One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is that you are not only losing your spouse, but often you can lose friends as well, because some people feel like they must pick a side. While many people intuitively understand there are two sides to every story, others will automatically take alliances with one spouse. How can this be prevented?
How you go about telling your friends that you are divorcing can change how your friends feel about both you and your spouse after your divorce. I’m talking about mutual friends here, not your individual best friend. It’s important to have someone to whom you can confide all the details. But remember, if you go about telling your mutual friends your side of the story only, your spouse will likely end up doing the same, and it may not be your side that they will eventually pick.
I’m fortunate to have clients who in large part recognize and respect their marriage and their spouse for the positive traits (like being a good dad), even if the negative has prevented the marriage from continuing. If they have children, they realize they will always be a family unit in some form, and want to maintain a degree of respect and civility, if not friendship, for the sake of their children and future grandchildren.
Having empathy for your spouse’s need to have friendships, even if you blame them for the divorce, shows a level of maturity and love that I believe will serve you in the end. If you can, talk to your spouse about what you want to say to your friends about your divorce and when. Keep in mind, for many people, divorce is a juicy bit of gossip that they can’t help but share, so be careful who you tell before you are ready for the world to know you are divorcing. Also, if you have children, spouse bashing can fuel the negative feelings you have toward your spouse and can affect your ability to co-parent amicably. Have boundaries in what you are willing to share about your divorce and resist opening up to those who will inevitably ask nosey questions.
Finally, know that people will want to share their opinions about what you should do, what you should get and how you should approach your divorce. They don’t truly know your relationship or and may not share your goals. For some, it will be a chance to vent about their divorce so they can feel better about what they did in their divorce, especially if you are leaning toward a non-adversarial approach to your divorce. For that matter, remember not all legal counsel will respect your goals for divorce and may guide you in a way that serves their interests and not yours. Venting to legal counsel about your spouse isn’t free and doesn’t usually help matters. Keep your venting to a small group that includes a therapist that can help you move forward and help you understand what went wrong in your marriage and your role (even if your role was getting married to the wrong person in the first place.)