This week John addresses an accidental accusation, a divorce splitting friends, and grieving on Father’s Day.
This originally appeared at GoLocalProv.com.
I have a friend who has struggled with prescription drug abuse. It’s been a very serious problem for her. She has worked to overcome it with the help of a support group and as far as I knew, it was working. She was keeping it in check. But after a visit from her recently, I couldn’t find a bottle of strong painkillers that I had due to a recent surgery. I knew they were in my bathroom, but I also knew they were not in plain view. You’d have to go looking for them. After a couple of days of not being able to find them, I was very worried and became convinced that she had taken them and if I wanted to be a good friend, I had to address it. So I called her, told her the situation, and she immediately began swearing up and down that she hadn’t taken them. Again, I was concerned for her health and I called expecting her to deny it, so I didn’t really buy her story. She got very angry, swore at me, and hung up.
Well, I ended up finding the bottle of pills after all. They had been in a drawer that was too full and they had gotten pushed out of the drawer and fell into a space behind the drawer. I immediately called her to tell her and to apologize and she swore again and hung up. I called her back and said wait, I didn’t care about the pills, I was concerned about her health, what else was I supposed to think, etc., and she just blew up, telling me I have no faith in her, she’s been working harder at this than anything in her whole life and here I was just assuming she’d failed…it was really bad and she was sobbing by the end of it. And now she refuses to have any contact with me.
I am broken up over this. I really care about her and I’m sorry she felt accused, but at the time, I was thinking the worst and thinking I was going to be that person about whom people would say, “She knew that, so why didn’t she do anything?” Do you have any idea of how I can help her see this from my point of view and repair our friendship? I feel awful and want her to know I was motivated by caring.
Friendship Needs Healing
Dear Friendship Needs Healing,
I can understand why your friend would be a little irritated by your call, but I don’t think you did anything wrong. I think she’s overreacting: the conclusion you drew after her visit was perfectly reasonable given her history, and your concern was justifiable. Furthermore, you’re right: sometimes we have to wade into difficult or unpleasant situations when it would be much easier just to avoid them.
I think that eventually, she will come around. I’m sure the problems she’s grappling with right now are clouding her thinking, but with time, she will probably see that you had her best interests at heart. I would contact her to let her know that you understand she’s angry, but you hope in time she will see that you called her out of concern. In the meantime, you will give her the space she needs, but when she’s ready to talk, you will be, too. Perhaps you could encourage her to discuss this with her support group. They may be able to help her see your situation a little more clearly.
My wife and I are long-time friends with a couple who are going through an ugly divorce. I grew up with the (soon-to-be-ex-) husband – he’s my oldest friend and without a doubt my closest friend, too. When our son was seriously ill many years ago, this guy was there twenty-four hours a day to help. We got through that, thank God, but I don’t know what we would have done without him. We will be forever deeply grateful to him for that.
Here’s the thing, though. He and his wife are going through this nasty divorce because he’s cheated on her many times over the years, and the last time was the last time as far as she was concerned. If it’s possible to lay the blame on one side in a divorce, it’s pretty clearly all his. But now, due to how acrimonious it has gotten, he has let us know in no uncertain terms that if we’re friends with him, we can’t be with her, too. It’s one or the other.
John, we don’t want to make that choice. His wife is a wonderful person who we have a lot of sympathy for despite our long history with her husband. She needs support now, as does he, but is it possible to be supportive to both? Neither one of them has done a single thing to make us turn our backs on them, quite the opposite, but that’s what he expects us to do. (His wife is well aware of how far back we go, so she doesn’t seem to be expecting us to abandon him.) As you might imagine, this is a highly emotional time, and we’re too caught up in the heat of this thing to be able to step back and think about what’s right. That’s why I’m writing.
Dear Collateral Damage,
It’s probably not much consolation, but I’m sure you know that how you’re feeling—caught in the middle of these two warring factions—is very, very common when friends get divorced. Despite your long history and the indebtedness you feel toward your friend, though, he’s the one who’s wrong here. He shouldn’t be trying to force you to choose, and he certainly can’t make you do so. Get together with him over a beer or something and let him know that he has your undying loyalty and love, but you care about his wife, too. And he needn’t feel threatened by the fact that you don’t want to cut her out of your lives as a condition for remaining close with him. Hopefully, he will accept this, eventually if not immediately. If worse comes to worst and he decides that he simply can’t remain friends with friends of his wife’s, that will be truly unfortunate. But it will be his choice, not yours.
Father’s Day is coming up and it’s a very sad day for me this year. I never had any kind of relationship with my father (he was never married to my mother and had no interest in raising a daughter), but the man who came closest to filling that role for me was my uncle (my mother’s brother). He was the one who took me to father-daughter dances, taught me how to ride a bike and play softball, and took me on summer vacations with him, my aunt and my cousin. He’s just a good, sweet, loving man. So for a long time now, I’ve sent him a card on Father’s Day thanking him for stepping up and being like a father to me.
But a couple of months ago, my cousin passed away after being sick for only a short period of time. She was my uncle’s only child. Needless to say, he is devastated and grief-stricken. We all are. So now Father’s Day is coming up and I don’t know what to do. Now sending him something for Father’s Day seems presumptuous—he wasn’t really my father, of course, and I could never fill the hole left by his daughter’s passing. I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right. It feels more like a reminder of what he’s lost than a way of telling me how much he meant to me. The last thing I want to do is make Father’s Day even harder for him. Thanks for another point of view.
Dear Grieving Niece,
I don’t think there’s anything you could do to make this Father’s Day more painful than it will already be for him. On the contrary, I think a letter from you will make the day just a little bit more bearable for the poor guy.
Your love for him is apparent in your letter, so just speak from your heart. Acknowledge the hurt he must be feeling on this of all days. Share a story or two about your cousin that he might not know—if it involves him somehow, that’s even better. Don’t overanalyze what you’re going to say or worry about saying the wrong thing. Just let him know you love him, you’re thinking about him, and you’re mourning your cousin’s loss with him this Father’s Day. I don’t know how many miles separate the two of you now, but you could even offer to take him out on Father’s Day. None of this will be taken as an attempt by you to usurp his daughter’s place in his heart, I promise. It’s simply an indication that his selflessness and love when you were a girl has helped you grow into a loving woman.
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