I divorced three years ago. It was a really nasty scene that dragged out for three years. We had been together 20 years.
After I picked my self up and got my act together, life started to be pretty good. The kids are doing great. I lost about 30 pounds, got a promotion at work and started dating. Everyone said how wonderful I looked. I haven't felt so free in years! I have to admit that I have been so enjoying meeting men and sex.
Most of my girlfriends are married, and you could say I “won” the friends in the divorce. At first these were really encouraging, setting me up on dates and loving all my dating antics. But after a while I started to get the cold shoulder from some of them. They called less, and I realized that I wasn't getting invited to barbecues and other family get-togethers. I was so hurt — was I being excluded because these are couples events, and I'm now single?
I eventually started confronting different friends. I kept hearing the same thing: no one wants me around their husbands because they think I flirt with them! I can't believe it! I think these women are just jealous. Over the past few years several have confided that they've been unhappy in their marriages for years (I had no idea), and most of them have let themselves go. They just see me having fun dating and looking great but they don't have the courage to leave their miserable relationships.
Tell me I'm right.
So effing sad in San Antonio
All these different friends are telling you the same thing. The common denominator is you and your sexuality.
Yes, your post-divorce success is certainly making these unhappily married women consider their own circumstances. A few years ago this study found that divorce is actually contagious – if you have a divorced friend, you are 33% more likely to split. I won't dismiss completely that they could be threatened by you. After all, if these women are a mix of unhappy in their marriages and unattractive, they sense that their husbands are also unhappy — and open to something better.
However, I will go to my grave saying this: You attract what you give off. Consider this woman, who wrote the viral essay I'm Fat, 40 and Single and I Have no Problem Getting Laid all the Time. After a breakup, this 300-pound single mom decided she wanted lots of great sex — and found it, with wonderful men who devoured her. She felt sexy and attractive and men found her to be so, despite that she falls way outside traditional beauty.
Same for you. You're putting something out there, and now it is's coming back to haunt you. I don't sense your motives are malicious or even manipulative. Instead, your sexuality is a kamikaze bundle of undirected energy. Who could blame you? It has been 25 years since you were last on the market, and you went through so many years either in a relationship or miserably celibate or in the trauma of divorce. Maybe, deep down, you see how unhappy these women are, how passively they stay in bad relationships and how they don't take care of themselves. Maybe you harbor a bit of resentment for your friends because you see in them yourself just a few years ago.
But now you are not them — you feel you are a better version of that woman you used to be. Now you are pretty and horny, and you don't know what to do with yourself. Somehow along the way you gave these women — and maybe their husbands — the notion that you were open to a roll in the hay — or more? — with these married men because you are not clear about who you are and what you want at this stage.
The first step to remedy this situation is to own it. Accept that if all your friends are singing the same tune, you have responsibility here. Then forgive yourself. Accept that you are exploring this new and wondrous world of dating and sex again for the first time, and you're not completely sure of what you're doing. Which is so completely normal! Then speak with your friends. Tell them that you feel terribly for giving them the impression that you're out to snag their men. Tell them that that simply is not your style. Also: be vulnerable. Admit what a heady experience it is to be pursued and open to men at this late stage of life. Tell them that you are making mistakes and finding your way, and you appreciate their support and encouragement. And then welcome the invite to the next wine tasting — and check yourself.
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Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.