Divorce is not just the breakup of the marriage, but a reconfiguration of the relationships that surround it. We all have married friends that we know and love -- friends that we've shared our lives with -- but when divorce enters the picture, the friendships change.
Friends will take sides; it's only natural. But it's hurtful when a couple you care about suddenly treats you like you have the plague.
When we interviewed women for our book "Love For Grown-ups," we heard dozens of complaints. Recent divorcees hosted dinners and invited married couples and their kids, and it was never reciprocated.
Here are four ways to keep your friendships alive post-split:
Invite one couple over at a time, and preferably one in which you and the husband have interests in common so you can have a three-way conversation. We live in a couple's society and you have to make some changes and adjustments when you're divorced.
Don't complain about your ex-husband. If you're the one who was left, people will initially be sympathetic but they'll tire of it quickly. One woman we know kept complaining about how little alimony she was receiving from her husband when finally a male friend said (not too kindly), "Get a job!" We're not allowed to mourn a failed marriage; we're supposed to snap to it and get back to life right away. That isn't the case for many of us. And if you initiated the split, expressing that you're lonely is frowned upon. You can expect to hear, "Well, you wanted the divorce!"
Avoid the overly friendly husband. You may get a phone call or two from someone's husband wanting to share his wisdom with you -- and possibly something else. The best way of handling this is saying something like, "Thanks so much; maybe the three of us can have dinner sometime." He'll get the message. That phone call may just be his flight from reality, so don't let it upset you.
There may also be husbands who have no agenda in mind except to offer help with things like digging you out of the driveway when it snows or helping you figure out what type of insurance you should carry. They may also fix you up on dates when you're ready. Cherish them; their wives know they're helping you and they are truly your friends.
Rely on your girlfriends. You're going to need to talk about your divorce and vent your anger, whether you're the one who initiated the divorce or the one who was left. Girlfriends are great and will listen to your stories with sympathy. They'll also make you feel less lonely and vulnerable. Make plans with girlfriends to do something more than just talking. Go to a movie together or a museum, play tennis, or go bowling. Working off unhappiness with a friend can help you deal with your sadness and make you feel less vulnerable.
Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Lampl and Tish Rabe are the authors of "Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life", a relationship guide for women over 35 on how to find Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. The Garter Brides are a sisterhood of women who got married later in life and wore the same garter at their weddings! They offer tried and true advice on how to have the love and life you want.