Though divorce may not carry the same ostracism it once did when very few couples actually went through a divorce, it still has social implications for those couples who dissolve their marriages. Couples become singles and children are often shunted between homes. Divorce changes the whole social dynamic for the couple, for the whole family, and even for relatives.
Half a Couple
Couples, especially those who've been married for a long time, have a whole life built around them as a married couple. Their lives revolve around friendships, usually with other couples. Many activities include each of the partners, not as individuals, but as a couple. Conversations with friends often involve discussions about issues that relate to the couple. Even scheduling means considering not just your schedule, but also that of your spouse. Divorce breaks apart not just a marriage, but a whole way of viewing yourself and your life.
Those activities that attracted you as part of a couple may seem awkward now that you're single. Even attending a church, however accepting, can be difficult, especially if you and your spouse attended a couples Bible study or Sunday School class. The same goes for card parties with other married couples. The change in the social situation can lead to anxiety and depression.
Half a couple may also mean less income. Divorce means a whole new set of bills and financial hassles. It may mean both partners have less disposable income, which reflects in not only taking vacations, but even just paying house payments and electricity. Socially, divorce might mean fewer nights out or affordable activities.
Friendships suffer after a divorce. When a couple has been together for a time, they tend to become friends with other couples. You do things, such as eat out or play golf or tennis, as couples, Socially, the effect of divorce tends to make these relationships awkward. Women may resent or fear another woman, friend or not, once she is single again. Games such as playing tennis together don't work. Bringing a date usually makes things worse if the other couple was also close to your ex-spouse. Friendships tied to you as a couple can break down, leaving you feeling vulnerable, isolated and alone. Even lunch with other friends of the same gender can become a session of tearing apart the ex-spouse, causing you more pain and anger, rather than allowing you to heal and move on.
Divorce is most difficult for children. Instead of one home, they may be shunted back and forth or they may end up with limited contact with one of their parents. Even if divorcing parents put aside their negative feelings for the other partner for the sake of the children, the social effects for the children can be traumatic. They may feel unloved, isolated, and that they caused the break-up. Social activities that include both parents may make children not wish to participate, further isolating them at a time they most need their friends and social setting. Holidays, special events, even birthdays can become sources of contention, and scheduling nightmares, leaving children even further traumatized. Children of divorce may find it difficult to trust or form long-term, loving relationships.
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Carolyn Scheidies has been writing professionally since 1994. She writes a column for the “Kearney Hub” and her latest book is “From the Ashes.” She holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where she has also lectured in the media department.