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Facing Conflict With A Friend

by Katrina

I'm in a very painful situation. It is important to know that I am a sexual abuse survivor. I had to come back home to help my friend whose 29 year old daughter was dying. Another friend of 25 yrs named Marie allowed me to move in. They insisted that, "You are part of our family, feel at home. We don't want anything from you, just to help you." However, I knew the husband to be very selfish and it is only fair to pay something. I asked what they wanted for rent. My friend said "300 a month" for one small room. I ended up paying $200 cash and $350 food stamps.

Because of caregiving and other stressors, I could feel myself getting more and more physically exhausted. Marie told me that her husband was getting jealous and that, "He is okay with my mother being here (implying not okay with me). In the meantime, Marie's husband started monitoring my food intake (by watching each time I made a plate of food). Going into the downstairs bathroom to listen when I was using the restroom or showering upstairs, checking the washer and dryer to see if and when I used it. I felt more and more controlled and intimidated. He watched my every move and acted critical only when his wife was at work.

I was afraid to tell my friend because I did not want to lose the friendship. I started staying away until 8pm daily and then began to leave for the weekend. After one month I went to a homeless shelter just to escape what I felt to be emotional intimidation and abuse. I told my friend I would call to let her know where I was and when I could pick up my things. Every time I tried to call I would feel a knot in my stomach. I just didn't want to tell her how hurt and humiliated I was. Finally, I called after 5 weeks of silence. She was outraged. She told me she was wounded. I told her I was wounded too and did not call because her husband would get a sick thrill out of knowing I was in a shelter.

She told me I "cut her out of my life and took advantage of her." She said, "We made ourselves vulnerable to criticism." (My stuff is still at her house). For 20 yrs i have watched this man emotionally abuse many people. I have maintained a deep friendship with her over all these yrs. When I moved in I started sensing his animosity, but I had nowhere else to go. I was emotionally vulnerable and he knew that. Is there any way to repair this friendship?

We have never had words, been angry, or fought in 20 yrs. I feel our relationship was okay because I kept my mouth shut (about him) and supported her as a friend. I also feel that I have given and helped them over these years and the one time I needed help, he used it as an opportunity to sabotage the entire friendship. (He's alienated her family in the past). She blames it on his back injury. I blame it on his excessive narcissism! Is there any hope of saving this friendship? She would not accept my apology and said I insulted her after I revealed what he did to me and why I stayed away.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hi Katrina, and thanks for posing your question on this site so that others can benefit.

This has obviously been a very painful situation for you, being alienated from your friend. Unfortunately, she would in essence have to choose between you and her husband to have a friendship with you. Her choice to side with her husband is her right, and yet it has apparently cost her the friendship with you. I think under the circumstances you may not be able to salvage the friendship.

It sounds like your friend has closed the door on any kind of resolution. I think the best thing you can do at this point is to let go and grieve the loss of the friendship. Otherwise you could cause yourself undue stress and discomfort worrying over something you cannot change. If your friend changes her mind, the door could open again. It is certainly possible to have friendships with people whom your spouse doesn't like, but it isn't easy or common, and can sometimes threaten the marriage.

You might try writing about what you appreciate about your friend and the friendship you had. Then take out any pictures you may have of her and say goodbye to her, wishing her your very best and thanking her for the good times. You don't want to stay stuck in resentment, as that will only hurt you. Check out this page on the stages of grief and this one on forgiveness.

Then focus on the friendships you have now and the blessings in your life. Keep a gratitude journal to stay aware of the good things you have going for you, and it will help you in the letting go process.

I hope this helps, Katrina.

My best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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