Friends may not know how to respond when they hear of your divorce. Often this is surprising news, and other times, it is long overdue in their minds. Either way, it may difficult for family friends to support each spouse equally; it is common for outsiders to pick one or the other spouse with whom to continue in friendship. This can be confusing and hard to accept - it multiplies loss of partner and community support, which can be quite painful.
Regardless of friends’ initial reaction, some relationships will come around and be a great support in moving forward. These connections are powerful – nurture them!
However, if you find that some people aren’t encouraging you to move ahead, the relationship may need pruning. Gardeners know that pruning a tree promotes growth. In fact, severe pruning allows for shaping to allow for stronger branches and better yield. This is true in human relationships also. Individuals have a finite ability to connect deeply others. We are constrained by the many competing obligations and forces that come to bear: work & family obligations; physical energy; the need for time alone to process, heal, grieve, and rebuild.
PRUNE: It has been said that "GOOD" is the enemy of "BEST." When unsatisfying jobs, social connections, and habits are determined to be too high a cost, it is time to prune. Living with emptiness for a time can be meaningful; these are times of freedom to contemplate what it is that you truly need. No one lives in a vacuum for very long, however, so you will need to strategically seek new and healthier connections and outlets to fill these voids.
ASSESS: Accurate assessments about your life can be brutal; owning your part in the failure of a marriage may seem humbling. But you are the long-term winner when you are able to own your stuff, because as you move forward, you will do so with greater poise and confidence than you may have thought possible. Assess your work, the quality of your relationship with your children, and your financial strength and prospects in the future. Do you have a supportive group of friends and family, or do they tend to make you feel bad about your family transition? Working with a therapist can relieve some of the burden that supportive relationships bear on your behalf during difficult transitions. Be aware of how much you require from each friend - what it costs them to support you. Be thankful verbally, acknowledge their support.
BUILD: Look at each sector of your life (relationships, work, housing, hobbies, finance, etc.) Are there areas that stand out as less than best? Most people plod along and only think in terms of what is – what currently exists rather than what could be. This is most likely due to our tendency to avoid change. We acclimate to our surroundings and forget about the many opportunities just outside of our tightly-held world. A major transition, like a divorce, can be the catalyst to moving into a more satisfying life. The changes required will most certainly bring more challenge than reward initially. With time, these changes can yield great long-term satisfaction. For example, is you job satisfying? If not, evaluate where your skills lie and assess your budget carefully. You may be able to make a career change quickly, or it may take some planning, such as schooling, skill building, networking, and other activities that will connect you with a job that gives you satisfaction as well as a paycheck.
Transitions can be brutal, but they can also provide a freedom that you didn’t realize existed.