Article by Ceri Wheeldon
From my own experience, friendships do change as you go through a divorce – and your new life creates opportunities for new friendships.
Divorce is never easy at any age – and navigating your way through friendships as you go through the process and come through the other side can be difficult – especially if you have an ex who not only tries to take ‘ownership’ of assets but clearly sets out friends he believes he ‘owns’ as well! Not an issue to be argued in the divorce courts, but certainly one that needs some careful handling.
I have been incredibly lucky in that as a result of my divorce I have some very special friendships that have become stronger now that my ex is out of my life, but I also recognised that I could not just go along seeing only the same friends that I had previously, but had to get out and meet new people as well – not least because my friends were busy in their lives as couples most weekends and also because it was good to spend time with people seeing me through fresh eyes – and not as part of the couple with the life we led together.
Going to meetup groups
One of the best things I did was join a local meetup group – the first one I went along to was a French conversation group – I decided to join a group where I was actually doing something rather than just meeting. Everyone was friendly, and from there it was suggested that I go along to another local meetup group that just met for drinks. I have to admit that walking into the venue on that first evening was not easy – but I was quickly made to feel welcome. As I continued to go to their events I got to meet people I clicked with – who I now see outside of the group. We meet up on weekends for coffee, theatre and cinema visits, days out at National Trust properties, walks. But, what I have noticed , is that you need to be careful that you do not get too involved with people who thrive on drama and negativity. If you are feeling vulnerable, the last thing you want is to get pulled down by people who seem to revel in problems.
Be with positive people
I saw my divorce process as something I had to get through to win back my freedom and my new life – the divorce was not my life and not something I wanted to be defined by. But I have met a number of single women who seem to be stuck in a loop, and it seems just want a new ear to listen to the same problem that they do not seem to want to resolve and another woman with a problem could be a new addition to the negativity club. As I was moving forward to with my own life, I realised that every time I saw them the conversations were like broken records, with discussions about the same issues which in some cases had lasted decades, and no intention or motivation seemingly to change perspectives or situations. I used to come home feeling drained – and decided to limit my time spent with the misery brigade – although continue to be supportive – and spend time with those who were positive that I actually looked forward to spending time with. If you want to talk about your divorce – then do so, but based on my experience my advice would be to try not to let the talk about your divorce be the focus of the friendship- develop new friendships with those with similar interests – not similar problems
I found that I it was good to plan more things ahead, something I got out of the habit of when I was married. I book dates in the dairy with friends ahead of time – we don’t always decide what to do until closer to the day, unless we have booked tickets for an exhibition or event. Things don’t have to be expensive or complicated. A few weekends ago I had a Saturday booked with friends and we decided to just go to Oxford for the day ( a tip – with a network rail card you get discounted travel for yourself and 3 friends on weekends). On the spur of the moment when we arrived we decided to go punting – something none of us had ever done before. Great fun – and a change from shopping! W
Appreciating time on your own
To be honest, I also like to have time on my own. I love experimenting with new recipes – and I do cook for one- or just catching up on Netflix or popping out for a swim or reading a good book. My time is my own now – and it is a luxury to just to relax with no plan.
And what about the friends prior to the divorce. Some of the couples I see more of than when I was married – I am told that I am far more relaxed to be around than I was with him , and I still join couples for dinner – and they come to me. And of course I do things with the wives separately – more so than before. I still have friendships that predate my marriage – those remain unchanged – apart from I now see them more often – so all positive!
I think my situation was a little extreme in terms of my ex’s view ‘ownership’ of friends, I did take the conscious decision not to contact those on ‘his’ list – really to avoid creating a situation that they were uncomfortable with and cause any additional friction with him- ironically those that mattered have all contacted me – taking exception to the fact that he was seemingly dictating who they should be friends with. Purely by coincidence I found myself not just on the same flight, but in the next seat to somebody on ‘his’ list , who had not heard from him and had no idea we were getting divorced but wondered why they hadn’t seen us. My friendship with them I am happy to say has resumed. I think fate can play a hand in bringing the right people into your life at the right time !
Be positive and spend time with positive people. Look for meetup groups that are based on your interests- there are groups that are purely social but also groups that are more sports based. Join local sports clubs, participate in village events. Say yes to invitations. Be open to new people and opportunities.
Embrace your new life – and welcome new people into it.