• Handling Breakups

Marital problems can kill a friendship

August 16, 2013 | By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
If someone has serious marital problems, friendships may fall by the wayside.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I have had numerous friendships in the past and have been hurt by many people, friends whom I trusted. I have been very careful and actually kind of paranoid about letting anyone outside of my family into my life for the past year.

About four years ago I met a woman whom I immediately liked very much, but we didn’t become friends until about a year ago. At first we only talked a bit, and then it turned into a very close and meaningful friendship. It took me a while to trust her, eventually I felt that is was okay to do so.

Our friendship started on rocky grounds but I couldn’t understand why. It turned out that she has been married for a long time and her husband was emotionally, and possibly physically, abusive to her during their entire marriage. He is very jealous and demanding, possessive, and doesn’t want to allow her to be with friends or people outside of their family.

We started spending time together, and she told me very personal information about her family, and about her daughter that her other daughter doesn’t even know. She protects her husband and what he is doing all the time but I think she is scared to death of him.

I feel tremendously sorry for her, but about a month ago, after being in contact basically every day, she just suddenly stopped contacting me. She didn’t reply to any of my messages or phone calls and when I did call her, she would just either refuse to answer or reject the call.

She did try to call me once and I missed the call, but when I called her back, she just rejected the call. Ever since then, she refuses to talk to me, and when I ran into her at our kids school, she told me that she decided to step back. When I confronted her about it, she told me that she was being forced to do so, but she refused to tell me by whom. Once again I knew it was her husband, and my heart was broken about it. I really trusted her with my whole heart, and I hoped that she would hold onto our friendship through all situations.

I don’t know what to do, I miss her so much, and now I have to see her everyday at school and it hurts badly every time I see her, and I can’t talk to her. Irene, what should I do? I love her dearly and she might be the best and dearest friend I have ever had but I can see the fear in her eyes, and she doesn’t want to share or talk to me.

Please help, I don’t want to loose her but if things continue the way they are currently, I will have to walk away at some stage for my own well-being. I loved your book about friendship and really need your advice.

Signed, Savannah

ANSWER

Hi Savannah,

You suspected your friend’s marriage was dicey. Since she has told you she his being “forced” to cut off ties, it’s reasonable to assume her sudden withdrawal from the friendship was precipitated by her husband. If he is a controlling person and knew how close his wife was with you, he was probably threatened by your relationship.

You’ve reached out and your friend has told you she cannot maintain the friendship so there isn’t much you can do but accept her decision. Since you have concerns about her physical and emotional safety, next time you see her, let her know that you will be there for her if she wants to talk or needs help. You can see if she is open to seeking support from a domestic violence counselor. (Keep a scrap of paper with the phone number of a domestic violence hotline in your pocket.)

When friends disappoint us, it is normal to pull back and mistrust—as you say you did before you made this new friendship. In this case, however, your friend’s sudden cut-off has more to do with her life circumstances than it does with your friendship or her worthiness as a friend. Exercise compassion and forgiveness, and don’t let this set you back in having the confidence to trust others.

Hope this helps!

Best, Irene


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Comments (4)

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  1. layla says:

    i have a best friend another friend of mine is stealing her what should i do? you know i don,t know what to do with her my problem is she is funny sometimes she can lie about her country me and my best friend is meant to be and and she is weird and funny please get a answer for this

  2. Val says:

    Savannah,

    Wow, you must be a really good friend to want to stay with that friend through thick and thin. You know it wasn’t her choice to end the friendship, but as a true friend, you can allow her some leeway to come and go when things get better in her life. You will find that this happens in many situations and not just from a controlling spouse situation. Sometimes, it happens when a friend begins dating someone new. We’ve all experienced it. Your friend goes missing when they start spending time with a new boy/girlfriend. It doesn’t mean they don’t want your friendship (unless they ditch all efforts to maintain contact). Just give them the space and see if they make efforts in the future. Take the time to expand your circle of friends so that you always have more than one friend to hang out with when any of them get into the disappearing phase.

    I have taken a step back from friends before, not through force, but simply because I was going through some rough times, and I didn’t want it to affect the friendship. There are some friends that can/can’t handle the rough times, and sometimes, I just wanted some ME time to figure out my own problems. When you’re going through a rough time, you don’t feel like going out to have fun, so the depression part is another factor. Don’t take it personally. When I was able to get into a better mood, I would then pick up the friendship again. Some people want to be there for their friends, and some people don’t want their friends to suffer through the bad times. It goes both ways. Just leave it as a question mark that you’ll come back to later on. In the meantime, learn some new hobbies, go out and meet new people. Life is too short to be waiting. Take care!

  3. Kris says:

    Friendship is a voluntary thing. In a true friendship, both members need to be “free” to express their feelings and make choices. Your friend is not capable of being a friend to you at this point in her life; her possessive, controlling husband has created such an atmosphere of fear that she has become impaired in her ability to choose freely (her friends, ideas, activities, anything). Such impairment precludes the genuine, free choice of friendship.

    Although you are deeply concerned for her emotional welfare (and perhaps even safety), this woman does have choices. She can call a domestic violence hotline, perhaps secretly see a counselor, or make a decision to stand up to her husband, ask him to seek couples counseling, or leave the relationship. I know that in a marriage such as this, the wife is going to have such problems with self-esteem and assertiveness that any of these choices would be hard for her. My point is, she is a grown woman, and as much as you care for her, you cannot “rescue” her. Something has to come from within her to change this situation.

    When you see her, smile, say hello if you can, so she can feel your warmth from afar. Send her your loving energy. If you are a spiritual person, pray. There is power in small gestures. Hopefully she will come to some positive choices in her life and relationship, that will eventually allow her to become free to choose her friends again. But that will take a long time.

    Grieve the loss of intimacy in this friendship for now, and be hopeful for the future. You may not have not lost her friendship forever, but certainly for now, she is too impaired to be involved in an active relationship with you. It does not have to do with you, though, it is about her and her marriage. Be forever hopeful.

    Best wishes, I hope this woman finds her way.

  4. Amy says:

    I agree with everything Irene said. It sounds like your friend has decided, albeit under duress, that she can’t continue the friendship at this time. There’s a phenomenon called “learned helplessness” that people who have been or who are being abused, whether that’s emotionally, physically or sexually, where victims lose (or never developed) their voice to protect themselves and make their own healthy choices. It sounds like you already know it’s not a reflection of you.
    Like Irene suggested I’d write down the number of a DV hotline and/or get a brochure. Next time you see her, pull her aside and tell her you care and you’re concerned. Tell her they DV isn’t always physical and that you want her to be safe. She might be mad, but this is something worth taking anger about. I believe there are times in certain friendships where you have to risk losing that relationship to speak the truth, and this sounds like one of them. Sometimes we need to give more than we get back on a friendship, because the other person has nothing to give. Your friend may be using everything she has just to be “okay” and get through the days.
    You’re a good friend to her, and she needs that.

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