Twenty-five years ago today, I donned a frilly lavender taffeta dress and stood up with my best friend as she made the biggest mistake of her life.
I suppose that’s a bit melodramatic, but considering that we were both 18 at the time and supposedly adults, we didn’t have that first clue as to what we were doing. I stood up there in the front of that little country church with a heavy heart and a confused mind. Why on earth was my best friend, with one year of college behind her, jumping into the shark tank that is marriage to a man seven years her senior? A man from another country, mind you, whom I didn’t quite like.
You do what you do under the guise of supporting your friend, when under your skin you know that this is not going to be all it’s cracked up to be. The differences were so great between those two — age, culture, maturity level — and I tried to talk her out of it, I tried to get her mother to talk some sense into her, and everyone was hurtling forward toward this conclusion and all I can tell you is, even at the age of 18 I knew something was not right about the whole thing.
They married, moved all the way to Texas, and I did not see her again for seven years, other than her occasional visit home to see her family. It felt like an amputation to me, losing the one friend who knew everything about me, whom I’d seen daily since first grade, who since third grade had been my best friend and the sister I’d never had. Yeah, it hurt.
In 25 years their marriage has been full of ups and downs, just like anyone else’s, but I can honestly say that in those 25 years my gut feeling has never changed. And I don’t feel the least bit vindicated that my gut appears to be right.
It hurts my heart to see how my friend’s husband treats her. I can’t even be objective enough here in the anonymous space to enumerate the many ways he grinds her under his boot. I suppose the most objective thing I can say is that he is emotionally and mentally abusive. He has managed to take an intelligent and lively girl and compress her spirit to the point that she appears and feels to be ten years older than her 43 years. His one saving grace had been that he had always been a good provider, and even that has fallen away; he’s two years unemployed and apparently making no real effort to reenter the job market.
I find it hard to honestly wish her a happy anniversary today, knowing what I know and feeling how I feel. While I would wholeheartedly support her if she decided to end the marriage, I know that for whatever reason she won’t do it. People divorce for far lighter reasons than the ones she could muster up, and I think maybe she might just be a glutton for punishment.
I want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her until her teeth rattle, and I’d do it, too, if I thought that would shake some sense into her.
If I could turn back the clock, if that would make things any different, I’d go back and try harder to talk her out of it. I’d tell her again and again what I felt in my gut, until one of us dropped from the sheer exhaustion of it all. I supposed I’d even sacrifice our friendship for the sake of her happiness, if that meant she wouldn’t take that step.
Trust your gut, folks.
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