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My Husband Left Me and Took Our Friends, Too

Dear Adrienne:

I am recently divorced and have noticed that I am not invited out anymore to the things my husband and I used to do together. It’s like he got all the social aspects of our life together and by extension, he has possession of our friends I am not sure if I should approach some of our couple friends to ask about this disconnect or should just leave it alone and try to find new friends. What do you think? I am lonely, and it is very hurtful to me.

Marginalized

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Dear Marginalized,

First of all, I am truly sorry that you are (or are feeling) marginalized socially. It’s difficult enough to begin anew without feeling like a social pariah. But I think we need to make a distinction here between what a ‘friend’ is and how our social relationships sometimes operate as couples. I would like to outline some of the inherent problems that come with the un-coupling of social relationships.

The Torah teaches us that ‘Any love which is dependent on something, when the ‘something’ ceases, the love ceases. Any love which is not dependent on anything will never cease.’

Essentially this means that a true bond can weather change and distance because it is not contingent. Like work friends who disappear when you change jobs or the parents of your kid’s friends if and when they are friends no longer; so much of our social lives are about proximity! In the days of taking my kids to the park, there were women who I saw daily who I grew to adore. But as my children moved on to the next phases, we no longer spent any time together. It’s as if we had ‘park friendships’ that didn’t extend beyond those grassy hills.

In the school years, there were parking lot relationships; women I respected and enjoyed, but when my kids changed schools, I never saw them again. And, in my many workplaces over the years, my office friends were part of the air I breathed. They were my sanity and pleasure over the course of the day. And then I moved jobs, and we drifted apart. If I had the privilege to run into any of those people today, I would be delighted, I assure you. But those relationships were circumstantial. They were dependant. And couples you spend time with at social events are ofter the same.

You need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Do you have a meaningful relationship with these people beyond social shorthand?
  2. Do these people perceive (correctly or incorrectly) that they need to choose sides?
  3. Did these social engagements relate to your ex’s work life?
  4. Were these relationships’ contingent’ or ‘dependent’ ones? Or are you feeling socially lonely and thinking its THEM that you miss?

I encourage you to do a deep dive into your heart to answer these questions. I have had dear friends divorce, where I had to figure out how to navigate loyalty to a best friend without disrespecting her ex. I have had to figure out how best to keep the peace without taking sides. None of it was simple.

The Torah tells us, “You shall not cause pain to any widow or orphan.” Exodus 22:21 and admonishes us to be particularly sensitive to their needs, to be conscious of their pain and their loneliness.

In many ways, I feel like this needs to extend to the divorced woman as well. The ‘market’ for single men seems to be broad and welcoming in a way it does not feel for women.

I am sorry that this is happening to you, but you must be pro-active. One of the best things you can do is acknowledge that if you are feeling this, undoubtedly, so are other women. Can you make your place the place of gathering? Can your table be the open space for dropping in or formal invites? Can you build a community to offset your loneliness and, in the process, help so many others?

If, after asking yourself these questions, you feel like you truly miss the friendship of those who have left you behind, you might speak to them calmly and respectfully.

Try this:

I know that it is hard to navigate relationships when couples split up. Still, you should know I miss you and hope we can find a way to stay close/in touch despite the strain . or I enjoy your company and would like to continue our relationship despite my new status. Can we think of a way to do that so that we are comfortable with the transition?

This opens the door to discussion about your feelings in a way that encourages them to be less defensive. It allows you the dignity you deserve along with the opportunity to address your concerns. But if this is the new normal, I advise you to move through this painful stage proactively and be the safe space for those around you who are also feeling alone. Hashem will guide you in the way that you chose to go.

Love, Adrienne

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Have your question answered by Adrienne by emailing AdrienneG@momentumunlimited.org

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