For Better Or Worse

* To those who read this a few hours ago, I apologise. My draft was published by mistake. Sorry about that.

I mentioned in a previous post the saga of my friend, Ellena. She of the husband who likes to have his cake and eat it too.

Ellena and I are good friends. I don’t doubt for a moment that I love her and she loves me. I also don’t doubt that I hate what she is doing to herself and her children by staying with a man who treats her with such disdain, disregard and all the other ‘dis-’ words you can think of as if she were nothing more than a plasma screen TV or an iPod that needs to be replaced every few years.

Ellena’s husband is going away for the weekend. With his mistress. It is the mistress’ birthday. She expects diamonds and room service. Ellena expects tears and acrimony. She has asked me to look after her kids for the weekend so she can go and confront her husband at the hotel. I think she has no intention of confronting her husband, I think she just wants to go the hotel to snoop and play the martyr. I think she wants her husband to rescue her from what she knows she really has to do.

I am miffed. I am peeved, frustrated, perplexed. It’s bad enough her husband waves his infidelity like a flag, like a T-shirt that proclaims : I’m Unfaithful, Get Used to It ; without Ellena pretending it isn’t happening.

‘Confront him now,’ I urge. ‘Don’t let him get away with it. You don’t like it. Stop it. Tell him to take a running jump.’

Ellena is full of her usual excuses : ‘What about the children?’ ‘I don’t want to have to sell the house.’ ‘We’re going to Paris for Easter.’

I am rapidly losing respect for one of my oldest friends. This day would be a good day to not get out of bed. I would have stayed under the covers if I had known. I feel like screaming and weeping at the same time. I go into Ellena’s bathroom that is so white I can’t see myself properly in the mirror. I look like an alien emerging from a spaceship. I run the water but the soap is split down the middle as if someone has hacked at it with a knife, breaking apart at my touch.

‘You will look after the kids for me, won’t you?’ Ellena isn’t about to give up. She has poured herself a glass of wine even though it is only 11AM. Her hand is trembling. She looks like a sketch done in pencil that is slowly being erased.

I am sorry for her but still angry at the way her kids treated Jake. I toy with adding to her pain by telling her how like their father her children have become but I can’t bring myself to do it. Even though the Fiddlewood Club has been disbanded.

When we lived in our old house across the road from Ellena we had a fiddlewood tree in the front garden. These magnificent Caribbean natives grow to heights of over 3 metres. Their wood is so prized they used to make violins from it.

When Jake was little he and Ellena’s two kids formed the Fiddlewood Club. They vowed to look after the tree and all the animals and birds that lived in it. They built a tent out of old sheets at the base of it and held meetings discussing how they were going to change the world by planting fiddlewood trees all over the land. It went on for years.

The Fiddlewood Club had its own membership cards and journals, hand-drawn flyers were prepared to attract new members. Last week I found all the old Fiddlewood Club stuff ripped up, thrown in the bin. It broke my heart to see it.

‘I can’t do it,’ I say. ‘You should confront him beforehand. Today. Now.’ Before you disappear. Ellena sits down. Suddenly, as if her legs have given way. She pushes her wine away. Sighs heavily. It sounds like her last breath. ‘Neither can I,’ she says.

Sometimes I am able to accept that there are some people I just can’t save. It surprises me when it happens because it is not in my nature to give up. Ellena’s acceptance of her husband’s double life has worn me down. I grind my teeth at night. I am frightened I will wake in the morning, mumbling, with a mouth full of stumps.

I walk carefully to the front door. It is time to leave for good. Ellena knows it. As I turn the doorhandle I look back. Ellena is twisting her wedding ring round her finger, round and round the way my Grandma used to wind wool for pom poms; her lips are moving but she isn’t looking at me. She has the face of a stranger.

The air is fresh. I am invisible as I walk down the garden path. I am not a good friend but I am free. Nothing happens as I get into the car. No one comes screaming after me. I hope this is a sign that Ellena will face what she has to do, just for once, for better or for worse.

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18 thoughts on “For Better Or Worse

  1. as much as many would like to disagree,, it is entirely possible your friend is getting what she really desires out of this relationship..

    i for one would rather have a man that i know was closer to me than any other human being alive,, than one that was strictly faithful…

    in my tainted view of love,, i cherish connection much more than i do the sexual act… i have had sex with many people i had no feelings for what so ever,, it can be a means to an end… period…but you cannot fake a spiritual bond you share with another human being,, it cannot be replicated simply to achieve a lesser goal…

    i am not saying this is your friends viewpoint,, i am just throwing this card on the table…

    she may be sated with the monetary aspects of the relationship that make her feel comfortable, cared for, protected, entertained.. and in my personal view,, there is nothing wrong with that….

    where the wrong enters into it,, i believe,, is when we inflict our “moral” judgments as to what should be acceptable to her,, and force her into a box she may be much less comfortable for her to be in,, but feels “for appearances” she must remain,, that of the “betrayed” spouse…

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  2. For a lot of people, it’s easier to hold on to what is hurting them rather than let go…and, usually, because they don’t have anything else.

    You are not a bad friend at all… I give you a lot of credit because I’ve been in this situation myself…and I, too, walked away from the friendship because I couldn’t watch this person repeat the history that she is so pained by. It’s almost like an intervention…

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  3. It really tears me to see a friend falling apart … especially if any advice I might offer would probably be met with a curt ‘Mind your own business’ and maybe lose me my friend.

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  4. As your first commenter said, you can’t put your morals and needs and expectations on her. That much is true.

    You CAN however live with integrity with your own. And what I hear you saying is that you can no longer support a friend’s fantasy of pretending not to know, making obvious that she does, making it clear that it hurts her, but allowing the pattern to continue.

    Not allowing her expectations to take you over is NOT the same as putting your expectations on her.

    There are times in life when boundaries are a good thing. (hugs) doll

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  5. PAISLEY – thank you for your very insightful comment. I have thought along the same lines myself, the only problem is that Ellena seems so unhappy, desperately so. Because of that I find her inaction hard to cope with. Her kids also know about the other woman and it has affected them. Ellena has commented on the change in them and how it upsets her. It’s a very complicated situation. I guess, it’s hard not to judge when so many people seem to be getting hurt, that’s why I’m stepping back. But you’re right, there are many colours to this, not just black and white.

    DOCSGIRL – thanks for that. I feel really bad about the whole thing. I feel bad that I posted about it but I am trying to make sense of it. I guess it is a kind of intervention.

    TRAVELRAT – I know. I know. It’s such a tough one. I’m happy to mind my own business but Ellena keeps involving me.

    MELEAH – the husband is having a whale of a time, there is no doubt.

    BRITT – that is exactly what I wanted to say but I couldn’t quite find the words. You’re the one who’s the doll. Wow, I’ve never been ‘stumbled’ before, it’s true. How exciting!

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  6. My husband cheated on me for 3 years. I knew it was happening but pretended to the outside world that it wasn’t. I had a friend who stuck by me the whole time who I confided in daily. Eventually ,when my husband’s girlfriend became pregnant, my friend laid down the law and said she couldn’t take it anymore. When she withdrew her support I fell apart for a bit but then I saw sense. I left him. I still love him but I am happier without him. I wanted you to know that you have done the right thing. It may not seem like it now but your friend will thank you someday.

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  7. I am so glad you’ve done this. I love Ellena too but this is a really toxic situation. If she wants to have an open marriage then that’s fine but the fact is she really isn’t comfortable with sharing her husband around. None of us(her friends) has a right to judge her (who’s to say we wouldn’t do the same thing in her shoes) but we do have a right to say ‘enough already’ when we are becoming stressed by what she has to endure and how she constantly involves us in it all. She knows we are all here for her but she also knows she has to set some boundaries. It’s time. I am praying it all works out.

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  8. Paisley is right. I was just like Ellena and I was getting what I desired out of the relationship. Or so I thought. Even though my husband always came home to me in the end, I couldn’t take his cheating ways anymore. I left. It broke my heart because he really was the man of my dreams. Sounds strange but it was true. No one could move me like he did. He was wealthy too and gave me everything I wanted. But in the end I decided I didn’t want to share him anymore. I got mad with some of my friends, told them to stay out of my life, but in the end I realised they were just looking out for me. They just wanted me to be happy. You are a good friend, Selma. In her heart Ellena knows that.

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  9. These situations are so difficult for everyone concerned. I feel bad her husband treats her this way. I hope she can sort it out.

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  10. My wife cheated on me for years. My friends told me she was no good and was just after me for my money. Turns out they were right. I wish I had listened to them. Hope it all works out.

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  11. I remember the post about Ellena and I still don’t get it. Did her husband blatantly tell her what he’s doing knowing she would just take it or did she find out some other way. I only ask this because how she came by this knowledge would be a guide to just how much her husband disrespects her. I know she is your friend so I hesitate to be too harsh but she sounds like someone who either has very low self esteem and self worth or her love of material wealth outweighs her self love. I realise a lot of it stems from wanting her children to have the best that he can offer them but would they really want that if they knew the cost to their mother? From what they said to Jake maybe they would but one day they will understand the status quo and I wonder what their thoughts will be then. Sorry to waffle on so long but I hate men like her husband.

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  12. BETH – thank you for visiting. I am sorry you have had such a difficult time. I hope you are right about Ellena.

    MEL – I’ve been crying about it all night. Thanks for lunch today. As always, you are a rock!

    ANGIE – Paisley is very wise. She really understands what makes people tick. She has put many situations I have found stressful into perspective for me. Thank you for sharing your story and for visiting.

    LORETTE – I hope so too. Thanks for stopping by.

    AL – Oh, I ‘m so sorry. I hope it has worked out for you. I appreciate the visit!

    GYPSY – would you believe he just told her outright? Part of the reason I have so much trouble with this is because I feel he is very sadistic. Sadly , the kids can see what their father has done to their mother. It is very upsetting. And please, waffle on as much as you like. I enjoy so much hearing from you!

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  13. I watched my best friend go through this same thing. Her children were caught in the middle and treated her like dirt. After a few years of this, I had to step back or get pulled under with her.

    Things were said that I knew would hurt. I told her that her kids were horrid to her and to other people as well. Then I said that I could no longer be there for her until she made some changes. Lots of tears were shed and we didn’t speak for a while.

    One day the phone rang. “Can you come with me to see my attorney?”

    We both look back on that time with more wisdom than we had while we were in it. I understand why she stayed with him. He had kept her from the working world for their entire marriage, so she had no means of financial support.

    Then he moved out, she got an attorney with the help of her mother, and life started getting better. Ok, first it went way downhill when she started drinking too much and ended up getting tossed in jail for driving under the influence, but that’s another story for another time.

    She sees how life is better, even though she has very little money, and even less left over after all the bills are paid. She could use a more reliable vehicle, and a place to live that isn’t about to fall apart due to rot, but she’s happy. She’ll never have Paris, or Ireland, or England, or…

    But she has friends, her children respect her a little more now, and she’s in control. Life isn’t easy, but she’s a lot happier. AND she’s sober.

    You did the right thing, although I might have said something about the kids, but since I wasn’t there, I can’t say that would have been the right thing to do. She’s very lucky to have you as a friend. I hope some day she’ll realize that.

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  14. I can’t add anything more. The other comments here contain so much wisdom – wow.

    I feel for you Selma. I lost a 16-year friendship over things that were said and done and the influences of others with less than good intentions. Not quite the same as your situation, but I know it hurts. I can’t imagine how hard this is for you to deal with on top of withdrawing from your sister, but you’re doing the right thing – you feel and give so much, I worry that there would be anything left of you if you don’t draw back a little occasionally.

    *hugs*

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  15. KAREN – so sorry you had to go through a similar thing. You’ve given me hope that it’ll all work out in the end!

    DAOINE – So sorry about your friendship. That must have been really hard. Standing back is good. I know I’ll start to feel better for it soon. Enjoy your trip. Hope you have a wonderful time!

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