I was talking to a friend on the phone recently. He lives in Austria and we met when I was giving workshops there about six years ago. We have been loosely in touch over the course of years and updated each other on what was happening in our lives. Last week he called me, not for just asking about the weather but to ask for the help of a friend.
Everyone always says friends are there for you when you need them. There are situations however when you cannot show your close friends this need, where you hesitate to share with those who are nearest. In those times, it is good to have a friend who is a bit further away and can see the situation from a distance. This was the case with my Austrian friend.
When I got to know him, he had just moved into his own house in his home village with his wife and two small sons. They were happy to start a new chapter in life, their elder son was about to start school and everything was good.
On phone, he told me that the situation had changed drastically. He had found out that his wife had cheated on him, over years, with a common friend. He thus wanted to separate and get a divorce. It was something he was heartbroken about but he had already taken his decision: he could not forgive her, he needed to break this relationship.
In order to understand why he could not speak about this with his friends, you need to know two more details: my friend lives in a small village where literally everybody knows each other. Any such news as a breakup or even problems in a marriage make the rounds in the marketplace and everyone immediately knows about it.
The second detail is that his wife has an alcohol problem and has had that for a while. My friend has tried to help her but has always actually made every effort to cover it up, to avoid letting the whole village know. He wanted to protect his wife, their reputation as a family and their sons as well.
And he was still doing that now. He did not want to share his heartache with his friends, he didn't want to talk about his relationship problems, simply because the whole village would know right away. The next problem however was that he didn't want to leave his sons with his wife due to her alcohol problems! This again he could not tell anybody without harming her, at least from what he thought! Everyone would know – something which he had been trying to avoid for so long!
That's how he called me to ask me what to do.
First of all I told him to stop worrying about what everyone else would think about him and his soon-to-be ex-wife! It didn't matter. What mattered was his heart and feelings and his children! It didn't matter what everyone else said or thought, his children had to be safe! So while stopping to worry about that, I suggested him to go find a good lawyer and first of all talk to him.
After that, he should go and talk to his best friend. You have to share what is inside you! His wife needed help for her alcohol problem and that would not happen by hiding it any further. So it would not be a favour to try and keep it quiet – and his sons need him now!
I explained him how it would not be a big issue to move to another town either, to start over new and just get out of the gossip for some time. Everything would cool down one day and those who are his real friends will stay with him!
He was happy, most of all that he had been able to share with someone. And I am happy that I have friends who call me when they really need someone!