dear mrs salisbury
My friends have abandoned me in my hour of need…
Dear Mrs Salisbury, I’ve been in a verbally abusive relationship for the past 43 years. My husband had a massive stroke last year at the age of 66, and now I’m left nursing him full time. I also have to run the business we were partners in. I can’t walk out on him as he’s so reliant on me.
We used to have what I thought was a fantastic core of genuine friends in our town, but now they’ve virtually all disappeared, including some who we’ve helped to support financially over the years. Just the other day I was with my husband in a café and our neighbour arrived with a group of her friends. As she walked out she looked the other way. Only one couple has stuck by us. Thank God for our good old genuine friends from way back who don’t live in our town and who telephone at least once a week, and also for our children.
In Disbelief Dear In Disbelief, How terribly sad to read of you not only battling on with this terrible situation but also facing the loss of those you’d trusted as friends. To be abandoned by people must only be adding to the grief and strain you’re experiencing.
I find myself creating two possible scenarios to try to understand your position. Too many human beings are ultimately fickle, selfish and easily daunted. Your situation overwhelms people; they don’t know how to speak to you about it, they fear they may have to face it themselves one day and they find it easiest to avoid you. Parents who’ve suffered the loss of a child have told me that people cross the street to avoid talking to them. When you bear the unbearable it seems you’re at risk of having to do it alone.
Brace yourself for scenario two. Is it possible that your friends are withdrawing from supporting martyrdom? You may feel terribly wounded by me writing this, but to have tolerated 43 years of verbal abuse and to now experience yourself as having no choice but to devote yourself to caring for your husband creates a different scenario than the strain of a loving, healthy relationship having to move to one of caregiver and dependant partner. Both scenarios are very hard, of course.
Congratulations on raising good kids and do take heart from your old friends too. Robyn Salisbury is a registered clinical psychologist and a director of Sex Therapy NZ Ltd (www.sextherapy.co.nz). Email your questions to MrsSalisbury@sextherapy.co.nz. Confidentiality and anonymity are assured.