Many people feel that they lose friends after a divorce. They think their friends either “chose” one partner or feel that the friendship disappeared during the divorce process. These feelings can create awkward situations. People often avoid awkward situations, so if you want to have any chance of maintaining those friendships, you will have to be thoughtful and proactive. Here are some tips:

Talk about it with your ex-spouse. As with many aspects of divorce, the more you communicate issues in a respectful and constructive way, the more likely you are to experience a healthy outcome. Have a conversation about how you want to handle social gatherings where both of you are invited. Set up “ground rules” for not disrespecting the other person with mutual friends.

Don’t put friends in the middle.  Don’t ask your friends to “choose” between you and your ex. Try to avoid talking negatively about him or her to your friends. Since these were shared friends during the relationship, they care for both of you. They don’t want to hear all the sordid details of the divorce and they don’t want to feel disloyal to either of you.  You can protect them from that uncomfortable position by speaking in neutral terms about the divorce and bringing it up minimally.

Anticipate gatherings. If you have always attended your friends 4th of July party, don’t assume you were the only one invited to it this year. Hopefully, you’ve followed tip one and talked through this with your ex. If you haven’t and you know both of you were invited, consider what the gathering will be like. If there’s a guest list of 100 people and the party goes on for hours, it might be fine for both of you to be there for a portion of the event. However, consider both yourself and your hosts if it is a smaller gathering. Opt out of potentially uncomfortable gatherings, especially if you know you can’t be in the same room as your ex.

Initiate contact. Some friends won’t know how to handle this situation, so they will most likely avoid both of you. If you reach out,  you can do your part to help maintain the relationship. Having an open conversation up front can also reassure your friends that the relationship is important to you and you aren’t going to jeopardize it by putting them in an uncomfortable situation. Say something like, “I have always valued our friendship and hope it can continue. I want you to know that I respect that you were also friends with Tom and I won’t put you in an uncomfortable situation by talking poorly about him or the divorce.”

Don’t bring new relationships around too quickly. Think of shared friends like you think about your kids as far as new dating relationships go. That means, wait until you know a relationship is serious and stable before making introductions. Be aware that friends could have a reaction and tread carefully when making introductions.

Maintaining close friendships is so important. As with many potentially tricky situations, put yourself in your friends’ shoes to prevent harming the relationship. This will allow you to consider their feelings and behave respectfully. Hopefully, your sensitivity will put to rest any fears about having to choose sides.