Compromised Friendships

Friendships are fragile and precious things. I know that, and yet I just put one in jeopardy. It was a stupid thing, really: She (I’ll call her Marie) was having lunch with me when she confessed that she had recently had an affair. When I asked her why she said it was because she and her husband aren’t often intimate and the illicit sex was fantastic. She also said that she and her husband are going to begin seeing a therapist together. It was her hope that he would get a prescription for medication to increase his libido.

Just let me say at the outset that I HATE infidelity. I think it’s cowardly and cruel. I think, in fact, that in my own circumstances it would be kinder for me to shoot my husband than to cheat on him. Plus, I know Marie’s husband and he seems like a truly kind-hearted soul who absolutely adores her.

Anyway, I freaked out. Once I got home and began processing things, I found I could no longer stand to speak to her. It seemed like the ultimate injustice to me that she cheated on him and yet she thought he should do something….anything…in an effort to improve their marriage. Knowing I was going to have to say something, I finally sent her an email explaining myself; my father cheated on my mother many years ago, causing her a great deal of pain. Perhaps that is why I am so passionately opposed to infidelity, I said.

She sent me an email back saying she knew there were no excuses for her behavior, but she needed to tell me her life story.

And that’s when I was blown out of the water. The things she went through were truly horrific. Child abuse, sexual abuse, drugs, abusive boyfriends, and yes, there was a little prostitution thrown in there for good measure. Her theory is that she tends to sabotage relationships that are too good because of her childhood abuse.

There wasn’t much I could say after that point but, “Oh, ahhh, sorry, I shall now quit casting stones.” And I think we’ve moved on, but I guess time will tell.

So my question to you is this: What should we expect from people who have been through that kind of trauma? Do they get a free pass because their parents were sub-human or do they have to, at some point, put it all behind them and live by the same standards as everyone else? And if that’s the case, when might that happen? Do they get twenty years worth of get out of jail free cards? Forty years? I have absolutely no answers. Just more questions. Have you ever had friends confess to things that really bother you? How did you handle it? How did you get past it? What do I do now?

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26 Responses to Compromised Friendships

  1. cindal says:

    my comment would be stop judging period . You have not walked in someone else’s shoes and have no idea what scars can do to a person and there is no expiration date. We do the best we can in this life. God will Judge us all soon enough. Compassion never hurts .

  2. loisgreiman says:

    Thanks Cindal. You’re absolutely right. Compassion is key. I had no right to judge. But honestly, I don’t think I would be forgiving if my spouse cheated on me. Apparently I’m not very accepting. 😦

    • cindal says:

      I understand your knee jerk response and I also understand that pain when a friend lets you down or lets down the image one might have of her or him but all I meant and I am NOT judging you either is no one is privy to what goes on in a marriage , no one knows how much one might have put up with or even how a person might have changed inside etc. I guess that what I am trying to say is I have been on both sides of the issue ………..I was cheated on many times in my marriage .forgave my husband many infidelities until I felt dead inside almost . I met and fell in love with a man that I had loved when a teenager , told my husband that I had met him and fallen in love with him but that nothing had happened…………it had not at that time, but several months later ,I left my husband and am still with the man I left my husband for and am still very much in love with , several years later . I know I had a relative who was /is a good friend who did not speak to me for several years and that hurt a lot but since then we have moved past that . She actually told me she envied me having the guts to do that . I was by the way married for 30 years to my husband so it was not just something I did lightly. I am still legally married to the man for reasons he and I know.,,,,,,,we are better friends today and get along well which is telling in itself…………………………….so I do not judge anyone but I do have empathy and understanding and compassion for people…………I leave the judging to God . I listen to people with an open heart and give the best advice I can if asked for it.if not I just listen sometimes that is all a person really needs . Please know I am Not sitting in judgement on you and I hope you and your friend can move past this, good friends are hard to find. 🙂 Have a great day.

  3. Cindy Gerard says:

    Wow, Lois. Just wow. First – let me say how brave I think you are to post such a personal story about you and your friend and your difficulty dealing with the issue of her infidelity. We all have our own moral compasses that were set based on lessons learned and instilled as early as our childhood. What may seem a horrific act or breach of morality to one, may not seem as appalling to another. I think, also, that as we experience our own ‘life’ issues, our compass may veer a little south or north or whatever as we come to understand that all is not as it seems. And I don’t think we can quantify a ‘standard’ set of acceptable behavior that encompasses everyone who crosses our paths or becomes important to us. So I think the only answers you’re going to find are going to lie within your own heart. Clearly you love your friend, you had her pigeon-holed (and we all are guilty of that) as one person and wow, she turned out to be this whole other being with tons of baggage that a lot of people couldn’t have carried as well as she has So it’s reasonable that you went through (are still going through) an adjustment period as you look at her through new eyes.
    I’ve been where you are. And I, too, was guilty of a knee jerk judgement … until I heard the whole story. It really opened my eyes to how closed my mind had been. Everyone’s just trying to get by:o)

  4. Linda says:

    Lois I think I must commend you for both of your responses. You know how hurtful it can be to the person who has been cheated on and wanted your friend to know that were bothered by her behavior. Yet once you found out her circumstances of growing up you are willing to try to understand her better. With that said all of life’s early circumstances cannot give you a free ride for questionable behavior later in life. My own mother had a horrible childhood, and yes it tainted her adult life but she did not use it as an excuse to do whatever she pleased either. I would not abandon your friendship but try to help her see that she also needs help to deal with what happened so that she does not continue destructive behavior. I still encourage my mother to go to counseling for her past even though she tells me that at 65 why should it matter. Her step-father has been gone for a long time and grandmother passed three years ago I know she still has some issues that at times affects her relationships with me and my siblings. When I was much younger I reacted differently and it clouded our relationship. So I guess my advice is to try to be a little understanding but still let her know that you expect better of her.

  5. DeniseB says:

    Another wow from me. While I do think our life experiences shape who we are, I also do believe a person knows right from wrong. Most people have been taught that infidelity is wrong. Yet, on the other hand she did have a unbelievable past. But it sounds to me as if she maybe should have some therapy to help her deal with her issues, and also it sounds as if she may be using her past to qualify her infidelity. I mean I do feel bad for her, but yet if she was my friend, I guess I wouldn’t feel very comfortable around her for a while, if ever, although I’ve never been in a situation like this so I do not know how I would act. It would probably depend on how much you value the friendship as to what the future would hold. I think I would have a hard time too if I was friends with her husband and he was as nice of a guy as you say. Maybe I’m a little harsh.

    • loisgreiman says:

      I have always maintained that we all have to be responsible for our own actions and not blame our parents or our past. But when I hear the personal stories it’s entirely different. I doubt I would have even survived her past…my own being wonderfully boring by comparison.

  6. Mary Louise says:

    Lois: Wow, this resonates with me on so many levels. The most important thing I read was that your friend recognizes that she sabotages relationships. And is taking steps to fix it. That’s huge. I certainly hope the healing process with her husband will be successful. How important is this friend to you? Are you okay with walking away? Maybe but that’s not the sense I get since you are so conflicted. It’s very hard to love the sinner but hate the sin (I know I won’t be up for sainthood anytime soon). We all hurt from the past…… but your friend is taking steps to rectify and heal. Wouldn’t it be great if life was black or white without 50 shades of gray to muddy the waters! Human nature is stunning in its ability to effect ourselves and those in our world. All I can do is offer a hug to you while you process this …… Take care….

  7. I have own your shoes. I confess I struggled knowing two of my friends had affairs. I’m not sure I could have written about my feelings as beautifully as you have. A very brave post. I try to remember there are always two sides to every story. Most people who are totally fulfilled in their marriages don’t look outside for other people…usually. I respect that your friend and her husband are going to try to get help. Good for them.

  8. loisgreiman says:

    Thanks Linda. It’s so sad how a dysfunctional (or worse) family can affect multiple generations. My mother was such an inspiration to me during the last decade of my father’s life. She stood by him and cared for him and loved him so deeply even though he had been pretty rotten for years. I would not be as kind. I know that, since I have trouble even accepting my FRIEND’S infidelity. But I’m going to do better.

    Best of luck to your mother, you, and your sibs.

  9. Hellion says:

    I agree with what others said above: that we’re all just trying to get by. And no one is in their marriage but the two of them, so what it may appear from the outside may not be the truth. But yes, after having a destructive life (which only seems to be about a quarter of her own actual decisions), it would be likely she’d be self-destructive in her behavior. Still, some need was not being met. Should she have tried to fix the need in a different way? Sure, but what if he couldn’t meet the need? What then? I don’t know. Relationships–spousal and friendships–are tricky things. Lots of expectations that we’re usually hopeless to meet. We’re all very, very human.

  10. catslady says:

    I constantly strive not to judge and also to forgive but I find I have to constantly work at it. No one really knows another person. And even if some events are told, you cannot really feel their pain. We are all unique but yet the same. I was recently asked if I knew anyone that had it all. I thought of two people. But one of them I know had many hardships in her life. She can be the most caring and bichiest person I’ve ever known lol. The other seems to have it all and I don’t know of any traumatic past events but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. I like to think though that I know at least one person who seems to have it all.

  11. Leanne says:

    When it comes to marriages, I just try really hard not to judge my friends because the inside of a marriage can look a lot different than the outside looks. I don’t always succeed, but I know of couples who have gotten divorced and one person was blamed because it looked like they had been in the wrong when in actuality, the supposedly innocent person had contributed as much or more to the problems. I heard a minister once say that there is no place more lonely to be than in an unhappy marriage. I can only imagine that this issue would be especially painful for you because of your mother’s experience. If you want to keep this person as a friend, then you may have to tell her that you love her, but that you can’t talk about this subject with her. I get the impression that you are a tender-hearted compassionate person, so people may feel safe confessing secrets to you. That can turn out to be hard for you at times! Much love, Lois.<3

    • Hellion says:

      I’ve been in this friendship (though not necessarily for this situation *LOL*)–and it’s hard to come back to a place of friendship again. I’m willing to work on it because we’ve been friends forever and I know she means well. But literally a couple times, this sort of blow up leads to a very different kind of friendship. It’s neither good nor bad, per se; we’re still best friends, but I definitely think hard about what I confide in her. I’ve come to understand you have to consider your audience. *LOL* I have friends who are literally not judgmental, or at least not judgmental about love relationships in any incarnation (but if you abandoned a cat, they’d never speak to you again.) And I have friends who are loyally protective of me, but at the same time, so judgmental of so much of what I do. It’s the latter friends I really have to watch what I say. It’s not a problem; they’re still great friends–but I’m not sure there is ever just one friend you can ever just say anything to and it not come back to slap you in the face.

      Anyway, I loved Lois’ response! That’s so right about the unhappy marriage…and being the compassionate person people can’t help but confide in. But if you’re wondering if this friendship can be saved, it can. If you’re worried she may upset you with even worse scenarios, it’s unlikely because once burned, twice shy… 🙂

      • loisgreiman says:

        Yeah, sigh. She’ll probably never me anything again. But then, she’s the fifth friend who has confessed to having an affair. Doesn’t that seem strange?

  12. What an intense and important topic. I can totally see where you were coming from at first, Lois, and know that this whole situation must have been very difficult for you. Each of us has baggage of some kind, some far more than others, and deal with it in different ways. It sounds like you had good reason to feel the way you did, yet you have been a very caring friend as well. God bless.

  13. Kylie Brant says:

    I think I would have had your same reaction, Lois. It’s a bit easier to be accepting of people’s flaws when they aren’t the ones you most care about. The baggage she spoke of…ah, well, don’t we give our characters baggage to explain their flaws? Makes them interesting. But I also tend to believe that we all have choices. Having that baggage, she had the choice to get help to stop her self-destructive tendencies. The hardest thing is watching your friends get hurt.

  14. I had a similar experience, long ago. It couldn’t help but make me respect my friend less for dealing with her past in such a destructive way, but I let it go. The first time. The second time it was harder. The third time I had to let the friendship go. That may have left me a bit jaded, but I’d said that if she gets counseling, tries to work things out with her husband, then let it go. If she doesn’t learn from this one instance, though, you might have to rethink her place in your life.

  15. Willa says:

    I agree with Kylie Brant (whilst desperately awaiting news on her new book!)

    Boiled down to basics – your friend made a statement about what she had done. You gave your opinion, which you are entitled to have and express – she obviously expected SOME response – although perhaps not the one she got.

    To mitigate your response which she didn’t expect/want to hear, she then played the baggage card – and that made you feel bad. Bad for her and bad about yourself and your reaction. But you can still feel *for* her having that baggage and yet still not agree with what she has done.

    She needs to respect that – as a friend to you.

  16. CateS says:

    I guess I would kinda back off… it seems like she’s ‘polling’ her friends for reaction… at the least, if she brings it up again, just simply say you don’t wish to discuss her marriage.. and I would sincerely thing that any couples therapist would also have recommended she see someon as an individual for the ‘family background’..

  17. Wow. I missed this post, Lois, and my comment will go unnoticed, but I still want to respond. I appreciate your willingness to share this story here. It’s a rare opportunity for everyone who visits us to see the beauty in your honesty and look for the same in ourselves.

    I’m impressed with the number of people who’ve said don’t judge. That can be so hard for us “good girls.” What’s the scripture? When I was a child, I thought as a child… Black and white, good guy or bad guy–how simple and clear. We think “I would never, he would never, if that happened to me I would absolutely…” The older we get, the more we understand our own shortcomings, the less we’re willing to judge.

    Because we realize that we can never truly know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes or moccasins or skin. We do the best we can in our own–yes, we’ve spent our lives trying to be “good girls,” nothing wrong with that–but now we’re also wise and compassionate women. Maybe even a bit humble. And you, my dear, have one of the biggest hearts I have ever come across.

  18. sweetcindal says:

    while I am at it I want to just say that I feel I was in the company of women I would be honored to have had for friends . I mean that sincerely ladies. You all seem like wonderful , caring , compassionate women . I thank all of you for renewing my faith in the female gender. 🙂 women can be so bitchy as it were. I am afraid I have had more male friends in my life than female ones . the few women I have been friends with are truly the best and you ladies all seem to fit the same bill .:)

  19. My father had a “tryst” while stationed overseas, immediately after World War Two. He had been away from home for several years and unlike your friend’s husband, he was a young man whose libido was just fine. When I wrote about his “infidelity” at the start of my book, “Immortal Relations,” I did so in the context of the psychological damage people went through, especially in the part of Europe which fell under NAZI OCCUPATION, where fathers were taken from in front of their young children, put up against the nearest wall and shot (or worse)! Infidelity in war is more “normal” than mothers, wives and sweethearts back home want to know. Soldiers on the front lines don’t have a chance for such “recreation” but once they get leave, it can be a different story. I don’t know which is worse, to not know when the bullet that has your name on it is coming, living minute by minute with that fear, or sitting at home, wringing your hands with worry, maybe with a young child hanging onto your skirt. I will never blame my father for the love he shared with “that other woman.” He was and still is my hero (eventhough he passed away some years ago at age 90) and a stronger, more honorable man, no one who knew him, could ever find. There are just too many “variables” in this existance, we call life, that men and women go through and I’m sure the hurt my mother endured was real, but I won’t blame my father for reaching out under the circumstances he experienced.

  20. What do they mean when they say we should one day compromise our friendship?

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