Walking on cracked ice
In the past half year, four old friends ended their long-term relationships or marriages. Two of these couples had been together since the 1980’s, one relationship had been going on for almost twenty years, and the fourth couple had been together for seven years.
All of these friends live far away, so it’s not easy to keep up with what’s happening in their lives.
Their break-ups left me feeling helpless and at a loss for words.
I never knew how to react to what my friends were telling me about their ruined marriages or partnerships. They told me things about their spouses or partners that I found hard to believe. How their partners had changed lately. What horrible things they had done to ruin the relationship.
These stories were hard for me to swallow. After all, I had also gotten to know these friends’ partners pretty well over the years. I’d grown to like them and become friends with some of them. And I always respected them because they were the person who made my friend happy.
Were these terrible tales I now heard just fabrications? One-sided and unfair? Over-interpretations?
Unfortunately, all of these four friends who broke up with their partners live far away. It’s impossible to just go over, to sit down and talk to them and their partners.
Most of our conversations about their ruined marriages and relationships were over the phone or via e-mail.
I listened and tried to give advice. But what can you say, when you’ve only heard one side of the story?
In the end, these phone conversations always made me feel inadequate. Empty. I began to dread them because I knew I’d be at a loss for words again.
I felt like I was deserting my friends. At least it seemed to me that I was not supporting them at a time when they needed my friendship most.
New faces, new names
This weekend, I met one of them. It was strange to see this old friend of mine with a new partner – after all, I’d been best man at her wedding some 20 years ago. Now, here she was with a different man!
They both seemed happy – and that made me feel good about this new relationship.
But I still wondered how her (soon-to-be-ex-)husband was coping with all of this.
I was never very close to her husband. We never talked much. Whenever I called their house, he’d usually put my friend on after a little bit of small talk. So the idea of just calling him now and asking how he’s feeling would be awkward for both of us.
I’m not good at this kind of thing.
And maybe talking to him would also drive home the fact that we’re all walking on thin ice which could break anytime.