“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.