There are lots of things a couple has to decide when they're going through a divorce and splitting up a household, including how they're going to divvy up their stuff and, if they have children, who gets to be with them when.
But there's one thing couples often don't have a say in — which friends will remain friends with both of you, which will take one spouse's side or the other and which will dump you all together.
It's among one of the hardest things you'll have to go through, the loss of longtime friends at the same time that you're grieving the loss of a marriage, whether you wanted it or not, and the loss of a life and an identity — husband or wife — that you knew.
Why friends disappear
Some coupled friends may avoid you because they fear your divorce might somehow be "contagious," not in a disease way but because divorce has been found to run in friend and family circles. ( http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/21/is-divorce-contagious/ ). Some might fear that because you're newly single and available, you might be more likely to mate-poach; in fact one study noted that women are more attracted to attached men ; because they've been "preapproved" by another woman and obviously able to commit. Others may have preferred one spouse over the other all along and just endured him or her because you were married. Some have negative thoughts about divorce, especially if you've been divorced more than once . And others may want to be supportive but either don't know how or get burned out by playing therapist.
"Divorce can change the dynamics in any relationship, and particularly in friendships, it's important to set boundaries," writes Terry Gaspard , author of "Daughters of Divorce." "Letting your friends know what your needs are can be very helpful. Be sure to tell them the truth but be sensitive to their limitations and desire to discuss other topics. It's normal to feel emotionally needy as you're navigating the grieving process, but friends play a different role than counselors."
Whatever their reasons, you may find yourself without a supportive social circle just when you might need it the most. This is particularly true for men , who often don't have the same sort of social support women have, especially since wives are typically the ones who organize a couple's social calendar.
If you have some tried-and-true friends, you may find that your divorce has suddenly freed you to spend more time with them, especially if they're single or divorced, too. But if they are partnered you may quickly tire of being a third wheel, especially if being divorced feels liberating, or you may be excluded from couples-only things. You also may discover that their interests and yours may no longer be so aligned; if you're interested in finding romantic love again they're probably not going to share your desire to gout and meet eligible singles.
Finding a new social circle
What often happens is divorced people are almost forced to create a new social circle of other singletons; it's helpful to have people who are in similar situations and can empathize with the stress and joys of divorce . Still, it isn't always easy.
"Making friends as an adult is inevitably a heck of a lot harder than it was to do as a kid," divorce attorney James J. Sexton writes . "With adults, you're competing with their busy schedules, and with the fact that, to be frank, most adults aren't looking for new friends."
Sexton offers a few ways to meet new people, including making friends with co-workers, getting a workout buddy, volunteering, attending professional networking events and joining a group, as well as reconnecting with long-lost friends — all great ideas. I'd add taking classes, dining by yourself and sitting at community tables or at the bar, and using social media geared for making friends, such as GirlfriendCircles.com and the new app Hey!Vina .
I was lucky to have a group of friends I'd known for more than a decade, since our children were in elementary school together. A few had already divorced and several more split after my own divorce. Suddenly single at the same time and back in the dating world, some grappled with issues none of us had experienced before when we were married, such as jealousy and even competition for the limited pool of available middle-aged men . Thankfully, our friendships survived and many even got closer as we spent more time together and even went on vacations together.
As much as divorce means loss, it also offers new opportunities.
"Divorce can shake up friendships, but it also gives us a chance to connect with others," writes Wendy Paris , author of "Splitopia." "It's so easy to dismiss people around us, to erect a wall without even realizing we're doing it. Divorce is a chance to break down those walls."