Tuesday, May 14, 2013

My High School Reunion: Facing a Friend Who Betrayed Me

I recently attended my 30th high school reunion. I was nervous. So nervous, in fact, that I had decided not to go. High school wasn't a laugh-riot for me though I wasn't bullied. My marks were good. I had friends. 
Sadly though, one of those friends betrayed me. After two years of being with the first boy I'd said I loved, the first boy I had sex with, we broke up when I went to school in another city. Days after we broke up and just days before I left, I went to a party. There, on a couch sitting on my now-ex's lap, was my friend.
You could say that what she did was fine -- after all, he and I had broken up. We weren't technically going out. That's essentially what she said.
But I know better.
Friends don't do that to other friends. There are enough guys in the world that, unless you're convinced this one is your soulmate and you're willing to sacrifice your friendship for that, you can obey the law of the sisterhood. She and he broke up a month or two later when she started dating another guy. 
It took me years to get over my anger. Her name made my blood boil. The thought of her having any measure of happiness in life seemed like a bad karmic joke. Eventually I got past it, though I've nursed a simmering resentment for the decades since.
So when she was one of the first to RSVP to the reunion, I decided to just stay home.
At the last minute, however, I changed my mind. 
I'd had a mind-shift. I remembered back to what I knew of her before she dated my ex. She craved attention from men. She was self-absorbed. Almost childish at times. With what I know now, it's easy for me to recognize that she desperately needed validation from others (men!) that she was worthy. She's now on husband #3 so apparently she's still looking.
But I was able to recognize that her dating my ex wasn't about trying to hurt me. It wasn't about me at all. Surely she knew that my still-aching heart would be a casualty of her choice. But obviously I didn't matter more than her need to have someone pick her.
I decided that I would attend the reunion and that I would let go of 30 years of bitterness. That I would note the fact that all of us had undoubtedly changed in three decades, including me. 
So I did. 
She sought me out. Not to apologize – I doubt that even dawned on her – but simply to catch up. In the course of our conversation she made note of another event, when she'd suddenly quit a job that I'd got for her. A good job. I had thought it was because I'd been promoted and she was jealous. Turns out she quit because when she asked for an upcoming night off to attend a school dance the supervisor said she could have it off...if she gave him a blow job.
I was stunned. I'd had no idea.
I realized how often we make assumptions about others' actions based on a piece of information, not the whole story. I asked why she'd never told me what happened. "Because I thought I'd done something wrong," she said. Instead, without the maturity or perspective that comes with age and confidence, she quit.
What my friend did to me still sucks. It's still something that I hope my daughter never does to a friend. But the bitterness has, for the most part, evaporated. I feel sorry for her. For her unquenchable need to be adored. For her own inability to admit her shortcomings. For her continued quest to fill from the outside what can only be filled from within.
She recently had a health scare and she told me that when her third husband came into the hospital where she'd been taken that the look on his face – total panic – made her finally realize how much she mattered to him. In that instant, she said, she realized that this was truly the man for her. Her marriage, she said, changed. It became a priority. 
I was glad to hear. Finally. 


  1. Nice perspective.

    Sometimes I feel sorry for my husbands AP and think, perhaps if she had ever experienced real love - her dad hadn't left, she wasn't cheated on, blah blah all the crap she told my husband - that she would not have been so damaged as to participate in the affair with my husband. And then I think wake up, think well my husband might have just found someone else to cheat on me with. The world is full of damaged women who abandon sisterhood over their own self esteem I am sure it wouldn't have been hard. He says no. Jeez. I don't know.

    1. I sometimes also feel sorry for my husband's OW. She was sooo messed up. Hurt people hurt people, as someone once said to me. You're right in that there's no shortage of hurt people in the world. And yes, there might have been someone else. But that doesn't mean we have to completely abandon compassion, and resolve to NOT be one of those women.


  2. I guess I am just a woman who came into her own in the '70, aka women's lib era. We were so focused on the needs of women and supporting women it just translated into a sisterhood for me. I feel sorry for the younger generation of women who have not had this personal wakening of sisterhood. I am also amazed how the hurts from high school stay with us long past it's due date! I've only been to one high school reunion. Not that I had any enemies, I just never had any use for any of the people I went to school with. I know plenty of people who live and re-live their high school days, ad nauseum! Sometimes I too try to find empathy for the OW and then I come to my senses and start planning how I'd like to send her a Cobra!!!! KIDDING but it is a FUN fantasy don't you think?

    1. Very fun! I took some delight in fantasies of revenge. Key is to keep them fantasies. Jail ain't fun, from what I've heard. :)


    2. Fantasies are what keep me going right now. What if she showed up at my door? What if I came across her in the street? Perhaps because life has shown me a lot that I could never have imagined would happen and it has. My question to all.. Am I the only one who now has a hard time finding birthday cards ect. For my husband? All too mushy or generic. Makes me feel sad that we no longer fit into any greeting card. Am I also the only one who wonders where are we left once the kids are out of the house? Trying so hard now 11 months later, but life changes once the kids leave the nest. Three years from now for me. Having a lot of questions today I guess. Wishing everyone here a positive day, good luck.

    3. No, you're definitely not the only one. At the risk of sounding rather flakey, I think betrayal by a spouse takes our "innocence". Our belief in happily ever after. I now think that's not an entirely bad thing...but it does complicate things.


  3. Hi elle
    This is off topic but I wanted to share/get some advice...
    My daughter gets married in 2 months time, she is so excited, so full of love, well I guess she is how we all were at some point.
    I want her to have the fairy tale, I want her to have the happily ever after- I never want her to experience this pain, hurt, heartache - I never want her to join this club or know that I'm in it! She loves her dad, she wants 'to be as happy as we are'...
    I love him too - I guess I wouldn't still be here if I didn't - and I would go through this pain a hundred times over if it meant sparing her the truth that sometimes the person we love the most, trust the most is the person who betrays us, hurts us
    And then part of me wants to shout STOP - don't do it, wait, what if? I won't say or do anything but I'm really struggling to cope the nearer the wedding gets
    My H and I are in a good place- I finally turned a corner, I love him, I forgave him, I'm working on building a future and remembering the good times from the past- it's hard but not as hard as it was
    I'm scared now, different to the scared from before- scared that when I see her exchange vows I won't be able to hold it in, if I cry I won't stop!
    Scared that when it's over I'l fall apart - scared She'l know..
    Scared is better than broken that's where I was before but has anyone else had to deal with this? Anyone got the magic fix to coping? To smiling? To listening to 'if I'm as happy as you are..'
    I feel like a liar - and I know how selfish I sound but I guess I'm jealous too! Jealous of my own daughters happiness and belief in happy ever after - what sort of a woman am I?

    1. Hi Bee,

      You're simply a human being processing an extremely painful event in your life. Nothing to be ashamed of. You're also a mother who can't imagine your daughter going through this.
      The thing is we can't protect our kids from lots of life's painful experiences. We can hope they're strong enough but ultimately all we can ever do is be with them in their pain.
      IF this ever happened to your daughter, that's what you would do.
      In the meantime, her day is going to be incredibly tough for you. Do you have any misgivings about who she's marrying?
      I'm glad you and your husband are starting to feel on more solid ground.
      My own parents, who'd experienced an emotional affair (my father's), sat my husband and I down before we got married and told us, flat out, that marriage was the toughest thing we'd ever do. They told us that there would be days when we would resent our partner using up oxygen on this planet. And then they reminded us that what we were about to do was a vow. And that we needed to understand (though who ever really does until they do it) that we were promising to work things out. Might have seemed like a bit of a downer at the time, but I'm often reminded of that conversation. It was clear that my parents had weathered some storms and THAT was part of what made their marriage worth emulating. The resilience and love that kept them fighting for their marriage.
      Finally, give this a read. It seems fitting for your situation:


  4. Elle
    Read the link from dear sugar - between that and your words thank you
    I can't say it any better - once again you talked me down off a ledge and I feel I can cope again. I can manage the wedding and enjoy it and be happy for them - I can and I will, because no matter what's going on no matter the reason for my membership, I'm in a club that's members and host make me feel supported and enough!
    Thank you


    1. Bee,
      Hold on to that thought because you'll be challenged. I guarantee it. But keep reminding yourself that you're capable of swallowing your hurt and allowing your daughter the chance to celebrate her love publicly. You love her and she's no doubt provided you with much joy. Celebrate THAT. And on some level, you might even be grateful that you're sharing the day with her dad, the only other person in the world who loves her as much as you do.


    2. Hi Elle. I'm the one who wrote the other day about greeting cards just no longer fitting anymore ect and I have been thinking about your response of how the fairy tale no longer exists and that perhaps we are better off knowing this. I just refuse to believe this. You are right that it no longer exists for us, but is there such a thing? I do believe so. I refuse to be so bitter and calloused to not believe that there are such good in people out there around us. Is life and marriage hard? Oh my god yes!! Do you have to fight for it? Yes. But there are men out there who believe heart and soul that giving your heart and soul to someone is worth the fight. A fight fought without looking outside the marriage. I believe that you feel we may be better off because we no longer have that security. And I agree, we never will again. We must create a different kind of love, though it may be strong it will forever house us with our walls built up. I say this as one in your own shoes obviously, and I love my husband dearly, but to say I will one day feel secure? I'm sure not. True love and the fairy tale does exist it just didn't seem to exist for us. As for the mother who wrote of her daughters upcoming wedding, believe in love, we were set for forever in love ourselves, it can happen and it does exist.

  5. You know, I'm proud of you for going. Not everyone has the courage to face their hurts! But even moreso, I'm proud of you for realizing that when something hurts you, it's not always about YOU. Sometimes it's about the other person and places where THEY are empty and don't have the courage to fill it from within!

    Cindy at Affaircare



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