This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on June 19th, 2019 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine
Question: I divorced my ex almost two years ago. We had quite a few couple friends and initially I was able to maintain being friends with our couple friends but it got harder and I would no longer be invited out because I was single. Most of those friends I have basically written off because I felt snubbed. Two couple friends have at least tried to keep in touch though and I would like to try and reconnect with them. I have been dating someone for almost 6 months now and would love to try and go out as couples again. It feels pretty weird though given their history with my ex. (In at least one case, the husband is still friends with and sees my ex.) I want to have an open conversation with my couple friends but am not sure where to start. Any words of wisdom would be appreciated.
Answer: This is a difficult thing—not only for you, but for your friends who knew you together with your ex-spouse. When we have friendships with other couples we think of each couple as a unit. We always say “Mark and Mary,” Dave and Nancy,” Mike and Dan.” When divorce happens our friends also experience the loss. The relationship is changed. People who lose a partner to death also experience this same thing with friends that knew them as a couple.
I think your desire and effort to reconnect is good and worth trying. It is best just to be honest. Say that it would be great to see them again, that you have a new guy in your life that you would love to have them meet. Acknowledge that it may be awkward at first. Ask them how they would feel about getting together. For your friend who is still friends with your ex, be aware that this could put him in a difficult triangle and he may feel he has to choose. In that case, accept it.
If you are able to get everyone together again, you might want to keep the first meeting brief or at an event where there are lots of other people around. Pick a place where there is something to watch (a game, a comedy show, etc.) so silences or awkwardness in the conversation is not so pronounced.
Lastly, remember that each relationship is different. Some are strong enough to weather this change, while some relationships function better on a one-on-one basis instead of a “couples relationship.” Yet, some people cannot move past the change. It is not that they don’t care about you; it is just so different. In instances like this, it is best for you to recognize and accept their choice. There is an inspirational saying about having friends for “A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime”. Some of our relationships last all through our lives, others last only for a brief time, and some seem only to serve a specific purpose and then vanish from our lives. All of these relationships enrich us for however long they last. The healthiest way is to understand and accept that relationships change and to cherish the gifts that come with each one.
In the loss of a relationship like a divorce, and in the death of a loved one, there is a time of rebuilding, and a new way of functioning in the world. Congratulations on your new relationship. Let it open you up to new ventures and friendships. I wish you the best.
Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”