Feeling like the fifth wheel?
Many people at the beginning of their separation or divorce often feel abandoned or sidelined by their married friends. I tend to think of it as the fifth wheel bug. Don’t worry, it’s not something you catch but, the discomfort is there. The dynamics of socializing often change upon separation and divorce. While the situation of being the odd person out in a Noah’s Ark society – a couple’s world, is not uncommon, it can be unnerving. Suddenly single, it’s at this time in your life when you need the love and support of your friends like never before. It’s not that you are not welcome as a friend, it’s that you are no longer part of a couple.
I not only hear about this situation frequently from my clients and friends, but experienced this first hand when I first separated. Now, not every couple excludes the single person, but there are many who do. I’ve learned that this situation occurs mostly because of discomfort. It is easier to fit four or six around a table then three or five. Balanced, even. What you need to understand is that this not about you, it’s about the way your friends feel about your situation. It’s not that your friends are afraid of you fraternizing with their husband or wife, it’s that they are used to socializing with you as a couple or they feel uncomfortable being confronted with divorce.
We all know how emotional divorce can be. And, because of your turmoil and grieving it can also take over how you express yourself in a social setting. So imagine then, a couple(s) going out for dinner on a Saturday night, wanting to keep the evening conversation light and easy. While I’m sure many of your friends are extremely supportive, the last thing this couple wants to hear after a long week of work and their own stress is your anger, bitterness or sadness.
So, what do you do about this to build your confidence and life and deal with this situation?
- Make new single friends –ask your friends if they know of someone single to introduce you to, not for a romantic relationship but friendship.
- Go to a therapist – venting about this situation to friends will only alienate you from your friends.
- Build your support network – support groups, clergy, friends, therapist, and so on.
- Go to lectures or programs which are of interest. You can find many things to enjoy advertised in the paper or at your synagogue or church.
- Start doing things outside of your comfort level for entertainment; enjoy a movie on your own, go to the bookstore, enjoy an exhibit at a museum or art gallery. This can make you a more interesting person with experiences to share and have fun in the process.
- Recognize that this is going to happen. Don’t take it personally.
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