When you and your ex split, you never intended to divorce your friends. Now you're flying solo in every sense of the word — no party invitations; the phone barely rings. Where is everyone?
No doubt you have discovered one of the toughest aftershocks of divorce: Suddenly single brings a change in your social status. But don't despair. There is a silver lining to the feelings of alienation you may be experiencing. Loneliness, while unpleasant at times, is part of the healing process.
It makes space for self-discovery. Instead of bemoaning your aloneness, recognize that it is essential that you to learn to be your own best friend. After all, the key to rebuilding when a relationship ends is being comfortable in your own skin, according to Dr. Bruce Fisher, who has conducted divorce process seminars for more than 23 years. Take this time to look inward.
You're not the first, nor will you be the last person to feel abandoned socially. But before you blame the people you once called friends for deserting you, take a look inward. Your so-called social life may be partly your own doing. Do any of these examples describe you?
I have a date with must-see TV. Toni graciously passed up offers to join her married pals for dinner and drinks. Instead, she spent her evenings alone watching reruns of "Sex and the City." It filled hours of time and she took comfort in not having to be "on." Many divorced women don't realize that they are unwittingly sending the message "I want to be alone" when they decline invitations from well-meaning married friends, rather than be a third wheel.
My calendar is booked and over-booked.Do you fill every waking minute with work or highly structured activities to keep busy? Phyllis joined two health clubs, enrolled in three adult education classes, volunteered to head a town committee, and filled her calendar with luncheon and dinners dates. Overloading with things to do is one way to shut out loneliness, but not the best strategy.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with divorce. The emotional toll of morphing to your new identity — going from spouse to single woman, from full-time mom to custodial parent — cannot be minimized. When you gradually gain the strength and confidence to regain your social footing, you may find that people are not exactly clamoring for your company.
Sadly, this is a time when you want and need support. So it's hard to be cut off from the network of folks upon whom you came to rely. On the other hand, it's important to see the situation for what it is and find the opportunity to grow. Some of your so-called friends were probably little more than convenient acquaintances. Good riddance.
Others may be distant for other reasons. Just know that the reasons usually have more to do with your friends than you. Here are some possible explanations:
• Friends whose own marriages are shaky may be afraid of divorce contamination. Instead of admiring your courage, they'll feel threatened and avoid you.
• Insecure gal pals will be nervous now that you're back in circulation even if you give them no cause. Any woman "on the loose" is suspect. If they can't reel their men in, they'll reel you out.
• Moralists will become judge and executioner. Despite society's growing liberal attitudes, there are those who cannot accept marital failures especially when disclosures include infidelity.
• Changes in economic status will be a red flag to fair-weather friends. When the marital pie was divided and Jane got the crumbs, the golf invitations to be make up the foursome were suddenly far and few between.
In "Surviving the Breakup," a study by Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly, two-fifths of men and two-thirds of women reported feeling lonely, weary and disenchanted with the people who passed through their lives when they got divorced. So although you may be lonely, you are hardly alone.