The Vine: August 21, 2013
My friend Catherine (36) and her husband Scot (38) have been married for about a year and a half now. It is her first marriage and his third.
He has always been a mean, mood-swing-y, passive-aggressive arse but she loved the guy so I tried to be supportive. After they married, their relationship continued on its downward trajectory. About June last year, Scot started going to a city two hours away for work each week for several days. It started with him going from a Tuesday till Friday but after a few months the pattern ran thusly: come home Tuesday, pick fight with Cat Wednesday, leave for city Thursday, return home Tuesday. Lather, rinse, repeat.
To no one's great surprise, it turned out that he was having an affair with a woman in the city. Cat found this out by stealing his cell phone after seeing him entering his PIN onto his phone (he's never had a password before) and reading five months' worth of texts between him and the girlfriend. Worse, Cat had just found out that she is pregnant after Scot had had a reverse-vasectomy and in the texts between him and Sasha, it came out that Sasha got pregnant at about the same time as Cat but had subsequently had an abortion. The texts were awful, ranging from flat-out lies about Cat to apparently quite hardcore sexting (while Cat was downstairs making him his goddamned dinner, every night he was home he was upstairs in the bathroom whacking it to his tiny heart's content).
So Cat leaves him and moves in with her parents. Scot is furious with her, angry that she walked away from their marriage. No remorse or guilt from his side at all. Divorce proceedings are initiated by Cat. Scot tells Cat the affair is over. Cat is devastated about all of it. And then I don't know what the fuck. He leaves to go live in the city, has now changed his mind and is moving back because, again, he wants to work on their marriage. She is considering it and has not proceeded with the divorce. It is terrifying that she would allow that "man" back into her life. I know he's always going to be a factor because he is the kid's father but I really wish he had just fucked off to Sasha and left Cat alone. She keeps saying, "But he's my husband and the father of my child," and I just want to smack her and say, "He's not even human."
I don't know how to support her in this. Which is my question to you (and your readers): how do I support her? She knows that everyone wants him out of her life. She knows he is pathological and narcissistic and will likely never change. He is horrible, in a word. And yet, there she is.
I know she has to make her own decisions and live with the consequences thereof. But what do I do? Continue to be a shoulder to cry on and wait for inevitable atomic bomb of a fuck-up this is all heading for? Because at the moment it feels like that is all I can do and it's killing me. Help, please.
If I Could Get Away With Murder, There Wouldn't Be An Issue
Well, you know, there's no telling anybody anything. Emotionally speaking, he's hardly a husband, and he doesn't really want to "work on their marriage" — he wants to win, by which I mean he wants to get away with it, or end the marriage on his own terms and not because Cat finally grew a couple of vertebrae. You know all that, I know all that, anyone who's seen a daytime soap knows all that, but all Cat sees is 1) the looming specter of single parenthood, coupled with an adversarial relationship with Daddy Dearest over there, and 2) that it's somehow less humiliating if they "work things out." She's not in a headspace where he's the pathetic one, which is natural; that takes a while. But it's not a headspace she can get to as a result of anyone telling her, "He's the pathetic one, don't throw good years after bad," e.g.
In other words, if by "support her," you mean "get her to see reason," you can't, really. If you mean letting her know you're there for her, do that. Say, in so many words, "I'm here for you. I can't imagine what you must be going through, and I'm here for you."
But it doesn't necessarily mean providing a silent shoulder to cry on, either. No, telling her that Scot is a twat may not change her mind, but you can also tell her, "Look, I'm here for you, and I understand that it's a very complicated situation and it's not my life, but I have to tell you that I think Scot is a fucking terrible person. I won't stop being your friend if you guys get back together, but I can't and won't pretend I think it's a good idea." I think sometimes we confuse "supportive" with "in agreement," and you can be one and not the other; looked at another way, I don't think it's terribly supportive to keep your feelings about Scwat to yourself.
You do support Cat, and the kid, and you have compassion for the difficulties here — and her contemplating giving Scwat a second chance is at odds with all of those. I don't see any harm in saying as much, and you don't have to plant your feet and declaim it or anything; you can mention it when it comes up, and hope she understands that wanting the best for her does not mean co-signing emotionally self-destructive decisions. And she may not, and she may never figure out that he's a fuckwad, but that isn't your job…just like it isn't your job to pretend her choices in this regard couldn't use any work. Get clear on that distinction for yourself, and to her, for right now.
Tags: boys (and girls) friendships