Is divorce a sentence to loneliness? It doesn't have to be if you take Joan's advice of surrounding yourself with people who see you for you...become a "singular sensation".
Q. It has been reported that the divorce rate is approximately 50 percent. I know that you have experienced divorce personally. What was it like for you post divorce?
Joan: August 8 marked the sixth anniversary of my divorce. Growing up, just like most people, when I envisioned marriage, I saw the “they lived happily ever after” ending. Divorce was not in my frame of reference. My parents were married 56 years at the time of my father’s passing, and my grandparents made it to 72 years. They were my role models of what was to be – divorce was not part of my life plan. But as the old saying goes, “it is what it is,” and so I adapted.
With my divorce came many adjustments; some wonderful, some not so. One of the most difficult challenges that I’ve had to endure, and one, which to be honest, I never expected, was being relegated to the world of single womandom: the community of women who no longer get invited to socialize with couples. The outcasts that colonized together much like the lepers of Biblical times.
For years I had enjoyed spending time with male and female friends, being part of a diverse group. After my divorce, however, those dinner and party invitations dried up. I was no longer included in coed dinners, movie nights, or vacation plans. All of my time was spent with other women who were in “my situation”.
While I adore my female friends, and wouldn’t want to live without them, this ousting cut to the core. I wondered, what happened? When did two minus one equal zero?!
Q. Why do you believe couples shy away from newly single friends?
Joan: I can recall an episode of “Sex in the City” in which the girls discussed this phenomenon. They explored a gamut of theories from a single woman being perceived as on the “prowl” in search of a new partner, to a divorcee having a negative influence on their relationship placing it in jeopardy, kinda like catching the flu.
I don’t know if those theories are correct; perhaps people are just uncomfortable with the situation and don’t know how to act so they retreat and avoid.
Q. What did it feel like to be excluded from couple activities?
Joan: Being excluded from spending time with the “usual crowd” at the precise moment when it’s needed the most, is a difficult blow. It’s another loss that must be endured and it validates the endless self-defeating thoughts of inadequacy and failure that are already swirling around in a person’s mind.
About one year into my post divorce life, I was told by a friend that her partner no longer wanted to come to my home because there was no man there. Those words cut directly into my heart; they permeated my mind and confirmed what I believed to be true.
Since I believed that no one would want to be with me because I was alone, those words crippled me. I stopped inviting couples to my home and when I was in the company of my paired up friends, I felt like I didn’t fit in. I clung to those words and used them to build a wall around me.
Was my response logical? Of course not.
Thankfully, today, after much soul searching and healing, I can see the error of my ways and work very hard to not allow the behavior of others to impact me in such a detrimental way.
Q. How can someone get through this?
Joan: First, and foremost, true friends will never exclude you on the basis of marital status (or coupling up). If someone does, and can’t see the pain he or she is inflicting, perhaps it’s not a friend but more of an acquaintance. True friends don’t see single or couple, they only see the person they love.
Second, the behavior of most people has more to do with them than it does you. If someone excludes you out of fear that you will impact their relationship negatively, or that you are going to steal away a spouse, that’s a reflection of their relationship. If someone doesn’t want to be in your company because there isn’t a person of the same sex with whom to mingle, that is a reflection of that person’s social skills. Try not to take it personally. Wish the person well and move on.
Never let the opinions of others define who you are or what you do. Those opinions only have power if you fuel them. Most of the time we give them life because they reflect what we believe. Work on your thoughts and you will no longer care about what others think.
And finally, know your worth. Remember that you are a wonderful person that has much to offer. If someone doesn’t want to spend time with you, it’s that person’s loss. Broaden your circle of friends. Try new things.
Remember … two minus one always equals one, and one is a singular sensation!