One of my best friends recently told me that her husband has had many affairs. She found out about the first few 23 years ago but only just told me. I know she felt like if she told her friends and family at the time, it would have been hard to decide to stay with him, but I can’t help but feel she’s been living a secret life all these years. And I feel a gulf between us now, right when she most needs my support the most. Help!
Your friend has in fact been living a secret life all these years. My guess is that 23 years ago, she didn’t feel like she could tell anyone because she was unable to deal with having anyone else know. Maybe she was deeply humiliated, unsure what to do, or just in denial. But telling someone your deepest darkest secrets, even your best friends, can open you up to judgement or force you to face facts you are not ready to face.
There is an unspoken assumption between close girlfriends that they share everything, good, bad and ugly, but the older I get, the more I realize that we only know people to the extent that they let us know them. And that in and of itself can be a kick in the teeth when you feel excluded from something so fundamental in your best friend’s life. At the same time, take a moment to think about what her life has been like, staying in a marriage that includes her husband’s multiple affairs. This has got to have been extremely difficult and lonely for her. You may be angry on her behalf and that’s completely valid. But we all know that until she believes this for herself, anything you say about it will fall on deaf ears.
I sympathize with the gulf you feel. It’s hard to think that your relationship is very close when such a big part of her life has been concealed. But we all have to meet each other where we are, whether we like it or not. If she is coming to you and asking for your opinion about what she should do, you should give it to her honestly and compassionately. But if not, try and remember that she is doing the best she can in a very difficult situation, as we all are just stumbling around, doing our best. All you can do is support her the best way you know how….by listening and understanding with compassion. Also, the name of a good therapist wouldn’t hurt. As for your feelings of betrayal, also valid. You may just have to talk to another friend about that.
My friends want to walk on the lake, but don’t think we need to wear masks. What do I do?
To walk or not to walk….
Do not walk by the lake with your friends unmasked, unless they are on a leash.
My daughter lives with a really nice guy – sweet, considerate, stand up, and perhaps a bit socially awkward (aren’t most of us?). He was in our kitchen and took a jar of sauerkraut out of the fridge. He opened it and proceeded to stick two fingers way into the jar to pull out some of its contents. I was, shall I say, sick to my stomach. I was hoping that would be the end of it, but he did it again! He closed the jar and put it back in the fridge. I was so shocked, I didn’t say anything. I imagined him getting embarrassed – an awkward moment that he might not recover from. What if it turned REALLY awkward? All of a sudden the stakes seemed really high. I imagined my daughter emerging at that moment and the whole thing turning into … a thing, a bad thing. If he were just a friend or a relative, I’d probably say something. I am no shrinking violet. So dear Gabby, am I over-reacting? Should I have said something?
Dear Jar face,
There is no question that everyone has different standards of cleanliness. Once, honest to God, I sat at lunch watching a man at my table eat cream of broccoli soup with his hands. That is something I can never unsee. Now, dear readers, I have to admit that my standards of cleanliness are not as high as they might be, but I draw the line at eating soup with your hands and reaching for a heap of Sauerkraut with your fingers. So, Jar face, I agree, it’s a little gross. But regardless of what I think, you wrote because of what you think. I would handle it this way. Next time this happens and you’re nearby, reach into the silverware drawer, pull out a fork and tap him on the shoulder with it with a friendly smile and a wink. He’ll get the message. If not, say, “Your hands are so gorgeous, sweetie, you should insure them, not pickle them!” I encourage you to treat him as one of the family (since he practically is!) and say something next time. No need to treat him with kid gloves, though it would be handy if he put some on (preferably latex) next time he wanted to make a Reuben!
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Friday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby here.