by: Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC
I’m a single mom, 42 years old, who has been divorced for about one year. During my marriage, I was part of the mommy clique. We got to know each other through our kids and these connections branched out into couple friendships, in which we went out together, took turns entertaining in our homes, and had a nice network in place.
Fast forward to the time my ex and I separated. I felt the women were mostly on my side and the guys were more sympathetic to my husband. I saw that as natural and completely expected. Throughout the separation, I managed to continue most of my one- to- one contacts but slowly discovered that we were being left out of the couple get-togethers. Again, I wrote this off to their caution and desire not to put us in an uncomfortable position and thought it would settle down and eventually, we would find a new normal for how we would continue our relationships. I was wrong.
As the divorce became final, I realized that my women friends were becoming invisible. The phone stopped ringing, the invitations to go to coffee, lunch or to grab a glass of wine just dried up. I was so busy dealing with the end of my marriage, helping to ease the upset to my kids, and just dealing with the changes that divorce brings. Therefore, I didn’t really address it and after trying to reach out a few times, I pulled back—hurt and confused.
Now, a year later, I only hear occasionally from one former female friend. She has confided a few group feelings regarding our divorce, and the most shocking one is that I am now seen as a threat around their husbands. Toni, I am considered to be very attractive, I keep myself in shape, and I made the decision to end the marriage. However my reasons were very good ones for me. I didn’t take it lightly and, no, I wasn’t having an affair as some of my former friends have suggested to one another. Apparently the fear is that I would make a pass at one of their husbands or, if I needed guy stuff done, I would ask them and it would lead to alone time together in which sparks could fly. I feel hurt, insulted and as though these women never knew me and were never my friends at all. Is this common? Is it something I did? -Women Scorned
Dear Women Scorned-
I would like to be able to say without hesitation that this is unusual, or that you must have done something specific that set this whole expulsion in motion. Then women everywhere would feel safe that their relationship with their women friends would always be there, regardless of death or divorce. However, this is just not true.
Women have been lamenting about this problem for years, yet it is the worst kept secret between women. You are accepted and part of the club if you meet certain specific requirements, possess the cool factor, are attractive, have a successful spouse, kids are popular, smart, etc. The requirements might vary from clique to clique but they exist. And, sadly, it’s not too different from junior high. Remember when you were on the inside looking out? Did you even think about the moms who were shunned or excluded? My guess is that you didn’t, or weren’t aware there were any. As long as you met the requirements and standards, you were in.
Apparently, divorce was an automatic, if unspoken, reason for being kicked out. I don‘t want to sound unsympathetic—I am not. I have heard this same tale of woe from other women over the years and sometimes it’s the death of their spouse that landed them where you now are. Of course this was after all the words of sympathy, dinners delivered to their door, rides offered for their kids to events and activities—even free childcare until they were feeling better. Then, once the crisis was over their friends moved on, the circle closed and they were alone. Ouch.
I think this explanation answers your first question: Yes, it is fairly common but doesn’t always occur, of course. It partially answers your second question. However it wouldn’t hurt if you spent some time reflecting on how you interacted with the other spouses and if there were ever times that the women expressed unease even before your decision to separate.
You have stated that you were not having an affair. Had you ever had one that the women knew about? Had you ever considered having one and discussed it with the group? You mention your attractiveness in your question—was this something you flaunted in any way or used to get attention from the other husbands? I am not suggesting that any of these are the case—I am trying to help you answer your own question by examining what your relationship dynamics were with your old group of friends and if your behavior raised any red flags back then. If the answer is no, no, no—you can accept their rejection and move on knowing it was them not you and that you can’t lose something you never had which in this case is their friendship.
If the answer is maybe or “there was that one time,” you could arrange to get-together with your last connection from the group and have an honest talk about it. You start by telling her you thought about what she said and needed time to process it as you were taken aback. Then, discuss the incident or uncomfortable vibe or whatever had occurred that you have since recalled. Ask for her honest take on it and if it had led to unease back then that no one discussed with you. Then listen carefully to her responses. Not only will you gain new insights as to how you come across to other women, but you may get a different take on what was really behind their rejection. If so, tell your friend you are sorry and that you just didn’t realize and wish someone had confronted you directly at the time about it.
Let her know you value her hanging in with you and that you would like to remain friends. She may be one person, but this connection could be the start of a building a new network of women friends who most likely will be less homogenous, and therefore a better fit for your new normal.
Toni Coleman is an internationally recognized dating and relationship expert and founder of http://consum-mate.com. Her expertise is sought frequently by local and national publications, top-ranked dating and relationship websites. Toni has been a guest on a number of radio and TV programs. She is the featured relationship coach in The Business And Practice Of Coaching, (Norton, September 2005); and authored the forward of Winning Points With The Woman In Your Life, One Touchdown At A Time (Simon and Schuster, November 2005). Toni's popular relationship articles can be found in several magazines and a number of self-help, personal growth, and dating/relationship websites. From March until December 2005, she was a weekly contributing commentator (love and dating coach) on the KTRS Radio Morning Show, (St. Louis, MO). Toni holds a master’s degree in Clinical Social Work, is a licensed psychotherapist in the state of Virginia, and holds certification in life coaching. She is a member of The International Coach Federation and The National Association of Social Workers. Toni writes bi-weekly for HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com. Follow her on FB at www.facebook.com/coachtoni.coleman and Twitter @CoachToni.