How Do Your Friendships Change After Divorce?
Every year, a group of friends and my family hold a holiday get together between Thanksgiving and Christmas. One family hosts but we all bring food. Each family has a child born in December, so we have a mini birthday celebration.
This year, us wives wore matching tops. These are the families that we have been social distancing with all year; shockingly, we’re not sick and tired of each other.
My friends don’t know yet about my separation from my husband. I haven’t worn my ring in months and we don’t even go as far as to help the other person with their coat. If my friends have caught on, they haven’t said anything (probably easy since I’m not a lovey-dovey-touchy-feely kind of chick).
There’s no point in saying anything since we’re trying to get through living together while separated as best as we can.
Until our kids can go back to school and don’t need us as teachers, this is as far as our separation can take us. I fantasize about winning the lottery and buying the house next door but in the absence of inheriting gobs of money, we’re stuck under one roof during this pandemic.
Throughout the evening with our friends, little things would come up that made me realize how much will change once it’s all out in the open. Will my friends support me? Of course. But the dynamics will change and that scares me.
Stacey talked about the house in Hawaii she and her husband were buying. Aside from using it as a rental property, she discussed getting a place big enough to vacation with other families. Would that be weird? Traveling by myself with just the kids while there are other couples there? Would it be difficult to swap out who watches the kids so the other parents can go out at night? Would my kids be jealous of their friends who have their dads there while they do…uh whatever families do in Hawaii (with an autistic son, we haven’t traveled in a long time. This year was supposed to be the first time we did a true family vacation.) I doubt on one income I’ll be able to afford 3 plane tickets anyway.
We talked about future social gatherings. Erin mentioned how our house was the go-to place for the 4th of July. “People with pools get all the summer events,” she said. We dodged a bullet this year because of COVID, but who knows if we’ll even be in this house next July. I won’t be able to afford a house with a pool on my own if and when we eventually divide our assets. This is southern California; I don’t even think I have the income to afford a house with a driveway.
It struck me how much will change. The guys sat at the dining table eating and talking about…I dunno, dude stuff. Us wives hovered in the kitchen (because we hoarded the artichoke dip and the kitchen was the best spot to keep toasting bread). I thought about how having an uneven ratio of men to women would change our social gatherings. No question, the vibe will change.
What about the times that I don’t have the kids? Realistically, I’m the one who keeps our friends in a divorce. Even my husband said so. I built and maintain our social networks. What happens when 50% of these events happen on the days I don’t have the kids? Am I going to be the weird random lady showing up without children, when having our kids play together is a critical part of these gatherings?
I’m not worried about after-hours social functions like Moms Night Out. I’m worried about not attending playdates and gatherings that almost always center around our kids. Missing events over time erode friendships. Like any relationship, being present matters.
Years ago, for one of my kid’s birthdays, a divorced friend of mine didn’t attend because it wasn’t her weekend with the kids. So her ex brought her kids with his new girlfriend. I’m not going to lie, it was weird. I like her ex-husband but I’m not friends with him. The girlfriend, bless her heart, tried but looked so uncomfortable. How many events would my husband attend instead of me, feeling awkward?
We don’t have any family nearby. I’ve spent almost two decades building our social networks. Maintaining those relationships is important to me. While I don’t think our friends will purposely shun us (I wouldn’t be friends with assholes like that), I think our friendships will organically change over time differently than if we stayed married.
It’s hard to feel included when you haven’t attended events that people talk about months and years later. My kids will feel left out constantly hearing about That Year We All Went to Hawaii; I know I will too.
Perhaps I’m putting the cart before the horse. I’m a planner, and planning for the worst is my coping mechanism. I anticipate bad things and adjust accordingly. Instead of putting my head in the sand, I’d rather research how I can maintain these relationships after a divorce than sit and hope for the best.
Sigh. Just add “Maintain Friendships After The Dynamics Change” on my list of things to do. I’ll shove it between “Finalize Separation Agreement” and “Determine Who Gets the Big TV When We Sell the House”.