dear mrs sal­is­bury

My friends have aban­doned me in my hour of need…

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - Sunday Soul -

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 (­ther­ Email your ques­tions to MrsSal­is­bury@sex­ther­ Con­fi­den­tial­ity and anonymity are as­sured.

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