Irene S. Levine, Ph.D.

Irene S Levine Ph.D.

The Friendship Doctor

When You Lose Friends After a Divorce

Divorce, like other life transitions, can topple relationships.

Posted Nov 12, 2014

 

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I am a 53-year-old woman with two great kids, both in college, and I’m divorced after 18 years of marriage.

Making friends has never been easy for me but when the kids where younger, I found myself getting involved with so many things and ultimately became a part of a very special group of ten women with whom I and our husbands became fairly close. If nothing else, we spent every Sunday morning together taking a walk, having coffee, and solving the problems of the world.

As my marriage fell apart, so did my social connections (I’d heard this happens but couldn’t imagine this group whom I’d grown close to over 16 years would desert me). Well, I don’t totally blame them. I was miserable and difficult to be around angry, depressed, manic all over the place and they gave up on me. I have tried to reach out and acknowledge my role in this demise and have been dismissed.

I can’t go back…I am devastated…Having moved on from the divorce, moved locally and having become an empty nester all within a short period of time. I miss my friends or maybe they really weren’t.

Signed, Selma

ANSWER

Hi Selma,

The experience of divorce, a move, and kids leaving home are major transitions in a woman’s life.

It sounds like your “Sunday Friends” were very rewarding. Yet, divorce often makes coupled friends uncomfortable for a variety of reasons: Your friends may feel uncomfortable taking sides, may see a new divorcee as a threat, or your divorce may make them feel uncomfortable about their own marriages. You say that these problems may have been compounded by your mental state after the separation/divorce from your husband.

Beyond the divorce, you have moved and have more spare time now that your children are older and away from home. It may be that you would be seeking new and different kinds of friends at this point in your life even if the divorce hadn’t happened.

Since you were able to foster these close relationships in the past, I’m confident that you will be able to make new friends again. Making new friends isn’t easy for most people. It takes some effort and you may need to extend yourself beyond your comfort zone.

If you aren’t working, you need to find ways to engage with people in your community—whether it is through religious, social, political or educational groups. Commit yourself to participating in some activity of your own choice where you can find other people with like-minded interests. It is likely that they, too, may be feeling friendless and will be just as eager to make new friends. Would joining a gym or volunteer group be appealing to you? Would you be interested in part-time employment?

You can’t replace decade long friendships overnight but now that you are recovering from your divorce, you can slowly begin to make new acquaintances. You may also find that one or two of the woman from the “Sunday Friends” might be amenable to going to lunch and catching up.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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