Divorce invites isolation.
This happens with the separation. From one home into two. From an intact marriage into two estranged spouses. From an intact family into splitting time with the children. Suddenly.
This happens with extended family and friends, when in-laws and shared friends “take sides”. But also indirectly when escaping one’s own family and friends who, in an effort to be supportive, hyper focus on the divorce.
Isolation is not only physical, but emotional. The shame of failure. Depression. And, the strain on existing mental health challenges.
But, isolation may not be new. The separation may compound isolation that developed gradually during a difficult marriage. Whether due to addiction, abuse and domestic violence, financial tensions, or unmanaged mental health issues, for example. Unhappy spouses often distance, and eventually isolate, themselves from friends and family (not to mention each other and their children) due to marital problems.
You don’t need to go it alone. Here are some tips for overcoming the isolation of divorce:
- Reach out to family. They provide an important support network during the divorce process, which takes time. But be mindful that your family members may also be processing their own grief over the end of the marriage, plus are invested in protecting you. Which can result in family members who dwell on the divorce. Be willing to establish boundaries with family members, letting them know that divorce cannot be the constant focus of your time together.
- Reach out to your friends. Most will welcome hearing from you. Reconnect. You need the distraction and support separate from your family. Don’t worry about those who don’t or won’t respond. It means they are not available to support you and may be unavailable due to their own challenges. Again, be mindful of not dwelling on the divorce.
- Seek counseling. Because a counselor is a neutral person who is professionally trained to help you process the emotional fallout of the divorce. A counselor is objective and neutral, whereas family and friends are not. A counselor can help you identify isolation and develop a plan for overcoming it, whereas family and friends may not as easily. Counseling has the benefit of confidentiality, of which you are the gatekeeper – it is your space and yours alone. For more thoughts on counseling, please read “When the Going Gets Tough, Do the Tough Go to Counseling?”
- Explore divorce-related support groups. There are many, in various formats. There are in-person groups and online communities. An in-person group may be a better option because of its educational and social aspects, but (as with family and friends) is not confidential. Online communities have their own challenges – they may inadvertently fuel isolation by keeping you at home, plus your online posts may be subject to disclosure in the divorce case (so, post wisely).
- If you are religious, turn to your existing place of worship or look for a religious home. This gets you out of the house, into the community, and potentially into support group, activity, and volunteer opportunities.
- Try a new activity. Something new to challenge yourself. Or, an existing interest but done with others to get you of the house and widen your circle of friends. Doing something for yourself (so, self-care) is necessary to recharge your physical and emotional reserves to sustain you through the divorce process.
- Volunteer your time to help others in need. Which, in turn, helps you. Not only by getting you into the community, but more importantly by putting your own challenges in perspective and showing your ability to bring about positive change (which is often hard to see in one’s own divorce).
- Consult with an attorney. Self-serving, I know. But, I am a strong believer that education is empowering. Empowerment helps overcome the feeling of helplessness, which is a gateway to isolation.
Isolation will take hold if you let it. Recognize it – or, at the least, assume it’s there.
Isolation can be overcome, one step at a time. Each step builds toward the next. What is now will not always be. Things do get better. And, overcoming isolation is a step in that direction.
Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke and University of Baltimore School of Law. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law. You can follow her on Linked In, Facebook, LindsayParvis.com, and subscribe to her Newsletter for discussion, news, and developments in Maryland family law.