I was jogging around our nearby lake when I saw two women walking. As I passed them, I recognized one as a former friend of mine. Our eyes met but she quickly averted them. I realized who it was by the time I was way past them. It brought back many memories of what I call The Dark Days of (My) Divorce.
During my first marriage, our family belonged to a local synagogue. Most temples and churches are very family-oriented and this one was no exception. We made many friends through the family-services and other family-centric events including “Rhonda’s” family of five (Rhonda is her real name — to protect the not-so-innocent but probably just cowardly).
Rhonda and i had a great friendship that included participating in many of the temple events, hanging out with our similarly aged kids, going to each other’s homes with our whole families, and I liked her husband a lot. In fact, he was working in the entertainment industry where I had spent my entire first career.
Occasionally, since I was the stay-at-home-parent, Rhonda and I would go around the lake for a walk (and talk). Then, my wife left our marriage, the house, and our boys. While I wasn’t surprised our marriage was ending, I was surprised at the disappearance of my wife almost completely from our boy’s lives.
Rhonda became one of very few sources of comfort when we took those occasional walks. Other friends quickly vanished. My then best guy friend had introduced us – years prior – to his own group of friends, and EVERY one of them ignored me from the day they heard my wife had left our family. NONE of those friends were especially close with my wife so it had nothing to do with loyalty (to her).
I was hurt by this behavior and even my former best friend could only see me, or so it seemed, when his wife wasn’t aware of it. She never called or once invited the boys and me over for a meal. Were we contagious? Was my separation and impending divorce going to infect them all?
This is when I began to realize there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that have been and are still married to their first and perhaps only partner and those that have been divorced. The “divorced” fully understand the lives of those still married to their first (and possibly only) partner while the latter have NO IDEA about the life of a divorced man or woman.
At my boy’s elementary school, where I had been the ONLY dad ever to volunteer, I was mostly ignored prior to my marriage ending. I had already made peace with the fact that the moms preferred hanging just with other moms so there was no hurt in that arena. I had left the PTA group at our school long ago and donated my time and money directly to the classrooms of my boys.
Let’s get back to Rhonda, who was one of my few remaining friends from my former married life. One day she disappeared. She didn’t answer calls, emails, or texts. By now, I’d largely removed myself from temple life since a divorced man was as welcome there as he is at most places where married folks congregate.
Given that we lived in a relatively close-knit suburban bedroom community, I finally figured it out. Someone must have seen Rhonda and I walking around the lake and said something to someone else who said something to someone else who, perhaps, said something to Rhonda’s husband. I was now treyf (that’s Yiddish for not being kosher) so Rhonda had to drop me. No call. No explanation. Just adios (former) amigo.
By now, my theory of there being only two types of people was solidified. Those of us that are divorced remember well the happy times of marriage. And, now, we’ve lived through the horrible times of separation, divorce, and post-divorce life. We understand the good and the bad.
But those that are still married – especially women I dare say – want to cling to the hope and perhaps reality that all is swell in their homes. The guys mostly just don’t want to get involved so they simply ignore the situation.
To be clear, all of my long-time male and female friends — with the exception of my former best friend — were there for me and compassionate. My parents were wonderfully supportive and I’ll be forever grateful to them for all they did for me their entire lives. They are sorely missed.
People don’t like uncomfortable situations so most people choose to simply avoid them. Rhonda didn’t know how to tell me she couldn’t see me anymore because people were talking. My (former) best friend couldn’t tell his wife that it would be nice to invite us over for dinner given the tough times my boys and me were going through. And, his friends, which I had thought, had become my friends, just took the easy way out and stayed away.
None of these people are bad people. When I saw Rhonda at the lake the other day, my first instinct was to say Hi. But, as I was jogging in the opposite direction I quickly realized how awkward that would be (for her) and chose to keep on going.
Think about it…