|Buh-bye old "friend". I bearly remember your name.|
It's when we're on our knees that we discover just who in our lives will kneel their with us. It can add to our pain, to learn that someone we counted us simply can't or won't be there for us. The friend who dismissed my pain was eventually – years later – able to acknowledge that she had let me down. She was able to see that she was still so blinded by her own pain and her choice to leave her marriage that she wasn't able to accept my choice to not leave.
Not all friends get to that point. Not all friends are, well, friends.
However, it's one of the unforeseen benefits of infidelity that we often become much more discerning about who we allow into our lives and our hearts. Once we begin to heal, we can often recognize those around us who are true friends and those who are...not.
•There's the "friend" who uses your husband's behaviour as an excuse to cut you off. "I just can't be around you right now. I think what he did was terrible." Suddenly YOUR pain is about HER discomfort.
•There's the "friend" who compounds your loneliness because infidelity terrifies her. "I just can't imagine my husband doing such a thing." She's right. She can't imagine. And won't let herself because it might mean facing some uncomfortable truths, such as, even good marriages can be affected by infidelity.
•There's the "friend" who knows better than you do what your right path is. "Once a cheater, always a cheater. You need to get rid of him." Her cynicism and bitterness and, perhaps, her fear that you'll get hurt again and she can't protect you, leads her to encourage you to do what she wants you to do, instead of allowing you to find your own path.
•There's the "friend" who minimizes what your husband has done because she's cheated on her spouse. "All marriages come up against this. You need to let it go. He picked you, didn't he?" Seeing the devastation of infidelity up close brings up a lot of guilt.
•There's the friend who encourages you to leave your husband because that's what she did. "I don't know why anyone would stay. I certainly didn't." Accepting that it's possible for a marriage to heal from betrayal can make those who chose to leave – and aren't 100% sure of their choice – wonder if they made the wrong choice. My friend ultimately copped to this, admitting that she left her ex because she thought that was her only choice. She had no examples of anyone who'd stayed and made it work because nobody ever talked about that choice. Our cultural narrative rarely supports the healing/rebuilding option. And admittedly, it's tough. Really really tough.
It can help to have true friend who's willing to hold you up while you figure out which way to go. Someone who's there to hold your hand through the bad days and celebrate the good ones. Someone who is in your life because he or she deserves to be there. Even friends who don't know what you're going through can offer much support in the form of distraction or small kindnesses. Their presence is enough.
I often think of my post-betrayal life as one that has been curated by me. It's less random than before. I'm more discerning about how I spend my time (I've added the word "no" to my vocabulary as in, "thanks so much for asking but 'no', I won't be available to bake 350 cookies for your bake sale on Thursday." Or simply "no". As my therapist used to remind me, "No" is a complete sentence.). I'm much more discerning about those who are in my life. Gone are the "friends" who made passive-aggressive comments. Gone are those who were suddenly absent when my life fell apart. Gone are the gossips. Gone are the fair-weather friends. And you know what? I don't miss them.
Not in the least.