What is the role of friends in separation? Let’s consider this before we get into things. One of the definitions of a friend is someone you can rely on.
Before you separate you believe that your friends will remain with you giving unconditional support. It probably never occurred to you that any of your friends would be a casualty of separation – understandably, it is something that you never gave any thought to.
Real friends stick around, can bear you telling the story of your pain over and over again and go out of their way to support you.
Friendships during a long term relationship are complicated. Some of them might have grown out of the relationship i.e. friends you made together as a couple and other friends might be those that each of you brought with you.
Unfortunately there are so many other unforeseen losses involved in separation apart from the relationship and often one of them is that some friends fall by the wayside. Of course, that is particularly painful when, pre-separation, you had no reason to doubt them.
It is truly painful and shocking when you discover that good friends aren’t as available to you as they have been or that they seem more interested in pursuing a friendship with your ex rather than you. It is difficult but not terminal if you can see it as part of the shake-up of separation.
Concentrate on those people who are loyal to you who deserve your appreciation and thought, not the ones who can’t accommodate change. Those ‘friends’ who see their bread buttered by choosing your ex rather than you don’t really understand the meaning of true friendship. It is important not to become preoccupied by it.
Some friends are simply too short sighted to maintain a friendship post-separation. When you come up for air you will see that the friends who have stayed are the important ones and there are many more waiting in the wings willing to share their experiences and their similar values with you and create with you new stories and memories.
Change is extremely painful and frightening but out of it comes new choices and life. There is a choice to be made when you are a bit further down the line from the shock or grief of new separation. That choice is how you wish to live your life which includes the type of people that you want to have in it. Those friends who have deserted you are probably not as good as you thought they were.
There are all sorts of friendships and some people are only in it for what you provide for them. Once that is turned around and you need something from them, you may not see them for dust. You don’t need people like that in your life. It is a matter of adjusting to the new order of things.
Real friends stick around, can bear you telling the story of your pain over and over again and go out of their way to support you. Those friends need to be celebrated, a story of real connection and meaning. Real friends know how to give and take and can stay around when the chips are down. It doesn’t matter if you are left with one or ten; the quality of your friendship is what is important.
What Is Important In A Friend?
Make a list of what is important to you in a friend. Match that list against those you know and value the ones that meet your needs and wishes. Everyone else is unimportant. Sometimes people need you more than you need them but when you separate it is your turn to call in the help. If a really important friend of yours has fallen short and just can’t be there for you, it is part of the loss of separation and something to be mourned. Inevitably, there are casualties but it is not just the end of something – it is truly the beginning of something new.
Your friend’s job post-separation is to help you get back a sense of self-esteem and remind you that you matter to them and others. It is their role to listen to you and be there for you, whatever you need. If they can’t do that, they are not worth it. They need to listen without pushing their own agenda. They may have all sorts of views about what you should feel about your ex, but it ismore helpful to you if they can give you the space to express what you feel.
Friends, also without meaning to be hurtful, can try to get you to ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’. Although they may have good intentions, it would help if you could tell them what you need from them and that you will be ready to get over it, but only when you feel you are. Sometimes even a good friend needs guidance on how to manage you in a crisis. A good friend will adapt to what you need. If you have a friend who is dependable, non-judgemental and willing to listen, then you are going to be just fine.
Postscript. Signposting for your friend(s) to additional support and relevant organisations can be found in this link.
Issues arising out of divorce or separation can often prove stressful for the couple and other family members. This article written by Dylan Watkins GP offers a useful overview for those who may be struggling. We all want to keep an eye on our friends at time like this.
Charlotte Friedman is a contributor to ‘Separating With Children 101’, 3rd edition (Bath Publishing, 2003).