Thursday, January 23, 2014

Things No One Told Me About My Friend Getting a Divorce

If you Google the words “my friend is getting divorced”, you will be greeted with approximately 6,040,00 results.  The range of wording varies, but they are all about the same thing, ways in which you can help your friend, what to say, what not to say.  Basically, how to be a good friend to your friend who is divorcing.

It is very one-sided and I can understand why.  Divorce is not easy; it is (hopefully) not done lightly.  It is often compared to experiencing a death.  The grief and experience cycle is the same.
But what you won’t see?  Warnings for what may happen to you; the good intentioned, wanting to be helpful, but confused friend.

My experiences in this have varied.  I’ve read all of the articles.  I have done my best.  And I have had friends and loved ones tell me that I did all the right things, I was there when needed the most, I was supportive, I was a good friend.  I sent the inspirational quotes, I shared books, I sent funny messages and I made sure to always be willing to drop everything to simply sit with my friend who was hurting.  And my experience showed me that that worked.  It might not have fixed everything, but it helped.  It wasn’t always easy.  But I did it, because it mattered, it was important and my friend was worth it.

Imagine my surprise when recently, I had a friend who that didn’t work with.  Every well meaning, loving and deliberate word and action was simply not good enough.  Ignored, or worse- criticized and somehow held as a reason to lash out and blame me for problems in our friendship.  Honestly?  I was dumb-founded. 

It’s simple.  Divorce changes people.  It can make you into someone completely new, or it can reveal who you are, have always been or grew to be.  And that is probably part of, if not the whole reason, that no one ever wants to talk about it from any other insight that what it means to be a good friend to the one who is going through it.  Because it is hell.

But I think it’s time that someone says it.  Someday, you will have a friend or loved one who goes through a divorce, and NOTHING you say or do will be good enough.  Because there are casualties in every war.  And every well-meaning article is simply a hopeful guideline to try to not become one of the casualties of the war-zone that is your friend’s new reality.

The reality: not picking a side may be seen as picking a side.  Because in all of those emotions raging on in the person experiencing this life-changing reality, the act of simply not flat-out rejecting the other may very well be seen as not choosing them.

The reality: your marriage, your thoughts on marriage and the fact that you have to continue to live your life as a married or coupled person may very well be a slap in their face that they can’t take and no matter how you try to separate it, be considerate and thoughtful to them… the fact that you do not share their reality may come between you and your friend. 

The reality: you and your friendship with your divorcing friend may be a casualty for the new life they are building.  Your friend may choose to divorce you right along with their spouse and the life that they are leaving behind.  It will hurt.  Sadly?  There is nothing, and I mean nothing, which you can do to spare yourself of this fact.  Your friend may simply be unable or unwilling to preserve aspects that they associate with their lives before their divorce.

The reality: you may not be allowed to acknowledge or talk about the reality of their divorce.  Any mere mention of it, inquiries into their well-being or simple care or concern about it may be seen as a personal affront to them and how well they are moving on or forging ahead with their new life.  It may be viewed as stifling, meddlesome and with malicious intent.

The reality: you may simply realize that in the journey of his or her divorce, your friend has become someone who you no longer know or even want to know.  You may discover that they are not a person that you wish to have in your life.  Because experiences like these change people, and there is no guarantee that the person you knew and loved will continue to be a person that you would want to have in your life.

If I lived in a perfect world, this would have a happy ending of a long, heart to heart with my friend where we cried and hugged and walked away feeling closer connected than we ever had before.  We would have used the struggle to strengthen our bond and live happily ever after with a TV show glow, as the camera faded on us sitting in the coffee shop laughing and talking and smiling.  The voiceover would sound like Carrie Bradshaw on Sex in the City as I spoke of the lessons I’d learned and the strength of the bond of womanhood, no doubt ending on the note that no matter what life threw at us, we’d at least always have each other.

But my life isn’t perfect.  I am not in a hit TV show or feel good movie.  My friendship essentially ended in a series of Facebook conversations and arguments.  I hit the almighty “unfriend” button and that was it.  Unceremonious, ridiculous and honestly- an insult to what friendship is, or at least should be.  But that was what my friendship had been reduced to over the months post her divorce journey.  Scattered, electronic, impersonal and in the end- confrontational, accusatory, cold and ultimately the very definition of every thing that I felt was wrong for weeks and months.
Maybe this would have been better? 
There is a saying that tough times don’t build character, they reveal them.  I found this to be true.  Little things that stuck out before as weird and that I dismissed as a fluke or chalked up to a bad day became the normal in what I would see in my friend.  I found myself more and more uncomfortable with their words, their actions and the intent that seemed to lie under the surface.  I ignored and excused all of the things that I wouldn’t tolerate in anyone else and tried to forge ahead.  I think that that was my mistake. 

The reality isyou can do everything in your power to do the right thing, and still be told that you have done everything wrong.  That doesn’t make it true.  As long as you have acted with genuine love and interest and desire for good, you did the right thing.  Sometimes, the right thing simply isn’t what someone wants and you can’t hold responsibility for what they want or need.

I just wish someone would have told me about these things.

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