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What Your Friend's Divorce Means for Your Marriage

"Is she better off?"

Divorce can be a little like Ludwig Bemelmans's fictional pintsize Madeline and her appendicitis: Her little schoolgirl friends see her in a hospital bed, and rather than thinking about the painful ordeal she suffered, they see her flanked with toys and jealously declare, "We want to have our appendix out, too!" Similarly, now that your friend has had a 185pound North American Domestic Jerk surgically removed from her life, she might feel a profound sense of freedom, followed by shopping sprees for sexy clothes and hot interludes courtesy of Match.com. And of course, while you know how wrenching the separation was, all you see now are the fun rewards.

"I know it was really hard for my friend Cathy, and of course there have been times that she's slept with a new guy and regretted it or has been waiting for the phone to ring," says Sarah, a 36yearold mother in Los Angeles. "But on the whole she seems to be having a lot more fun than I am as a married mom. I got kind of jealous when she started going out to bars, dating, seeing last minute Friday night movies without a thought." For Annie, a 45yearold mom in Croswell, MS, it's been "strange" to watch her formerly married friend change gears to life as a single woman; Annie can't help but feel envious. "Her ex-husband has their two daughters every other weekend, and she recently took an impromptu trip to Florida," she says. "I have four children, and my husband and I have never been away for a weekend without the kids."

Julie, a 37yearold mother of two in Minneapolis, sees the glow that her recently separated friend has "from dating someone new, from hearing 'I love you' for the first time." That's a glow that even the most loving married couples can't maintain day to day, Julie notes: "People who say otherwise, like 'I still get butterflies when I look at him,' are liars, I think."

"We're safe. Aren't we?"

If Julie sounds bitter, she's not. "I know that my husband and I have something different and deeper than new love," she says. Likewise, when Sarah really takes stock of her situation, she's glad to be sharing her life with her husband. "I kind of look at my own marriage in a harsh glare and rosy glow," says Sarah. "Some days I think, Man, I could just walk, like so and so. Other days, I think, Boy, am I lucky."

Such is the meteorology of marriage, the alternating cold fronts of resentment and what-ifs, followed by the warming thank-heaven-I-have-him thoughts. News of a friend's divorce can bolster your most positive beliefs about your marriage — or it can reinforce the most negative ones — depending on when and how the news hits you, and even more so, on how you take it. Because for every question that a friend's split creates in your mind, there's an answer that can strengthen your own relationship.

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