I got to visit with on of my absolute best friends from college the other day. It was only for a couple of hours while she and her family drove through town on the way to visit family, but it was so good to see her. It’s been almost three years–long distances and busy lives do that. But our friendship was icy for many years.
We talked for a long time about what most people didn’t know about my late husband and our marriage. It was good to share some of the things with her.
She was one of my friends from whom my husband managed to cause distance–one by one, he found ways to edge them out of my life. In her case, it was a rift that strained our friendship until we stopped communicating. After we visited, she said that she understood how things happened the way they did. I felt a rebuilding of our once-inseparable friendship.
I have to tell you though that rebuilding every manipulated, destroyed, harmed familial and friend relationship is exhausting. But it’s also liberating and cathartic. Did I mention exhausting?
For anyone who is widowed from (or divorced from or even currently with) a person with toxic and narcissistic behaviors, we can find ourselves again. We can mend lost or strained friendships. We must be patient with ourselves. A year ago, I probably wouldn’t have been able to articulate my feelings to my friend. It would have been extremely difficult to admit to her what was happening behind the façade of my existence during my marriage.
I’m grateful for the progress I’ve made with my own rebuilding. I know I have more to go. It hasn’t been easy for me to open up to my family and friends. There are things I’ve only told to one person–things that I’ll probably never tell to others. There’s still too much pain there.
To those who have loved ones emerging from this kind of abusive relationship, be patient with them. They may not be ready to tell you anything. Don’t try to solve their problems (unless they explicitly ask for advice). Don’t speculate. Don’t blame yourselves for not seeing the red flags. Don’t take things personally–it’s not about you. The last thing that person needs is more guilt and shame while trying to put all the pieces of their lives together. Sometimes just listening and loving and being patient is the best thing you can do.