Starting a new life after divorce can be challenging no matter where you live. But unlike life in a sprawling urban setting, starting life over after divorce in a rural community can be a little more complicated.
Dealing with divorce is tough enough, but when you live in a small town, every aspect of a messy divorce can feel claustrophobic and amplified.
The impact of gossip and rumors.
Gossip and rumors burn through every corner of a little town like a wildfire. There is no escape from them. From the grocery store to the church, someone somewhere will be asking you directly (or whispering with others as you pass) about what has happened between you and your ex. The gossip tends to hang like smog over the town long after your names hit the third-page box of divorces in the local paper. Add to that the local rumor mill and social media, and you have a huge fan that spreads the gossip flames through a small town instantaneously.
So how do you avoid becoming a shut-in trying to avoid the blazing brushfire of gossip and rumor? Find the courage to step up and step out. Hold your chin up, greet people with a warm and positive attitude, and keep a smile on your face as best you can. Do your best to proverbially plug your ears to the negative hiss of whispers. If a conversation that is struck with a friend or family member becomes painful or toxic, turn the dialogue in another direction, or excuse yourself cordially.
The rift caused among friends and family.
Mutual friends and family members can be purposely embroiled, or inadvertently involved, in your divorce. Living in an urban setting, the sting of losing good friends can be overcome by getting out and making new ones. Distance can be put between disgruntled family members or hostile in-laws. Unlike a large metropolitan area, it is nearly impossible to make new friends when ties with old friends have been severed, nor is it easy to avoid those angry family members when trying to reboot your life in a small town.
So what do you do when friendships are damaged and family members are divided because of your divorce? While you are left with only a few options, it is still possible to recover your social life and mend those broken family bonds. Eliminate the toxic friends and family from your life. Stick to the few loyal and supportive people who have been at your side through it all. Rebuilding a social existence in a small town becomes a process of mending the once positive relationships with friends and family, as well as knowing how to move on from the toxic ones.
Dining and social hangouts are limited.
Finding separation from your ex in the social scene of a small town is much like sharing custody of your children. In a large metropolis, there is a new social scene around every corner. But in a small town, finding a new hangout or social scene is severely limited when it comes to dining, pubs, or entertainment. Often, the places you and your ex once frequented become divided territory in a small town. There are times when it feels there is nowhere to escape or avoid encountering the ex, or the people who want to talk with you about the hardship and struggles of your divorce. Even the local parks, community building, and churches can become a territorial battleground of who gets to be where and when.
When stuck in the confines of a small town, it is best to look at going out much like a shared custody situation. There will have to be a certain amount of compromise and mutual respect for one another's personal space. It may even mean you have to travel the next town over for dinner out, but think of it as a new experience and a chance to mingle with a new crowd.
Whether your divorce was amicable or a bloody battle, be it in the setting of a big city or a small town, starting your life over again in an important next step. Be positive and hopeful moving forward. Most of all, give yourself assurance that the worst of the storm is behind you.
Written by Eli James Yanna
Eli James Yanna runs a blog called Daddy’s Duties, a site dedicated to the male perspective of life as a stay-at-home father. The stories tell tales of how Eli deals with being a full-time father coping with a messy divorce and caring for three precocious girls, one beastly little boy, and a sixteen-year-old son, too.