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Jun092014

The Divorce Crazies

Though I’ve never married, friends of mine have. That means—given our era—I’ve had friends who’ve divorced as well.

And I’ve noticed that immediately prior, during, and for a solid eighteen to twenty-four months after a divorce, people lose their minds.

I call it the divorce crazies.

Research indicates that people in the throes of divorce feel anger, trauma, panic, fear, shame, resentment, sadness, guilt, anxiety, impatience, and neediness. They display “histrionics” and look everywhere for blame. (Fun.)

I’d argue from observation that many of these emotions manifest in a compulsion to completely reevaluate and redefine the self. No longer part of a couple with established personas and routines—no longer “Jim and Joan” but just “Joan”—people going through divorce feel they need to test their personal limits, reevaluate their preferences and worldviews, and try new things. In short, they feel they need to become new people.

I had a divorcing Mormon friend drop his religion, head to the gym and lose weight, and start smoking and drinking in one wide swath of a new-life fell swoop. I had a friend start dating females nearly twenty years his junior who he met in clubs and bars. Keeping pace with them necessitated more energy than a man in his forties with three children had, so he picked up a cocaine habit. I had a highly conservative—socially and politically—friend start dating someone covered in body art who “worked from home.”

Extreme examples? Absolutely.

I have plenty “normal” examples of divorcing and recently divorced friends and acquaintances rebound-marrying people completely unsuited for them, getting tattoos, buying Harleys, shedding long-standing friendships, and quitting their jobs for new careers. Among other things.

People suffering the divorce crazies cause collateral damage like forces of nature. So stand strong as the stalwart, stable friend. Don’t judge them or they’ll shut you out, from which position you can’t help shelter them from judgment errors with the most lasting damage. Talk them through their thinking—and highlight the most outlandish bits where possible.

Because, as with most people in uncertain mental states, people suffering the divorce crazies can’t see it. To them, their out-of-character decisions make complete sense—even if they wouldn't make the same choices in only a handful of months, once they’ve normalized.

And though they may start to look at you with their new eyes and think about possibilities, don’t date them. The debris you see on the news after a tornado? That’s you after dating someone with the divorce crazies.

Most of all, just love them through it. Because sometimes, someone to love us through the rough patches is what we need the most.

Have you witnessed or experienced the divorce crazies?

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