My best friend’s husband has had girlfriends during their marriage and when she has asked him to quit he makes excuses, then continues. He leaves frequently to visit his native country. The last time he left, she did not hear from him for two months. Still, my friend thinks she needs to make her marriage work. I want to be supportive and understanding because she has helped me, but where do I draw the line between a supportive friend and an enabler? I don’t want to lose her friendship and I am afraid that’s where we’re headed.
It’s painful to see someone we love suffer. It’s even more painful to think of them suffering alone. So, don’t let the situation deteriorate to the point that you are no longer companions. Instead, step back from trying to solve her problem. That’s what happens, right? She starts to vent about her man and you begin to formulate a plan to solve her troubles forever. That doesn’t work and here’s why: Some of us need to hear ourselves tell the story of our wounding over and over. It’s the only way it becomes real to us. Hearing ourselves lays the groundwork for change.
The courage that inspires change often is unexpected. That’s why a woman who has been abused for 30 years suddenly will rise up and leave the tomb of her marriage, surprising everyone (including herself). So, the next time your friend starts complaining, listen but don’t try to take her pain away. Let her fully experience it. That’s the only way she can begin to understand what she has chosen to endure. If you do need to speak, say this: “It hurts me to hear what you’re going through. Our friendship means a lot to me and I want you to get the kind of support I can’t give you. Please consider calling WEAVE (Women Escaping A Violent Environment) for advice or seeing a therapist. I will even go with you to the first appointment, if you’d like.” That way, the only thing you’re enabling her to do is grow stronger.
Three years ago, I met a hot guy who didn’t want a relationship so I stopped talking to him. Later I realized that he would have been a great friend. I met him again recently and now we go out twice a month. A few days ago, with my prodding, we had mind-blowing kissing and cuddling. It’s been five years since I have had sex so I appreciated the physical attention. He has made it clear that he is not ready for a relationship and that I had better be sure I can handle that if we move forward. One part of me wants to enjoy the good feelings without expectations and the other part of me is so scared I feel sick. How can I discern if I am mature enough to handle this new paradigm?
What new paradigm? He is still the same hot guy he was with the same intention of keeping you two feet from his heart. He’s clear about what he wants: no commitment. Three years ago you knew you deserved a genuine relationship. So you left him. Now, you’re pushing this guy to meet your physical needs (by the way, how would you feel if a guy was prodding one of your female friends to meet his needs because he had not had sex in five years?).
Let’s clear the cobwebs: You approached this guy for friendship. But as you spent time together you imagined more. So you lied to him and now you’re lying to yourself. No wonder you feel sick. Get honest: friendship includes affection, not sexual arousal. Back off and focus on meeting someone who can make a commitment.