Surviving Divorce: Navigating Friendships & Family Loyalties

“Regrettably, I must stand by my husband; we can’t remain friends anymore.”

This was a heartbreaking moment Ashley shared with her close friend—and soon to be ex-sister-in-law. A bond nurtured for over two decades was abruptly broken. There were tears, consoling hugs, and shared grief, but the reality of the impending split was tough to swallow. This prompts the question: Why does divorce repeatedly lead to such painful situations?

When faced with a situation where family members or true friends are going through a divorce, many people find it simpler to stay neutral and avoid choosing sides. For some, the relationship may be severed because it wasn’t significant enough in their lives to begin with. On the other hand, there are individuals who strive to maintain a relationship with both parties and navigate this delicate course with grace.

Of course, it’s not all about sadness and consolation: for instance, Charlotte, who has been divorced for half a decade, confessed that she felt a sense of relief in no longer having to pretend amiability towards certain relatives and friends. However, for individuals like Ashley, the dissolution of these relationships can bring about deep-seated sorrow. They might also experience an identity crisis as they are suddenly excluded from social circles, invited parties, or even deciding where to sit at their child’s soccer match.

Surviving the Transition:

Jan Schloss, a licensed clinical social worker, parenting coach, and family mediator, often discusses with her clients the challenges associated with losing these relationships.

Schloss offers a different perspective, labeling these as loyalty dilemmas, where many privately grapple with thoughts like, “Whom should I side with, and how can I stay friends with both?”

She advises her clients to “redefine who you are and how you’d like to be in this new phase of your life.” For those who hope to maintain relationships, Schloss emphasizes, “Remember, you are not divorcing your in-laws or extended family with whom you had a meaningful bond.”

There might be potential to continue these relationships, but be prepared emotionally if it’s not possible.

Here are the top five things to consider when dealing with the loss of these relationships:

1. Seek Support: You don’t have to grin and bear it alone. Seek the help of a professional to guide you through the grieving process.

2. Draw Strength from Other Relationships: Divorce is a life-altering process; accept that there will be losses. Maintaining a positive outlook can support resilience and the development of new, fulfilling relationships.

3. Redefine Your Identity: Question yourself, “Who am I?” and “What do I aspire to achieve in life?” Let go of the notion that your identity is tied to your married life.

4. Eliminate Negativity: Constantly lamenting the loss of these relationships can alienate others; it indicates you have not moved forward. Discussing extended family negatively with your children can result in them feeling conflicted, as if maintaining a relationship with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins is a betrayal to you.

5. Prioritize Your Children’s Best Interests: If your children have maintained a positive and loving relationship with extended family and friends, it’s crucial to nurture these connections because good relationships significantly impact a child’s self-esteem.

For some, divorce may feel like a Cold War, creating tension between two friends and their respective supporters. A divorce is not just the end of a marriage, it often results in the loss of other relationships that were important during the married years. As the saying goes, time heals all wounds. Gradually, you’ll come to terms with these losses and fill the void that they leave behind.

Recent Posts