Right now, I have two dear friends going through tough, nasty divorces after many years of marriage. So many years, in fact, that they were married to their soon-to-be exes back when I went through my divorce almost a decade ago.
At the time, there were unspoken thoughts and an awkward energy coming from some of my married friends, but I could never put my finger on what was going on. They felt bad for me, I could tell. They pitied my situation. They listened to me process my emotions and try to make sense of my life at the time. They offered advice and gave me a shoulder to cry on. But...
It was almost like they were thinking, "I feel bad for you, and this could happen to you. But this kind of thing would never happen to me."
There was the definitely something unsaid -- an undertone in our relationships -- that was present in every conversation. I felt distance and uneasiness, but they were right there taking my calls and buying me chocolate, so the dissonance didn't quite make sense. The overwhelming emotions and day-to-day challenges of divorce took precedence over having the time for realization and reflection.
Then recently, in hushed tones and by text, they told me they, too, were going through a divorce. They admitted that after years of marriage and multiple children, they had had enough and were throwing in the towel. All of the sudden, they seemed especially humble and even contrite. One of them even said, "I'm so sorry. I had no idea how horrible this really was for you."
Then, it hit me. They felt bad because they were a bit condescending and holier-than-thou back in the day, and now they were realizing that divorce could literally happen to anyone. Including them.
I've polled my divorce friends and they all say, "YES! That makes sense. You're right; they thought it could never happen to them and the condescension -- it was, and still is sometimes, awful."
With the divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, divorce is bound to happen to half of us -- it just is. Any one of your friends might be thinking that if they hang out with you too much, they too could find themselves in the throes of a divorce. They might have to choose sides and pick which one of the two of you they like better.
Worse yet, they might have to take a deeper look at an unhealthy or unsatisfying marriage. Many once-married-now-divorced folks have told me in confidence they secretly envied their friends who had the courage to call it quits, strike out on their own, and begin a new life. If you -- someone who they thought was in a happy marriage -- is getting a divorce, then perhaps they might be next in the queue.
Your married friends are probably fearful they will "end up like you" and they just might. Chances are many of the married friends you have today will, in a decade, be divorced and remarried to new spouses. This thought, brought on by your divorce, can be overwhelming. It's easier to keep you in your place and even at arm's length rather than contemplate the future.
By the time your friends go through their own divorces, you can offer solid advice and true friendship, because by then you'll be on the other side and in a much better place. Don't say I told you so. Just give them the hug and understanding you wish they had given you.