Last spring, a long-time female friend made some very rude and unpleasant comments to me during a dinner out. It has been a deteriorating friendship for a couple of months, but that particular evening was a last straw situation. Some background …
J and I have been friends since college, so 25+ years or so. Our kids are close in age and have been friendly through the years, and our husbands both got along well. As families, we socialized well, although I knew J was not especially enamored with M. Because M is a genuinely nice guy, not the bad boy or reforming bad boy types she prefers. Her husband, P, is a not exactly a bad boy, but he’s got a rough side, both professional and personally. He is pretty much house trained, though, and when we see each other socially he’s a great guy to be around.
Marital drama ensued in 2012. Too often I have observed that once kids grow up and start exercising their independence long-term marriages fall apart, and such is the case with J and P. There was no other woman or other man as far as I know, just a matter of no further common goals or interests once the kids left the nest. Sad, but it happens.
As P was the instigator and the one who decided to leave the marriage, J was understandably upset and angry with him. I became the friend whose shoulder she cried on, vented to, listened to her endless despair over the state of her marriage. There was no consoling or comforting her, though; she had been wronged and dumped and was entitled to wallow and have an endless pity party.
I do not disagree; she can wallow and continue the pity part as long as she desires. However, I am a person of limited patience and eventually need to see some glimmer of hope and recovery starting. M and I like P very much and remain on friendly terms, much to J’s dismay. I was kind yet firm in stating that we would not be taking sides; they were both good friends of ours and we both hoped it would remain so after everything else was said and done. She did not like it, at all. I thought it was her anger and bitterness and hurt over the divorce that drove that, and whenever we spent time together I was careful not to mention P or any communication M and I might have had with him.
Our last evening out last spring was much like the previous few had gone – weeping, wailing, railing and venting against the unfairness of being dumped at 53. I listened as always, and since I was past the point of continual sympathy (it had been over a year at this point, the divorce was nearly final), I suggested again that she pull herself together and try to let go of her anger and get on with her life. She was already in therapy – I think she was on her third or fourth therapist at that time, since none of them seemed to understand. After a few cocktails, the alcohol seemed to loosen her restraint on her mean streak. She said that I had not idea what she was going through, but that the only reason I was still married was because I was M’s “sugar mama.” There was more, there was much more hurtful words used to disrespect and belittle me, M, our relationship. It was a brief and truly toxic conversation.
When my friends suggest M has an easy time of it because he’s no long in the work force, I usually just laugh and remind them they are not married to me and perhaps sympathy for M would be more appropriate. Most are good natured comments, maybe a little envious that M and I have structured our life and can make it work financially and emotionally. This time, with J, it was not good natured at all; it was venomous. The way she said it, the malicious intent in her tone and words, infuriated me. When I very quietly and very angrily told her to shut the f**k up about my husband and marriage, she became even more of an evil bitch and went fruther, using and cruelly twisting very private things I had shared about my life to make her points.
Say whatever mean things you want to about me, because I may be hurt, I may not like it, and I may not even disagree with you, but I feel you are entitled to your own opinions, just as I am enitlted to disown you as a friend if they are THAT bad. But never, ever insult my family. It is the fastest, surest, most predictible way to end a friendship with me.
And so it did. I had coldly informed her that she had crossed the line attacking M and from that point forward she was on her own to wallow in her own bitterness. I have blocked her from calling, texting, or emailing me, and for the better part of the last 9 months it has been mostly quiet and uneventful. We have seen her former spouse and her children from time to time, and other mutual friends have mentioned her in passing, that she does not understand why I dropped her so suddenly and hurtfully. I do not discuss it, because that’s kind of rude (except here I am, publicly airing dirty laundry), yet I know people who know both of us well have valid theories as to what she said/did to alienate me/us so completely. As I said, I am pretty predictible in this regard.
Yesterday the US mail brought a handwritten letter of apology. I believe it mostly sincere in its remorse, knowing what a bad and dark place where she was dwelling. I am not sure I have forgiven her completely yet, but I know I will, because it is important for my sanity and my soul to let go of the negative emotions I harbor toward her. Yet I do not see us reconciling as friends. I recognize that she was in the middle of an emotion-charged event in her life, that she was very hurt and very angry with her former spouse. I have never been a fan of taking out our anger on innocent bystanders or friends who want only want to help, comfort, console us in our hurts. It’s what she did, and I now judge her untrustworthy in this regard, because I also know I am not the only one to be burned my her irresponsible wrath.
I wonder about this, about feelings. Childhood events have scarred me, and I have difficulty discerning whether my reactions to events are within the range of normal. Because fo that, I try to be deliberate in my judgment. However, trust is a huge thing. Once betrayed, I cannot rebuild it. I can forgive, I can rehabilitate the relationship into something else, yet it is unrealistic to me to ever have any expectations of what once was, what might have been before the breach. It is actually easier for me to overcome the hurt, because once you have hurt me, I expect forever more for you to do so again and will be prepared for it to happen, so I am not surprised by it or damaged by it.
M, even my wonderful kids, have hurt me; it is part of life and human relationships, I know. I do not love them less for it, and I trust them as much as I am capable of trusting anyone. But I speak to others, other wives, other mothers, other parents, and I recognize there is some small, critical element missing in my personality and emotional make-up that does not render me destroyed or even wrecked by the unimaginable. Years of counseling have not left me more peaceful or accepting of this elusive, undefinable quality. In the deepest corners of my mind, I feel like something precious was stolen from me along with my innocence. This letter from a former friend reminds me of its loss. While I know I am right, reasonable, and sane for forgiving and not wanting to be friends going forward, I feel an echoing emptiness and wonder what it is I am missing.