How to Cope with Losing Friends after Divorce
Life is about change, and divorce is one of those life events that bring an onslaught of changes. Not only are you no longer part of a couple, but you are also embarking on unfamiliar territory. You likely counted on good friends to help pull you through the rough times, but some friendships — particularly those with mutual friends — may now feel awkward. Others may have fallen by the wayside completely.
Why do some friendships change after a divorce? How can you make sure your friendships still thrive while navigating these changes?
Friendships evolve over time
Friendships, like the people involved in them, aren’t static. The cyclical nature of friendship is a normal part of life.
Friends will cycle in and out of your life depending on the things going on around you and your personal needs. Just like you, your friends are also reshaping and transforming, and their friendship needs are also changing. As everyone evolves, old friendships may fade, and new ones may shift into their place.
Especially after a divorce, losing important friends can be particularly heartbreaking. In some cases, it can even feel like betrayal.
Why friendships are lost in divorce
During and after divorce, your life changes significantly. As you change and adapt, so will your perspectives, emotional needs, availability, and interests. It makes sense that others’ relationships with you will also change.
After your divorce, a friendship may take a temporary hiatus until it finds new footing. Or, the change may be permanent. The close friends you shared with your ex may find themselves caught in the middle and reluctant to take sides. Some of them may have no problem taking your ex’s side.
Some old friends won’t know how to support you during your post-divorce grief, too. And others may not know how to be a friend to a newer, happier version of the post-divorce you.
No matter how much you try to understand it, you are undoubtedly mourning the loss of these friends. Regardless of the circumstances, it hurts.
How it feels to lose friends in divorce
Of course, everyone’s experience is different. But consider this scenario. Does it sound like you?
You knew your divorce would leave a hole in your life, but you were unprepared for the loss of friendships in the wake of your divorce – especially ones you counted on for guidance and understanding. You may feel angry, hurt, and abandoned by these people. After all, this is a time in your life when you need (and perhaps really want) outside reassurance and support. How could they do this to you?
Indeed, a friendship can be as complex as a romantic relationship. Your friends may react to your divorce in confusing ways. Some may understand and love the “old you,” but for them, the new you might take some getting used to. For whatever reason, they might have felt more comfortable with the “old you.”
You might discover that some friends were actually “married couple friends” who felt most comfortable interacting as a foursome, Or, they were fair-weather friends who now feel uncomfortable with your post-divorce grief. Worse yet, you may have been their shoulder to cry on when they needed it – but now that the tables have turned, they don’t know how to be emotionally available to you.
While these losses can feel sad and confusing, they’re a natural consequence of the changes going on in your life. Your feelings of profound hurt and loss are completely valid. But, your friends’ reactions to your divorce are also valid. Unfortunately, you have no control over the reactions in your social circle. But you do have control over how you go forward.
Support groups are great places for venting, processing feelings, and getting in touch with other people who have gone through experiences similar to yours.
How to balance friendship with self-care in the wake of divorce
As you cope with the loss of your marriage, you may also be trying to carefully rebalance the rest of your life. Your friends may be trying to decide how they fit in the context of that new terrain.
Open a line of communication. Just like any relationship, good communication helps you avoid misunderstandings and provides clarity. Let your friends know you love them and miss them. If the feelings aren’t reciprocated, you’re no longer left wondering where you stand, and you can close the chapter and move on.
Focus on your own mental health and self-care. It may hurt to feel like you’ve lost what you thought were true friends. But you can’t be responsible for the other people’s actions. You need to focus on yourself right now and prioritize your own needs. Friends can be supportive, or they can be saboteurs. Don’t let the latter get in the way of your mental health and emotional well-being.
Focus on the positive friendships that have sustained you. These are the people who have supported you through thick and thin and have earned your time and attention. Don’t let them go.
Take responsibility, but also forgive yourself. You may not have been the best friend while you were in the thick of your divorce. But that’s in the past. Take ownership of that, but don’t dwell on it. If your friends can’t understand, then consider it their loss.
Embrace change and growth. As you grow and change, people will cycle in and out of your life. While you’re making yourself a better person, you will also attract interesting new friends.
Losing good friends after a divorce can compound the sadness you feel. But focusing on that loss can make you feel like a failure and keep you stuck. For now, let these feelings go so you can focus on what’s ahead. Sometime in the future, if you’re still experiencing a sense of loss over a friend, reevaluate and reach out again. Right now, you have more important things to do.