When divorce ends your marriage, you may believe your situation is unique and unprecedented. For you it is, but millions of people are dealing with and surviving divorce every day and you can, too.

Decades ago, divorce was far less an every day event. Marriage virtually welded two people into a union that sometimes took extreme measures to break apart. Being realistic, we all know that some marriages shouldn’t last forever and those marriages shouldn’t need an act of Congress or a Papal blessing to dissolve.

But what about your marriage? If you’re a wife whose husband has just announced he has no desire to remain married, that he “loves” you but he isn’t “in love” with you, what do you do? If you’re a husband and your wife has just told you she’s had enough and she’s leaving what do you do? How do you handle the fear, the pain, the anger, the confusion, the betrayal, as your world shatters?

As a married person, people within your social circle and your closest friends are likely also married. Divorce puts a strain on some of those relationships as friends distance themselves to prevent fall-out damage to their own marriages. You are losing the common interests that have kept you close over the years.

What you need most at this time are new friends, friends who are single, divorced or widowed who can help you through the transition from married to newly single. Friends who know exactly what you’re feeling because they have been where you are. They can share their experience, give you the moral support you so desperately need. You need friends more than you need lovers until you get yourself healed.

It took a long time for me to make the decision to leave my first husband. I was afraid, I doubted my ability to survive on my own, I saw divorce as failure. As far as my coworkers knew my marriage was just fine, maybe even the “perfect” marriage. They drew this conclusion because I never discussed my personal life with them. When I decided to leave my husband, I made an announcement to my peers during a Monday morning office meeting, telling them that I wanted them to hear the facts from me and not from rumors.

Because no one knew my marriage had been less than perfect several of my coworkers tried to convince me to rethink my decision telling me I’d be “lost” without my husband to “take care” of me. A few weeks later some of those same coworkers were asking me for my “secret” to surviving divorce so well.

My “secret” was two-fold: I waited to leave until I couldn’t stay any longer and I didn’t share the details of my new life (or my old one) with anyone. They didn’t see my struggles or my tears, they saw my successes. I kept my business life and my personal life separate.

It was much easier for me to start a new life than many of you because I had a successful career and we had no children. When the divorce was final my ex and I had no reason to ever make contact again. This doesn’t mean the change to my life wasn’t difficult in the beginning but adding a support network of single and divorced men and women gave me the extra confidence I needed to get through the roughest times.

I had to find strong support after my second divorce and that began when I met two women at a business meeting shortly after my divorce became final. One was divorced, one was widowed, and both were about my age. They had been in their “single” state for several years by the time we met so they had lots of good advice and empathy for my situation.

Over the years we have laughed together and cried together. They remain my closest friends even though I’ve remarried. We don’t spend as much time together as we used to but the support is still just a phone call away.

Virtual friends can be a surprising support system as members the Midlife Club forum are finding out. Very similar to group therapy, the forum provides a place where each person can say what he or she feels without having to hold back. That’s a good thing because so many people come out of a trashed marriage or a longterm relationship with a desperate need to make contact with people who can validate the seriousness of their emotional turmoil.

I wouldn’t trade my friends for anything but it would have been nice, during some of those very long and lonely nights, to log onto a forum such as the one on this site when I was recovering from my divorce and “let it all hang out” with virtual friends who didn’t know anything about me except that I was going through the same thing they were.

© Pat Gaudette. All rights reserved.