A by-product of divorce is nearly always the loss of friendships. When I moved to South Africa, I didn’t have a single friend in this country, other than my now ex-husband. At the time, he seemed more than enough. Romeo, o’ Romeo.
I figured that once I had him in my life, I would be A-Okay, and I was confident that I would eventually build my own little circle of friends. You see, that was the plan, but once I settled into South African life, I discovered quite quickly that my ex travelled in a very exclusive little clique. Because the opportunity didn’t really present itself for me to make friends elsewhere, his clique became my clique, too.
I hear this word “clique” a lot, particularly in Cape Town, where I live. They say that as an outsider, it’s really hard to make new friends here, because everyone is already in a clique. Now, I never agreed with this because those that were put before me by my ex were always extremely welcoming. I was puzzled.
What I didn’t know initially was that I couldn’t see any of these cliques because I was right smack-bang in the middle of one myself. It only dawned on me a year into my marriage that nobody new ever socialised with us. That group of friends was the healthiest loss I experienced through this process. It was a group of friends that didn’t allow a person to grow, to spread their wings, to progress, not for any other reason other than it was simply ‘suffocating’. Everyone was always around. There wasn’t any downtime.
I’ve learned that in South Africa, there is definitely a food chain; oh yes and one thing that really ticks me off is that women are most definitely at the bottom of it. This particular clique really needed sit-in-the-corner girls. Socialising with our men would mean being in the exact same room, but remaining on the other side of it. It used to remind me of high school: Boys on one side of the dance hall and girls at the other end. It wasn’t like that in Europe. It was strange to me.
Within this group of girls, the conversation would always be the same. We would come together to chat for hours about why our lives seemed so insignificant compared to the men’s. How come we never got to make choices, and how come the men always appeared to have more fun than us?
The thing is: The men may have led us into this role, but we had nobody else to blame but ourselves for staying there. Giving up anything for a man can leave you feeling a bit hard done by. Giving up everything for a man will leave you resentful.
When a woman gives up everything that she is, she will eventually become insecure and needy. What defines her will become obsolete. I think that ultimately, this is why the women seemed miserable and the men remained happy. Why does the old-school mentality of becoming a stay-at-home, kept woman sound so appealing to so many of us? Have we not evolved yet?
Okay, so I am not speaking for everyone. Just some. I’ve watch many beautiful and talented girls build careers and achieve a lot up until their late 20s, only to risk it all on the belief that a man will provide for them forevermore. I grew frustrated watching this happen to the women around me. It mirrored everything that I had done wrong at the beginning of my own relationship. I had given it all up and submitted.
So, the girls in this clique became my ‘friends’. I knew well that if I had been given the chance to hand-pick my own friends, I probably wouldn’t have picked many of those girls. I can say that now. I’m simply being honest. Given the choice, I liked to surround myself with strong, independent women. But that was before I got married. I had grown to have more in common with those women than I realised. We lived in a man’s world and we did nothing about it.
When my ex left, it didn’t take long to realise that all of the other men had warned their partners off me. Why? Because I needed to be removed from the clique, and the break had to be clean. I was surprised, but I wasn’t shocked. Their behaviours epitomised a male-dominated existence. These women had already given up so much of themselves and their own lives that I can imagine it was actually quite easy to give me up. I heard that, after a time, the whole clique fell apart. It was toxic.
I’ll never forget feeling so alone at the beginning of my divorce and wanting so badly for the girls to drop by and offer some support. But they didn’t. I yearned the company of a friend, but it was wasted energy. I was also too proud to reach out. I knew where they stood.
You see, during a divorce, people tend to pick sides. It’s human nature. People will form an opinion of your situation and make a judgment. People might also steer clear of you simply because they don’t want to get involved.
Divorces are messy, (mine certainly was!) and when stories start involving others, then people get scared. Family members of an ex-spouse can disappear from your life because they feel loyalty to their blood relative. There are a lot of uncomfortable things about divorce that can make people feel very unsettled. Other couples may even fear being around in case your divorce is contagious. They may fear that you are putting ideas in their partners head. For you, the rejection can be extremely hurtful. It’s a strange feeling when people you regard as friends simply vanish into thin air.
I’ve also researched some other reasons that friends might disappear from your life. Being a divorcée is kind of like being branded with the scarlet letter “D”. It’s a fact!
It seems that some married women either feel sorry for divorced women and don’t really know where they fit into their dinner party seating, or worse you, as a divorcee, may be seen as a threat. If you’re divorced, that means you’re single and ready to mingle – and of course, you must want someone else’s husband now!
Some married women may assume that a divorced woman’s closet is filled with nothing more than leopard print… and vibrators, (promiscuous little hussy) which we all know is a most inaccurate account of what is in our closets. They are, of course filled with the severed balls of our ex-partners and ex-husbands. Right? Oh, it’s just me then. Anywho… Moving swiftly along.
My ex-husband must have been blessed with two pairs of balls (Iron-Balls-McGinty, I’ll call him.). Although I believed I had chopped his off sometime mid-2015, he still managed to conceive a child somewhere mid-separation, in early 2016. He must have had ‘special’ balls that kept reattaching themselves. Like magic! Perhaps they were rubber balls that occasionally took off somewhere unknown, but then came back, like the old Bobby Vee song “Rubber balls come bouncing back to me”. Sorry! Hehehe. Either way, know for sure that there are definitely preconceived notions about divorced women out there. But, we know that we’re still exactly the same people. Right?
There are also still people out there who believe that couples should socialise with couples, and singletons should socialise with singletons. This is truly unfair, but people can be funny like that.
Friendships can also take a nosedive because people going through divorces may often be sombre or depressed for extended periods of time. They are grieving. Being around a divorcée during the initial shock and denial stage can be too much for some people to handle when they are dealing with their own problems. The divorce process is heavy, and it takes a true friend to help you carry some of that weight.
In hindsight, it was a gift from God to be set apart from all of my old friends right at the beginning of my divorce. My ex had the privacy to move on with his life, and I had the space to move on with mine. The initial feeling of betrayal and loneliness was hard to overcome, but just when I needed it most, God placed a great friend in my life. She was the first. She’s a South African woman whom I had met many years ago in Ireland. We spent a lot of time together around 2009/ 2010, but then she moved to Las Vegas with her family and I moved to South Africa to start mine.
We fell out of touch We were both terrible long-distance friends. Shame on us. Quite randomly, in late 2014, I ran past her and her husband on my way to gym in Cape Town.
“Morgan Deane, is that you?” she asked. I turned around and there she was. Four years later.
She and her husband appeared to be the picture of power. My husband left me a month later, and she was there for me through hell and high water from the day he left. I didn’t know the importance of the role that she would take in my life, only 1 month later. She opened her arms, her ears and her home to me and my children. She lived and relived the heartbreak with me over and over again, until I couldn’t speak about it anymore. I don’t think any other women I’ve ever met, other than my mother, could have had more patience and compassion for me and what I was going through. The red wine kept flowing, along with my tears, and she wiped away every one of them with her comforting words. She is one of the most insightful women I’ve ever met.
It helped hugely that she had a background in psychology. She would explain so much to me that I was struggling to understand. You’re lucky if you’re blessed with one of these types of friends in your life. The funny thing is that just as I finally felt healed of all the hurt and pain, she told me that it was time for her and her family to move on again. She was leaving Cape Town. It was a year-and-a-half into my separation, and just as abruptly as she had come back into my life when I was a broken mess, she was leaving at the time that I was just about healed. That is what I call perfect timing.
When she left, I discovered a huge void in my life again, but this time I was ready to go out and find myself some new friends. I wanted to find women who thought like me and had strong morals. I wanted to find friends who I could speak to for hours and never have to once speak of other people’s business or misfortunes. I wanted to be in the company of women with a curiosity for life and a thirst for knowledge. And that’s what I went and found: Women with voices and confidence. I found two more incredible friends that completed me and I love them wholeheartedly and to this day, God keeps placing great people, great friends, great women, in my life and I’m forever counting my blessings.
To you; if you’re alone and can’t understand why certain people have been removed from your life, know now, that it is to make room for people that suit you better. At the end of your divorce it will be quite clear to see who exactly has the qualities to sit among you and be called “friend”. Until then, I’m sending you hugs and much love xxx
Dedicated to Candice, Thandie and Kara.