My Divorce Made Me Retreat From The World

Why I finally feel like I can re-enter society.

sad lonely divorced woman sitting in bed Party people studio / Shutterstock

"You need to stop saying no to things," said my friend. "People are going to stop inviting you."

I knew she was right but I didn’t care.

Divorce was causing me to retreat from the world.

Even I found it hard to believe. I am the quintessential party girl. The overly social extrovert. The Chatty Cathy. The life of the party. The youngest of a big Irish Catholic family.

I was born to party.

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I went to my marriage counselor’s office.

"I have made my world so much smaller," I said.

"Colleen," said my counselor. "That’s not such a bad thing."

"It doesn’t feel natural to me," I said.

"Your world was too big," he said. "You were all things to all people. It’s healthier to have some boundaries."

"I know," I said.

"What feels unnatural about it to you?" he asked.

"It feels in conflict with who I have always been," I said. "I’m the overly social youngest of five. I love a crowd. I miss that side of me. At the same time, I feel the need to retreat. It’s not just the unhappiness that divorce has caused. It’s the sense of being judged on a broader scale."


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"You should write about that," he said. "It’s extremely common for people to grieve the loss of some friendships during a divorce."

I knew my marriage counselor was right.

My words could help others experiencing the same excruciating divorce dividing line. The place where your friends line up on one side or the other. The place that fortunately most human beings will never have to visit to determine who their true friends are.

"Colleen," said my marriage counselor. "Your rose-colored glasses have turned black. But you will find your way back. Once a happy confident girl at your core, always a happy confident girl. The pendulum has just swung very far in one direction. It will eventually swing back to the middle."


I hang on to his words.

I miss that girl…I want her back.

But I am also attuned to my marriage counselor’s wisdom. Colleen can still be a good time Charlotte. The life of the party. The ultimate party girl. The overly social youngest of a big Irish Catholic family. 

Colleen can still love a crowd.

But she can’t get lost in it.

She has to enjoy the party while keeping her world and friendships a little tighter.

I can’t be all things to all people. I can’t have that many close friendships. I can’t offer to help that many people.

I have to take the advice my marriage counselor has given me from the start. It pertained to my marriage but it went far outside into other relationships.


I lacked boundaries and self-protective instincts.

I gave some people too many chances even when they didn’t deserve them.

I had a hard time walking away from anyone I once loved.

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I spent several years wrestling with my truth and my contradiction.

The rose-colored party girl begging to be let out again and the black turning her back. It was an internal battle between the part of myself I liked and the less social one I didn’t prefer.


But the party girl had gotten me into trouble.

As my counselor said, "Our greatest strength can become our greatest weakness."

It seemed like an endless battle.

Until one day I woke up and I could see again. 

I was comfortable with my smaller world. I was comfortable with a reformed version of the party girl. I was still her. My marriage counselor was correct. I hadn’t lost anything. I was still the life of the party.

I just didn’t take the entire party home with me.

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Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes bout love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.