Parents can make for bad friends. Moms even more so. Single moms? Well, we’re pretty much the worst. We can be completely self-absorbed. We never have time to go out and if we do, it’s always last minute. Our minds are always preoccupied. We forget things, special days, maybe even a birthday here or there. For the record, none of these reasons are unwarranted.
Being a parent is hard. Doing it solo? Even more so.
Divorce isn’t just a break up between you and your husband. There are so many varying aspects to part with. Among them? Friendships.
There are the friends who feel they must take side-dives, the friends who stay away because they don’t know what to say, and the friends who keep you at arm’s length for fear you may steal their husband. If you’re really lucky, you have a few friends who make it through these barriers – the ones who bring you medicine when your kids are sick, the ones you can call at 9 pm for milk, the kind that make you feel a little less alone. These types of friends are few and far between.
Divorce is like a hurricane and can wipe out everything in its path. Friendships are tested more than ever. Your friends, even the really good ones, try to understand what you’re going through. But unless it happens to them, they just never quite will.
They won’t understand the abject loneliness of sitting in a quiet empty house on a holiday. They won’t comprehend celebrating your birthday alone because your kids are too young to know the days on the calendar. They definitely don’t get the struggles of dating. Anyone who’s heard, “You just need to lower your standards,” or “Don’t worry. One day he’ll come!” can attest to this.
The Divide Between the Marrieds and The Not Marrieds
This way of thinking creates a divide between The Marrieds and The Not Marrieds. It’s comforting to seek out people in life situations similar to your own – people who just get it. People who understand that plans can change at the whim of an ex, that a night home with the kids will always take precedence over anything else and that some days just suck, for no reason and every reason, and all at once.
After a while, you look around at all your divorced friends and are overcome with sadness. You start comparing your life to theirs and saying, “God, if I’m still single at her age, just make sure I have clean underwear on and throw me into oncoming traffic.” It sounds dire, but you do feel like you don’t belong in the world of the marrieds, and you’re not fully in the world of the divorced either.
So where does that leave us? Straddling two worlds but standing nowhere. So we start at the beginning, like going back to kindergarten and learning how to make friends all over again, only with stretch marks and debt.
Starting Over With Friendships
We identify what exactly it is we require from a friendship and ask if the present ones uphold that. We make hard realizations that many do not fulfill us or our needs. With so little time to ourselves, and so many external frustrations, our level of tolerance and patience has waned significantly.
We’ve already been parted from what is supposed to be our other half, so what’s losing a few friends here or there? But we are wrong. Because where love ends, friendship begins. The right friends see us as greater versions of ourselves. Where we see the bad, they see the good. And where they see the bad, you better listen to them.
Healing is not linear. It has ups and downs.
Just when you think you’re coasting and in the clear, you dip once more. True and lasting friendships follow the same path. There’s good times and bad times. There are ups and there are downs but at the end of the day, at 2 am when your youngest is burning with fever and needs to go to the ER, you know they’ll be there.
We as divorcees can definitely make for pretty crappy friends but we can also be the very best kind. If we are reflective and insightful with our personal healing, we gain perspectives we never had before. We have the potential to see the bigger picture and really assess a situation. We empathize as only ones who have shared heartbreak can.
It is in spite and because of this that we must extend the patience we desperately need to our friends as well. Give them the benefit of the doubt; they want to help, they just don’t know how to. They want to be there but have their own problems and issues. They want to be friends with both exes but just don’t how to navigate both worlds. This understanding need not manifest in a conversation or in a heart to heart. It can just be assumed as the new normal, a new reality that exists but need not be discussed.
Humans can go three weeks without food (and by food, I mean Starbucks) three days without water (and by water I mean vodka) and eleven days without sleep (and by sleep I really just mean sleep.) But there’s not one person who can go through a divorce without their friends and by friends I mean the people who love you when you’re at your least lovable, care for you when you don’t know how to care for yourself and bring you Starbucks, vodka, and Ambien when you need it most.