When we think about separating from our partner or spouse, is there a part of us that also wonders about the impact that separation will have on our mutual friendships? Will they take sides and pick a team? Will they stay in touch? Will the invitations to social events dry up?
For me, my friends and family are my life. I met my oldest and dearest friend in grade 1 and then there are other wonderful friends from my school days, my work, from sport and through school parents. If you’re in my inner circle, you will always have my love and my loyalty. The question is, do I have their love and loyalty after separation.
For me the answer was ‘yes’. For others that answer is ‘no’. How do you manage your own expectations and reaction of your friends, whilst coping with the loss of your relationship?
I spoke to a close friend about his separation and what the impact was on his and his wife’s mutual friendships. He said he has only one mutual friend from his marriage. It is one of his best mates and that mate and his wife have stayed in contact with and catch up with his ex-wife from time to time. He wasn’t concerned about that. In fact, would expect nothing less.
On how he felt about the loss of mutual friends, he said it was a shame as there didn’t seem to be a reason for it. There were a number of other ‘couple friends’ that didn’t bother picking up the phone to see if he was ‘okay’ after the separation, and at the time it was disappointing.
When my friend was recollecting what it was like for him and those friendships, he recalled that there were quite a few ‘school couples’ from his boys’ school that disappeared. They saw each other at school events, but in terms of socialising, it instantly stopped.
My friend didn’t really know whether he would have done anything different.
I have spoken before about how lucky I was with my separation and the impact it had on our family and our ability to move forward. I reiterate it again, I was lucky. I am lucky. We socialise with our mutual friends, attend family friends’ funerals and some of my closest long-term friends are Facebook friends with my ex-husband. I think it’s great. Our romantic relationship may end, but our mutual friendships don’t need to suffer the same fate.
Having said that, I do recall one of our friends saying to me after our separation, “what does this mean for our friendship group. You guys were the linchpin. I don’t want the group to separate”. And I guess overtime that person was right. We were the linchpin and slowly that group stopped socialising together. Perhaps that’s life. There will always be friends that come and go, and not only because there’s a relationship breakdown.
There’s nothing really a family lawyer can say or advise a client about managing mutual friendships, save to say, just as a child shouldn’t be asked to choose a parent, mutual friends shouldn’t be asked to pick a side. As I often say to a client, there can never be too many people who love your child. The same applies to the adult on separation. We need our friends, our lifelines to manage the grief and loss of a relationship, provided our friends are neutral and kind for all the right reasons.
Friendships require work just like a romantic relationship. If you want the mutual friendships to last, pick up the phone and say hello.