Isolation is being or remaining alone, detached, or apart from others. Unfortunately, isolation is not detached or apart from divorce, the two are very much connected. There are many reasons for this that I would like to explore. First, let’s talk about the four different types of isolation.
Personal: This is not being around people in body, mind, or spirit. People in personal isolation purposefully keep themselves at arms length from others.
Social: This is being around people in body but not in mind or spirit. People in social isolation find themselves in social situations but do not have the energy or strength to embrace it. Our friend in the picture above is suffering from social isolation.
Conflicted: This is being around people in mind or spirit, but not in body. People in conflicted isolation want to be around others but just can’t find the energy or strength to do it.
Forced: This is being isolated by others. People in forced isolation want to interact but are intentionally ignored by others.
Personal isolation is common because people need time to heal, reflect, and rediscover who they are. Meg was married to Joseph for 22 years and was blindsided by the divorce. She really thought she knew her husband, her marriage, and for that matter, herself. All of that ‘knowledge’ went down the drain when he told her that he has not really loved her for that last ten years. This is devastating news and justifiably requires self induced isolation to get her head right before she can get into the social mix in any meaningful way.
Social isolation is common because people cannot stop working. They must go grocery shopping and make the monthly Target run to get the necessities. Sometimes, they are strong armed to be social. None of this means that they are ready to be social and their lack of readiness can be painfully obvious to them and those for whom they come in contact with.
Conflicted isolation is common because people have been away from the social scene in any meaningful way for so long that they want to insert themselves but cannot find the strength or energy to do so. Mandy has been divorced for a little over a year and has done the personal isolation thing. She wants to get out there and reconnect with friends but she psyches herself out every time. To her, there is always a viable reason to just stay in. Of course, in hindsight she continuously kicks herself for missed opportunities. This is a vicious cycle, difficult to stop.
Forced isolation is common because people are judgmental. Was that a blunt enough reason? Good, because it’s true. If a divorcee had mutual friends, some of those friends may very well put them in forced isolation out of spite. If the divorcee is not being strong enough for some peoples taste, some of those people will intentionally ignore them. “God, Erin’s been divorced for 2 years. She needs to get over it!”, says Marla while subsequently refusing to invite Erin over. On a personal note, I once had a friend that was disinvited to a game night because he was “too somber”. She had only been divorced for two months. I just so happened to have become sick (cough cough) and decided to miss the function myself.
There you have it! Three understandable and one egregious reason that isolation is prevalent after a divorce. We are humans and thus we grieve. We emote. We cannot simply pull up our bootstraps two months after a divorce and healthily reattach ourselves to society. It would not end well.
And for those of you that have experienced forced isolation, do yourselves a favor. Lose those ‘friends’ please!