I’m fortunate to have many friends; some since childhood, some from the workplace who’ve remained in my life beyond the job, some through our common passions of dancing and writing. At times, I’ve felt I didn’t need to make any new friendships because I barely find the time to maintain the ones I have. But since my husband and I separated, I’ve discovered that I need friendships with women who’ve also gone through the disruption of divorce.
This week I met two women who’ve gone through this and talking with them helped me not to feel so alone. One lady is in my Texas 2-Step class and has recently moved to the area. Her story of downsizing her life, moving from a house to an apartment, rang true with the information I’d just read; don’t make long-term financial commitments that first year after divorce. She told me that the hardest thing about moving from her former community was leaving her network of friends.
The second lady I met through my church. She had moved from another state to obtain a better job and start her new life after divorce. She was working on ways to let go of stress and to find new joy in her life.
Both women were good listeners, and responded to my story by letting me know the commonalities in our experience– even though the circumstances were different and they were at a younger stage of family life. I felt more normal after talking with them. We were in our own subgroup of shared experience.
Months ago, after I told my friend and former coworker, Debra about my separation, she recommended a book. We’d often shared reading recommendations when we worked together at the middle school.
“I think you’d find Mary Piper’s book, Women Rowing North, helpful now,” she said, then gave me a hug and said we should meet for coffee.
Shortly afterward, I purchased the book and the subtitle grabbed my attention: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age.
Well, that certainly describes some of my situation; I never thought I’d be getting Medicare and a Divorce the same year!
Reading through the book, I discovered that facing divorce in this later stage of life is more common than I’d thought. Mary Pipher quotes the figures from divorce research and I was startled; the rate of divorce for people in their fifties has doubled; the rate of divorce for people 65 and older has TRIPLED. I will make it into that cut when I turn 65 in March.
Throughout the book, the importance of supportive relationships is emphasized. In Chapter 14 “Travel Companions” she speaks to the importance of friendships between women. I like what she says about why we go to other women when we need a listening ear:
“Women excel at troubles talk. We know how to listen and empathize . We can be each other’s first responders in emergency mental health crises. We need not hide our pain, our flaws, and our unskillful behaviors. We can make mistakes without feeling that we are at grave risk. (p. 178)
I’m thankful for the grace that was supplied by the listening ears and wise counsel of my two new friends. Perhaps developing these friendships will be part of the adventure of this new chapter of my life.
How About You?
When have you benefitted from friendships with people with whom you shared a difficult experience?
How can you cultivate new friendships in your life?