Q. My social life has changed noticeably since my husband died a year ago. I’m almost never invited to a dinner party anymore unless it’s family-oriented. Is it just me, or does this happen to other widows, too?
Actually, your experience is very common. It’s a myth in our society that friendships always stay the same – or last forever – or should. In fact, our friendships ebb and flow (and sometimes disappear) as we change, others change, or the situation changes. Friends (or you) may move far away, and it’s hard to stay in touch. Work friends change jobs and you don’t see each other regularly anymore. And people get divorced or are widowed, which changes not only their role in life, but the dynamics of some relationships.
A husband’s death has social aftershocks, and some friendships may not survive for a number of reasons. You’re not a couple anymore, and certain people prefer to socialize with pairs. You may get dropped from the dinner party list. Some married or partnered women friends may never be available to see you on weekends, which are reserved for duos. Friendships related to your husband’s business or professional life may fade. Or it’s you who finds the relationship no longer satisfies your needs.
Another unfortunate truth is that an unattached extra man is always welcome at the table. An unattached woman sometimes is not. And it’s hard to predict who will invite you and who won’t. Casual friends or acquaintances may be the ones who include you, rather than closer friends. In some cases, an insecure hostess may fear a “merry widow” as a threat who might poach on her own husband. As far back as English Renaissance comedies, widows have been portrayed as lusty, “available” women, and that view can persist today.
Many widows feel “left out” to some degree some of the time. My advice is to focus instead on broadening your social life and adding new, compatible people to your circle of friends. It may be a person you barely knew in the past, such as a neighbor down the block, or someone you met at your place of worship or a volunteer activity after your husband died. I’ve found that “friend material” is all around you if you’re open to it and willing to take a chance.
If you have a question for Florence, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florence Isaacs is a freelance journalist, author—and a widow herself. Her books include My Deepest Sympathies, When the Man You Love Is Ill and Just a Note to Say...The Perfect Words for Every Occasion.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons/jnyemb