Who Gets Which Friends?

You’re getting a divorce. In addition to the friends you brought into the relationship, you and your ex have made many friends together through your children’s activities, your jobs and the places you have volunteered. You both rely on their friendships to help with childcare and have established a social circle that meets both your needs. In addition, you have been talking to these friends about the difficulties you have been having in your marriage and want to be able to keep this support system. It has been so important for you to have close friends to talk to about all the things that have been difficult as your marriage is ending and you work on transitioning to your post-divorce family.

Sometimes the friends you have made are in a couple and have offered each of you the support you have asked for. It is likely they have talked with each other about the difficulties about which you have each confided in them. It may be that they feel they need to choose between the two of you now that a decision has been made to end your relationship. Although this is not necessarily the case, this is often a situation those divorcing find themselves in. It occurs most often when those divorcing are in conflict with each other.

This can sometimes be when the drama begins. Perhaps one of your friends has asked you to tell your ex she does not want to have contact with him anymore or that another friend will only allow his children to play with your children when they are in your care. While this might occur when there are allegations or experiences of substance abuse or domestic violence, it sometimes also occurs so people do not feel they are in the middle, trying to manage both relationships.

While this is not guaranteed, you can help your friends feel comfortable with maintaining a connection to both of you by being civil with each other. This not only helps the possibility of both of you maintaining those friendships, but also helps your children feel comfortable with those around them, by extension. Many children have reported the embarrassment they feel when their parents fight or are mean to each other either out loud or non-verbally when in public.

How do you feel when a friend asks you to “relay a message” to your ex? Does it help you feel justified in your angry feelings towards him or her? Would you like to protect your ex from the negativity of the people you thought were friends to both of you? Perhaps you cycle back and forth between both feelings depending on the day.

Whatever your inclination might be, it may be helpful to know that the relationship between your friend and your ex are their responsibility and not yours.

Your relationships with your friends are your own. If they wish to discontinue their relationship with your ex, they are free to have that conversation with him or her. If they believe they are supporting you by doing so and you feel otherwise, you can let them know. Your friend is free to have any conversation he or she would like to have with your ex about their friendship or lack of one, but you are not responsible for managing their relationship. They are. You may want to think about whether you have a need to be involved in their relationship and the problems that arise when you believe you are a conduit for the “good” or “bad” news from other people to your ex. You are not.

Because people will often feel they are being helpful or simply because people like to talk, relying mostly on the friends that are local may create an atmosphere, whether in a small town or in a neighborhood in a big town, where everyone might know and talk about more than either of you are comfortable with. One way to decrease the amount of “talk in town” is to confide in friends or family that lives somewhere else. It is important to have trusted people in your life to think with, cry with or vent with. If at all possible, choose those people who are not involved in you or children’s daily lives. It makes the possibility of having your divorce less of a public event.

Related Articles:
Divorce is a Family Problem
Children and the Details of Your Divorce
Right Use of Power: The Effects of Forgiveness

© Copyright 2011 by Shendl Tuchman, PsyD, therapist in San Ramon, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Blaine

    Blaine

    December 10th, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    When my ex and I got a divorce he got the friends because I had had an affair and I guess they all took his side. I understand that, I do, but some of these people had been my friends first, but they thought that what I did was so bad that I guess they chose the other side.

    It was hard to not only lose my marriage, although I realize that most of it was due to me and my own choices. But on some level it was harder to lose some of these other people because they had been around a lot longer David the ex had been.

  • Serena

    Serena

    December 11th, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Friends can’t be divvied up like housewares. They are going to choose who they want to remain friends with and there is really nothing that you can do about it. There is no sense in getting all snippy just because they choose one spouse over another. That is the reality of getting a divorce and it is better that you recognize that from the very beginning.

  • candice

    candice

    December 11th, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    a couple my partner and I were friends with filed for divorce a few months ago.We wanted to remain friends with both of them but everytime we meet or talk to either of them,all that they would talk about is how the other one is bad and how the divorce is all the other person’s mistake.This obviously out me and my partner off and we try and maintain distance from them now.

  • steven

    steven

    December 12th, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    I hate being in this kind of situation. You are forced to choose sides and sometimes there isn’t any easy way to do that, but it also becomes impossible to remain friends with both. I have had situations where I felt like I was the one being used just for them both to get information out of me about what the other was doing! I kind of got like grow up! Get a PI if you want to know all of that, I just want to know if you want to go out and see a funny movie, not be your gossip columnist,

  • Shendl Tuchman

    Shendl Tuchman

    December 23rd, 2011 at 11:24 AM

    Thank you for your comments. You have spoken to some of the hardest aspects of divorcing both as the person getting the divorce or the friends of those divorcing. I am sure you know that these situations exist whether it is through divorce or ending a romantic relationship, a friendship, a family relationship, etc. Many people feel it is easiest to take sides. We have been taught that there is a right way to be and a wrong way to be. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, this is not usually the case. As Steven wrote, we are pulled very hard to take sides. The harder work is to remain neutral. You might be accused of not being a good enough friend. Remaining neutral does not mean being the confidant to both. That is the most dangerous position to put yourselves in.

    Divorcing is sometimes one of the worst crises people go through and they are not at their best while going through it. They are being asked to make very hard decisions when they are not thinking their most clearly.

    If you are the one getting divorced, try to have some compassion of the friends who have been there for both of you in your mutual friendships. If you are the friend, understand that the needs of your friend may be short-lived and you can be the kind of friend who provides the voice of reason and neutrality without abandoning anyone.

    Happy Holidays everyone.

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