Monday, March 14, 2011
When Friends Divorce
When “happily ever after” ceases to exist and two people realize it is time to end a marriage it involves far more than just the couple making the decision. Family members are often expected to take sides and sometimes friends back away from both parties because they don’t want to be forced to choose a side. True friends realize what a devastating time of change this is for the couple and try to be there for both the soon to be ex-husband and the soon to be ex-wife.
Just the word “divorce” can cause a panic attack in most people. Women tend to visualize a future life of loneliness for them and a life of frolicking like a stud in a field of mares for the man. A man often equates a divorce to losing his home, his family, his bank account, and his place in the community while the woman moves on to a life of jet-setting and choosing her next conquest. One friend who recently went through a divorce told me, “I started out with nothing and I still got most of it.”
In reality, a person facing divorce is facing being alone for the first time in quite a while, many years in some cases. No matter what the reasons are for deciding to end the marriage, it is not easy to do things on your own that you normally did with another person. People going through the divorce process need someone to talk to, someone to cry with, and someone to help them vent when they feel anger building to the boiling point.
My late aunt used to tell me, “If you can’t see the bright side of life then maybe you ought to polish the dull side.” With that in mind I am trying to help a good friend through a divorce by helping her navigate through this period of change in her life. She is very sensitive right now and indecisive about a lot of things. She still thinks in terms of “we.” I was so proud of her this weekend when she finally placed the term “ex” in front of husband because that means she is finally accepting the hand life has dealt her to play. Until a few days ago she was telling me this situation was really just nothing more than a storm in a teacup. She was sure it would blow over and life as she had known it would resume.
My role as a friend is to be supportive during this very emotionally charged transition. When my friend just wants to be alone I try to honor her wish. I try not to push her too hard about doing things but at the same time, I cannot allow her to sit alone too long or let her own life become stagnate. I know she needs time to sort out her feelings, her affairs, and her plans for the future. I have made myself available to help out around her house as she needs me, to listen to her when she needs to talk, and most of all to comfort her when she is feeling like a failure.
I’ve also been trying very hard not to take sides. I’ve been friends with both of these people for a long period of time and I’ve watched them drift away from each other with one financial crisis after the other and the loss of beloved family members. I hold my thoughts and opinions to myself as much as possible because it is up to both parties in this marriage to decide what choices they want to make for their lives. It is difficult though, because the husband in this case has already moved on and started to rebuild his life before his wife has had time to really absorb the idea of not being married anymore.
My biggest fear in trying to be a good friend to all of the parties involved is that I will make mistakes along the way. I don’t want to say anything that offends the people dealing with this situation and I always try to remember how scary this time is for my friends.
Divorce is a bit like being trapped indoors during a snowstorm. You can view the snow from your window and feel cut off from the world. You can’t see roads, you don’t see birds, and you have no idea when the snow will stop falling. You’re cut off from the world. It’s just you and storm. You can succumb to the storm or take refuge in the snowy blanketed earth to find a place of serenity.
Life is all about choices: to marry, whether or not to have children, what type of career to follow, how to divide the chores, whether to have a pet, and even whether to rent an apartment to buy a home. Every choice we make has a direct impact on how our lives will play out. Sometimes just allowing your friend to reflect on choices made in the past and listening to the history of the marriage can help to clarify the confusion and anguish left by the breakdown of the marriage.
So, I’ll be a good friend and listen when my friend wants to talk about her husband. “He came in here to get some of his things and he ran around like his feet was on fire and his backside was catching up!” We’ll giggle sometimes, share sad moments at times, and I will always encourage her to find her wings again because I know she can soar once she gets some wind beneath those wings.
© March 14, 2011