When we get married, we join two separate though overlapping social networks together. Friends are introduced from both sides and an expanded network is formed. Over time, married couples tend to socialize more with other married couples and family holidays now include in-laws.
Divorce and personal networksDivorce causes a break in that expanded network. After many divorces, you may no longer socialize with your previous in-laws. Friends often choose sides or drop out of sight altogether. Many divorcees find themselves with few single friends. One study shows that most divorcees experienced network losses shortly after the divorce and in half of the cases these losses were not compensated for in the later years after divorce. Divorce is in essence a break in our social network.
Why are social networks important?Human beings have evolved to be social. We tend to live close together in large groups and cooperate to accomplish our goals. Take building a house for example. This involves a large number of people each with individual skills working together over an extended period of time in a cooperative manner. Having evolved this way, people thrive on social interaction. At times of crisis we depend on our social network for support much as a weakened animal would depend on the herd.
Why are social networks even more important now?
As I see it, two main factors have made social networks even more important today. Firstly divorce and remarriage has reduced the effect of family support. As we move to serial relationships, nuclear families become disrupted and so personal non-family networks take on a more important role.
The second reason is that it is far easier to travel and emigrate than before. Many young people leave home and move to distant areas to settle down. This increases the difficulty of providing nuclear family support when it is needed and it reduces the social contact between the individual and their nuclear family.
Fixing the break in the social network
How we deal with this break in our social network after divorce is important. We will need to rely on others from time to time and we need to re-establish ourselves as active social singles after divorce. Linking up with local organizations and other singles and divorcees helps expand our network of support and aids in our recovery from divorce.
A study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine concluded that low tangible support and emotional support, in addition to certain life events which included divorce, were independently related to depression and negative morale; informational support was associated with positive morale. The bottom line is that building up and reinforcing your social support network is a key ingredient in your adjustment to divorce.