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Just a Guy Who Didn't Understand Divorce

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Bruce Sallan: There are things in life we expect, and then there are those occasional times when we just get slammed. Early in my divorce was one of those OMG times when my wife had disappeared, the boys and I were trying to figure out what was next, and the lawyers were circling like vultures.

man by himself

As our separation was not caused by a villainous action, per se, in the form of someone cheating, committing some sort of crime, or falling into an irreversible addiction, there was truly no side to take except -- in my opinion -- the kids' side. The only thing our friends knew was that my boys' mom had more or less disappeared, completely abandoning them.

In our marriage, most of "our" friends were mine, as my wife had moved here from Europe. So I couldn't have been more shocked, shortly after she left when summer rolled around, to find that most of these family friends also disappeared. Not a single friend invited us over for a meal that whole summer, including my best friend since 10th grade.

WHAT IS WITH THAT? My only conclusion was that it must have been uncomfortable for them. Most of our friends were long-term, settled married couples and I was the wild, former showbiz guy who married an exotic, non-traditional woman. But, even then, I found it a reach to believe that as a reason for their desertion.

Time mostly healed that wound, I made a whole new set of friends, and the boys and I moved to a new school district where they, too, began a new life. But the hurt never fully dissipated, so I urge those of you who know friends in the throes of divorce not to abandon them when they really need you most.

Yeah, but what do I know, I'm just a guy.

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18 comments so far | Post a comment now
j June 6, 2009, 7:15 AM

I can relate. Thank you so much for writing this.

denise June 6, 2009, 10:51 AM

My husband abandoned our children, moving relatively far away. Thankfully, my girlfriends did rally around us. That said, it was a horrible time. I’ll never understand why the adults in divorce have to make it about them, when it’s their kids who really suffer. Thanks Bruce for your fresh pov.

Sarah June 6, 2009, 11:03 AM

This opinion is based on my experience with friends that have divorced… I have been married for 15 years and have never been divorced.

Since my husband and I liked the ‘couple’ and only ever hung out with them as couples. We decided that we were not going to sacrifice our relationship to pick sides or to change the way our marriage works by now hanging out with these friends solely as individuals. Our friendships were just one more piece of carnage left over after their divorce.

I can say that I do have lunch with my divorced friend, but I NEVER go out with her. She is now changed and I am still the same. Our lives are no longer have the same goals and we are on different paths.

Divorce sucks… It really does.

dani June 8, 2009, 12:56 PM

Divorce sucks, period.

Keri June 8, 2009, 12:59 PM

The only winners in divorce are the lawyers. Kids lose, no matter what. As for the friends, I was lucky as my girlfriends stood by me. Maybe you’ve got something there in the sex differences or you just weren’t popular? lol. Thanks for your insights Bruce.

Debra Usher June 8, 2009, 1:13 PM

Loss of friendships/relationships is the fallout of divorce unfortunately. Those of us who have been through divorce know this only too well. I also have come to realize that as we age single people tend to hang out with single people and couples with couples. The mindset of a single person is much different than the mindset of one who is in a relationship. In the end we all have to get over the hurt and move on with life…it’s that old addage…friends come and go, they are in your life for a reason, as season or a lifetime. I agree, divorce sucks.

Jeffrey Levine June 8, 2009, 6:53 PM

Thank you for sharing this. I remember when my own parents were divorced, I was 13, my sister 9, and all of a sudden different factions of the family weren’t talking to each other. It was a challening and humiliating balancing act for a couple of kids, and our parents werent skilled enough to really solve it. Your moving post really helped me reconnect with that. And your story, raising your boys on your own, is inspiring.
-Jeffrey Levine

Denise June 8, 2009, 9:46 PM

I actually left my husband five years ago but the pain and suffering on our children is still there. Now five years later my ex husband passed away and my children have to deal with a new pain, and why not say it, me too. Life is pretty hard with a partner so without one sometimes we think is impossible. Hope to see the light at the end of the tunel soon.

Jeff June 9, 2009, 12:05 PM

I imagine you’re right about your intact-family-friends feeling uncomfortable when you got divorced; I’ll remember to reach out next time we know someone who’s breaking up!

David June 9, 2009, 1:12 PM

A fascinating phenomenon, one that I was actually not aware of, but can imagine is probably very common. It ultimately is the measure of how deep or “real” a friendship may or may not be. I am astonished that the best friend since high school didn’t say to his or her spouse, “Look, Bruce and I go back a long way; can we at least have him over for dinner a few times?” I don’t necessarily doubt the “real-ness” or depth of that particular friendship, but I am at a loss to explain how that friend was apparently unable or unwilling to persuade his or her spouse to consent to giving at least a bit of support to Bruce during a tough time.

Anonymous June 10, 2009, 2:34 AM

I know that there are differences in the mindset of singles and couples, but there are people who even as singles their mind set does not change. As a soon to be single mom at the age of 24, I have no desire to go out and give up on the stable life my son had before. My mindset has not changed, I still can hang out with my married friends and their kids with no problems. We still have things in common and a lot of the same goals in life. For his friends to not be there is inexcusable! They knew him before marriage and life as a single parent is hard enough as it is, let alone with out friends that know your history and what you have been through.

Melissa (Australia) June 11, 2009, 7:09 AM

I know that as a friend of many seperated and divorced friends and family, I felt totally inadequate. Their pain was so obvious and deep and it felt like any comfort in word and deed was unable to have the impact that my heart desired. You just want to protect, comfort and erase the pain and consequences of divorce. As an outsider I have never truely understood that even my drop of love in their ocean of heartache could have such a profound effect until one of my friends shared with me. It is not that I managed to change their situation, but was able to say with my words and presence “you are not alone in this”. It is imperative that we are their for each other in all seasons of our lives. This is what a REAL friend does. I am so sorry Bruce that this was your experience, I hope your life is full of REAL friends now.

Bruce Sallan June 11, 2009, 10:06 AM


Rest assured, that was the past and I’m leading a blessed life of loving family and friends now. No pollyanna with this comment, we have our struggles, but we’re in it together and committed to working things out; even with a teenager in the house! Thanks for the comment. Australia. Can I come visit and stay with you?

Jim S June 12, 2009, 4:10 PM

A well timed piece for me Bruce. I have a client/friend whose wife surprised him with a request for a divorce last week after 18 years together. It’s good to hear that they want you to reach out. I can see how this is a lonely time for a man and a woman but I never understood why. Those who are friends with ‘the couple’ must feel torn or awkward in the very least. This is not the time for us as friends to assume that they ‘need their space.’ It is now obvious that we must reach out to our friends to reassure them of, in the very least, our friendship. At least they can count on that in these times of chaos.

Madhup June 13, 2009, 4:57 PM have a following from India as well..

honestly men in india face 5-10 years to get a divorce. The Indian supreme court are not so kind to menfolk , recently a judge made a remark to an airforce officer to “Bow down to your wife”. the husband has been fighting for a divorce for 17 years now.

Patriachy does not help men esp people in India. Divorce is painful and more so when system and society is stacked against you. thanks again for lightly putting up the concept of pain of divorce or separation.

Erica June 13, 2009, 6:43 PM

Much like what Sarah said, the nature of my relationship with my “couple” friends changed after my divorce. I changed as well, so it was difficult to maintain the same relationship with those people.

And I think I had, not exactly neglected, but didn’t develop those relationships so that they could become anything more than surface connections where we shared card games and gardening tips.

I had to work hard to develop new relationships, and connect to people with whom I had more in common in my new situation. And I learned to develop more meaningful relationships with friends so that when life changes happen now, I don’t have to do the transition all alone.

- Erica

Carol June 15, 2009, 12:07 PM

Hey Bruce,
Your articles keep getting better and better, but boy did you hit the nail on the head when you spoke about divorce. I lost my best friend of 18 years - and she even spent years encouraging me to get a divorce! It is extremely disappointing how “friends” treat friends during their most difficult time, almost as if divorce is contagious. I know that I would stand by my friend’s side - and that it what I teach my children. Keep up the posts coming…

Pevdgjzt June 25, 2009, 10:36 AM

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