Divorce can cause a whole spectrum of loss. Not just the loss of your partner and spouse, but also the loss of relationships with friends and family. It may be surprising to you just who you count among the lost, sometimes including friends you considered yours, known prior to the marriage, and your own blood relations under certain conditions. Is there a way to recover friendships and repair relationships with skittish family members after your marriage dissolves? Try the following tips to come out of this life-altering event with intact ties to as many important people in your life as possible.
Maintain An Even Keel
It is completely understandable that you have moments when you fall apart during the time it takes to complete your divorce. But as much as possible, particularly with people you and your soon to be ex spouse both count as friends, try to keep the pain and despair of the situation off or on a low burner. It can be difficult for mutual friends not to pick sides, or frankly walk away from both of you, but if you refuse to let the impending dissolution color every exchange and conversation it may be easier for your friends to give you the time and space you need to get through the divorce without abandoning you.
Carefully Consider Whom You Want To Keep
It is sad but true that misery loves company. Be cautious about the friends you share the vivid details with during a divorce. You may find that they are energized by your new-found pain and work hard to keep your level of outrage high even if you are trying for an amicable split. They may feel supporting you means rejecting your ex, and if you are parenting together or otherwise trying for a civil dissolution the last thing you need is someone who whips you back into a frenzy. Friends you want to keep can support and love you without hating your ex, allowing everyone to evolve into a comfortable post-divorce scenario that does not require backtracking and judgment.
Don’t Take It Personally If Some Friends Vanish
Even if you try your best to be upbeat and fair throughout the divorce there will be some friends who just can’t manage the change. For some your newly won freedom may be perceived as a threat. For others they just may find walking a neutral path too exhausting or contrary to what they believe is their role. Mourn them a bit, reach out once or twice, but then move on. Even without an event like a marriage dissolution you may have lost this type of friend anyway, due to other changes in situation they could not reconcile.
Give Some Time And Space
Let the pieces fall into place after your divorce and then try to reconnect with friends who have backed away. Send a card or a email that talks about the relationship you and the friend had. Emphasize what you miss and value about the person. If you have been honest with yourself about why you want this friendship to renew–nothing to do with winning or loosing after the divorce, but everything to do with reestablishing a bond with this friend– make that desire shine through.
Your Family Is Complicated
Remember the old adage that you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends if some members of your own family remain cold after the divorce is final. Your dissolution may look to some family members like a failure to hold a marriage together, an embarrassment to them or a great sadness if they had become close over time with your spouse. Just as with friends do not take it personally as they mourn the union, which is not the same as rejecting you, although it can feel similar.
Give your own family members who struggle with connecting with you after a divorce as much time as they need and permission to grieve. This includes your children, adult or not, and even your own parents and siblings who learned to love your spouse like a son, daughter, sister or brother. Try not to react if you are perceived to be at fault and just be as kind and calm as possible, and do not speak ill of your former spouse. The long-time bond you have with family usually wins out if you behave appropriately after divorce.
Your Ex’s Family Is Difficult
You may have forged deep and loving relationships with your ex spouse’s family during the marriage and be loath to let these people, now dear to you, go. The best advice is to be as fair and circumspect during the divorce and aftermath as you can. Leave blaming and shaming to others. Remember that they are also grieving over the schism, and trying to make sense of the situation. The way you treat your ex and the co-parenting of any children will be a huge factor in how your relationship with his or her family pans out after the divorce. As with others, time, space and a healthy dose of tolerance will be the best combination to salvage a working relationship with your ex’s family post dissolution.