I have a friend who has confided in me about how bad her marriage is and she is staying with him because she is afraid to be alone. She is hoping that he will change, yet afraid to challenge him. Money problems give her concern for post-relationship security. She feels like a failure and stuck. Is there something she can do at this point? I am sure other women would identify with this; I’m sure it’s common. I know it is not easy to fix relationship troubles instantly, but any help or suggestion is appreciated.
Frightened for a Friend
Dear Frightened for a Friend,
Being alone and being lonely are two very different things. A person who doesn’t rely on another for their own happiness can be perfectly content on their own. A person who is lonely, however, is still searching for something, and needs to find another for happiness. It is fear – of being lonely – that can convince a person to stay in a bad marriage. They think their loneliness may continue indefinitely so what does it matter.
A partner who sticks around in hopes that he other person will one day change for the better doesn’t benefit either party. A person will change only when they really want to. No one else can make that happen.
It is never an option to sacrifice your happiness for the sake of cash flow. Instead, your friend can meet with a financial planner to go over her earnings, and set realistic goals that she can reach on your own. This may require effort on her part: possibly taking on a side job such as cleaning, housesitting or dog sitting, maybe even drawing temporarily from a retirement account or strategizing for a savings account before an inevitable separation.
Keep in mind that your friend is experiencing an element of defeat on some level. When relationships don’t pan out, for some a breakup is equated to getting fired from a job, or an admission of failure.
Relationships are never cured; they are managed! Relationships are like any other element of our lives. If, for example, the only time you ever worked on your health was when you were sick, you would never have a durable, healthy lifestyle. Falling into the trap of working on your relationship only when it is in trouble is exhausting.
Sometimes a relationship will run its course, especially if it feels like a rollercoaster ride from the start. Eventually, the ride will come to a stop and it is time to get off and move on.
I never encourage a life-changing decision to be made as a knee jerk reaction and once made you “can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” Your friend must be sure that she is prepared for any fallout that comes with her decision by thinking through all of her options ahead of time. Being her friend, regardless of her decision, is what she really needs.
Barb Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.