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Help with friendship problem

(24 Posts)
BibiB Wed 02-Mar-16 11:37:10

I've never posted before but I would like your advice. My best friend of 32 years isn't speaking to me any more. This is very unusual for me, to fall out with a friend. Her husband died two years ago and I have been supporting her since then and trying to be a good friend. Trouble is her husband of four years was an alcoholic who started boozing at 9.30am. He was pretty insecure and made up his mind that her family didn't like him and gradually alienated her from 15 members of her family, doing a Rob Titchener from the Archers, gradually wearing her down so that she spent all her time with him and looking after him and not seeing any family or friends. Well, of course I kept quiet about my own beliefs and feelings because I knew she loved him so much... When he was high he was very funny and brilliant, had been a high flying lawyer.
Eventually, I did have to say to her a few things... That it seemed that things were not always easy with her dead husband, that he was often very negative and blaming and that must have been hard to live with. I know this was true, she often would ring me in tears. Now I have been sent to Coventry and she won't reply to my phone calls or emails for the past six months. It's a shock. I work in domestic abuse myself and I would not have believed that a 'victim' would be in such denial. Or that she could cut me off like this. Any advice about what to do?

Imperfect27 Wed 02-Mar-16 12:03:43

What a pity for both of you BibiB.

Grief can bring out strange reactions in us and the second year of a bereavement is often worse than the first. It sounds like your dear friend may have been processing a complexity of feelings about her late DH and maybe your well-meant advice hit raw nerves. Do you think you might have been a bit 'strong' in what you said? Might your professional knowledge have coloured your responses to her expressions of unhappiness? Have you felt that you might have been a bit too forthright? Only asking - it is just so sad that she has apparently cut you off when she is probably in need of support and I wonder if you need to apologise - even if you cannot see that you were at fault - as a way of bridge -building.

There were many times when I felt my mother should have left my father as he was alcoholic and at times abusive. Once - only once- I told her so and she was not thankful for my advice! No matter how painful it is at times to watch and see someone suffering, that taught me that they have to work it out for themselves, in their won time. We can be there and listen, but we can't always give the solution.

mollie Wed 02-Mar-16 12:08:35

Hi BibiB... It sounds like you've fallen into the old trap of 'it's OK for me to complain about my XXX but you can't'. It's dodgy to find fault with a living partner/parent/child/pet of a friend but you've gone and criticised a deceased partner/parent/child and that's the worst thing anyone can do. Don't you know that when someone dies they become a plaster Saint?

Two years isn't a very long time for a grieving widow. Secretly she may agree with everything you have said but clearly she's not ready to admit that out loud. Give her time. In your shoes I'd keep lines of communication open, send her a card or a letter, apologise for upsetting her and remind her you've been friends for a long time and tell her you're still around if she wants to meet up. Avoid the detail of her OH's behaviour - she'll find it easier to focus on your friendship than cope with admitting who was right or wrong. I'm sure she misses you after all this time...

Ana Wed 02-Mar-16 12:13:14

I do think that you should have kept your own counsel regarding your opinion of your friend's late husband, especially as it sounds as though she's still grieving and perhaps doesn't want to acknowledge that the relationship was so bad. Might she have thought you were suggesting, in a roundabout way, that she's better off without him?

As Imperfect says, grief can bring strange reactions and all I can suggest is that you write to your friend accepting that it wasn't helpful to rake up the past, apologising and asking whether you can be of any help.

I'm sure she's missing your support.

Ana Wed 02-Mar-16 12:14:01

x posts, mollie but similar thoughts!

BibiB Wed 02-Mar-16 12:25:41

Thank you for these excellent comments. It was inevitable that our differences in perspective would surface at some point. Grief is unpredictable and yes, he has become a plaster Saint. And her anger has rounded on those people she sees as against him. The professional advice from domestic abuse agencies is always to say something to a friend, not to keep quiet. I'm wondering if I kept quiet for too long?

mollie Wed 02-Mar-16 13:48:20

I suspect you did, the advice is good if it's used when your friend could have done something about her situation. Too late now. But never mind that, try to recover your friendship ...

M0nica Wed 02-Mar-16 15:04:23

What is the point in telling someone who has been widowed that their husband was abusive, particularly, as you say, she loved him so much?

Your friend is grieving a husband she loved even though her was a difficult man and an alcoholic. Now he has died she is giving herself a happy life to look back on by forgetting the worst parts. She is not alone, we all do it.

I cannot understand why you ever thought it would be helpful to her to be reminded of how difficult her life with her late husband could sometimes be. Now you are a constant living reminder to her of all that was difficult in her marriage at a time when she wants to forget that bit and just remember the good times.

grannyqueenie Wed 02-Mar-16 17:38:16

When someone who was difficult in any way dies then the hope of that situation ever improving dies with them. The loss of what now can never be is a hard thing to cope with. It's still early days, deep down your friend probably knows her husband's faults only too well but maybe she denied them to herself during his lifetime as a way of coping with her situation. At present maybe it's too painful to acknowledge them to herself, never mind others. Often in time folk are able to remember someone as the person they really were, rather than the person they wish they had been. Sometimes part of the grieving process is realistic remembering often with lots of mixed expressions of emotion -exasperation, regret, anger or laughter etc all playing a part. It's an emotional minefield for suppportive friends or family each with their own recollections and understanding of how things were. Good luck!

BibiB Thu 03-Mar-16 09:56:07

Not sure I'd agree with this, Monica. Surely we should not collude with domestic abuse? My dilemma was that, whichever way I jumped it would be wrong.

BibiB Thu 03-Mar-16 09:57:50

Yes, that is so true, grannyqueenie

rosesarered Thu 03-Mar-16 10:09:18

I agree with Monica and Ana .
The time to talk to your friend was years ago, if you were going to at all.
Nobody wants to think their marriage was a failure and that they should have bailed out long ago.In fact, in spite of the husband's behaviour, she may have loved him very much and NOT seen the marriage as a failure.I would write her a lovely letter, and say you were wearing your 'prof hat' when you talked about things, and are sorry.If this doesn't work, you may have to accept the loss of friendship, or at least leave things to go quiet for a while.🍀

Indinana Thu 03-Mar-16 10:31:30

I too agree with Monica and Ana. I can't see what possible purpose you thought would be served by reminding your friend of her husband's failings. He has died, and is no longer able to redeem himself. Nor is your friend able to address the problem in any way. It is past.

I agree that we should not collude with domestic abuse, and that is something you should, if at all, have dealt with in his lifetime. What is there to collude with now? confused.

If your friend wants to remember the good times - and you say she did love her husband very much - then I would imagine the last thing she wants is a reality check to spoil all these lovely memories she is nurturing in her grief.

I think your only way forward now is to eat humble pie and apologise. I hope you manage to save this friendship, because you obviously care about your friend and it would be such a shame for both of you if you can't patch this up. Good luck flowers

Bellanonna Thu 03-Mar-16 10:34:39

I agree with Mollie and Ana. Monica that sounds a bit harsh. Hopefully BibiB will be able to re-establish the friendship by writing, as suggested, a nice letter apologising for her words, which she now regrets, and hoping they can go back to being friends as she, BibiB, really misses the friendship. Maybe suggest meeting somewhere for a chat over a coffee? I'm sure the criticism you levelled about her husband was meant to be "helpful" but unfortunately it was not appropriate for a grieving widow. I do hope you can recapture this friendship. Please let us know later.

KatyK Thu 03-Mar-16 10:52:38

My father was a violent, abusive alcoholic who made our lives a misery. I have to admit that if anyone, apart from my siblings, gave a negative opinion of him, I would be furious. Strange but true.

Maggiemaybe Thu 03-Mar-16 11:04:34

KatyK flowers I am like a tigress if anyone dares criticise any of my family, even if I secretly agree with the criticism. It's not denial, it's just loyalty, and love. I think this is a natural reaction. I hope your friend comes round, BibiB, but I can understand her stance.

M0nica Thu 03-Mar-16 20:20:25

I do not condone abuse of any kind, but relationships are complicated and quite often one partner will put up with the difficult side of their other half because there is a lot in the partnership that is really good or because it provides them with a support they do not wish to be without.

I have two friends in relationships that are not abusive in any way, but in each case the husband is difficult in some way; unsociable and abrupt in one case and with an all consuming sporting passion in the other. They both are psycholgically independent women who do not let their husbands treat them as door mats and have had careers and have their own pensions and could walk away from their marriages if they chose to. But they choose not to. They mix independent lives following their own interests, with a happy family life. I couldn't stand it in either case, but that is my opinion.

The OP says this lady loved her husband; that he could be clever witty and amusing. Perhaps there were other pleasures and bonuses in the relationship that made it worth her while, which her friend may not have known of.

I think it is somewhat judgemental to decide she is a victim and is in some extreme state of denial, and anyway the 'abuser' is now dead, so she is no longer in the relationship. I have had friends in abusive relationships, which they have eventually left and recognised as abusive. The dynamics were very different.

BibiB Sat 05-Mar-16 09:43:08

I'm not sure this sort of forum is right for me but thank you to everyone for your time about something that has disturbed and upset me.

Alea Sat 05-Mar-16 09:50:53

I am not sure what possible other response OP could have hoped for, but appreciate what BibiB has said and maybe we have helped in a way.

Anya Sat 05-Mar-16 10:13:07

I hope you are still around BibiB - whether it was right or not to bring this up is immaterial. You did what you thought was best at the time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I'm sure we've all acted with good intentions on,y to have it blow up in our face at times.

Simply put, your friend is grieving. Not for what actually was, but for what she had hoped it would be. And making Demi-gods out of the unlovely is a common reaction.

Go in peace. Don't beat yourself up. Keep in touch with your friend by sending her the odd text, birthday card, but don't feel you're to blame for this situation flowers

Synonymous Sat 05-Mar-16 10:37:54

Oh dear BibiB your last post was very revealing! It is all about you and not about your friend at all.
It was quite unnecessary to have delivered your opinion long after it could ever have been helpful and you have caused hurt and sadness. I cannot think of a forum where what you have done would receive the affirmation you seek.
Perhaps your friend has decided that it is now time to move on with her life and to concentrate more on friendships which are positive, kind and good for her. sad

grandMattie Sat 05-Mar-16 10:40:29

Interesting. My father was an alcoholic, like KatyK's but it was never, ever acknowledged. His tongue would flay you. But we were forever being told how horrible he was by "well meaning" relations/friends. When he died, only one person said anything nice about him! It was hard, he was horrible, but he was our dad!

So I can understand about the friend's late husband. Perhaps when writing, accentuate the positive - he did have virtues, he was fun at time, mention the good times and ignore the bad, when writing encouraging letters. Carry on, just keep in touch at birthdays, Christmas etc., you may be surprised to hear from your frind one day.

On the other hand, people hate someone to be right, and hold it against them; ditto if they have been particularly kind to the bereaved...

It is an impossible situation. I feel very sad for you. flowers

starbird Sat 05-Mar-16 11:31:26

What a sad situation. It is very tempting when a friend loses a partner, through death, divorce or the partner walking out, to point out the downside of the relationship in the hope of cheering them up. But even if you wait for a few years, it rarely helps, because it either takes away the veil of their imaginery perfect life, or reinforces niggling doubts about the imperfections, or lets them know that others have seen through the facade they built up.

OP's friend cut herself off from those who criticised her and stuck to the one person she thought understood and accepted her and her partner. Now this illusion is shattered she may be devastated and find it hard to live with. I hope she is attending grief counselling or has some other form of support.

I feel so sorry for OP too, she meant well and it is something many of us might be tempted to do. Now she has lost a good friend. Perhaps if she writes and explains that she thought whar she said might help her friend get over the grief, and realizes it was a mistake, apologizes, and then goes on to talk about the man's good points and she understands how much her friend is missing him, perhaps referring to some of the good times they had, and laughed about with him, the friendship may be recoverable, though it might take time to get back to what it was.

BibiB Sun 06-Mar-16 17:53:07

no, not seeking affirmation, and I do appreciate your contributions. Well, those that come across as kind and helpful.