraw because they feel uncomfortable and are not sure what to do. It doesn’t hurt to have a conversation with them about your needs and expectations. Assure them that you don’t want them to feel uncomfortable, that you would never ask them to choose sides, and that you see no reason why they cannot continue to be friends with both you and your spouse. Then explain your expectations – you just want a friend to get together with or that you can rely upon for a favor when you’re in a pinch.
Don’t Ask Too Much of Them
One of the mistakes that many people make is expecting too much from their friends. Think about what you’re asking and whether the request would be better suited for a family member or even a professional. Your friends are not able to be your therapist – if you are struggling to cope with the challenges of your divorce, seek professional guidance. Similarly, hiring a babysitter to watch your kids may be preferable to constantly leaning on friends for childcare. You want to be careful that you do not jeopardize your friendships by overburdening them.
Be Prepared to Let Go
Unfortunately, not all of your friendships will survive the divorce. Some people will choose sides, while others will withdraw from both you and your spouse. Do not spend your valuable time and energy chasing them – focus on yourself and those truly important friendships with people who you want to keep in your life.
Worried about Your Friendships and Divorce? Contact Us Today
At Seattle Divorce Services, we believe that divorce is ultimately about relationships. From negotiating fair custody arrangements to helping you maintain your friendships, we provide practical advice focused on helping you build a better future. To discuss your case and how we can help, call us today at 206-784-3049 or send us an email to schedule a consultation.