“It’s a life changer.”
I heard this phrase from several divorced friends when they found out I was getting divorced. On the surface, it sounds so obvious. Of course it’s a life changer.
But they meant it at so many levels.
The first level is obviously a change in marital and romantic status. Along with this change, you learn to become a handyman or find one. You learn that the gourmet meals you used to cook on weeknights are a thing of the past—not enough time. You learn how to navigate your own soul again, if you’ve forgotten in the years of complacent coupledom (and most of us have). And you learn which parties and events will be fun solo and which one level of hell.
But what most of my fellow divorcees stressed was the sea change in relationships with people you used to call friends.
At the time they shared this advice, I thought (somewhat naively)—it’s too bad they didn’t choose their friends more wisely and so many folks let them down. But my friends are solid. I’m covered.
Turns out I’m not inoculated from poor judgment—either on my part or theirs.
It turns out, some fairly consistent “types” show up, if you compare notes with other women who have been through the wringer.
The beauty of it is, while divorce itself is painful, it is a pruning process. If you take it all in, it strips you down to the bare minimum so you can decide what’s worth keeping and what’s not. Or should I say who is and who is not. Some choices are made for you, by others. But you’re left to sort the rest yourself.
I did not do this sorting in a mean or spiteful way, but the wisdom that comes with the pain of a divorce is hard earned. I wish these people well on their journey, even if I dislike the way they’re taking it. I just know they’re not meant to share mine. I was able to run into one of these gals at a recent event and give her a genuine smile while strolling on by her. Even though she has been an absolute shameless jerk. I am in a good place and she is—well, wherever she is. No matter.
One of the biggest lessons is that time and energy invested in a relationship cannot be retrieved once invested. When you get that big idea, the sorting happens whether purposeful or not.
And so, I share with you a list of friends I used to know. If you recognize any of these in your own life, I’ll leave what you do with that to you.
The “poor you” cheerleader. She is always there for you—as long as her life is going better than yours. She is great in the early days of divorce, when you’re all in messy bits, but when you start getting it together—when, in fact, things start looking up for you—she suddenly retreats. You realize that while there to discuss the devastation, it is somehow to make her feel better about her own situation. As if she was thinking: “Look at this poor thing. I may not be very happy but at least I’m not divorced.” When she sees that the misery does not last forever and—gasp—that you may be on your way to a joy she has no hope of achieving in her current situation, she flees. If you can share my sadness, don’t begrudge me my joy, sister. Sayonara.
The “keep your hands off my man” poster girl. If she says one more time, “Oh, we should have you over for a barbecue . . .”, don’t hold your breath. It ain’t gonna’ happen, missy. It’s her way of appearing to still be friendly while she distances from you. She has no plans to have you over for that barbecue, glass of wine or Sunday brunch. Do you know why? Because in one fell swoop, your divorce has made you a wanton woman who lusts after any male in a 50-foot vicinity. And she’s going to keep you 10 times that distance from her man. As if I’d want that beer-swilling, sweatpant-wearing, joyless lout. Seriously, ladies—if I wanted a man glued to the television screen, there are plenty of single men happy to fulfill that role. I certainly don’t need or want to chase after your married version. And by the way, how long have you known me? Have you ever known me to be the kind of gal that dated someone else’s boyfriend? Let alone her husband? I think this says less about how well you know me and a lot about how little you admit your relationship insecurities to yourself. Adios.
The devout diva. She knows the rules and rules are to be followed. Nice girls get married and stay married. They grit their teeth and bite their tongue through the worst of it. Even if it’s soul killing or perilous or degrading—they put up with it because dammit, that’s what they promised to do at that altar. Don’t you know God is more concerned about you following the rules than about your soul’s journey? The tightness around her eyes and fine lines (from so much lip pursing) let you know that she is certainly miserable but also determined to be so because she believes the alternative would damn her soul. Or at least, that’s what she tells herself. So she smiles condescendingly, avoiding you as much as possible lest your soul’s smudge besmirch hers by simple proximity. You get the feeling she “prays for you” in church in only the way someone who thinks she is a good person whilst judging all of us can. Since you can get all of the above from your enemies in quantity, you may as well give up friends who provide it also. It’s totally redundant. I say arrivederci.
Gossip girl. And I don’t mean in that young, hip trendy way the CW network showed them. I mean in that ugly way, the way that tells you she is either bored to tears with her own life (hence the interest in broadcasting yours) or is trying so hard to avoid a close look at hers that she thinks a close look at yours is worth her time. Either way, a sad commentary. All that energy that could be moving her to a better place is spent discussing events in which she has no starring role. While you move on. Whether it’s done under the pretense of concern for your situation or just blatant jawing about things she knows little of, no matter.
To Gossip Girl and all of her cohorts, I say au revoir. With the French I’ve begun to learn in the free time I now have to work on my bucket list. It’s the time I used to spend with these lovely dames and it’s now much better spent. In my next blog, I’ll fill you in on the keepers. The friends I’d walk through fire for without batting an eye. I bet you’ll recognize a few of your own keepers.
Pruning has its benefits, after all. C’est la vie.
24 Comments Add yours
This is gorgeous, Kay. Thank you for sharing it with me.
My favorite: “One of the biggest lessons is that time and energy invested in a relationship cannot be retrieved once invested. When you get that big idea, the sorting happens whether purposeful or not.”
So true. I also admire the reader who told if her relative who had cancer and decided to put herself first. Why must we tolerate such bullshit until we get sick?! I admire you Kay. You’re someone who makes a lot of sense.
Thank you, Molly! After reading your post, I realized you and I were simpatico on this one. I always enjoy your writing also. You’ve got a great voice in every piece . . .
PS: I loved that pruning in this case… didn’t necesarrily mean the ex husband! lol. I can relate so much to the friends you described! Fortunately the ones who were there for me… back then…. still are! Also… I had one… a good one… for ya… her girls didn’t understand “why Brookie’s daddy wasn’t living with her anymore” and she had to explain to them. OUCH! for a bff to be so clueless and repeat that conversation to an already oozing pain out of every pore buddy of hers is beyone me. The kicker is… she is going thru her own divorce now a few decades later. People just need to think or shut up! And the sad thing is… they do think and cut ya anyway.
Great post! I hope the people who need to read this! And become better friends!
I was married for fourteen years. And then I wasn’t. You wake up everyday feeling as someone is scraping your soul from the inside out. I don’t think the pain of being in labor is quite as bad as the first few months of divorce. But then a day goes by when you don’t cry about it and then another and another and you start to turn the pages and feel you can begin to start to write the next chapter.
(My only advice is don’t write it too fast, take your time to really let the previous chapters resonate) And then pick up that pen as if there is not tomorrow and begin writing that proverbial next chapter cuzzz honey there is life after divorce! I wasted so much time beating myself up for what I thought was a failure. I hated that I was another statistic. When I vowed to love forever… I had meant it. I mean you really have to be a bubble off if on your wedding day you are thinking anything but forever… Though maybe that is healthier, I’d like to believe that most of us are hopeless romantics and still believe in happily ever after…. Take it from me… it can happen. Fast forward a few decades and I am here to tell you as I celebrate my twentieth year this year of marriage to a great guy that ended up doing the job my first husband started out doing…. There is life after divorce! Ya just gotta pick up that pen and write your own next chapter!
Love your writing!
Cicked follow as soon as I read your first post! 😉
I love the idea of taking your time to write next chapter. I’m always amazed at the number of people who rush into the next relationship. So glad to hear it worked out for you–gives me hope for the future. And the good news is, am already writing that chapter ever so slowly. It’s wonderful.
Pruning is a wonderful thing. Bring it down to the strong and beautiful core so it can flourish and blossom even more than before. Spring is here woman – flourish
Very poetic, Gail!
I had a relative that told me cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her. Now, I have a hard time truly wrapping myself around those words but …… she said it was the first time in her 50+ years she finally said f*ck you to everyone and started to put herself first. I know divorce is not cancer and cancer is not divorce but both are life changing events and both put things into perspective. Lucky are those that for whatever reason get a chance to step back and look at things with perspective and then after all the heartache, hard work and strength to fight thru are the better for it.
I absolutely get the connection, Erin. Those life changing events shake us out of autopilot like little else does. A shame we don’t just pay attention as a matter of course.
Ugh, pathetic eye roll to all those chicks… You’re so right to let them out of your life. Hi-5!
I hear you!
Yep, I know some “friends” (&, unfortunately – in terms of a pruning process – biological or married-in family members as well) that fall into some of those descriptions… Well-said!
Don’t we all, unfortunately? Hardest, I think, when it’s family.
My heart softens reading your words that before now were like rose thorns poking me. Now I’m pruning and feeling more empowered. Thank you for posting this!
One of the nicest things you can say to a writer is that she moved you. Glad I did!
I’m glad you’ve smoked them out! 🙂 Think I’ve met some of these women myself… It’s interesting to see the patterns and the experience helps me talk to my kids about what it means to be a good friend. Looking forward to the next post.
That’s a good way of putting it, Shara. Amazing how when God closes one door He really does open another . . .
I agree with this tip of pruning! Bravo. Thanks for sharing, Lee!
Thanks for reading, Beth.
You are welcome. http://www.segmation.com
Healing has truly begun!
Oh yes. Well drawn. I know a few of these women. Can’t wait to read your next blog post.
I figured you might recognize a few, Lee!