Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A very close friend of mine is stuck in what sometimes seems to me like a really unhappy marriage. I have gone through all sorts of phases- from wishing I had been a better girlfriend so I'd be up to speed with her life and choices when she started going out with him- then wishing I had voiced my disapproval when I finally found out who it was - then actually trying to vaguely tell her to reconsider- but there's only so much you can do from long distance- then even feeling happiness for her that her parents agreed to their marriage- but actually secretly wished they hadn't- then hearing her complain endlessly for the past 2 -3 years- and then seeing things for myself and wondering if things were really as bad or if she was just telling me the annoying parts and leaving out the happy bits- or if she had just not come to terms with the basic socio-economic-cultural divide between herself and her husband and never would.

whew. long sentence.

There were times I felt my friend's constant cribbing, unhappiness- or at least the way she projected them to me- via email, chat etc- were so overwhelming to me- but wondered if that was just her little vent and chance at offloading what was a clear conflict between the way we had been brought up and the house she ended up marrying into. Even later, I'd tell her to get out of it - but the next thing I know, she is working hard on having a child.

My friend is not dumb. Far from. She's smart and well-accomplished for herself. I don't think I'll ever have a realistic picture of the life she leads- all I hear are rants, cribs, complaints, general unhappiness. And they always end with "but you don't worry about me". When I visit her and her husband- he seems alright- yes- the socio-cultural divide is huge- but he respects her parents- is familiar and friendly with her family members- and these little outwardly signs made me wonder if its all that miserable as I was perceiving. Of course I don't get to witness his overbearing, dominating and suspicious attitude with her, or the fact that his mom makes her life miserable in petty ways and he won't stand up for her- all these things I only hear from my friend.

Today I asked her what she wanted out of life? Did she want to continue like this- did the good outweigh the bad enough? She said she has given it a thought and decided that she has to take life as it comes.

I know its easier said than done to get out of a marriage- especially in India- but I know of my own cousins who have done it- if anything- to just maintain their sanity. It is for nobody else to say what constitutes reason enough to get out of a marriage- if it something you simply are not equipped to deal with- its probably wiser to get out than compromise with a lifetime of unhappiness/dissatisfaction etc. And only you know your breaking points.

I have made a very cold decision today- to "be there" for my friend as her sounding/venting board- but only as long as it doesn't bring me down. In the past- it used to bother me- we have grown up together- and it pained me to see that she was having such a tough life. But I really think that she seems to have accepted her lot- for whatever reason- and its pointless for me to get agitated/dragged-down/debate in my own head about the kind of advice I can give her- or even feel remotely responsible for anything.

I don't know if I'm perpetuating her self-fulfilling cycle by being a passive listener. I feel compelled to say, every now and then- if its so bad what are you thinking about having a kid for? But I think thats the point- its probably not so bad- or not bad enough for her to be inspired enough to get out of it.

I have just decided to be slightly detached. Because I think at this point she needs to make her peace with it- find her own happiness in whatever way she can- or else seriously contemplate ending it- if it is indeed as miserable. I really don't know how I can help. I am out of ideas and, I am afraid, out of sympathy.


Gyanban said...

Marriages are like fingerprints - each one comes with its complexities.

What seems a right advice for the moment could prove to be wrong the next.

Best bet - Take a break yourself.Stop thinking,let your hair down and get your mind recharged.
Come back with a firm mindset to stay objective about the whole situation.

Anonymous said...


Marriage in itself is complicated, throw in the inlaws and the social setup in India, it could be overwhelming. I understand completely what you are going through. Beleive me, there is nothing you can do, except be there for her. I'm sure there are a lot of good moments, but the fact the bad comes out all the way to you is because it shadows the good. There are a lot of husbands like your friends husband, always treating you as an outcast compared to their own family. I'm going through the same thing here in US, all my 17 yrs of married life. It hurts like hell but I'm sticking to it. I wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for my friend in India who listened to me, and is still listening. Throwing away my marriage won't take much time. My view is, everyone has issues, I have my own. There it ends.

I salute you for being a good friend to the extent that it bothers you and you write about it. She is lucky to have you.

Chin up

Mr. K Bodhi said...

Duh! Ask her to take her trouble elsewhere. We all have complications of our own and the last thing we need is further sob stories.

I am not sure if I am correct but if a friend is in trouble AND I can do something about it I will help. Just listening is irritating. And I know cauze I am doing it now. And I dont like it.

aequo animo said...

When people complain perpetually about something, that they are not acting upon to correct, Remember two things:
1. Freud is right most of the times( in this case there is a real problem)
2. If not,lookup :"Harried Wife" from games people play.( in this case people like to have the problem they have)

Tachyoson said...

not just marriages, every relationship is unique...

and being the shoulder to cry on, makes you a very wet,salty shoulder ....

tgfi said...

@ all,
thanks for your thoughts & comments..

La vida Loca said...

yea i dont blame you. sometimes, its hard to help someone... especially if you are not getting the full story.

P said...

I think your decision of not getting too involved is the best one. You really can't help people who don't clearly know their own mind. Whether they decide to pursue the difficult relationship, or whether they decide to get out of it and become lonely. It's sad ending either ways. At this point, if you advice any of the two options, chances are your friend will end up blaming you for giving the wrong advice when she is miserable.
I went through somewhat similar situation recently and supported my friend when she wanted to get out of a bad relationship (not marriage). At that time she clearly said that she doesn't want to have so much pain in her life. She would rather be single. Now when the ex- has moved on and married someone else, she feels lonely and angry and blames her friends for encouraging them to break up!!!!!!!
One has to take responsibility of their own life. No else can really help.

Cynic in Wonderland said...

I have a friend who just got out of a bad marriage. the pity is she used to dte the guy, broke off with him for five years and married him inspite of reservations from all of her friends. The reality is no one except the participants actually KNOW what is happening inside it. Heck, one doesnt even know if ones parents marriage is good or bad. So the best thing i spose isto be distantly supportive.

Jazzy Jane said...

i've gone thru the same wringing cycle and felt wrung out totally. u end up thinking so much for the friend and the advice you give and finally the friend doesn't seem to want to change anything, not even the regular outpouring of complaints! its tough when you want to stop listening and then the friend feels hurt. sheesh. vicious cycle indeed.