April 18, 2016
Make no mistake. Divorce does not only involve the couple separating. I’m not talking about the unfortunate children caught up in the drama. Theirs is a particularly painful and messed up odyssey even in the most amicable of splits, and an entire psychological team wouldn’t be able to do justice to their plight in the span of a single letter. I don’t feel equal to exploring their saga in such a format.
The purpose of this letter concerns friends and family of a divorcing couple.
Memories of my divorce vacillate between pain-dulled to raw and visceral, but the utter abandonment by many I considered friends shocked me.
As a single mom of a then infant and a little one with special needs, getting out and about was difficult at best. I cherished adult interactions, but with the divorce, many such ties fell away. With help only from my immediate family, I grew more isolated, and in retrospect, I may have struggled with depression. When I reached out to people I thought of as my beloved friends, I often found myself avoided, ignored, or rebuffed.
Some people avoid all conflict. Others, to keep from “taking sides,” dropped associating with either my ex-husband or me. Others made their feelings on the matter known. I’ll never forget the man who approached me at a social club to which my ex and I both belonged. He smiled as he said, “I can’t believe you’d have the nerve to show up here. This is his (my ex’s) place.” I knew I could fight for my position. I’d been active in the group for well over a decade. I’m not a fighter, though, and divorce pitches even the most passive into the fray. I chose to relinquish my membership to keep the peace. I thought my friends and I could keep in touch without such defined boundaries as a social club.
In many cases, I was wrong. For example, Dave, a man I then held dear, someone I hosted for weekly dinners and taught to sew, looked me dead in the face after the divorce and told me he was never my friend. He thereby declared his allegiance, and inside I doubled over as though body punched. In retrospect, though, although his honesty hurt, at least he was forthright. Many simply stopped returning my calls or cancelled luncheon dates. I lost my marriage and my friends with swipes from an attorney’s pen.
Recently, I overheard someone explain they “got” a person as the result of her divorce, like they were personally involved and she their portion of the settlement agreement. I know what they meant. Since she lost so many of her social group, this couple took her in. They liked her and felt a sort of obligation toward her. The way it was said saddened me. The phrase came across as pitying, and I felt bad for the lady who doubtless felt cut off from everything normal in her life.
The experience made me curious. I wondered how many of my remaining friends “pitied” me after everything. I wondered if I were someone’s charitable act.
However, I refuse to worry about such things any longer. Instead, I value the people who embrace me, even with all of my foibles and faults. I love them for their steadfastness in the face of the unknown and pray they will be richly rewarded for their kindness. For the ones who left me behind, I hope they never experience the crushing ostracism caused by divorce.
Divorce definitely does not affect only the involved couple.
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I went through a very similar situation last summer…..it still hurts. People I considered close friends dropped me like yesterday’s trash. I pray I never treat someone like that.
I am so sorry you went through such pain. I can’t imagine you would hurt another in such a circumstance. You’re too aware of the emotions.
The same thing happened to us when my husband and I both lost our jobs within days of each other at a major university. We were instantly ostrasized from the community, our work friends and personal friends. It is a hurt that never goes away.
It is betrayal. I am sorry you and your husband experienced such an ugly side of community.