When you were married, you spent your time and energy on your relationship with your spouse. With that person absent from your life, you may have a lot of energy to spare, so you might as well spend it on something productive – like redesigning your social life after divorce.
You’ve figured out where to live and all the logistics surrounding your kids; now, it’s time to focus on you. Before seeking out a new romantic partner, take some time to strengthen your friendships. You will find this investment invaluable later on when romance blooms again in your life.
Here’s how to start redesigning your social life after divorce.
Your first step as you go about re-establishing your social life after divorce is to create a list. Write down all of your friends in one column and what you do together in the opposite column. Now, ask yourself why you spend this time with your friend.
Does this person make your life better?
Do you hang out with them for stability and familiarity, or do they truly make you happy?
For example, perhaps you have a good friend from college, but you don’t have much in common anymore.
Similarly, friends, you used to see with your ex as a couple might now be uncomfortable hanging out with you. That’s okay, too. If that person is uncomfortable and you don’t have anything to add to that friendship, it’s fine to let it go.
As you make your list, your assignment is to seek balance where you can. You’re not looking to eliminate every imperfect person from your circle of friends, but you are trying to narrow your focus to the people who consistently offer you the most valuable and meaningful experiences. Just because you’ve been in a friendship with someone for a long time doesn’t mean you still need to actively maintain it.
This approach might feel somewhat calculated and systematic at first, but you want to surround yourself with people who make you feel better, help you enjoy yourself or who provide good feedback.
Evaluating Your Friends
Think about each person on your list. How do they talk to you and treat you? Do they behave differently when you’re alone or with a group of people? Do they enjoy trying new activities with you, or do they only want to hang out on their terms?
In some cases, people simply outgrow one another. In some cases, you may discover that some relationships are actually more harmful than good. Whatever the situation, don’t settle for less or for what you always had. You’ll need space on your list for the new friends you’re going to make as part of the moving on process, so you might as well start making that space now.
How Do Friends Drop Friends?
There is an ebb and flow to every friendship, both the good and the bad. A close friend at one point in your life could be little more than an acquaintance later on.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a little exercise you can try. If you first got married five or more years ago, think back to all the people you invited to your wedding. If you got married again today, how many of those same people would you invite? All of them? Half of them? None of them? Most people who I ask this question say about half. The other half might have meant something to you once upon a time, but that time has passed.
While many unsatisfying relationships end naturally, some require a more conscious decision.
As you begin the process of letting certain friends go, keep in mind that you’ll probably find yourself on the receiving end as well. Some friends, for instance, might choose to remain close with your ex instead of you. If that happens, don’t take it personally. There are plenty of people out there you can hang out with—and who would happily choose you over someone else. Anyone not willing to do that is best let go anyway.
Rekindling Former Friendships
You may have lost friends who weren’t comfortable relating to you in your relationship with your ex-spouse. People don’t want to be around a negative relationship; some of them may have disappeared from your life because they didn’t enjoy being around your ex-spouse. Most likely, they didn’t like the person you became at that time either.
If you lost people you valued over the course of your former marriage and you would like to reconnect, don’t hesitate. Send an email, a text, or a call. Say something to the effect of, “Hey, we haven’t talked in a long time. I’ve been thinking about what’s been going on in my life and about my friends, and I think we grew apart because of my former relationship. I’d like to get together some time.”
Nine times out of ten, those people are so happy to get that message that they’ll rush out to meet you anywhere you’d like. When you get the chance to talk things out, just be honest about what you did and tell them you’re sorry about it. Let them know you realize you made some bad decisions in a tough time of your life but you’re past that now. Often, they’ll offer some apology of their own, and then proceed to tell you how much they missed you and the person you were before things turned bad.
Whatever they tell you, embrace the learning opportunity. We often don’t realize how we affect other people when we’re caught up in our own lives. Luckily, genuine friends have a way of jumping right back into being connected.
How Else Can I Revamp My Social Life?
It might not seem like it, but this is an exciting time for you. What did you always want to do, but didn’t because you were married? Maybe there were activities your ex-spouse wasn’t interested in and you just never pursued them. Now is your chance to try out new sports, new hobbies, new social activities, and new exercise classes. With all those options, you’re bound to meet plenty of new and interesting people in the process. If you’re especially interested in making new connections during this time, consider more formalized options such as meet-up groups.
Things to be Aware of When Making New Friends
The first thing to remember when meeting new people is not to ramble on about your divorce or how you feel about your ex. One, that person might know your ex. Two, digging up the past is no way to move forward. It doesn’t help to be looking over your shoulder at your past, talking about what went wrong or what you should have done differently. New friendships don’t typically start off well if they’re based on complaining or negativity.
Moving On With New Friends
Remember that many new people you meet might also be in a transitional stage. Some friendships will be short-lived, while others could become more enduring. Whatever the case, some people come in and out of our lives. They could be helpful and fun to be with for a while, but when situations change, it’s okay to move on. In fact, it’s part of the natural progression.
This article has been edited and excerpted from Moving On: Redesigning Your Emotional, Financial and Social Life After Divorce (Lioncrest Publishing, 2019) by David J. Glass, a Certified Family Law Specialist who holds a Ph.D. in Psychology. The book is a clear and helpful tutorial on how divorcees can effectively cross the bridge from the newly-divorced status to the brand-new-life status. www.movingonbook.com