Friend with a problem.........

catherinetMarch 6, 2002


I usually can help my good friend out most of the time. But she has a problem that I don't think anyone can do anything about, and I feel bad that I can't help her.

She had a rough childhood, and really never learned about love. She chose to marry a man (a long time ago), who she didn't really have that much in common with, but she just didn't want to be alone anymore. He seemed like a decent man at the time. Well, now she is totally unhappy with this man. He is so different from her, I don't see how she can stand it. There is no love between them. BUT......she has 2 children and has a chronic disease, and couldn't possibly support herself if she left him. She feels so desperate.

I try to get her to develop friendships and activities outside her home, in order to enlarge her world a little, and have some of her needs met by other people (I don't mean affairs!), and not depend on her husband for her happiness, but she doesn't feel well most of the time and is not very social.

She's not a religious person, so she doesn't even have that for support. I feel so helpless with her. She's a really good person who, unfortunately, made a big mistake in choosing a spouse, and now, because of other circumstances, is somewhat trapped.

Do you of you have any suggestions for me to give her? Telling her to get a divorce and just make the best of it seems like bad advice, knowing her limitations.

Her husband isn't physically abusive,.....he's just emotionally absent, and isn't really interested in changing.

I really would like to help her.......but she seems to be constantly depressed about this situation with her husband. There seems to be no way out for her, and I feel like I'm letting her down.

Any suggestions? Thank you for your help.

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I am sorry to hear that your friend is so unhappy with her spouse. After 25 yrs. of marriage one thing I have learned is you are only responsible for your happiness not your spouse. Try to encourage your friend to take up some hobbies, reading, if she has the internet encourage her to join some bullentin boards so she can get emotional support and encourage her to take a day out every week or so with friends or family. I felt emotionally abandoned about 7 or 8 yrs. ago but after reading some self help books I realized that I am responsible for my own happiness and that my spouse will change on his own. Now my DH is there for me emotionally most of the time because he sees that I am not relying on him for my happiness.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2002 at 9:45AM
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I agree with Sheila. I have a feeling that your friend's problem has a lot more to do with herself than it does with her spouse. She may be suffering from depression due to her illness, she probably feels isolated without friends, and probably does not have a lot of things to do that make her feel good about herself. If she is relying on her husband to "make her feel better" she will certainly be disappointed in him, even if he DOES try. It is not fair to expect one person to make you whole and happy. You have to find it in yourself. Your friend needs to discover what she loves about HERSELF, what her talents are, and all that she IS capable of. Because even with her illness there are hobbies, talents, other pursuits that can be accomplished. I had a patient once who was completely paralyzed from the arm pits down. He wrote beautiful books and managed to get them published. I had another patient who was paralyzed from the waist down, but didn't want to give up riding horses. So he built a contraption that hoisted him onto the horses. He managed his horse farm all by himself, even though he was wheelchair bound. Your friend probably just got caught up in marriage and having children, and forgot all those things that she used to love! Help her rediscover those things, and allow her to pull herself out of this hole.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2002 at 12:14AM
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i agree only she can make herself happy,someone else cant make you happy it has to come from inside you. As for her being so different from her husband ~ opposites attract me and my husband have NOTHING in common for example i HATE cold weather he LOVES it , it dont get to hot for me but at the first hint of warm weather he is under the air conditioner i never had turned the air on in this house til i married him. i love sports esp baseball he only likes football and i will only watch football if one of my boys is playing i like sappy love story movies he likes sci fi so we do most things on our own or with friends but we have a great time when we are together you just have to know what you want and do what you can to do that we love each other dearly and cherish our time together but because of different likes we dont spend alot of time together esp in the summer

    Bookmark   March 7, 2002 at 8:30AM
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i'm in agreement with the others, happiness begins with oneself. She sounds depressed (and depression is exhausting!) perhaps self-help books or better yet a counselor/therapist, recommended by her physician perhaps, i think would help her immensely. Part of the reason her spouse may be emotionally distant could be because he feels helpless to help her. She shouldn't rely on him, she needs to do this herself, for herself. Good luck to both of you.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2002 at 10:25AM
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Thanks for your responses everyone. I've encouraged her to get some of her needs met elsewhere.....with friends, etc. I think it's a really tough position for her to be in, since they don't seem to have anything in common anymore and have really grown apart. I'll keep encouraging her to build interests elsewhere, and to try to achieve some happiness without needing to go through him to get it. It's a very unfortunate situation. Thanks again for all your suggestions!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2002 at 3:40PM
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My DH and I have different interests such as him watching ballgames and me surfing the net, he likes action movies and I like comedy but this doesn't mean we have nothing in common but it does mean we have different interests. I really hope that your friend finds hobbies to do or will get involved in some activity so she can be happy. Also, advice her not to dwell on what she can find wrong with her DH but rather what she can find right that he does. Tell her to suggest once a month that her and her DH make a date without the kids.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2002 at 3:59PM
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Hi again everyone,
I think the problem that's depressing her so, is that he doesn't really take part in many of the responsibilities of being a homeowner. He helps her with the dishes, laundry, and running the kids around, but he doesn't know how to care for the furnace, watersoftener, lawn equipment, cars, etc. He doesn't even know how or who to call. He never takes any initiative or responsibility for any improvements or even plain maintenance of things. Sure, it's great that he helps with dishes, but he's totally uninvolved in all those things you think a man should be in charge of, or at least help with. She loves her flower garden in the back yard, for example, but the rabbits keep eating them. He keeps promising her a fence, but never does it. She has had to build all the shelves and storage in her house, be in charge of any changes and repairs that are ever made. Her husband works hard at his job, but has no interests or motivations for anything in the home. She has tried talking with him, but he gets angry and blows up. I think, unfortunately, it's one of those "irreconcilable differences" relationships. She's an interesting, bright, funny, perceptive person, who enjoys all sorts of things, but has become limited because of her fibromyalgia. Her husband is content to work too much and come home and have no motivation or personality left. I feel really badly for her. I guess I just need to encourage her to do things that bring her pleasure and comfort and listen to her. But it's sad, that she feels so trapped in this relationship. Thanks again for your suggestions.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2002 at 1:03PM
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I would suggest that your friend start individual counseling. Your description makes me think that she is suffering from Depression, if nothing else.

I know firsthand that Depression in itself is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausting and it will keep a person from being able to see their situation clearly, as well as hinder them from making decisions that are in their best interests.

After she has been in counseling (and possibly on medication) for a time, she may want to talk to her husband and they can decide if they want to try to make their marriage more mutually-fulfulling. If they do, then marriage counseling would be an excellent option for them. If they decide to end the marriage, then her counseing sessions will come as very valuable.

My best friend was in a horrible marriage that dragged on for too many years, and although we were (and are still) very close, I had the hardest time convincing her that I (along with most of her family) felt that they needed to either "p!ss or get off the pot" when it came to their marriage. They both suffered from Mental Illnesses, which complicated things, because neither one of them was consistent with their counseling and medications! Thank goodness that they have finally decided that they are not good for each other, have separated, and are currently in the process of divorcing.

Remain friends with this person and offer suppor, but in the long run, the final choice is up to her. Best wishes to you both.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2002 at 9:12PM
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Although I'm sure there are things her husband is doing to upset her, it just doesn't sound like this is "all his problem." I wouldn't say that someone who works full-time and then helps with the dishes, laundry, and running the kids around has "no interest" in things around the house. DH and I generally share household chores, we are both in school. But now that I am not working (he is in grad school and has to teach, so his schedule is much more demanding than mine) I do most of everything around the house. There have been times when I was working more, and he always took over the majority of the "house duties." It only seems fair to me. If she really feels overwhelmed with the household chores, maybe she can talk to him about hiring someone to help out. But I think saying that he is failing as a husband because he doesn't know how to fix things is wrong. Many men don't know about these things -- that doesn't mean they are not capable husbands. I think your friend needs to get help for her depression (which goes hand in hand with fibromyalgia most of the time and her doc should be able to help her), she needs to "get a life" outside of home (I didn't mean that harshly), and she needs to reexamine what she expects of her husband. He cannot humanly be everything that she expects -- her sole source of happiness and support, bread-winner, and maintenance man.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2002 at 12:03PM
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