Wednesday, February 19, 2014

At the end of my rope...

I was at the end of my marital rope, needing good, solid advice.  So I went to my closest friend and said, "My marriage isn't what it used to be.  Things have changed.  I'm not sure what's going on, but we need help.  Have you ever gone through something like this?"
 photo rope_zpsa81ad25e.jpg
    My dear, sweet friend, who always dressed at the height of fashion and always seemed so put together, refused to step down from her pedestal as she replied, "How strange . . . I've been married longer than you have, and we've never had any marital problems.  Never even fought.  Too bad you didn't marry someone like my husband."
    I got off the phone and cried.  Maybe I was a loser.  Maybe I should stop being so transparent because then other people can't take me down at any time.  Maybe I should just toughen up?

Need an example of my idiotic transparency? 
    But today I realized something quite ironic.  See, my divorce became official the day before Thanksgiving.  At least I've been honest enough that most people understood why Cade and I could no longer be together.  
    Well, yesterday, this friend came to my house and told me she'd just gotten divorced too. I was shocked. "But I thought everything was perfect," I said.
    "I wanted it to seem that way because things were so bad."  She broke down and started crying.  "I needed to tell you.  But I also wanted to apologize.  Remember when you called me, needing relationship advice?"
    I nodded.
    "Instead of telling the truth, I made my life seem perfect. . . .  Elisa, I'm so sorry.  He was having multiple affairs, gambling . . .  No one knew and I was so embarrassed.  Why would he spend the money our kids needed?  Why would he have affairs--wasn't I good enough?  And you--no matter what shit you're going through--you tell everyone all the good and bad like it's no big deal.   I could never be like that and it made me want to take you down a notch.  You don't wear the cutest clothes.  You let your skeletons out of your closet . . . you do these things that bug me!  But at the same time . . . they inspire me."
    Tears flooded my eyes as she said the words.
   "So I came over here to tell you," she continued, "I'm sorry and that my marriage wasn't perfect.  No one's marriage is.  And somehow you're the only person I can talk to because you'll understand and you'll tell me what you've been through too.  And that transparency, it helps everyone around you realize they aren't alone. . . .  So, do you hate me?"
    I hugged her then, this huge hug.  And. She. Hugged. Me. Back. Because in that moment--after years and years--we finally became true friends.
    The moment reminded me of a saying I heard recently: girls tear each other down; women build each other up. 
    "Sometimes life is shit," I said.  "But I'll always be here.  Now sit your ass down and let's have some ice cream."  
    I scooped us bowls overflowing with mint chocolate chip goodness because she was having a hard time and it seemed like a great excuse for me to binge too.

    And the point of this story is that we're all different.  But everything will come out into the light someday.  Maybe my approach to life isn't too bad after all.  I'd rather tell the truth, showing the good and bad, rather than pretending everything is perfect when it's not.  After this experience, I've decided that people who hide their imperfections are either just insecure, or trying to bring other people down. 

    How do you approach life's problems?  Would you rather ignore them, or face them head-on?  What have your results been like?  
    Also, how do you think she should have handled my initial question when I was crying out for relationship advice?   


  1. Hey!

    I think it's very healthy to tackle the big problems honestly and head on. Doing otherwise just makes them fester and get even worse.

    The small problems...well, I'll admit to sometimes taking a nod and smile approach. :)

    As for handling your initial idea. I think you did the best with what you had. The problem with reaching out to friends, even good ones, is that...well, you never know what you're going to get back and you never know how your feelings toward that person will color that advise. I think that's why so many people unload their problems upon bartenders. :)

  2. chocolate chip ice cream! :D

    Personally, I'm with up front about the good and the bad. I try to be honest to a fault (the cause of more than a few additional problems)...but that honesty always starts with myself.

    That said, I see great value in ignoring issues as well, and I am still trying to learn how to ignore what are seemingly big problems. Sometimes, things really do work out on their own without our meddling. Sometimes wounds will heal better on their own than they will with our "help." In my case, I've learned that my "interference" often results in repeat infractions because no one learned anything on their own.

    Sorry for the ambiguity, hopefully it's not confusing (I was trying to generalize specific occurrences in my own life). If none of those are applicable, all go getters should be able to relate to this one: sometimes, when the issues pile on, it simply becomes impossible to tackle everything at once...something will have to get ignored. It is at those times that (I think) the most damage is done when your priorities do not match those of someone you care about. Our loved ones silently suffer because they are watching us put out fires left and right and they do not want to contribute to our stress. In their minds, it is a small price to pay if it means our happiness.

    In answer to your question, I think she acted exactly as she should have. It may have hurt you at the time, but she was doing what she thought was best...protecting that which she cared about.

    Oops...wrote more than I thought. :P

    I like "talking" too much I guess.

  3. Dear Elisa, after years of seeing several psychiatrists and finally being able to embrace who I am, I'm all in favor of honesty. Sometimes that honesty needs to be tempered with great gentleness but no good relationship can be built on lies and half-truths and falsehoods. Or so I think. Peace.

  4. I hope to be as transparent as you, but it is tough. I tend to complain or become irritated at life's problems, but I'm learning to hit them more head on as I get older. If nothing else, so I can sleep at night. Great post!!

  5. Forgiving is good, just don't forget. Here is a person who was willing to cut you when you were down. She may have been willing to admit her ugly deed when she was the one in need, but don't assume that she wouldn't do it again if and when her needs once again trump her altruism. I do think love can change people, and you offered your love and forgiveness,(which says a lot about your own character), but just be sure you don't trust her with more than you can afford to lose in the future. It takes a strong spirit to continue to be open and loving after betrayal. You don't have to become jaded to be aware. Snakes can be handled, with care. Or, some people choose to avoid snakes altogether which is also a valid choice.

  6. you are truly one good person! what an inspiring story. i am truly sorry for the pain you and your friend have both suffered but what a true example of character you displayed. keep on being a beacon of hope and for sharing it with us. ice cream would be good. i'm a fan of pancakes myself. they help in any situation!

  7. Glad your friend apologized and you were able to comfort her.

    With your questions, it depends. I try to prioritize things that need to be addressed and let things slide that might seem to be nit-picky. If neither of those seem appropriate, I just blame the kids or the dog.

  8. She should have handled the situation with kindness, rather than building herself up to tear you down, but I'm glad she apologized. I approach different problems in different ways. Sometimes sneaking up behind a problem to surprise it works well. Sometimes you need to get right in a problem's face.


  9. Like a bull in a china shop is how I sometimes confront life's challenges...meaning to say I tackle them head on. I'm proud of you. I wish your friend had been honest, but at least she had the decency to apologize to you.

  10. Your friend had lived so long in denial, that she found it difficult to think anything else.
    It has taken us years and years to reach the point of honesty. Not easy.
    Be gentle with yourself.

  11. Well I have been married for 29yrs and if someone had asked me that question I would tell them all marriages have potholes sometimes you can mend the hole sometimes you can't. When you can't then ending the marriage might be the right thing for you, no one can tell you what is right all we can do is be supportive of whatever decision you make.

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  13. Denial happens way too many times, and you shouldn't blame anybody for having it happen. Blaming someone is always easier than to face your problem, after all. However, soon enough, it can catch up on you, and you will have a hard time finding out what's actually real. Marriage is hard. Finding a partner you can trust is hard, and I'm sorry for everybody who has had to have a divorce. However, I'm thankful for friends like you who offer ice cream after a bad day. Thanks for sharing that, EC. All the best! :)

    Clifford Wheeler @ Powell Spencer & Partners