There are an endless amount of statistics and studies that will tell you how many marriages end in divorce. There are just as many that will tell you how awful divorce is, especially on the children, when that’s a factor. But, what about all the great divorces? How often do you hear about them? I’ve heard about them. I’ve even seen them in real life. I admit, it’s a bit of a shock to see a divorced couple carry on like lifelong best friends. It’s weird to see a woman befriend her ex-husband’s new wife or a man to have a guy’s day with his ex-wife’s new husband. Seeing families blend in this rather peculiar way challenges everything we’ve learned to fear about divorce and breakups. It makes them sound like a viable solution and even a happy ending. I’m not naive. I know that divorce can be one of the most painful experiences in a person’s life. It can also be just as beautiful and meaningful as the day a couple first tied-the-knot. I’m Catholic and I’m pretty sure there are a lot of people who would be very bothered that I’m here publicly suggesting divorce as the answer. Well, they can save their hateful words. I’m not talking about marriage at all. I’m talking about friendship. I’m talking about those relationships that really meant something and are no longer working. I’m talking about all those terrible friend breakups that end so badly that the parties never speak to each other again. I’m talking about salvaging the good things in those relationships so that they don’t have to be “all for nothing.” I’m talking about those friendships that slowly begin to vanish until they’ve completely disappeared.
Friendships could learn a lot from Divorce. You see, divorce is a process. It’s not just a heated moment when one best friend hangs up the phone on another and the parties never speak again. Many of the great divorces are derived from friendship. When a couple realizes they no longer bring out the best in each other and might even bring out the worst, they stop to ponder. When a wife realizes her husband is truly unhappy or vice versus, there’s a part of them that truly wants their partner to be happy again. When a couple has been going in different directions for so long they can barely see each other in the distance, they part ways, rather than pull someone along on a journey they don’t feel like taking. When the laughs are farther and fewer between, they want to preserve the laughs they once shared, rather than let them be lost in recent tears, and ultimately forgotten.
Sometimes, when done right, divorce works like a filter to separate all the wonderful memories and good stuff, from the bad times and waste. Instead of throwing a longtime relationship away, they redefine it completely. In doing so, many of the best parts remained untouched and the important moments shared, don’t lose their value. Not everyone was meant to be our lifelong good friend. That doesn’t mean we have to throw the friendship away altogether. If friends took the same approach many married couples do, when it’s just not working, I think the success rates would be remarkable. It easy for us to over-think complicated issues in our lives, especially when it’s something we need to make a decision about. One thing I’ve been pretty good at over the years is not burning bridges with people I may have once called friend. When friends begin to have fundamentally different circles of friends, political beliefs, religious values, parenting ideas, and lifestyles, it can be hard to maintain that friendship. Before throwing it all away in one big climatic explosion, here are four steps most people with great divorces take that can help preserve your friendship.
1. This isn’t working for me anymore.
This first step of being honest with ourselves can be very difficult. We have to go well under the surface and dig deep, often well outside of our comfort zones, reaching into a rarely disturbed self-understanding. It’s not the time try to figure out who’s fault it really is. It’s the time when fault doesn’t even matter. It’s the time when we make the conscious decision that something has to change because we can’t keep going this way. It’s about self, not the other person. It’s the time when we ask ourselves the really BIG question; is this working for me? If it’s not, then we have to identify what specifically is broken.
2. Can it be fixed?
This part is about the pair and not just about self. We must have the discussion. We must find the courage and strength to articulate our concerns and the patience and grace to listen. It’s a time to lay it on the line share our honest concerns, expectations, and proposed course of action if things can’t be fixed. Maybe your friend is an atheist and you are very religious. Maybe it’s just too hard to have coffee on Tuesdays because when you share how blessed you feel it always turns into a debate. Maybe you hate your friend’s husband and she’s starting to hate you because she loves him. Maybe your friend lies all the time. Maybe you are completely unreliable. Maybe there isn’t some big thing between the two of you, and it’s just the many little things stuck in the middle. Maybe she makes you feel like a bad parent and you make her feel like a bad person. Identify the problems. Find some possible solutions. Try to fix it.
3. I want a Divorce.
Once you figure out that it just can’t be figured out, or neither of you are willing to do what it would take to get it figured out, it’s time for a Divorce. In most states, once a couple files for divorce, there is a significant amount of wait time before the divorce is final. This gives couples a chance to change their minds or prepare so that the transition is a little smoother. Friendships often don’t have so many shared responsibilities, debts, savings, and logistics. Often, there is still the issue of the kids. It should be talked about. I’ve seen some great friendships break up and I’ve seen it take a bigger toll on children than even the divorce of their parents, when a family friend is abruptly cut from their lives. If either of you have children, take the opportunity to talk about what your friendship “divorce” will mean for your relationships with the other friend’s children. Be as honest as you can with each other about expectations. If this is a friend you’ve always invited over for the Holidays and now you don’t plan on continuing the tradition, put it out there. If you’ve felt betrayed and trust is a big part of why you think your friendship should end in divorce, spell it out. Also take the time to remember all the wonderful moments and how you became friends in the first place. Remember that while a good memory doesn’t undo a bad one, bad memories also shouldn’t erase the good ones.
4. Where do we go from here?
At this point you are back to self-reflections. Mutual expectations should have been discussed and laid out in the “divorce.” Now it’s time for you to figure out who you are without that friendship, as it was previously defined. Don’t let the deterioration of a good friendship keep you from making new ones. Don’t hold others accountable for pain they didn’t cause you. I know that can be hard, but you will be better off! Don’t be overly concerned with the end. Instead, try to focus on new beginnings! You can be grateful that your friendship didn’t end in a shoot-out exchange of angry and unforgivable words.
When I was very young, I learned a song in Church. I don’t remember the song or even the chorus, but I remember a sentence. For whatever reason, it stuck with me forever.
“Make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver and the others gold.”
By: Alicia Gonzalez