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The Friends That Mysteriously Disappear When You Get A Divorce

It stung to be ghosted.

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Andrea D'Aquino
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They say that getting a divorce will show you who your true friends are. Vague, hurt-laden social media posts from divorcing acquaintances over the years have confirmed this to be true, as have articles that tell how some people seem to think that divorce is contagious and can spread through a social group like disease.

Since I know better than to think I’ll be an exception to any rule, when my ex and I began telling people about our impending divorce, I steeled myself against the possibility of losing a few or even quite a few friends.

But here was the problem with my attempt at preparing myself: I thought I had a good idea of which “friends” would flake and which friends were my true ride-or-dies. And, though in a lot of cases I guessed right, I was dead-wrong about a few of them.

Several acquaintances surprised me with their ghosting, and I was fine with that. Sure, it stung a little, but like I said, I had steeled myself for it. What really tore my heart out was when I found out a couple of very close friends of mine — people I’d been friends with even prior to getting married — had been hanging out with my ex-husband. We hadn’t really talked for months, but since we were right in the middle of a pandemic I hardly thought twice about it. But then the shelter-in-place orders loosened, and the Facebook posts started.

Our friends — my friends for years before they even met my husband — had installed a new deck and apparently had invited my ex-husband for a barbecue to celebrate its completion. Then another hangout two days later. Under different circumstances I wouldn’t be hurt by what on their surface are innocent social interactions. I’m not trying to claim these friends as mine and mine alone. We did hang out together as couples, after all. But the last few times I’d reached out to my friend, I’d gotten either a curt response or radio silence. I’d wondered at her abrupt responses, but I’d chalked them up to the stresses of life under lockdown. She was homeschooling her youngest and dealing with two college-age kids suddenly back in the house — of course she didn’t have time for lengthy heart-to-hearts.

But now I could see that she and her husband had clearly made time for my ex. My ex, but not me. Had he been saying things about me that would cause them to turn their backs on me? It would explain my friend’s curt responses.

I thought about calling my friend to ask what’s up. I may still. I fantasize about defending myself. I imagine telling her and her husband about the horrible things my ex-husband said and did; how he threatened to take the kids from me; when he said he was going to hide money;

how he refused to sign papers; when he told me that without him, I’d be living on the street. I picture myself telling her about how he used to talk about her and her husband — he said she was too bossy and her husband was “pussy-whipped.” He told me at various times, “just watch” that our friends would choose him over me.

Throughout our divorce, I have chosen the high road again and again, keeping the horrible things he has said between us because I never want our sons to witness the kind of trash talk that I grew up with when my parents divorced. I refuse to give my kids those horrible memories, whether it’s through direct witnessing of it or accidental hearsay from other adults. I just won’t do it.

But now it appears my attempt at taking the high road has led to a rejection by people I thought knew me, loved me and supported me. It feels so incredibly unfair. I keep telling myself to be grateful for the friends who did stick around — and I am, but this particular rejection really hurts.

I could confront my ex, but to what end? He would deny he’d said anything and accuse me of being paranoid. I may still talk to my friend, but I need to be in a less emotional place. At the moment I’m too angry that my friend apparently doesn’t know me well enough to question anything my ex may say about me. I’m not sure anything she could say in her defense could ease my hurt right now.

It has been one of the most painful parts of getting divorced to realize that — on top of all the other heartbreak, loss and guilt — I now have to come to terms with having been completely wrong about some people I thought loved and supported me. But I won’t dwell. For now, I choose to be grateful for the support of my true ride-or-dies, and I may just have to come to peace with the loss of the friends I once believed were so close they were practically family.