Tuesday, February 3, 2009

red flag with flares and warning sirens

I have a group of friends with big league spouse problems--these problems range from chronic absenteeism to oppositional parenting styles to infidelity. It's like they all married Peter Pan--these guys just won't grow up and become men. Life's a game and these guys have season tickets with box seats. There isn't a party their husbands will miss, a drink they'll turn down or a pretty lady a few of them won't try to get a phone number off of.

In this group one particular husband has cheated. And cheated. And cheated. He doesn't contribute financially (I'd argue he is a HUGE drain on the family resources because his golf league fees suck up his minimum wage part time income) and he can't be depended to do anything other than disappoint. He's a lazy drunk with a wandering eye. I can't think of a single reason why she'd stay with him, but she does. We've had the intervention where we've given our friend the number of a good lawyer. We've listened, handed over tissues, and given blunt counsel. Even the other Peter Pan husbands agree that this guy is a Class A Loser.

This friend has 3 daughters and I've pointed out that staying with her husband isn't teaching them anything good about marriage or men or being a strong woman. And over the past few years she's indicated that the oldest daughter has some anger management issues which gave her concern, but I hadn't heard anything about it in a while. Her daughter idolizes Dad and takes out what I suppose to be a lot of her anger about their situation on her mother--at least that's how I read it. The daughter is disrespectful and sassy and it's mighty awkward for anyone watching, but I've seen plenty of similar situations and while I've felt bad about them, I've never been worried.

This friend was supposed to meet up with me this weekend, but she called and said her younger daughters were sick and she wasn't feeling too good either. It made me sad because I wanted to know how she was doing and encourage her. Then I found out the truth of why she didn't show: her ten year old daughter had hit her so hard that she now has a black eye.

Learning this, that her ten year old daughter would HIT her so hard that she'd have a black eye and then she lies to other people to avoid them was a bigger kick to the stomach than finding out about her husband's affairs. The entire situation is so disturbing and beyond hope--and now I wonder if there is any limit to what this friend will tolerate. I'm beyond handing her tissues--and I'm afraid for her daughter, too.


  1. This is terrible.

    She is showing her daughters she doesn't respect herself and thus they have no reason to respect her. Something is so wrong in their home--I wish I had advice for you on what to do, but I cannot think of a thing.

  2. Wow. It is so frustrating to stand by and not be able to convince someone that what they are living is NOT NORMAL. I feel so bad for your friend and the amount of self-loathing she must feel in order to put up with the abuse she is getting from her family.

  3. Wow. I don't even know where to start with that one.

    I used to get so furious with my parents--no clue why they've put up with each other for almost 50 years. But being away, and in my younger mind always blaming my dad for all that was wrong, I can now see my mom's role in it. The eye opener was a couple years ago when J2 and I visited Nebraska and sat through a really fun drunken episode with my sister. I could see clearly then that my mom was playing the same part as the enabler as she had with my dad. Instead of calling her out on her bad behavior, she just tsk tsk'd and watched, then acted like there was nothing she could do about it. Whereas I, on the other hand, told her off and now don't speak to her. There were many years when I cut my dad out just because I didn't want to deal with him (he's off the sauce now and we get along better than we have my entire life). I don't know what her deal is, but I can see it much more clearly now as a dynamic happening with both of them, where before I thought it was just all blame on one side.

    Your friend needs more help than just a friend can give, but the problem may be that she has her role to play and that's it. Until she really wants help, and sadly she may think it's perfectly normal.

  4. Will your friend go to therapy her self? Does she have insurance that will cover it...or is there a place she can get free counseling? Maybe you could research a place where she can get professional counseling, find the number, give it to her and offer to drive her there.

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  6. Oh my. That is not a good situation and there's probably nothing you can do. Basically you'll just have to wait and out and hope and pray she gets help.

    I guess, at the most, you could reassure her that when she's ready to get help you will help her find it, but you don't have to.

  7. Oh how terrible. I'm so sad to hear about this. Does she have a minister who would be willing to step in and counsel her?

  8. In my previous marriage, my now ex- started used drugs (totally caught me off guard). It was a good while before I could even share that with anyone. I felt like a total failure. Your friend needs support, but she desperately needs counseling for herself and for her children.

  9. This is awful :( :( Unfortunately, I've seen it more times than I'd like to :(

  10. OMG. Can anyone intervene? School district? Church? This is an awful situation.

  11. This is a sad story - especially because there are children involved. I think we probably all know people who stay in horrible situations. I've never understood it.

    I think all you can do is be supportive but not encouraging the negative situation. It puts you in a very strange place.

  12. My reaction here strikes me as strange, even as I type it:

    I want to credit you with writing this so well that I, too, now feel sick to my stomach.

    So, er, well done.

    But your friend? Oy. And those girls? Holy Oy.

  13. This is one of the saddest stories I have heard in a long time. It's so true what people say--that you can't help people unless they are willing to help themselves.

  14. How I feel for that mom. She must be in such pain. To be treated so awfully by her husband and then be abused by her own child, who she loves so much.
    I really hope she will reach out to get some professional help, for herself and her daughter. Hiding sometimes feels like the only thing to do, but things never get better in isolation.

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  16. Oh, sweetie. I don't envy you or your friend. It is so hard to know what to do in a situation like this -- how best to be helpful and supportive without being enabling.

    I did some searching for resources that might help you deal with what your friend is going through, and I found this.

    It's about how family and friends can help in a situation like this (some dos and don'ts). Have a look, and I will keep a good thought for you and for your friend.

    - Julia

  17. I notice you say you "found out" what happened...not that your friend told you what happened. hmm.

    Cut the drama short by just telling it to her like it is:
    "Listen, Jan, we've all been talking about your situation at home and we really feel bad about how unhappy your relationship seems to be making you. Personally, I have a problem with knowing that your little daughter gave you a black eye and that you lied to the rest of us about it. I've known you and your terrible husband for years now, and it gets harder and harder to just sit by and watch you hate your life. How can I help?"

    If she beggs off and won't tell you what she needs, cut her loose and keep your own kids away from hers.

    You don't need people in your life who tolerate abuse and infidelity. It just sets a bad example.


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