Some years ago, my life got twisted. My wife got breast cancer, and it was a dark time for me. I was afraid to loose her, I was afraid to fail her by not being strong enough. Luckily for us, she survived, and now over 6 years later, she is “cured”.
But, back then, a lot of things happened. My wife was lucky to have friends, or at least one friend, who was her rock. She was there for her and that relationship certainly help my wife in those difficult times.
One of the things that happens in those situations is, that everyone of course asks “how is your wife?”. Noone asks about the husband. So I had to rely on my friends to be a support network for me.
Sadly, this turned out to be a clusterfuck. I remember, one friend that I was supposed to visit the weekend my wife got her diagnosis. I called him, told him, close to tears, that i can’t visit this weekend. That, seriously, was the last I ever heard of him.
My best friend, a person I had known over 30 years, since high school, did not behave much better. What I expected was someone who calls, at least on a weekly basis, to check in with me. Instead I had contact not more often than in the past, and when I inquired once, I got told “I don’t want to disturb your wife”.
I ended this relationship, in anger, in frustration, without ever telling my friend what happened, or why I hurt him like that. It took me years to understand the thing completely (as it usually does), and while I have no intention to rekindle that relationshp, it is a bit therapeutic for myself to write the following letter:
I know that we did not part on good terms. I made a hasty decision, and that decision to terminate our friendship of over 35 years must have hurt you.
I don’t know if you will ever read this, or if you actually care to understand why I did what I did. It does not matter. It helps me with my life to write this down, and if it happens to help you, or someone else, reading this, all the better.
When my wife got cancer, I was devastated. As probably everone is, who is confronted with news like this. I was confronted with endless possibilities in my head, and most of them were on the dark side of things.
My wife got a therapist and friends who were there for her. Of course, the world cared for her, her state of being, her state of mind. After all, she was confronted with a potential deadly sickness, and I, I was just the husband. So nobody really worried about me.
This included my friends. As said above, one in particular made a fantastic exit. But you? You, the friend I loved for so long, the one I knew for longer than anyone? You did not behave the way I needed you to behave.
Go back a level. I know I am one of those people who overdoes love, friendship and all that. I am always there, I do everything for the people I care for. When you were in the hospital and needed to get out? I drove 100km to be there and argue with the doctors and get you home. You had an infected tooth, I called for a few days every day to make sure you are ok. Your lifepartner needed to move furniture? I drive an hour to help.
I am an idiot, i know.
But I normally don’t expect this to be returned, at least not to that extend. But here I was, more afraid, more sad, more devastated than at any other time in my life. And I desperatly needed someone to be there. For me. Just for me. So that I did not feel so fucking afraid and alone anymore.
And you did not increase your level of contact. You and me have been in touch around every 6 weeks, and that’s the way it continued. I never told you: please call me more often, plese tell me you care. I never thought I needed to. You were suppoed to be my best friend. You were supposed to know.
But, you did not. You did not want to call more often, you were afraid of disturbing my wife. Disturbing her from doing what? From sitting there being afraid for her life? Yeah, who does want to be disturbed from that….
I did not understand this back then. By now I know. We, in our society, are not used to deal with death, or the potential of it. When my other friend disappeared from my life, he did so, because I believe he just was scared. He got this phone call, and then he did not know what to do. He waited, and the longer he waited, the more he was afraid that if he calls now he has to deal with the ultimate, the one thing you can not fix, the one thing you do not know how to heal.
And I believe, to some extend, this ailed you as well. I, by now, believe you cared. Of course you did, you were my friend for so long. But you did not want to change the routine, upset the balance of things, because that would be admitting that something terrible might have entered this relationship. You were scared, just as I was.
But, from my side, I did not see this, I did not want to. I needed someone to give me strenght and support, and all I got was the “same as usual”. That was not enough, that was something that made me deeply sad, frustrated and disappointed.
I needed you to be there for me. And it hurt, it hurt soo much that you were not.
So, I terminated our friendship. I wondered for years why. Why did I just go and cut you off. I realized in the last year why. I was just not strong enough. I knew back then that I should have talked to you, tell you what I need, tell you that I am sad about that you did not behave the way I expected, listened to you about your fears and your problems of dealing with the situation. You liked my wife, you must have had your own set of fears around it.
And here is the reason. I just had no strength for this. I was feeling that if I talk to you about this, that this will take more strength than I have. I needed every last bit of it to be there for my wife. I had nothing to give to you, to help you deal with this. I needed you to help me, not the other way round. There was nothing, not a single bit of strength for you.
It required less strength to throw our friendship away that it required to explain my pain to you. And there was only that option, because keeping you in my life would have prolonged the pain to feel abandomed in all this. I could just not deal with this, I could not try to fix the 2 of us, and to fix my life. There was no room, no energy, nothing left to give.
I am sorry I was that weak. That I did not have the strength to accept your failing me. You had to face something extraordanary – the wife of a friend potentially dying. And you could not deal with it in the best way possible. But, I faced much worse, and I had to face it alone. Because you were not there for me the way I needed you to be there. I needed you to step up and be better that this.
6 years later, I understand that I was asking a lot. But my wife had friends, who had the same challenge, and they behaved as I expect friends to behave. Good for her.
I have forgiven you for letting me down. I have also realized that I am asking to much, in general, of my friends, in fact of people in general. So, I apologize for hurting you years ago. For terminating my friendship with you without telling you why. I am deeply sorry that I did it the way I did it.
I am not though, expecting our friendship to “resume”. You did let me down, you let me down when this was not an option. I would never, ever, trust you to be there when I need you.
I only want to explain why I did what I did. And, I do miss you, a lot. But I just would never be able to trust you to be there. For me.