Finding out

Someone I know is grappling with telling a friend that the friend’s husband is having an affair. She asked me what I would do – she didn’t know that I’d been through this. I was as naive as they come, and busy wrapped up in my miserable life looking after first one high needs child and then having another. I had accepted that I would be miserable forever. I was about 25 years old, married 7 years and I had a high needs 3 year old when I found out about the first one. 26 or so when I found out about the second one. 28 for the third (and last) one which was really still the second one.

I thought about it for a couple of days, knowing that this person is a SAHM, has serious health problems and has no income in her name. She doesn’t want to know – as miserable as she is, single mothering looks worse. Finding out is painful. Dealing with it is painful.

I thought back to how naive I was and how desperate and dependent I was and I believe there was probably only one approach that might have been empowering that someone who really wanted to help me could have used – one way that might have helped me open my eyes to what was going on and what everyone else around me probably already knew and prepared me for dealing with the aftermath:

If someone had told me I would have preferred a “what would you do if he were no longer around” approach – the kind of help that would help me plan for death or major injury or when the kids were older – that wouldn’t force me to admit anything I wasn’t ready to hear. The kind of back-up plan that is good to have no matter waht – like a fire escape plan. I really believe now in independent personhood – not tying yourself so completely to another person that you lose your self and your own identity – that strength comes from being able to care for yourself and then choosing to share that with another person – not because you have to but because you want to. Not because you’re financially dependent or emotionally dependent or because you only feel whole connected to someone else. Easy to say, yes?

I think encouraging someone to become self-sufficient inside their relationship is one way to help them prepare to face what is happening around them. Sooner or later she will find out. Maybe get her talking about what she did before being a SAHM, what kind of things she’s interested in for herself – helping her develop her interests – the kinds of things friends talk about.

1 comment:

  1. suki, 8. January 2006, 22:58

    I was on the receiving end of this type of situation, and on the observing end of this situation.
    What I learnt from having been told by a friend that my husband has taken a lover is ‘don’t shoot the messenger.’ I also learnt that sometimes the mistress wins.

    What I did with that knowledge (when I observed events that I wish I hadn’t, but did) was to tell my friend’s husband (the cheater) that he had until the end of the week to tell his wife or I would.
    He did.
    She forgave him and that’s her call. He avoids me and that’s fine. My friendship with her has changed somewhat to now being more superficial…

    Now I never look into the contents of a glass elevator in a hotel at lunchtime.