Friday, September 25, 2009

Like a fish needs a bicycle

Love. Not much of an expert. I’ve been in love a couple of times. I loved my husband truly, madly, deeply and then dearly, solidly, faithfully but when love receded, we were left, two people in middle years with no common ground. Two people locked in separate towers. The loving companionship that I’d looked forward to once our children were grown wasn’t there. No shared interest, unless you counted a whopping great mortgage. I fell in love with the man who promised to share the rest of my life with me. To love and care for me. Beyond the physical, we shared so many things. Books, music, ideas. I never stopped loving him. He buggered off.

So here I am, on my own and enjoying the equilibrium. Happy enough. Not enough of an expert in being in a happy relationship to dare to offer any advice to anyone. I do know a bit about unhappiness and, umm, being middle-aged. And I can smell and taste unhappiness in a house made miserable with a toxic relationship.

Once the passion draws back and we’re left looking into the distance, there has to be more than love to keep us going. Once the children are grown and the mortgage paid off, there has to be a sustaining friendship. Knowing what will interest the other. Taking pleasure in surprising the other with small treats. Sitting companionably in the car not needing to talk. Respecting each other’s independence as well as anticipating their needs.

I have friends who have enjoyed long, loving, faithful and respectful marriages. I read many blogs where people find companionship and solace so I know that it’s doable. They have willingly given up the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue for the deep, deep peace of the marriage bed.

So this brings me to my friend. Her husband is rude and disagreeable. He makes no effort to be welcoming and polite to people. If you don't agree with him, you are automatically labelled as stupid. He feels no awkwardness in shouting at visitors.

But much worse is the way that he treats my friend, his wife. The person he promised to love and honour.

He belittles her at every opportunity. She appeases him. He denigrates her looks and figure. She worships him. He criticises every opinion that is not his own. She brings him titbits and morsels to please. He drives her friends away by his foul moods. She excuses him.

I read a quotation by Nietzsche “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages."

Watching them, I see no friendship, only an abuser and victim. For years, I've kept my, admittedly mouthy, gob shut. Of late, other mutual friends have deliberately taken me aside to talk about the situation. Indeed, I gave a stranger (to me) a lift and within 10 minutes, she had brought the subject up.

Someone asked me if there is any likelihood that my friend will read this. Not bloody likely. He supervises her use of the internet and filters her emails.

This fish don't need a bicycle like that.


  1. How sad. I hope she's the bike and can bugger off!

  2. This will go on forever...and he will out live her...just seems how these things go.

  3. It is so hard to want to smack him, but you want to yell at her, too. Why, why do they stay? I used to hate it when I would ask a friend why it took her so long to leave an abusive relationship, she would tell me, "I take my marriage vows seriously." And she would say it like she was teaching me a lesson in how to behave in a marriage. Tina Turner probably had it right, "What's love got to do with it?" I hope your friend sees the light soon.

  4. That's horrible. Makes me glad to be single. And so, so sorry for your friend.

  5. What a horrible situation. It is good that you can still be her friend, but I think I could only do it outside of her house and I would probably tell her at every opportunity that your husband is a prick.

    love Renee xoxo

  6. She's lucky to have you as a friend.

    I think all relationships start with infatuation and good sex, it's when the infatuation ceases and the sex becomes mundane that you can actually decide whether what's left is worth keeping.

    Her husband sounds truly vile,


  7. I don't suscribe to the notion that women enjoy being a doormat. I would guess that like so many women she is putting up with a situation that she knows is awful but that she is too frightened to make the break - frightened of him, of a future without him, of being alone, etc, etc. Although it is possible that she thinks that if she is really nice to him one day a switch will be flipped and he will revert to the person she married.
    Sometimes people just need a nudge and a friend pointing out the obvious. And then lots of support.

  8. Sad isnt it , but it's her choice.I bet she sees all the looks and avoids all attempts to engage in getting her to realise how this man is treating her.
    Interfering in someones elses relationship is hard.I stayed out of a situation very close to this one , only to be told afterwards ,well no one said they didnt like Paul when we were together.
    How do you do that and keep a friend.I think just let her know that you are there if she needs to or wants to talk.
    Some ao called abusive relationships may justlook like that to people outside.Some really are walked on I just cannot tell the difference .

  9. Thank you for all your interesting and reflective comments.

    Yes , it's the what to say issue (if anything). For years I thought that he was just particularly misanthropic and had a problem with assertive women. But in the last 2 or 3 years more and more of us have talked about the situation together and find that we all see more or less the same thing. Friends and family try to be loving and supportive to her and that requires keeping the mouth shut.

    She probably is scared to be single. We're no spring chickens and it's tough facing up to solitude. For me, I would far rather the company of a loving old collie than a man who treated me like that. But it's her choice to stay. And all we can do is stay friends.

    I know on previous occasions, I have challenged him and he has been vicious to her afterwards. Just nasty, sarcastic, denigrating and withdrawing affection kind of nasty.

    Before retirement, she was able to escape on business but now they are thrown together most of the time. One of the mutual friends remarked on her need to "escape" and come away to stay. But our friend now finds that she cannot reciprocate invitations because he is so loathsome to guests.

    I am torn. If I don't visit, then she's more and more isolated. Some friends have already said that they won't go again. If I do go, then he's horrible to me (and why should I put up with that kind of shit) and makes her life hell. The last time I said goodbye, she was so tearful. I really don't need to be sneered, jeered and shouted at but I only have to put up with it for a short time. If I want to be a good friend, then perhaps I should put up with it ... so that she's not isolated. But then I'm just mirroring her appeasing behaviour.

    I compromised and said that I'll visit but not stay and that she is always, always welcome to stay with me. I made sure that we set a date in the diaries.

    I'd be grinding glass into his afternoon tea.

  10. This is a really difficult one. He is using every opportunity to show how much power he has over her. Making her friends want to avoid contact because that might result in him being even more nasty to her is a truly despicable form of blackmail.
    I hope she has the courage to break away whilst she still has the energy to make a life for herself.
    One could almost pity him, too. If, on taking his last gasps on the planet, all he has to cheer him up is memories of how he made someone's life a misery, God help him.

  11. are your friend's initials CM? b/c that is my friend to-a-T - her husband HATES me b/c he hates any woman who has a BRAIN and isn't afraid to use it and he recently sent a third party a text calling me a PSYCHO SEE YOU NEXT TUESDAY if you know what i mean, and i called it quitsies with that friendship. he's not happy to make his wife miserable, he's got to make everyone around her miserable too - HATE IT!

  12. That guy sounds like a total douchebag. I hope your friend does one day manage to escape him. Not even in an insane person's mind does 'love and honour' involve stopping someone from having their own freedom.

    And I notice the organ donor link every time I visit your blog :) Xx

  13. He's so brazen...probably the kind of guy who tells her he will kill her if she ever tries to leave him.

    So he runs off her friends so he can isolate her and abuse her to his hearts content.

    But you really can't help these people, they have to want to help themselves.

  14. its a very familiar tale this. i've been there in a relationship like that (with a bit of violence thrown in) and also seen friends in them. my take on it is that if you see the woman (or sometimes the man) as a victim, you disempower them even further. it is possible to leave people who are shits; people leave really dangerous partners and go through huge trauma to be free of them. your friend will give up on him when the time is right for her - all you can do is be there for her.


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