When my closest friends announced they were getting a divorce, I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised. Socializing with them was often uncomfortable, and trying to ignore their constant bickering was getting tiresome. As is fairly typical for women, “April” had confided in me for months that she was unhappy. She shared some pretty intimate details about their marriage, and honestly, it caused me to look at “Shawn” a lot differently once I knew what I knew.
My boyfriend at the time had been fairly friendly with Shawn. They were in the same fantasy football league, and often met for a beer after work, especially when April and I were getting together ourselves.
I’m proud to say that I didn’t gossip about Shawn to my boyfriend (although I was tempted), because I didn’t want to interfere with the guys’ friendship. Yet after they were divorced, when my boyfriend would ask if Shawn could come over for a barbecue, I resisted. I thought I wasn’t taking sides, but I was. Which brings up the question: in a divorce, who gets custody of the friends?
In my personal experience, what usually happens is the original friendship remains intact; i.e., I’ve remained friends with the person I’ve known the longest. But not always. Sometimes I’ve stayed friends with the person who’s made the greater effort. And sometimes, the friendships just drift apart over time for no specific reason.
What I’ve come to realize is that your divorce may have a deeper effect on your outside friendships than you know. Couple-friends who travel together will find that their vacations will look different from now on. Those who have a weekly movie night will probably find the schedule changing. And when your kids have regular play dates with their kids, you might have to be in the loop about the other family’s visitation schedule.
In my field of divorce mediation, I encourage those with children to continue to be communicative and flexible with each other. I think the same thing applies when you have friends who are divorcing. If you value the friendship, stay in touch, and be flexible. Make the extra effort to connect with your friend and be supportive during this time of transition. Be tolerant of the new romantic interest in your friend’s life, even if your instinct is to tell her to head for the hills.
And if you can’t help but take sides, I urge you to be very cautious about bad-mouthing your friend’s ex. You never know what may happen in the future, and you don’t want to regret anything you might have said. To quote my dad, “even a fish won’t get caught if he keeps his mouth shut.” Sage advice.