woman who is upset looking at phone after seeing her ex husband unfriended her on facebook
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Relationships

My Ex-Husband Unfriended Me On Facebook

Here’s why it hurt so much.

Contributors

Shelley Emling

When I discovered my ex-husband had unfriended me on Facebook, I was confused. Then I was stunned. But when I learned why he’d done it, I was humiliated. Mirroring my feelings about our divorce, I cycled through anger, grief, embarrassment and incredulity.

Our divorce was mostly an amicable one. I was blindsided when he moved out and spent six months hoping for a brain tumor or a midlife crisis that would resolve, but when it became clear that we were headed for divorce, we managed it gracefully.

We had been friends for 27 years, married for 23. We had two teenage daughters, and had gotten our first postcollegiate jobs, apartment and new cars together. We had stuck together through depression, childbirth, health scares, career upheavals and family tragedies. I wasn’t sure why our marriage was over, but it was.

Two days before our divorce was final, he admitted he’d been seeing someone. I felt gut-punched, but appreciated hearing it from him. The big city we live in is pretty small if you worked at a certain huge tech company in the 1990s. I was bound to hear about it from someone else if he hadn’t told me. I didn’t ask who she was. I didn’t want to know.

We’d been living apart for 18 months and, as you do, I had grieved in fits and starts. I mourned the loss of intimacy and parenting together. I grieved the loss of mutual friends and easy relationships with people I’d considered family, and the loss of future travel, retirement plans and the home we remodeled. I was mostly back on my feet and thought I could reasonably anticipate what the next painful milestones would be and how to get through them.

But I wasn’t prepared to be unfriended, or to discover it on my own. Our oldest was graduating and her dad was out of town, so I videotaped her final theater performance of high school and posted it online, tagging her sister and her dad. Only, I couldn’t tag him.

“WTF? You unfriended me?” I texted him in a flash of anger.

“I was trying to be polite,” he responded. “I thought it was the right thing to do.”

“I would have thought 26 years of friendship and marriage would rate more than ‘polite.’ ”

Texting back and forth, I noted that we had 41 friends in common, then 30. Previously, we’d had hundreds. He was actively culling the list. He unfriended my extended family, my siblings, all of my closest friends, and even our daughters, just so I wouldn’t see pictures of him with his girlfriend. What did it mean that he was formally disconnecting from people he’d known more than half his life just so he could post candids with her?

Part of me felt ridiculous — it’s social media for God’s sake. We had been friends before Mark Zuckerberg even finished first grade. Unfriending me paled in comparison to divorcing me.

But part of me felt like he was trying either to hide something (was she part of the reason my marriage failed?) or to erase the past three decades. While we both knew that was impossible, it was as though his decision to prioritize photos with his new love over previous ties with friends and family was a wholesale rejection of the time he spent with us. Announcing that he was choosing his new life over the old one – by unfriending a slew of people we both loved – was mortifying. It said not only that I was too awful to remain married to, but that I was too horrid to even be publicly associated with.

It was also really sad. During and after our split, when calling or being face to face felt too painfully intimate, Facebook was less emotionally fraught. I could hold him at arm’s length like a helium balloon on a string until I was ready to reel him in and be friends. In the meantime, I knew he wouldn’t float away altogether. Whatever we’d lost or broken in the last year and a half, Facebook held our history — photos of family vacations and birthdays and lacrosse games in the pouring rain. I had hoped that one day we could reminisce about those shared moments without feeling regret or resentment.

But where there used to be a Venn diagram there isn’t anymore. There is his chosen family, and there is mine. And the two are separate for all the world to see.

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woman who is upset looking at phone after seeing her ex husband unfriended her on facebook
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