Getting divorced is guaranteed to cause pain.
It hurts to realize your plan for the future won't come true. It hurts to realize your spouse is not who you thought he or she was (and maybe you aren't, either). It hurts to leave your family home and to divide the possessions you shared there.
Much of the pain tends to hit both men and women equally. There is, however, a divorce aspect that's unequal: In a gray divorce, with a marriage that lasted two decades or more, when it comes to the friends you shared as a couple, the man is going to get hurt.
There's a simple explanation, and it's certainly not the wives' fault. The couple-friendships often start with the women meeting at child-centered activities like mommy-and-me and pre-school. They become friends, drawn together by the shared highs and lows of motherhood. At some point, the husbands get added to the mix, and the couple-friendship is born.
No matter what activities the couples engage in, they will almost always be planned by the wives, who usually play "social director" in the marriage. But then, when a divorce occurs, things have to change. And it's perfectly reasonable that the wives — who formed the friendship originally and control the plans — will stick together. The ex-husband, who may have been part of this foursome for 20 years or more, must now add the feeling of "loser" to the other turmoil in his life.
If the still-married couple has an event, they might invite both; but if only one makes the cut, bet on the ex-wife. If the ex-wife starts seeing someone, he'll slide into the role of new couple with the old couple; the ex-husband will feel like he's been replaced, while life continues on just fine without him. In fact, if the ex-husband gets invited to a couple-friends event, he might decline rather than be uncomfortable around his former wife and his replacement.
Even if the ex-husband starts to see someone new, it's unlikely they’ll socialize with the couple-friends since his new partner has no connection to either. The ex-husband's next set of couple-friends will probably come courtesy of his new lady-friend. Obviously, it could play out differently. But I'd suggest this is the most common result—which leads to a question: What can the husband do about it?
The answer: Nothing.
Accept it. Live with it. Realize that's just the way it is.
That's not what you want to hear when you're already hurting, but fighting the fact will just hurt more.
If you're a decent person, you'll recognize that the couple-friends are in a tough spot themselves. They're having their own issues dealing with your divorce. It's uncomfortable and awkward for them. Your divorce has likely scared them, and they're unsure of their roles and responsibilities.
You may feel that if they really knew what went on in your marriage, they’d choose you. Again, if you're a decent person, you know that should stay between you and your ex. Besides, she likely has plenty she could say about you, too.
Let it go. It's a battle you can't win, and fighting it only diminishes you. You can't make someone want to be your friend. Accept it. Grieve it. Feel the loss of the friendships, just like you're grieving the loss of your marriage. Feel the pain, as it'll help you move on.
If you care, you should be able to hold on to some of the relations with the guys. It may mean lunches for two instead of dinners for four, but that could still be nice (and cheaper). Plus, there might be some upside. If you're dating, chances are good those guys will want to live vicariously through you. They'll hang on your every word.
In the (not unlikely) case that some of the guys have their own marital troubles, they may seek your counsel. As they open up to you, and you do the same with them, you may find yourself developing deeper friendships than you ever had before.
Written by Barry Gold
Barry Gold operates the website DivorcedOver50.com, which provides information, insight, and inspiration for anyone contemplating or experiencing "gray divorce." Barry is the author of Gray Divorce Stories: The Truth About Getting Divorced Over 50 From Men and Women Who’ve Done It, available from Amazon.