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“I knew I was losing my husband; I didn’t realize I was losing all my friends too!"

One Woman’s Account of Experiencing the Lingering Stigma of Divorce, by Alex Howard

“He cheated on me,” recounts Tess, “but honestly, we were having such problems, I really don’t even blame him for that”.

Tess, who’s name I’ve changed for anonymity, is multi-tasking like the best of them. Making me a coffee, and chatting about the end of her marriage, while simultaneously feeding her toddler and shooing the dog away from eating off of the highchair.

After nearly a year, she has come to terms with what happened, well enough, anyway, to want to talk to me, her newly hired divorce coach, about it …

“Naw, before the affair things weren’t great…we just got to the point where the good no longer outweighed the bad”, she answers when asked if the affair was the inciting incident.

Her ex worked long hours, and when things started going south, he just stayed in the office later and later. She busied herself at home with two kids and a part-time home-based marketing business.

“At first, I didn’t even realize that he was coming home later and later, then when I did, I wished he’d continue it. It was just easier to handle the kids on my own instead of having him come through the door right before bedtime and getting them all riled up again!”

“It wasn’t even like we were really even fighting, it was just like we were living two separate lives. And when we did try to make an effort to connect, like date nights or family trips, we just found ourselves with not a lot to say to each other”, she recounts.

This is not uncommon, to be honest. In my mediation and coaching practice, I see this kind of relationship burnout more often than a real tumultuous break down in a marriage. People get busy, lives get complicated, throw kids into the mix and you have a perfect recipe for divorce.

“What I didn’t expect, when going through the divorce and the after math, was losing all my friends”, Tess confides when I ask what the worst part of it all is for her. Moving from an ‘us’ to a ‘me’, can change things in friend dynamics, and for Tess, that became her new reality. All of a sudden, she wasn’t being invited out to group dinners with all her couple friends, but do you know who was? Her ex, who quickly partnered up with ‘the other woman’.

“I honestly didn’t care that he was with her, that he was supposedly in love again, what I cared about was that being single somehow made me a piranha to my so-called friends!” Apparently as a single, Tess was persona non grata, and because her interest in a new relationship was simply non-existent, her inclusion in her friend group also was.

“I heard through the grape vine that one woman was actually afraid I would try to steal her husband, just because I was single! But for the most part, couples just want to hang out with other couples and heaven forbid there is an odd number at the dining table. But for the most part, I understood that the other husbands in the group felt awkward since they were still hanging out with my ex and found it uncomfortable to be around me”.

With women re-partnering less frequently after divorce than their male counter-parts, and the world still being quite traditional in a lot of ways, Tess’ story is sadly not unique.

Typically, women are better at socializing, of getting out after a breakup, of joining new groups and trying new hobbies than men, however the onus is on them to find new friends and create a new social circle instead of relying on their old friends.

“I guess it’s a good thing they showed me their true colours sooner than later, and I really am happy with my new friendships, but honestly, of all the crap I thought divorce would bring, losing my friends was not something I saw coming”.

**Special thanks to my client for allowing me to share her story and her struggles in hopes of helping others going through separation and divorce.

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