It hit me that we girls don’t talk a lot about something that happens when we go through divorce: people we used to be friends with stop talking to us.
I have been divorced for many years, but I can still remember when, after the divorce was final, how the friends I thought I had stopped inviting me to their houses, to their parties and picnics. Friends with whom both my husband and I had shared really precious times sort of, it seemed, erased me from their lives.
It wasn’t only friends, either. It was people like the guy who had been keeping our furnace and air conditioner in shape for years. All of a sudden, when I’d call him, he wasn’t available. No matter how many times I called, he never called back.
Needless to say, some of the people in the church regarded me as a sinful woman. I was a pastor, after all. How in the world could I be trusted to preach to my people, and even more be trusted to give marital and pre-marital counseling, when obviously, I was lacking in character and in knowing how to keep a man?
I couldn’t figure it out. Some friends who were divorced stop speaking, but more, it was friends, my lady friends, who were NOT divorced whose silence and distance puzzled me. Was it because I was now viewed as a threat? Were they afraid that my failure as a wife was somehow contagious, and that they would get “the illness” if they remained close? I only ask because years after the divorce, some of those friends, all of whom are now divorced themselves, have been gingerly moving back toward me, making contact.
As I have listened to women over the years go through divorce, I realize that it isn’t just me; too many women have the same story, but it would be great if we women wouldn’t back away from each other at such an awful time. It’s precisely at times like that, when your life is falling apart and the ground on which you’ve always stood falls from under your feet – no, more accurately, crumbles as you stand there, that you need your sister friends most.
I ached as I read the story of how the late Elizabeth Edwards, betrayed by her husband, was so crushed by his affair that she yelled at him in public and bared her chest, which showed the scars of breast cancer. How horrible for her to feel that depth of pain! I found myself wondering if her pain was exacerbated by friends who simply disappeared as she and her husband went through their pain, oh so publicly.
I don’t know what it is about us that makes us shy away from each other in critical moments, any more than I understand why we so often stab each other in the heart and/or back when it comes to getting a mate, but I can say that, during divorce, the friend who is real is the friend who sticks with you through it all.
A candid observation …