“We haven’t had sex in over a year,” my friend told me as we sat sharing a large pepperoni pizza. She and her husband have been married for over ten years. He pursued her hard and was obviously madly in love with her.
After having three kids, my friend’s body had changed and she didn’t feel very good about herself. She was tired every time I saw her. Her husband was tired every time I saw him, and he complained about what their kids had done to his sleep schedule.
At our monthly get togethers, I noticed he was withdrawn, never talked to her friends, and always had his nose in his phone, leaving her to tend to their young children all by herself. If she needed his help, she had to ask for it. It was as if he had checked out completely.
I began to notice my friend was always sad. They were obviously disconnected and it was affecting her entire life — that’s what happens when you feel like your marriage is falling apart, and watching her go through this has been excruciating.
She’s not only deeply in love with her husband, she is financially dependent on him since she hasn’t worked outside the home in over a decade. She moved into a house that he owned before they met and her name hasn’t been added to the mortgage. She doesn’t want to parent alone or not see her kids every day.
She’s been making an effort to go to therapy on her own because he doesn’t want to go. She’s been initiating sex and he denies her most of the time. She’s been communicating what she needs and he tells her he doesn’t want their marriage to end, but is refusing to do any of the work so she’s taken on all of it.
After having been through a divorce myself and seeing how similar her situation is to mine, I want to tell her to leave if she’s not happy. I want to tell her it looks like she is losing herself. I want to tell her she is capable of doing all of this — parenting, making ends meet, starting over — on her own if that’s what she wants.
But I can’t do that right now.
Right now, she needs someone to listen and be there and not drop their unsolicited opinion.
She needs to talk this out, sort through her thoughts, and weigh out her options in her own time. Because if I told her what I thought — what I really thought — I’d never be able to take it back and I’m afraid it would affect our friendship. I’m afraid she wouldn’t feel comfortable coming to me with such deep issues. And I don’t want that — not for her, and not for me.
Marriage is such a tricky subject. There are always two sides of the story, and someone who is on the outside looking in may think they know what it best for their friend or family member, but the only people who know what’s best for them at any given time are the two who are going through it.
In time, my friend might decide this relationship isn’t working anymore. She might notice it is affecting her kids. She might demand something more out of her husband and he might give it to her. And he might not.
It’s not my job to tell her to leave even though I seethe every time she tells me a new story about a way he has slighted her or when I go to their house and he is taking a nap while she’s trying to keep their three kids quiet as she makes dinner for everyone.
I have fantasies about kicking him in the balls in hopes it will wake him up and he can see what an amazing person she is.
But for now, I’ll just be there for her, keep the fantasies going full steam ahead, and try and bite my tongue when I see him staring at his phone while she is trying so hard to connect with him.
I’m not sure my words would even help, but I’m afraid there’s going to come a time when I’ll lose control and I’ll have to speak up. I’m not sure if it will be to him or to her. I just know I need to maintain my self control and hope there is a change coming soon.
For now, anyway.