As we move through different phases in life, we often find ourselves faced with challenges, emotions and decisions that we never had to face before. (I think they they call this growth, right?) While these new stages bring about and aid in our personal development, many are far from easy. As I navigate being divorced, I am quickly discovering that these new changes aren’t just complicated for me, but often for my friends as well.
We live in a world that encourages compartmentalization. Everything has a name, a place, a label, a category. So we apply this thinking to all things from race to socio-economic factors, even to children and their rates of development. We just love to classify things. So it should come as no surprise that this kind of thinking would rear its head in regards to people and their relationship status as well. Well, call me naive because somehow I didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect things within my social circles to change once my status moved from married to single. I also didn’t expect the people in those circles to go through their own adjustments pertaining to “where to put Breegan” during their own moments of pondering. This is one of those feelings nobody warns you about or prepares you for.
It’s easier to group people by their status when you’re planning an event like a wedding. You’re doing seating arrangements and you want to put husbands and wives together, and long term couples together. But what about the person without a plus one? Where do you seat him or her? And what about special dinner parties or concerts? Maybe you’re thinking it would be more considerate to skip the invite if those particular guests don’t have husbands or wives since so many others do. I get it. But from a newly single gal to every person who may be struggling with how to be sympathetic to a friend in this position: please stop excluding us.
I know none of us want the people we love to feel left out of important moments or fun events. I also know that it can be difficult determining the right way to handle these sorts of conundrums. I realize the only way to successfully get anywhere with the topic is to have the conversation honestly. It’s hurtful when you find out you’ve been excluded from an event because everyone else is a couple. Being a single mom doesn’t rid a woman of her ability to have fun and laugh with other couples! It doesn’t mean she suddenly can’t relate to the conversations had in those groups.
I think exclusion in this way not only hurts feelings, but it can lead to emotionally-hardened individuals who then often go seek solace in more homogenous groups. We’re going to have to figure out how to co-exist with people whose situations don’t mirror our own. Most of us have friends who come from various walks of life, whether it be different cultures or backgrounds, different income levels or different religions. What a bland and boring world it would be if we only spent time with those who were direct reflections of ourselves! Variation is a positive thing. Why are we so determined to separate, especially when it comes to something as trivial as relationship status?
Single men and women exist. We aren’t lepers, and divorce isn’t contagious. We don’t expect to be invited to everything, but “couples only” events often feel divisive and emotionally triggering. Being a divorcee, especially when it wasn’t in the plan, isn’t something we chose. Being a widow or widower isn’t a choice, either. We’re regular people dealing with the hand life dealt us, and our only expectation is that our friends will be our friends through it all.
I think we can all agree that what we need most is more inclusion. Friendships, mom groups, political parties and everything in between all benefit when we seek to come together and understand each other instead of closing ourselves off to anyone we differ from. Being considerate of your single friend probably looks a lot more like extending the invite rather than choosing not to out of fear of obvious status differences. Our lives will inevitably take us through varying chapters; don’t take yourself out of the supporting actor role over something unimportant!