Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries – Divorce Later In Life

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 After divorcing, even close friendships can become awkward. Here, what you can do if divorce changes your “social choreography.”

Q. When my husband and I recently decided to divorce after 25 years of marriage, one of the most difficult things was telling our closest friends. We were both worried sick about being rejected for divorcing. We tried to tell them at a dinner party, but that was a disaster. They were all in shock and obviously not interested in talking about it at all. As feared, many of these friends have pulled back, and I’m not sure about my ex-husband, but I rarely hear from them anymore.  I don’t know what to do, if anything.

Joanne, Toronto

A. Divorce is brutal. It’s like a death, bringing grief and mourning to you, the children if there are any, to your extended family and friends. Just as people can struggle to find the right words when someone dies, so do they struggle with divorce.

“What many people would like to say is ‘you guys should get back together,’ but that’s not going to happen so there isn’t anything to say,” observes Ont.-based clinical psychologist and author Dr. Guy Grenier. The other thing about divorce, he says, is that it changes your “social choreography.”

For example, singles tend to hang out with singles. Married people tend to hang out with other married people. It’s just easier. “So all the things you used to do together as a couple and the way you did them don’t work so well anymore.”

Divorce can also instil a what-if kind of fear in your still-married friends. “Metaphorically, divorce is like the way we used to think about cancer. We talked about it in whispers because saying it out loud might increase the chances that it could happen to us too – that somehow it might be communicable,” says Grenier. “None of that’s true, of course, but it’s an actual fear people have.”

In other words, if it can happen to you maybe it will happen to them too. So what can you do to try and woo back those friends? Grenier suggests this: “You call people on being passive about your relationship. You say things like ‘I think the divorce is creating some discomfort – I know it is in me. I wonder if it is for you too and I’d like to talk about that.” But here’s the bad news. “Even if you do that, because of the social choreography, you might be trying to swim upstream.”

Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst, Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.