For many couples, divorcing can also mean a shift in relationships with mutual friends. Ironically, just at a time when you need friends, you may find yourself lacking support. Retaining existing friendships and forging new ones becomes more important than ever as you move forward with your life. Consider these five suggestions for sustaining and building your network of friends.
1. Walk in Their Shoes. Keep in mind that your friends may not know how to respond to the news of your divorce. “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,” writes Irene S. Levine, Ph.D. psychologist, professor of psychiatry at NYC School of Medicine and author or Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.
Friends who have been through a difficult divorce, or who witnessed their parents’ break-up may not respond positively to your uncoupling or be able to support your emotional needs. Try not to write them off or feel slighted. Give them a chance to adjust to your news — they may be grieving, too.
2. Limit TMI. It’s not uncommon for friends to “disappear” because they feel overburdened as you unpack your emotional baggage. If your go-to sounding board doesn’t return your phone call, or is suddenly too busy for lunch, she may be setting a boundary. Perhaps it’s time to seek the counsel of a professional therapist or marriage counselor. (See: Are Your Getting Sound Advice?) Then, when you do call, let your friend know that your invitation is purely aimed at enjoying a great meal, movie, etc. not another gripe session about your ex.
3. Find Your Flock. If your current friends can’t relate to your divorce, find ones who can. There are many support groups specifically for people going through divorce; ones for divorcing parents, others for people over the age of 60, etc.
Google, check your church bulletin or community recreation center calendar, or ask your therapist about groups in your area. If you are recovering from a codependent relationship, new friends may be (literally) right around the corner as many neighborhood churches and centers host Al-Anon groups for friends and family of alcoholics. Just remember, a healthy support group should focus on solutions rather than on the problems; and groups should be guided by a skillful moderator and/or with a set of rules/principles to ensure emotional safety.
4. Do What You Love. Now is your time to pursue interests that you may have previously set aside. Joining a church or civic club or enrolling in classes are great ways to meet like-minded people. MeetUp.com offers a variety of ways to engage with people for hikes, meals, movies, book clubs and more. These new friends may open doors for more social opportunities as you explore post-divorce life and expand your network.
5. Give Back. Volunteering your time for a local cause or organization will not only help you make new friends, it will allow you to focus your energy on enacting positive change in your community — or even the world. If you’re not already a member of a church or civic group, you can find volunteer opportunities through local clearinghouse organizations, such as HandsOn Birmingham, or by calling the United Way office in your community.
It’s easy to feel alone when you are going through divorce. But taking the steps to nurture your existing friendships while forging new