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5 Things No One Tells You About Friends and Divorce

5 Things No One Tells You About Friends and Divorce

Even in the best case scenarios, divorce is unpleasant. But there’s one particularly troubling aspect of divorce that people hardly ever talk about. What happens to mutual friendships after you split with your spouse? You hope that you and your ex won’t be forced to interact socially, and that you can each move on with your separate lives. But that doesn’t always happen. If it doesn’t, here are 5 things to remember that’ll help you stay sane.

1. They don’t get it, and you can’t expect them to 

Aside from your very closest friends, the others won’t pick sides. And honestly, they shouldn’t have to. No matter how much of an injustice your ex inflicted on you, your mutual friends simply aren’t close enough to the situation to be expected to cut your ex off. It’s not worth it for them to actively shun him, because doing that is awkward. People will do just about anything to avoid awkwardness or conflict, and this is one of those things. So they’ll continue to be friends with your ex – and you, too. They

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It’s not worth it for them to actively shun him because doing that is awkward. People will do just about anything to avoid awkwardness or conflict, and this is one of those things. So they’ll continue to be friends with your ex – and you, too. They do love and value you, even if it doesn’t seem that way to you at first.

2. You’re going to feel angry and betrayed for a while

Especially if the circumstances of your divorce are such that your spouse was unfaithful, you’ll understandably feel angry and betrayed. But not just at your ex; also at your mutual friends who won’t ditch him as a friend.

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There will be times when you want to strangle everyone, and can’t understand why the people who call themselves your friends would still maintain a friendship with someone who burned you. It’s natural to feel angry and betrayed for a while, but those feelings will eventually lessen – probably when you’ve fully come to terms with point #1.

3. You’re going to miss out on things you shouldn’t have to 

Your mutual friends are going to invite both you and your ex to events because guess what? They don’t want to have to deal with choosing. Unfortunately, that means you will. If you’re dead against seeing your ex, you might need to bow out of events and decline invitations if he’s accepted them.

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If you’re on civil enough terms, consider proposing an “alternate” social schedule to your ex that the two of you can work out where you attend one event and he attends the next one, etc. The only other option is to not care, go anyway, and try to have a good time with the people you’re actually there to see. None of these choices is easy, and ultimately what feels right for you will be based on where you are in your journey to healing.

4. It’ll take you much longer to work through your divorce 

You can do everything “right” after your divorce – go to therapy, identify your share of responsibility for the decline of your marriage, work on self-improvement, and even try to spend the bulk of your time with people who aren’t friends with your ex.

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But having mutual friends means ultimately means you two are still connected, which is especially true in the case of social media. It can be like constantly picking at a scab that won’t heal. It’ll gnaw at you, and definitely extend your time working through your divorce. Try to be patient and remember that as clichéd as it sounds, the passage of time does heal.

5. You’ll continue to be caught off guard

Things you never thought could happen will. For example, I was shocked when I found out a mutual friend who offered to officiate my second wedding also agreed to officiate my ex’s second wedding. This happened three years after our separation, so perhaps our friend thought enough time had passed. But some things will always be too soon, and others probably won’t ever get it. Bottom line is, don’t be shocked when you’re shocked.

Divorce can be brutal. It’s incredibly difficult when you fee betrayed by someone and your friends don’t unequivocally choose your side. It does nothing to validate your feelings, and it may even seem like their loyalties lie with your ex and not you. But remember that in reality, your friends just feel uncomfortable and aren’t sure what else to do. No one wants to be in the middle.

Featured photo credit: Group of Friends by Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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