Dear Dr. Abiade
I had been married for thirty-seven years. My husband passed of a heart problem. Before his death, there was a group of eight of us who often went out to dinner once a month and on special occasions, we may do something together. Nine years ago my husband died and our friends were so supportive. As time went on, one couple by couple started fading away without explanation.
A short time ago an old friend explained his thoughts for why my friends are no longer friends. He told me that their wives are jealous or afraid that I may be a threat to their marriage. I believe he hit the nail on the head. My emotions went from being baffled, denial, to angry.
Why would I be interested in their husbands who have been our friends for years? Why would I want to take another woman’s husband when I know what it means to be committed to a marriage or, to lose someone you love or, to come between happy relationships? I have gone from losing my husband to losing my friends. Does this cycle of lost ever stop?
Presently, I am not as angry as I used to be, but I still feel a deep loss and an empty spot in my heart. I am not sure how much of the emptiness is the loss of my husband or the loss of my use-to-be friends. All I do know is that I am experiencing an endless void of which I need to get out. Okay, work your magic, please.
Your commitment to marriage and to your husband for thirty-seven years speaks volumes of the value you place on marriage and relationships. Unless your husband was healthy and simply died in his sleep, I am sure you invested a lot of time, energy and effort in taking care of him during his final days.
The vows we make and live out connects us with our spouse in deep and significant ways. When we develop friendships, as you have with the other couples, they become, in ways, an extension of our vows. By extension, I mean in terms of emotional and social support-through a dedication to the relationship. The pain that you are experiencing is not only the death of your husband, but the death of the emotional and social support afforded you by your circle of friends.
It sounds like you sense you are being treated more like an enemy than a friend. Enemies do not trust us; enemies are always suspicious of us; enemies keep their distance because, in close proximity, the unavoidable reality of conflict is sure to be created.
It sounds like you are asking, “Why would a friend treat me like an enemy when we have been friends for so long?” Let us address one additional thought before we shift the direction of your issue. Of all the complications engrained in relationships, the number one problem for the cause of divorce, separation or creating enemies out of friends is, communication.
The struggle of communicating effectively is found in one’s lack of understanding the other side. We often think we understand clearly our own perspective. You may be surprised to know that often our clarity is not clarity at all. What we are clear about is we disagree or we are uncomfortable but not why. An example is the person sitting in class who gets upset that the student next to them is chewing gum. They only know it bothers them but are unable to articulate why it bothers them. Why does it not bother the student on the other side of the gum chewing student, but bothers you? Politics are similar in we align with a party because we do not like the other party.
I would like to invite you to read a short seven-page recap of a story written by Jeremy Roloff, in an article entitled, How Opposite-Sex Friendships Will Ruin Your Marriage.1
It is a well written reflective expression of how the writer saw himself in what he perceived to be an “innocent” relationship with a female friend. This friend had emotionally replaced his fiancé in ways he did not realize, at first. Is it conceivable that the married women realized the possible emotional bonding that could take place out of the care their spouse would offer you? Now remember, this is not from your point of view, but from the married women’s perspective.
Jeremy, the author of the article makes a good point when he offers an illustration. His point was, we should see a person as a 100% of, let us say, energy. Every time you help someone or commit yourself to a project or person(s), you give away more energy. And, the more energy you give to others the less you have for your spouse or to your committed relationship.
My personal observation is the more you give to other relationships the less you give to your committed relationship. When this is out of balance, the less you give to your committed relationship, the further you move down the road of separation. This is one of the reasons people ask me, “How in the world did we get here?”
Here are some things that you may want to consider:
In many ways, it would be helpful for you to start over. This is not the most convenient time, but it is a good time to nurture new relationships, especially with other women who are people of integrity. Humans are creatures of habit and we behave like yesterday is all we have. Many of us try to take “yesterday,” into “tomorrow,” and call it a new start. The only thing new is the day.
Your ability to be committed to relationships is evident from your deep sense of loss after thirty-seven years of marriage. Such character is very needed in friendships that you once shared.
As for “magic,” the only magic I can offer you is the reality that no one is better suited to help a friend who lost a friend, than you. My final point is it may not be a bad idea to have separate close friends so if one relationship goes south you have another to lean on.