Do You Have Friends or Frenemies?
When I left my marriage two years ago, I thought the most painful part would be ending the relationship. What happened blindsided me. People appeared from everywhere with opinions: friends, acquaintances, and family got involved in our break up and the majority sided with my ex.
After the initial shock passed, I did some research. What I was experiencing wasn’t all that uncommon.
Women Do the Leaving
It’s not an easy decision to leave a long-term relationship. 70% of the time, it’s the women who end up leaving marriages. Even if your relationship has been toxic or abusive, there’s this strange thing that happens: The person who leaves becomes the villain.
People say they won’t take sides but it’s human nature. We can’t help making judgments on who was right or wrong, even though it’s really none of our business.
If you’ve left your relationship, don’t be surprised if your friends and family react in unexpected ways.
4 Friends You’ll Lose During A Breakup
Spies in disguise
An acquaintance, Jeremy, showed up at my door a week after I left my ex and wanted to have a chat. I invited him in and poured us cups of tea. It was a bit odd, he was always closer to my ex than me, but I thought it was kind of him to check in and see how I was. He certainly had a lot of questions.
A few weeks later, two of my new friends — one of them a guy — invited me to a ball to cheer me up. We got dressed up in ballgowns and suits, posted photos of ourselves on Facebook: “Off to the ball!”, and had a great night of food and dancing.
The following day, my guy friend messaged me.
“I just had a strange phone call from Jeremy.”
Jeremy hardly knew my friend. It all started feeling a bit bizarre. “Really? Why?”
“He asked if I was dating you. He said if we were he’d have to have a word with me.”
Furious, I immediately messaged Jeremy. He got defensive and said he was, “Just protecting my reputation.”
I promptly told him to stay out of my business.
Jeremy was supporting my ex and thought keeping an eye on me would help somehow.
Be wary of acquaintances who suddenly show a lot of interest. You definitely don’t need friends with ulterior motives!
She says, “Shortly after my separation, I became super aware of how many “concern trolls” were in my life. I had trouble articulating why their comments bothered me because they come across as caring!”
She continues and gives us examples, one of which I heard myself from a friendly concern troll of my own:
- “Are you sure you shouldn’t just go back to your husband? I’m just thinking of what’s best for you and your children.”
- Translation: “Even though your husband is a drug addict who embezzled from his job, it doesn’t matter! You‘re being a shitty mom if you break up your family.”
My ex wasn’t a drug addict embezzling money from his job like Tara’s was, but I relate to the translation she’s given. Concern trolls don’t fully understand your situation, whatever it is, or even really care. They’ve passed judgement already and are trying to subtly push their views onto you.
“I had trouble articulating why their comments bothered me because they come across as caring!”
Their “support” sounds caring but concern trolling lacks empathy. Good friends don’t concern troll. They state outright what they disagree with, listen to your views, and offer genuine support.
If a good friend thought you were making the wrong choice leaving your relationship they would say it more honestly:
“I’m not sure I understand why you’ve left. Do you think there’s any chance of saving the relationship?” Then they would shut up and listen.
Losing concern troll friends is no great loss. They’ve shown their true colors and you’re better off without them.
When you’re in a relationship, a number of your friends will be other couples. You hang out together as a group, have dinner parties, and go away with each other’s families. You met as a couple and socialize that way, so when your relationship ends, it gets awkward. Who gets the friends?
I experienced this when a number of my friends ended their marriages as well as with my own. You want to stay friends with both parties but it’s easier said than done.
The good news is, when you meet new people as a single you’ll know they’re hanging out because they genuinely like you, not just your partner!
Usually you end up hearing one side of the story more than the other and often, out of habit, you visit the person who stayed in the family home.
If you’re the one who left, it’s likely you’ll lose your couple friends.
Some of them might come back after everything calms down, others won’t. The good news is, when you meet new people as a single you’ll know they’re hanging out because they genuinely like you, not just your partner!
Religious and Opinionated friends
Marriage breakups have an added layer of complication when you’re religious. I come from a family where my parents divorced and my father was a minister. He was judged for his divorcee status regularly by legalistic individuals, so I wasn’t naive about it. I knew that divorce isn’t ideal but it’s often necessary.
As a Christian, I also knew some of my friends were less understanding about divorce. When I left my marriage they voiced their opinions in a rather “un-christian” way, mostly behind my back.
I live in a small and relatively sheltered community. It’s a lovely place to raise a family, but also a place where people’s views go unchallenged much of the time. Strong opinions thrive in places like this.
If your friends leave you because your divorce challenges their views, let them go. You don’t answer to them anyway — it’s between you and God.
After a relationship ends, you may find some friendships do too. It’s upsetting at the time, but it’s actually a positive thing. Losing old friends opens up an opportunity to discover new higher-quality friends.
They are out there! I found them and so will you.