With friends like these...The difficulty of dividing up the friends after a divorce

Nicolas Sarkozy's ex-wife Cécilia says she lost her social circle after her divorce. And she's not alone. Sophie Morris discovers the true cost of divided loyalties

It is not unusual for post-divorce bitching and sniping to continue long after the legal papers have been signed and new lives embarked upon. However, after complaining about the way the media revelled in the venom thrown in both directions during her divorce, Cécilia Attias, ex-wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, mentioned the unmentionable during an interview with a Swiss newspaper at the weekend.

The former Madame Sarkozy explained that what had hurt her the most about the breakdown of her marriage was not who had cheated on whom, or anything to do with the size of a financial settlement.

No, it was a lament over the great number of friends that she has lost since her split from the French President.

"I was betrayed by close friends," she revealed. "I don't hold it against them. Such is human nature." Cecilia sounds rather forgiving, but the word "betrayed" brings with it strong connotations of trust and loyalty and implies that she believed these friends to be rightly hers, before adding a devastatingly sharp afterthought: "I understand that the gold of the French Republic could tempt more than one."

Every time a married couple falls out of love they have shared friends who each will believe to be as rightfully theirs as certain material clutter. Poor Cécilia was up against a powerhouse of an ex-husband, who can offer not only his company and good humour, but also the key to the Elysée Palace and the status conferred by being friends with a world leader.

But how can such priceless objects as friends be divvied up if a relationship goes wrong?

Relationship expert Judi James says most couples will experience something similar to Cécilia, and will find many of their friendships dissolve with their marriage. "Even if a couple have been together for many years and the friends have become mutual friends, it is amazing how people pull rank when you go through a divorce and say, 'They were my friends originally.'"

Such behaviour should leave both parties with a pool of friends but, says James, one of them will probably have ditched their friends in favour of the relationship. "It is quite rare that a couple will both keep their friends when they get together. Often, something of a selection process goes on and it is usually the more obnoxious character who keeps their friends."

Cécilia Attias was well known for her influence over her ex-husband's political appointments and is credited with introducing him to Rachida Dati, who she described as her "sister" and has gone on to become the French Justice Minister. James says that in a situation such as that of the Sarkozys, where Nicolas had the dominant career, Cécilia was never going to walk off with the larger tranche of friends. "She must have been acting as a politico wife and didn't stand a hope in hell of picking up any of those friends at all.

"She may get the initial calls of sympathy but there will be a weeding-out process."

Unfairly, it is often the victim or weaker party in a divorce who will ultimately end up with fewer friends. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Surviving Divorce has a chapter on how to hang on to your friends, which points out that if you need a shoulder to cry on, it is best to spread your woes out over a few shoulders, so that none feel too burdened.

James agrees, explaining that after the initial round of sympathetic phonecalls, all friends will drift towards the person they enjoy socialising with, regardless of where the blame – if there is some to be apportioned – lies.

Sandra Davis is the head of family law at top divorce firm Mischon de Reya (which acted for Heather Mills, Princess Diana and Jerry Hall) and feels that friends should steer clear of the details of a divorce altogether because determining who is guilty of what – if anything – is such a nebulous area.

"Divorce is a painful, emotionally draining process where there is his truth and her truth and somewhere in the middle lies the objective reality," she explains. "The anecdotal experience of clients I have seen over the years is that their friends find it very difficult to remain totally impartial and non-judgemental. Very few friends have the requisite skills to manage the conflict and stay on good terms with both husband and wife."

Peter Morris, head of family law at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds says he has never been asked to negotiate who keeps which friends as part of a divorce settlement but, given the range of incredible demands he has dealt with, he wouldn't rule it out. He has been asked to get hold of the address book containing all the contacts for a couple's mutual friends.

Most people, though, are not so diplomatic and even-handed as to be able to remain friends with both halves of the divorcing couple. Remember when Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston in 2005? The split had Hollywood – celebs and civilians alike – rushing out to display their allegiance on their chests with "Team Aniston" and "Team Pitt" and "I'll Have Your Baby, Brad" T-shirts, which were soon followed with "Camp Brangelina" and "Camp Vaughniston" slogans.

Why are friends forced to pick and choose? Divorces are rarely amicable, even when they are described and presented as such. Trying to balance a friendship with a divorced couple will usually prove too exhausting, because even a mere mention of one of the divorcees to the other might well be taken down and used as evidence against them. "You get involved in the warfare whether you want to or not," says James. "It is much better to take one side and have one person you can be loyal with."

In which case, perhaps by losing her shared friends, the former Mme Sarkozy is better off.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
John Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

    £30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

    Junior IT Consultant (SQL, Java, C++, Oracle, Graduate)

    £28000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A fast growing consultancy to the financia...

    Technical Support Analyst (Windows, Linux, Unix, Graduate)

    £30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Support Analyst - Liverpool Stre...

    Juniper Network Engineer - CCNP / JNCIP / JNCIS / Juniper

    £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the world's largest privately owned...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil