Why Getting Divorced May Lose You Your Friends

My friend J remarked the other day that she was sure she was being deliberately ignored on Facebook and she suspected she might be losing friends after divorce.

What had been a lively page full of fun banter and conversation now had the social media equivalent of drift wood blowing across it.

woman in coffee shop on her phone - losing friends after divorce

J is in the middle of a messy divorce, having left her husband in a move which has led to the family living in two different towns.  After 25 years of marriage, though, J says she and her husband had simply just grown apart and life at home was becoming unbearable for her and her three teenage children. She has a new partner which has probably led to a judgement that “there’s no smoke without fire” and got fingers well and truly wagging.

It’s not surprising that J has found herself left out and ignored, because the truth is that when one of the couples in your friendship group splits, everybody starts to examine their own relationship.

It’s said that the only people who know what goes on in a marriage are those in it. I think every marriage has a secret contract – the real reason that a couple stay together.  This would explain why some will put up with endless cheating – because they are validated as a person in other ways.  For some, simply being in a partnership is enough.  (Note I am not talking about domestic abuse or violence here and if that is your situation I urge you to seek help and talk to somebody about it).

It’s the ‘smug married’ syndrome Helen Fielding’s singleton heroine Bridget Jones loathed and yearned for in equal measure.

So why would your friends shun you when you split?

Jealousy – rarely admitted but I’m sure that some may wish they were brave enough to take the first step to long-desired freedom

Embarrassment – we never really know what to say. Should we mention your divorce? Should we mention your ex?

Loyalty to your ex. They were your ex’s friends first – no matter how shoddily he or she may have behaved, long-standing friends may feel compelled to remain loyal

Disapproval – yes, some of your friends will  judge and they won’t approve.  There are those whose attitude to marriage is that you suck up the bad times and make it work.  People’s boundaries for cheating also differ hugely.  For some kissing someone else is unforgiveable.  Others will put up with the occasional fling as long as there is no love involved.

On the other hand, you are likely to find that one friend who becomes your new ally, confidant and sounding board.  These are the friends who love others’ misery and are there like a shot to ramp up the bitterness and criticism of your ex.  You know these kinds of people because an hour in their company leaves you feeling worse and full of self doubt.  The advice these people give will be of the “take him / her for every penny”, “you gave them the best years of your life” and “you deserve to be happy” variety.  The latter of course is true but I think if you have children, your own happiness should be second priority to ensuring that they come through the ghastliness of a family separation as unscathed as possible.

Parental divorce hits teens and young adults just as hard as younger children. (There is an excellent article on Parental Divorce and Adolescents here.) Where possible mediation should be considered so that both parties can discuss matters in an adult way and move forward with the needs of their children fully addressed. This is likely to be far more productive than listening to the advice of your new confidante who may not even have your best interests at heart.

What if you are the friend, wondering how best to behave?  Bear in mind that siding with either party is a risky strategy if there is the remotest chance that they will reconcile.  You will be the one left with egg on your face if you have advised “making them pay”.

I would advise polite concern.  Is there anything you can do to help?  Could you babysit the children or take them out so that the couple have a chance to talk?

Could you damp down gossip when it arises by changing the subject or refusing to be drawn?

Could you help your friend by accompanying them to a solicitor or mediator?

The most positive thing you can do is probably just to listen without judgement (not always easy).

No matter what you think about the partner who has instigated the divorce, they are still their kids mum or dad – and no child wants to be on the receiving end of negative comment or gossip about their parents.  These things have a way of coming back to those discussed.

Everybody in this situation needs to act as an adult.  Unfriending on Facebook, unfollowing on Twitter and any other form of social media alienation, no matter how tempting, is not really the mature way to deal with things.

Friends are harder to come by and keep as we get older and if your friend instigated the divorce, I’m sure they would far prefer to put their side of the story, than find themselves suddenly shunned. One day, you may find you need their shoulder to cry on.

You may have parted ways with your spouse but losing friends after divorce may well be something you can avoid.

You can find more relationship advice on my weekly problem page.

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Editor’s note: this post was originally published in July 2015 but has now been updated.

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linda

Ex marketing professional turned family lifestyle blogger. I live in Cardiff with hubby Mat, Caitlin (10) and Ieuan (8).

Find me on: Twitter | Facebook

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Debbie Johnson
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You missed religion 😉 I was (or technically perhaps still am) divorced.One thing I struggled with was people making a judgement based on their beliefs (religious or not) rather than as us an individuals who they knew, and up until that point understood.To others I really was the freak show, the person to be seen with.And yes, of course, for a while I had my bitter new friend (who oddly I lost after I became happy…).This is a wonderful post.Too many years on, I have given up understanding people but did discover the wonder of those friends who accept you… Read more »

Emmas Mamma
Guest

Interesting post! I don't have any divorced friends but the thought of alienation is just awful. I hope your friend is ok x #sundaystars

Heledd in Lavender
Guest

This is so interesting, while also being so sad. I've never really thought about this much as I don't have any divorced friends but I'm sure somewhere along the way you do have to pick a side. Although, I'm pretty sure (knowing the person I am) that I would do my best to actively stay in contact with both parties. Thank you of linking up to #SundayStars xx

Nichola+-+Globalmouse
Guest

I can’t imagine shunning friends who were getting a divorce but great tips for practical ways people can help 🙂

Vicky
Guest

I’ve not been involved in any divorce situations but I can see how it is a devisive area especially with everyone having an opinion and taking sides. It’s one of those things where you can’t say for sure what your reaction would be but hope you’d be able to stay impartial!

Kayleigh
Guest

Wow, i never really think about this… i hope i never get a divorce (although i need to get married first)… but this is something i’d worry about too! x

Michelle+Twin+Mum
Guest

I know quite a few divorced friends but I honestly can’t think of anyone I know who has split up whilst I’ve known them, so thankfully I haven’t had to see a friend go through this. Mich x

Carly Markham
Guest

I lost all of our mutual friends when I left my ex. He was violent but none of our friends know about that. I am much happier now though and thankfully always had friends of my own. I must say I do disagree with your happiness coming second to the children. One thing I have learned is that my children feel safer when I am happy. They will still be hurt at times as my relationship with their Dad isn’t good and I have a new partner which he doesn’t like but I am happy at the moment and I… Read more »

Kaz+|+Ickle+Pickles+Life+and+Travels
Guest

A great read, I have had two major relationship break ups in my adult life and did lose friends, but some of it was my decision. It is a tricky time. Kaz

Leigh at Fashion Du Jour LDN
Guest

What an interesting and insightful post. I agree that when a relationship, even one where people aren’t marry, is a huge adjustment for everyone around them and can be a minefield. I agree, that Unfriending on social media is something that doesn’t need to be done – it’s just unnecessary!

Thanks for sharing!

Leigh at Fashion Du Jour LDN x

Ana+De-+Jesus
Guest

It is so sad that J is losing friends because she made the decision to divorce. At the end of the day if her marriage was making her unhappy then I say good for her, there is nothing wrong with seeking happiness. People can be so judgmental and you are right in saying that many make comments because they are anxious about their own relationships or lash out because they are jealous.

Hannah
Guest
Hannah

Apart from the loyalty part of it – I had never given much thought to the other sides of it!

Sarah
Guest

This is really sad that this actually happens! Your friends leaving you when you really need them. I know it’s not in any way the same but when I broke up with my ex – I seemed to have broken up with our friends too. Never spoken to them since. :/

Sally Akins
Guest

It’s so difficult, isn’t it? Divorce is such an emotive subject, and it’s easy to get sucked into taking sides, but in many cases it’s not as black and white as that.

Kara
Guest

I always found it strange that my parents friends took sides during their divorce. I guess its natural to side with whoever they felt was wronged