Saturday, July 3, 2010

Like/Same, Same/Like

The other day, quite out of the blue, I thought that if I were to get remarried now that I would have no one to invite to the wedding. It would only make sense to go to the court house because there wouldn't be any guests! The meaning of this thought was not about weddings or getting remarried. Rather, it was a harsh reality check about the friends I have lost since my divorce. At my wedding in 2006, I had 50 friends attend and 11 family members on my side. These were people I knew from being a school volunteer, my previous social services job and families from the travel baseball teams.

As I thought back to all of the people who have faded out of my life in recent years it struck me that my two remaining friends are my close girlfriends, both of whom are divorced. I have maintained no friendships with the married couples from my past.

This so upset me that I brought it up with my closest girlfriend. She admitted to having lost touch with some couples as well and attributes it to the fact that now our boys are in high school and no longer on travel baseball teams. They played travel 10 months out of the year and naturally the parents of the team built up connections since we were traveling long distances for our sons to play. Six months of the year we'd be at games every weekend together. But then high school came and it is a different dynamic with the school sports.

I understood this explanation but STILL. To have lost touch with so many people. To have such a small network of close friends when before it was abundant. This was troubling me.

Last night, I came across an article about divorced and widowed women and friendship. The article talked about how many women do lose their married friends after becoming single. Apparently, married folks are uncomfortable interacting with the newly single for a couple of reasons. First, there is the fear of contamination. I guess some people are afraid that by associating with a divorcee or widow, they could possibly end up in the same boat. There can also be a fear of the newly single woman making the moves on the married guys, so the married women do their best to keep their men safe and off-limits. I've heard this before but never really thought it that likely. But it was mentioned as a reason married women do not like associating with single women. Lastly, the article brought up that like attracts like. People want and feel more comfortable hanging out with their own. So, married folks seek out friendships with other marrieds and singles feel better with other singles.

Light bulb moment - so that explains why I've maintained the most contact with the two friends I have - they are both single in a town with very few singles. It all makes sense. But it doesn't make it that much better or easier.

The article suggested cultivating new friendships. This was followed by the comment of a single mom of a daughter who basically said, "I'm already fatigued working, parenting and keeping up the household on my own. And now I have to go out there and make new friends? Where is the time abailable to do this?"I soudly second this mom's frustration! And I guess make the point that again, widowhood and being divorced is an ongoing phase of life that doesn't end with the funeral or the signing of the divorce papers. The secondary grief losses including loss of friendships and support networks are huge! Here are depleted people in need of support, lacking friendship, dealing with the loss of relationships along with everything else on their plates being told to get back out there into the social scene. I want to laugh at the absurdity of this. Then I want to cry a little!


  1. Agree very much with the last few lines about widowhood being an ongoing phase of life. That seems especially true for younger widows as they are really looked upon as an "oddity" in our society. That makes it pretty hard to connect with people who are "like" or "the same".

    In my own case, add to that the fact that I was never much for hanging out with other people, so being without my husband of 35 years is very isolating. As you know from my past comments, he and I were a bit different anyhow - spent every minute when we weren't working, off doing things together in remote places - hiking, canoeing, etc... It's pretty much impossible to replace that kind of relationship at my age (54). I find that there aren't all that many people who are comfortable taking off into the back country once they are past their mid-forties or so. Most 50-somethings seem to start having a lot of health issues or don't like roughing it in the bush. There are some who are like me, but they are loners (usually men) and don't really want company anyhow. I'm having to find ways to enable myself to do the things I always did, but do them entirely alone with my dogs. Probably not surprisingly, I am fine with that. What is harder for me is being in towns or around people alone. I never liked it before, and I like it even less now that I'm alone. I'm not sure that I'll ever get used to that kind of situation, so I'm probably better off doing what I'm doing - traveling alone to remote places, and spending the rest of my time at this secluded "base camp" of a house that I'm restoring. All I can say is that losing my husband has been quite destructive to my life. I'm attempting to rise above it, but at my age, I cannot change who I am. I don't expect to make many new friends and definitely no new relationship before I die. Fortunately, I actually seem to be okay with that although it does make for quite a lonely existence.

  2. Bev - I hold tremendous admiration for you living the life you are leading because it is what fits for you. And I am sure it has its own challenges without your husband since you are now doing so much roughing on your own.

    I really liked your comment about widowhood being "destructive" for you and I'm going to use that phrase in the future. Very well put. I continue to be so frustrated with the dismissive way people think of and relate to widows - as though it is not a big thing to have to deal and live with. Well, if only they knew...

    It is a challenge to live in a world where you're the odd man out - constantly being around couples and intact families. We're in the minority with more of them and fewer of us. Although I miss going out to places for entertainment, I refuse to make myself uncomfortable forcing myself to do so now. My life holds enough pain.

    I very much liked your comment about trying to rise above your situation. I think in trying to go on and do the best we can that we do rise. Just trying to make the best of things under some trying conditions.

    I have come to the conclusion that this is not a good age to be widowed. As you noted, men who have been on their own aren't interested in becoming involved. And it is harder for us to establish new friendships because we are kind of set and settled in our ways. I am so glad that you take the time to reach out via blogging and I very much value your observations and ideas.

  3. I've definitely experienced a realigning of relationships, so to speak. I've found that for whatever reason, men have been more likely to stay my friends - I do still have a few female friends, most of whom I've known for a very long time, but overall women have been the ones who have drifted away, or in at least one case, never spoken to me again after the funeral. I wonder if this is because men are less sensitive to unwritten social rules (the kind that say "avoid the widow"), or if there's something going on in the limbic brain that draws men to unattached women, even if there's zero chance that anything is ever going to happen. I don't know, though.

    I do think that "like with like" explains why married couples are mostly friends with other married couples. My own friendships have changed more than once over the years to reflect where I was in life - when I got married, I hung around with other married people, and when I had a baby, I hung around with other new parents. I'm sure if I'd been widowed when I was 74, I would soon have found myself hanging around with other widows, but I was 34 and there weren't any other widows. It happened too soon, and I ended up out of sync.

  4. Vanessa - "Out of sync." I'll have to remember this great phrase too. We do hang around people similiar to ourselves and where we are in life. There just aren't that many widows out there within this age bracket and even fewer for someone widowed at age 34. I think guys don't "think" as much as women do or get hung up on things either. They take a friendship at face value and don't read more into it and I wish more women were as uninhibited and open as some of their male counterparts.