Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Divide and conquer

Often when a marriage ends, there are assets and liabilities to be divided. Who will take the house? What about that expensive piece of art you bought together or the mutual fund you invested in jointly? Will the kids spend evenly divided time between both parents? These are the sorts of things that come to mind when you tick down the list of what needs to be split between two people who entered into a contract to share just about every aspect of their lives with one another, only to find that it wasn't meant to be a forever thing.

My situation was a lot simpler in most regards. C. and I were able to very clearly and, for the most part, very amicably, decide where to draw the dividing line and what would end up on each of our respective sides. The hardest asset, or perhaps in some instances, liability, to divide, has been people. When you spend so many years with someone, your friends and family become the other person's friends and family too. This isn't true of every single relationship that you both hold, but it definitely happens to some extent in most.

C. and I both have maintained a degree of contact with each other's blood relatives and some very dear friends. There is a lot more distance than when we were together and there is an unspoken deference to the fact that everybody knows where everybody else's loyalty lies. One exception to this rule are the couples that C. and I met and befriended as a couple. Neither of us had pre-existing ties to these people, neither of us had more skin in the game. Some of these people I considered to be very dear friends indeed, almost like family, and it has been a challenge to determine what my relationship to them will be now that I am not part of the couple that they have known. It is hard to know that these friends still maintain their own relationships with my former love, my former other half, while I analyze and stress over how to behave in the same room as him when our paths do cross. Most of all, it is really hard not to get your feelings hurt when your mutual friends can't quite figure out what to do with the two of you now that you're not together.

It has been a year and a half since C. and I separated. In that time, there have been a handful of events at least where we were both in attendance. . . birthday parties, baptisms, going- away celebrations. It seemed that the couples that were our common friends mostly took the position of "we'll invite them both and trust them to make their own decision as to whether or not to come". That worked well for the most part. Not to say that I didn't feel alternating tension, heartache and confusion in some of these instances, but I think outwardly C. and I did a good job of not letting our situation distract from the reason why we were in the same room in the first place- someone else that we both happen to know and love.

Imagine my surprise when, at this late stage, I found out that the core group of our mutual friends got together recently for a weekend of festivities that I was neither informed of nor invited to simply because C. was. What happened to inviting us both and letting us decide? It was a giant slap in the face, after having tried so hard to not have our separation interfere with these friendships. It stung, it made tears prick my eyes, it made the breath catch in my chest and it made me wonder just how you deal with dividing up this particular asset that presently feels like a liability. Is it really possible? Can these friendships preserve the level of closeness that they had when we were all couples, evenly balanced, no dividing lines drawn? I had hoped so but now I'm not so sure.

These are the opportunities I am given to evaluate the relationships in my life, nurture those that serve me and release those that do not. I am thankful for such moments just as I am thankful for my friends who's loyalty I do not have to question. Both represent a different sort of gift and I am grateful.

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