Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friends of the Marriage, Friends of the Affair

Once an affair is blown open, it's almost impossible not to draw a line, divvying up friends who are collateral damage of the affair...and those who can be brought forward into the new reality.
Friends who knew of the affair but did nothing to discourage it can seem threatening, justifiably so, to the partner who feels betrayed not only by his/her spouse, but by a friend who seemed to offer implicit approval. Friends who did, in fact, assist in the deception, by offering alibis are clearly not "friends of the marriage". And I've heard plenty of tales of "friends" who seem to gain some sort of vicarious thrill by actually encouraging the affair.
While my own experience has none of the drama of that, I had to cool things with one my closest friends, whose own marriage was destroyed by her husband's affair, because she didn't seem able to handle my own emotional upset. Conversations in which I brought up various issues (cutting the Other Woman from our life, for example) were cut short with a "well, I couldn't stay with him" and seeking advice only got me more of the same. There was one way to handle an affair in her estimation: Dump the loser and move forward.
Other friendships haven't weathered my new reality either. Some friends seem unable to let go of it themselves, bringing the topic up though it doesn't seem warranted.
Though I've never experienced serious disease or the death of a child (and pray to God I never do!), I suspect it raises similar issues: There are those who can be there for you in ways that propel you forward...and those who, for whatever reason, simply can't.
Nonetheless, it can seem like simply another loss during a time marked by losses. Of your dreams. Your convictions. Your family.
Unfortunately, many people simply can't cope with BIG pain. Or can't cope with you dealing with it in a way that isn't consistent with how they think you should deal with it.
Your challenge is, of course, to take care of yourself. Surround yourself only with those who can offer strength and support, whether you've chosen to confide in them or not. Good friends will leave you feeling buoyed...which will help you cope.
That said, sometimes friends offer us advice that we don't want or aren't ready to hear. Ensure that you're not shooting the messenger, even if you're shooting down the message.


  1. My husband's best friend's girlfriend introduced him to the other woman (her best friend). I hate her almost as much as I hate the OW. Now it is very uncomfortable. I don't want him around her at all but feel like I can't require him to sever his relationship with his best friend.
    My main struggle now is believing that marriage (not just mine) can work at all. Even if my husband never cheats again, I feel like his natural state is to be unfaithful and that he really wants to be with other women. I don't want someone to be with me out of obligation. I want him to actually want to be with me.

    1. You husband's best friend and his girlfriend are clearly no friends of yours...or, really, your husband's. And if he would choose them over your feelings, then he's not much of a friend of yours either.
      He needs to understand that he violated your trust, which is excruciating and arguably one of the most traumatic things a person can go through. And, if he wants to remain married to you and ensure that it's a healthy and happy union, then he needs to make some serious reparations. And that includes ensuring that he doesn't spend time with people who have also violated your trust. I know it's harsh...but your marriage has to be the most important relationship in his and your life. If it's not, then there's your answer...and there's the door.
      It's so tempting to want to brush this under the rug and just go back to "normal"...but normal got blown to bits when he slept with someone else, especially someone close to your inner social circle.
      The only way you can start believing that your marriage can work at all is if you see a husband willing to do the really hard work of understanding why he cheated...and making sure he won't again. Slowly, with evidence of his increased understanding of his behaviour and compassion for how it affected you so profoundly, you'll begin to trust again. It takes a lot of time.
      In the meantime, you need to take care of yourself. Surrounding yourself with people who support and love you, taking time to nurture yourself and treating yourself with the respect that you should always insist on from other people.




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