Dear Red: I Feel Lonely and Sad

Dear Red,

I've been meaning to write for advice for a while now. I'm a basically happy person that once you know, is fun to be around. But lately I've been feeling very alone and sad.

I've been divorced for five months now but we were separated for a year before that. I'm very happy that the relationship is over but feel stuck in a rut. I moved to columbus after I had already begun dating my ex-wife and most of my socializing was spent courting her or with friends that were hers already. Most of our joint friends were other married couples. She was the social and outgoing one so needless to say she kept the friends when we split.

When I was younger I had a lot of self-confidence but now seem to lack that in a big way. It's hard for me to put myself in social situations to meet new friends. And at this point I'm only looking for platonic.

I'm not into the bar scene anymore.

So I feel like I'm in a new city with no friends. Help!

Lonely In Cbus

Dear Lonely In Cbus,

I gotta tell you, there are so many times when people write to me and I’m like, “Dude, I’ve been THERE.” I totally get what you’re feeling and experiencing, and I hope that I can help you feel a little less sad and lonely.

Also, I’ve purchased a live unicorn for you off Ebay. It should be arriving shortly. I sure do hope they poked holes in the box.

Anyway, onward.

I think the first year and a half to two years after a separation and divorce are the hardest. Even though your marriage has been over for almost 18 months, it wasn’t legally final until just five months ago. Sometimes the legal end is really the beginning of the healing because—at least in my experience—that’s when the REAL sigh of relief happens. The actual, “Phew, it really is over now,” sense of, “this chapter is closed in my life.”

All that to’s very, very natural that you’re still feeling a little lonely and sad right now. In some ways, it reminds me of my friend who was very ill at the beginning of this year. He is recovering nicely, but he went through so much physically during his illness that he still needs to take frequent rests and encourage his body to get stronger. That’s’re still recovering, and it’s going to take a minute to really start feeling better.

However, I do think that there are certain things you can do in the meantime to speed the healing process, and to help you get out and explore the city and make new friends. Here are a few things I’d recommend:

Tap into the local Social Media scene

Now, I have the added advantage of knowing for a fact that you’re on Twitter, and that you keep up a pretty active front. How about taking some of those online conversations offline? I’m talking a very simple, “Hey, remember talking about that new coffee shop? I’m going to try it out next week, want to join?” You’ve already established trust with the person online, and the offline shift should be pretty natural. (Plus, people in Columbus are generally AWESOME about being willing to meet offline from Twitter. Try it’ll be a good start.)

Ask for help

I will never, ever forget the kindness of a few key people in my life after my divorce. People I asked for help (very simple things, like moving furniture, or helping me paint) who dropped everything to come to my assistance. I know these people are still friends to this day. I think there is so much goodness in having the guts to say, “I’m a little broken right now, can you help me?” Most people who aren’t jerkoffs will gladly answer with a yes.

For example, I did this last year right before I attended my first networking event all by my lonesome (incidentally, I was also feeling sad and lonely at the time). I put a friendly call out on Twitter, asking who would be attending the event, and then saying, “Will someone be my first friend?” I was simply hoping for one person to say, “Sure!” I had three awesome people step forward and say, “Yes! I’ll be there and will be happy to introduce you to people.” Those people are still friends to this day, and all because I was willing to ask.

Make your interests work for you

Who says you have to do things other people like? So your old friends only want to hang out with the ex. Bummer (that happened to me, too). That doesn’t mean you have to run after their interests so you're still included...just start making your own interests work for you.

So, what do you like? Or what would you like to learn more about? Maybe it’s start going to every cooking class in town that fits your schedule. You’ll meet lots of people in those situations, and learn something you like in the meantime. How about if you like cycling? Try going to different free meet-ups and rides hosted around the city. What if you like wine, but don’t like the bar scene? Try going to a tasting at a local wine shop (Camelot has an AMAZING owner and staff who would love to chat with you about wine). Yes, these are all event-type things that require that you put yourself out there a bit, BUT, you won’t get to know too many people from the comfort of your own home.

Heck, invite a relative stranger to go with you, even! I won free tickets to a Broadway show a couple of months ago, and asked a girl I’d talked to on Twitter to go with me. I was planning to have coffee with her anyway, and discovered she loved musicals. It was a win-win for both of us (and we got invited to the cast party a great way for both of us to get to know each other, and a shit-ton of new people to boot).

Here’s the cool thing about where you currently are:  you are absolutely in control of where this all goes. Yes, you’re still healing, and yes, you’re kind of a shy guy, but I think you can still make that work for you. It’ll take a little guts (I was SO nervous when I first started meeting people by myself), and it’ll definitely take practice (small talk is an art), but putting yourself out there will really make a difference in your current situation.

And if not, remember...that unicorn I got for you is on its way.