My friend and I, both from England, met here six years ago and became close buddies – two men with decent jobs, happy marriages, and similar-age children who also liked each other.
Friendship at our busy stage (now late-30s) rarely happens that fast and easy. We did a lot of things together as families and also just us guys hanging out sometimes.
Disaster struck when my friend’s wife suddenly died last year. The doctors said nothing could’ve prevented it.
I told my friend I’d help him in any way, do anything that was needed, and I meant it.
My wife helped too, but I took on the major responsibility for being there for him, for many months.
Then suddenly, he turned mean and even acted angry with me. If I brought a meal for him and the kids, it was the wrong choice.
If I drove the kids somewhere, I was blasted for bringing them home “too late” (by five minutes).
Small stuff, I know, and I tried to just ignore it, but it piled up. I couldn’t understand it.
When I asked him one day if I’d done anything to offend him, he blurted out, “This family’s in deep pain and you think it’s all about you!”
He took the kids and moved back to England a couple of months later. I guess I’m relieved, and also glad for them because I know he has more support there from his extended family.
But I can’t get past how he turned on me. Is there any logical explanation for that behaviour?
It’s hard to absorb until you’ve experienced it yourself: People grieve in many different, sometimes unexpected, ways.
He was naturally stunned by the loss to himself, his children, and their lifestyle.
Perhaps, despite the friendship, he was envious that your life went on as before.
Your kindnesses may’ve signified to him, in his sorrow, that you could do these things, while he likely had difficulty lifting his head each day.
Yes, it was very hurtful to you, but he didn’t know how to say (and knew he shouldn’t say) that he was angry and resentful that you could carry on with your wife and family intact, while his wife and former life were snatched away.
Death is unfair, especially when it happens to a young person in the fullness of a happy life. Those left behind initially feel marked by doom.
But your friend wisely recognized he had to change his surroundings and try to rebound among his extended family.
You were a good friend. Wish him well.
How do you effectively deal with a controlling, manipulative, game-playing brother-in-law who’s set on destroying our entire family?
Not easily, and not by casting about for instant solutions.
Define the problem. He’s angry, jealous, controlling, etc., or he thinks he has a legitimate beef that no one’s acknowledging.
Once you know what he’s after, consider whether there’s anything that can be discussed with him.
It might require a third party - lawyer, accountant, or respected neutral person. But it isn’t a discussion you and he can have, since you already have a strong negative opinion of him, and it’s likely mutual.
If there’s no way he’ll talk to one or more of the above, do so yourself. You need help looking at the problems he’s created without just lashing out, resisting, or deepening hostility between you.
It sounds very serious, affecting everyone related.
Time to drop the labelling and get to what matters.
FEEDBACK Regarding “At A Crossroads” who’s unsatisfied sexually by his/her partner (August 16):
Reader – “You offered several options for what he/she could do. I agreed with each, until, "Or you could decide… to cheat."
“You add, "If he’s unwilling (to see a sex therapist, etc.), or it doesn’t work and you don’t want to manage sex or cheat… your crossroads will eventually lead away from him."
“If this person cheats, it could devastate the partner when he finds out. The depths of despair a person can feel - I can't even describe that to you. And the effects of cheating can destroy a relationship.
“The writer speaks of LOVE for the partner. It’s incorrect to say that cheating’s a plausible option.”
Ellie - My intent was for the person to see that if they didn't address the problem together, he/she might be moved to that worst choice, which I warned could drive them apart. I regret that wasn’t clearer.
Tip of the day:
Another’s grief can’t be measured or judged.