One of my oldest friends is going through a nuclear divorce. While M and I have done our level best to stay neutral on the topic and retain cordial relationships with both parties through the challenges, it has proved impossible. The husband had an affair, and he seems to be genuinely regretful and remorseful for this poor choice. The wife was devasted and angry and has taken every opportunity to remind those of us who love them both of what he did and how badly he betrayed her. The white-hot anger was difficult to live with, but it was part of the price of staying married. Her insistence upon publicly shaming him and punishing him at social events was impossible for me to cope with, and I would end up insisting she treat him civilly when in my home or presence. I know I was not the only one who was appalled by her behavior toward him, but M and I are the only ones who stepped up and confronted her about it. What she does to him privately is between them, but please stop dragging the rest of us to the woodshed to watch under the guise of getting together for an outing.

He finally left a few months ago; M and I continue to socialize with him and move forward with our friendship.

The wife, not so much. Things finally came to a head a few months ago, when I realized I had run out of sympathy and compassion for her and this situation. Her bitterness had chewed up and spit out and destroyed 40+ years of close friendship. For me, telling her that I could no longer associate with her in ths very dark and negative space was … well it was akin to a death with the associated feelings of mourning and grief and guilt. But it had to be done, to protect myself and my own peace of mind. I am right there with those who are trying to help themselves, but she had successfully burned out my compassion, my goodwill, our friendship.

Today M received a tearful voice mail from her. She has breast cancer and will be going in for a double mastectomy next week. Her behavior has cost her every friend she has, her children are not speaking to her, and she is isolated and alone at this point and facing surgery and recovery. Alone. She needs help and is reaching out to M, because of the two of us, he is far more patient and likely to be compassionate and forgiving under the circumstances. Through him she could get to me.

I admit to being torn. We have a huge long history, and I have a hard time turning my back on anyone, much less someone I have known for so long and have so many fond memories with. I will feel guilty if I ignore her plea, and I will do what I can to help her. Probably she would like some assistance in healing the breach with her children. Probably it will be emotionally bloody and ugly. Probably she will blame her soon-to-be-ex-husband for giving her cancer.

Possibly I am a terrible friend in so many ways. Definitely I do not want to make this phone call and am procrastinating. But I will never forgive myself if I do not respond and reach out to her. 

On the other side of the coin, the my young pregnant friend’s due date is now 2 weeks away and she is so ready to deliver. The adopting parents are anxiously waiting for her appointment on Tuesday, to find out if they should move up their flight out to be with her. She remains remarkably serene and happy about her decision to give up her son (ultrasound confirmed baby’s gender); there is much peace in being resolved and feeling sure.

One thought on “When feelings die

  1. That’s a really tough situation, but you put it in the best possible words… there are people that will burn the compassion, caring kind soul right out of you. Though the bridge may be as burned as it can be, I’d probably make the call as well…

    Also, glad the progress is going great with your other friend! 2 weeks to due date, I hope it all goes great.

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