Divorce lawyers are paid big bucks to help divide the assets between husband and wife during a divorce, but one of the most valuable assets is left out of the mix. Who gets to keep the mutual friends? Many couples often find it difficult or nearly impossible to maintain mutual friends following a divorce. The good news is that by setting boundaries with friends, it may be possible to minimize the damage to your close friendships and hold onto the ones that really matter. Divorces are overwhelmingly challenging, and losing your friends is just another loss that’s difficult to deal with. While it may be easier part ways with some friends, there may be others that could turn into a very tough tug-of-war. Creating boundaries with friends may seem like yet another relentless task in the divorce process, but it is essential part of the process if your friendships are to survive.
Setting Boundaries with Friends
While you may rely on your best buds for a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on, it isn’t fair to your friends to bash your ex if they are still friends with her. Doing so can quickly create an awkward situation that may prevent your friendship from continuing. Setting boundaries with friends following a divorce should include an agreement from both parties that no ill words will be spoken about the other partner. Let your friends know that it is okay for them to stop you if you start going down that path. While it is okay to discuss what you are going through, don’t attempt to force your friends to take sides.
Speaking About the Divorce
Divorces can be messy and emotional. You may discover some less than pleasant truths about your wife or things may happen during the divorce that are uncharacteristic of your wife. Just because you are hurt or angry, it doesn’t give you the right to spread personal information around. Setting limits with friends helps to create rules on what can be shared about the divorce. Sharing too much can be hurtful to your ex and hurtful to your friends who still love and care for her. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t have shared the information before the divorce or in front of your ex, don’t share it with them after the divorce. You will want the same curtesy from your ex.
Who gets to go to Dave and Sally’s wedding? Who can still attend Wednesday happy hour? It can be extremely awkward and uncomfortable for divorced couples to end up at the same social event, especially in the early stages after splitting. While it may have been a no brainer to invite both of you before the divorce, mutual friends need to know how it is going to work following the split. Discuss this with both your ex and your friends and come up with some guidelines. Whether it comes down to taking turns or giving both you and your Ex the option to attend knowing the other may be present or leaving the decision in the hands of you and your Ex, the key is communication. The last thing you want to do is show up to the wedding and see your Ex with another man if you aren’t ready to witness that. And if you know that the two of you cannot get along, it is best for everyone involved to not put yourself into that situation if you can avoid it.
Know that it will get easier over time, and perhaps there will be a future time where you do feel comfortable in social settings with your Ex. This doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement.
No matter how clear the communication was in the beginning, emotions are a big part of any divorce and will likely pop up at some point. You may feel hurt that your friends are spending more time with your Ex than you. Or you may resent them for inviting her to a particular event instead of you. Whatever the case may be, there may be some backlash, and your friends might find themselves on the brunt end of it.
Setting boundaries with your buds and others up front will help prevent these negative feelings or at least help you deal with them when they come up. Let your friends know that both parties will try their best not to drag them into any negativity towards the new friendship arrangements.
Accepting Lost Friendships
The truth is that some of your friendships will naturally end after a divorce, and that’s okay. Don’t try to maintain them all. Perhaps your Ex was closer to certain friends or had friendships long before your marriage. Perhaps some of the friends began through your Ex’s family. These friendships are sometimes better off left with your Ex.
On the other hand, some of your friends may find it too uncomfortable to be friends with both parties after a divorce. Remember that this is awkward for them too. They may naturally pick one side or perhaps both friendships will fade following a divorce. Lost friendships are expected and aren’t a reflection on you.
Recognize When Enough is Enough
No matter how hard you try or how much you want to make it work, sometimes sharing mutual friends creates more stress and tension than is worthwhile. You may feel more negative emotions and experience more unpleasant memories than you wanted to by being around people who used to be a part of your marriage or you may find it difficult to follow the boundaries you set up.
You have to be real with yourself and recognize when enough is enough, at least for awhile. You may need to distance yourself in order to heal for some amount of time before coming back into a friendship. If this happens to you, be honest and open with your friends. You aren’t abandoning your friendship, but you need to prioritize yourself during this trying time in your life.
Make New Friends
Just because you and your Ex have agreed to continue your relationship with mutual friends, do not close yourself off to new friendships. While your mutual friends are important, your life is changing and new friendships may help you adapt to your new lifestyle. Talk to new people, put yourself out there and accept invitations as they come along. New and different people can breathe new life into you and help accelerate the process of starting new.
Setting Boundaries and Sticking to Them
Setting boundaries with friends is the easy part. The more difficult part is sticking to them. Your brain knows these boundaries are logical and necessary, but your emotions may get the better of you and make it difficult to maintain these boundaries. You may feel tempted to ask your friends about your Ex’s personal life or bash her for being late to pick up the kids. It is expected that you’ll slip up every now and then, but start building a healthy habit to respect these boundaries from day 1 … no matter what you feel or how tempting it may be.
Nearly every aspect of your life will look different following a divorce, and the friendships you once shared with your Ex are no different. Couples who’ve had a tight circle of friends may find it even more difficult. With the correct approach and mindset, you may be able to retain the friendships that you built during marriage. Setting boundaries with friends and sticking to them is essential. Be honest with your friends and yourself about your situation and your emotions, plan accordingly and, above all else, remain respectful of your Ex.