Divorce is an all-hands-on-deck, life-changing proposition.
There are five basic types of people you should seek to lean on as you navigate through the divorce process: the never-married, the divorced, the married, the young, and the old.
Strangely enough, you may find that your single friends are the best equipped to sit with you through even the most brutal emotions. That’s because your divorce can ignite fear in your married friends, as they grapple with—or seek to avoid—the possibility that it could happen to them. Similarly, it may trigger old, and painful, memories in your divorced friends. An empathetic single friend may be best equipped to hear your greatest sorrows and fears precisely because it doesn’t hit too close to home.
Additionally, your single companions are excellent models of independence. On those days when you’re wondering how in the world you’re going to be able to do it all without your partner, look to these friends for inspiration and advice. They can help you find the joy and the freedom inherent to being single, as well as help you distinguish between being alone—and being lonely.
Those friends who are not married may be more available for you, and may also have more flexible schedules. They can serve as your activity partners and your on-call support system. You can hang out with them on those days when you simply can’t bear to be in the presence of another happy couple.
Of course, those who have never been married may be dismissive about the enormous impact your divorce has on you. They’ve never been there, and so may struggle to “get it.” This doesn't necessarily mean they don’t care; it just means that they cannot fully understand.
Your single companions are excellent models of independence. They can help you find the joy and the freedom inherent to being single, as well as help you distinguish between being alone—and being lonely.
These are the friends who get it. They’ve been there, and they understand the magnitude of what you’re going through. They will nod in understanding when you talk about the endless hours of each night spent alone, or the heart-breaking feeling of seeing your daughter’s tears upon learning the news.
Your divorced friends can offer you concrete advice and ideas of how to navigate this transition. You may be offered everything from a good attorney’s name to suggestions of how to remove your ex’s name from your insurance. These friends tend to become your informal mentors as you learn from their steps, and missteps.
Perhaps the most important gift that your divorced friends have to offer is one of hope. Maybe you witnessed their breakdown after the breakup of their own marriage, and now you see them thriving years later. Whether they’ve found a new partner, or decided to remain single, they are the living, breathing proof that there is life after divorce.
Conversely, you may find that you have some divorced friends that are still angry, who remain bitter. When they learn of your impending divorce, they may delight at finding someone else who can share in this acrimonious bath. Be wary of this energy; it’s not only toxic, it’s contagious.
Perhaps the most important gift that your divorced friends have to offer is one of hope. These friends tend to become your informal mentors as you learn from their steps, and missteps.
Whereas the divorced friends may make you feel like giving up on love, your married friends remind you that it’s still possible. The best of these friends let their vulnerability peek through, sharing with you their own trials and fears within their marriage, as well as revealing the love they still have for their spouse. Unlike the “Facebook perfect” couple, seeing the real and imperfect people within a marriage can help you come to terms with the fact that every marriage faces hard times, yet it’s still possible for love to prevail.
By watching your married friends as you start to analyze the end of your marriage, you may begin to realize just how your relationship went off the rails. Watching others interact can help you learn what you want, and who you want to be, in your next relationship. If your friend’s marriage isn’t so good, it can serve as a reminder that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the aisle. In fact, it may even bring a sense of relief that you’re no longer in a similar situation.
Sometimes, often unintentionally, they may say or do something that promotes a sense of guilt, shame, or failure in you because your marriage ended and theirs has not.
While your married friends can sometimes be judgmental about your relationship status, children never are. With their limited experiences and smaller worldview, they simply accept you as you are without regard to what may be happening behind the scenes.
The curiosity and exuberance of children is contagious. When you spend time with them, you begin to see the world through their eyes, full of wonder and possibility. They encourage openness and playfulness, both traits often lacking during divorce.
However, too much time around the young during times of difficulty can amplify your feelings of despair, as you contrast their naïve innocence with the brutal reality of what you’re experiencing.
The elderly can bring the dual gifts of perspective and wisdom during life’s trials. They have lived long enough to experience many cycles of growth and contraction. They have seen how tragedies can often become the birthplace of greatness. They can share stories of loves found and lost, and found again. And they can share their own struggles and speak to overcoming them.
The words passed down from those who have lived through it all are a reminder that this is merely one chapter of your life and that there is hope for you still.