What Your Friend's Divorce Means for Your Marriage
By Rory Evans
When Julia met Michelle in the stands at their husbands' softball game, the
two women clicked instantly. They quickly became close friends, and together
with their husbands, made a tight foursome. Over the next four years, they had
double dates at hip restaurants in their San Diego neighborhood, met for
movies, and took mini-vacations together to the wine country nearby.
One weekend, Julia and Michelle (whose names, like some of the others in
this story, have been changed) and a few other friends were enjoying a
long-planned winery tour to celebrate Michelle's husband's 27th birthday.
Halfway through the tour, a mutual friend whispered to Julia, "I can't
believe Michelle is really leaving Mark!"
A stunned Julia blurted a hasty response. "I know," she lied, as she
struggled to process the news. Despite the fact that Michelle and Mark had
bickered frequently — something Julia and her husband had talked about in
private — their problems hardly seemed insurmountable. But in the ensuing
weeks, Julia would learn more from Michelle: that she'd been deeply hurt by
Mark's little, public rejections (pushing her away when she tried to hug him,
for instance); that Mark had wanted desperately to try marriage counseling, and
that Michelle agreed, but after one session she felt it was already too late.
Within weeks, Michelle had a new boyfriend. Nine months later, her divorce from
Mark was final.
For Julia, 29, it was a heartbreaking end. "These were the people my
husband and I did everything with. Selfishly speaking, we were sad for that
reason alone," she says. "We eventually came to see that for them, it
was for the best. And it's nice to see they're both happy now, separately,
after what must have been a fairly painful divorce." Married eight years
herself, Julia can't help feeling a little vulnerable, too. "My husband and
I trust each other to be honest in our relationship, and I think we're both
motivated to make our marriage last," she says. "But when Michelle and
Mark divorced, it was just a reminder: You never know what could
"Could it happen to us?"
It's a sad given of modern love: People divorce — and lots of them. Nearly
one of every two married couples parts ways. Indeed, many of us looked on as
our own parents' marriages dissolved into bitterness, anger, tension, and
(after Mom entered the workforce) mushy CrockPot dinners. Even so, when a set
of your own friends announces their impending split, it can seem sudden and
shocking. "Nobody really thinks divorce is that close to home," says
Jane Greer, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist in New York City and author
of How Could You Do This to Me? "Even when married friends behave
abrasively or combatively, people assume that's just their way of getting along
and working out their differences, until it almost becomes normal." Divorce
is especially unnerving, though, when it happens to a couple that seemed
genuinely happy together. "To see a friend who you thought had a solid
marriage — to see that come apart, you can get frightened and think, If they
can't make it, what are the odds for us?" says Greer.