Should I forgive her?

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Should I forgive her?

Postby HelenAshby » Fri Dec 09, 2011 10:59 am

Sorry if this is a bit long but I want to make sure readers get the full picture...

I am 53 and about 4 yrs ago I made friends with a woman 5 yrs older. She is straight but happily single and lives alone. I live in the UK and she in Holland, so it's been roughly 80% an email penfriendship, 15% phone calls and 5% meeting in person. She came here once and I have been to her three times. On email she is always a supportive, good friend. She says in every email that I am her best and closest friend, and that she loves me as though I were her little sister. On the phone she is sometimes short with me and has upset me a few times. The second time I visited her (three days in 2010) we lost each other in a crowded street market and when we finally found each other at the tram stop, she went berserk, screaming and shouting down at me as though I were a naughty three year old who had run away. After saying that the reason she was so angry was that she was worried about me (being lost and alone in a foreign country with no tram ticket and not knowing which tram went to hers and where to get off, and no house key to get in) she then jumped on a tram and abandoned me there! Eventually I found my way back to her place (bunking the tram fare) to find her mortified with apology, so I forgave her. I told her at length that, after a history of being repeatedly physically and verbally abused by my drunken father, and in my 30s by a violent and abusive male partner, I was super-sensitive to this and hate any kind of upset but most especially I get exceedingly distressed when shouted at or told off.

A month ago my man friend of eight years dumped me out of the blue, leaving me feeling bereft, vulnerable, fragile and physically feeling "wobbly" on my feet. My self confidence shattered, my self esteem at an all time low. My friend in Holland was very supportive on the phone and invited me to visit her, so she could take care of me. She repeatedly emailed to say how much she loved me and was looking forward to seeing me, how she could not wait, and was making preparations for my arrival etc. So I went last Thursday, at great cost and effort, by Eurostar, dragging a big heavy case and taking her some presents. She had indeed gone to pains to make me comfortable. However, at the end of the first day, she made a few barbed comments that implied that I talk too much. We had not at that point (nor did we through the whole, six-day stay) even mention the man friend who dumped me, so it's not like she was bored with my going on about him. It was just us (both, I thought!) chit-chatting about this and that. Anyway, I let the bitchy comments pass, and made a mental note to adjust my behaviour to suit her, by curbing my natural chattiness so as not to get on her nerves. She does not work so we were alone together almost all of our waking hours except when she walked the dog three times a day.

I know how hard it is for two people to suddenly be in each other's company 24/7 and I consciously become super-tolerant of all their habits and foibles and I take great pains not to take offence at small things nor let the person's habits irritate me, and to watch myself so I don't do anything to irritate them either. My belief is, we aren't together for long, so it's better to bite your lip and keep the peace. I guess it is the "English way"? She did a lot of things that irritated me but I never once complained about her smoking in the room I sleep in (though I had a cough so she could have been more thoughtful), or her guzzling at least a bottle of red wine every afternoon, getting increasingly drunk and falling asleep halfway through the evening while we chatted. That felt insulting, too.

The second day I was there I mentioned someone (a writer) that has lately had a revolutionary impact on my life and health, and asked her if she'd like to hear about it (it is something that can benefit anyone). She said yes, adding a stern warning: so long as I kept it brief. There was no reason to "keep it brief" -- we had all day to do nothing but talk to one another, so that "stung" me a bit as well, and I felt really inhibited when speaking about that as well, scared of boring or irritating her. So I just skimmed over it for a few minutes and then shut up. It felt really uncomfortable going all that way to be with someone only to find she does not want to talk much -- why else do people meet up? I suppose with a boyfriend you can cuddle and make love as a form of communication, closeness and comfort, but with a girlfriend, well, it's a good old girlie natter -- isn't it? She wasn't interested in going anywhere, just staying indoors, so talking kind of by default becomes the main activity, doesn't it? Sitting in silence felt awkward. Of course, I desperately wanted to talk about my pain and hurt in being suddenly dumped, but I dared not raise the subject in case it elicited another barbed comment of disapproval.

That evening things took a turn for the worse. I misunderstood something she said and she went berserk at me again, shouting at me angrily for "deliberately ignoring her" and not letting me explain... when I finally did explain that I had misheard her, she refused to acknowledge that and threw some other accusation at me, that I had "deliberately" ignored her the day before as well. Again this turned out to be a complete misunderstanding, and I explained myself again, but again still refused to apologise. While I was calm and rational, pleading with her to see sense, she was snappy and petulant. I told her I was very disappointed that she keeps jumping to the conclusion that I am "deliberately" ignoring her instructions, requests or offers, and asked why she could not in the first instance simply assume that I had not heard properly or had misunderstood? I offered an example: earlier just as she was going out of the door to the loo, and I was filling the kettle, I asked if she wanted a coffee. When she did not reply but simply left the room, my first assumption was that she had not heard me - NOT that she was "deliberately" ignoring me to annoy or insult me. But instead of making her see sense, the examle simply enraged her even more: she started shrieking sarcastically, "Oh, because YOU are SO blooming perfect". I kept trying to reason but it was no good.

She repeatedly said insulting things that seemed designed to hurt my feelings. For example, when she appeared to be in a friendly and happy mood towards me, I offered to show her some photos of myself and an ex boyfriend on holiday that I'd packed and taken with me, and she rudely said she wasn't interested in seeing them. I suppose the "English way" would be to look though them, after all, 50 photos only takes about 10 minutes, just to be polite.

Over the next four days she just kept making barbed comments, criticising me, attacking everything I am, my very personality and this shot my self esteem to pieces. And she did this after I told her before I went that I was feeling very vulnerable and fragile - she invited me there to get bolstered up again! It was as if she was absolutely determined to fall out with me no matter what I said to appease her. Even when she reduced me to tears she didn't stop being argumentative, merely handing me a Kleenex while saying that everyone has "spats" now and again and they are healthy and help "clear the air". I was baffled because I didn't know there was any "air to clear". To my mind, if you only spend a few days with someone once a year, there should be NO arguments -- none! You button your lip and you let things pass. You are tolerant, good humoured and kind, and you swallow any annoyances because it's just not worth falling out -- the visit is too short and indeed life is too short.

So I spent most of my time there walking on eggshells, holding myself tense and watching every word I said. It didn't help; she just seemed to suddenly switch from being OK to being bad-tempered, ill-humoured, irritable and belligerent without warning. I stayed in bed for 12 hours a day to avoid her. After her reducing me to tears yet again on my last evening, the next morning I pretended to be asleep until 10am when she took the dog for a walk then I quickly made my escape, throwing my stuff into my bag and making a run for it. When I left I looked around at her house and thought, "I never, ever want to see this place again". I spent the day lugging my holdall miserably around town in the freezing cold, killing time till my train left (had one of those tickets you cannot change). I spent three long, boring hours just sitting in the Eurostar waiting room in Brussels! And yet I felt that was better than being with her for one more minute of my life. I got home feeling totally wrecked physically and emotionally and have been unable to leave the house since (three days).

I have not contacted her since my return, as I feel completely devoid of good feelings towards her. She, however, has emailed to ask me to forgive her. She wrote: "I just want to tell you that I feel terrible about how this has developed. I want to tell you that I still love you, still see millions of wonderful things in you, and still see a most wonderful woman when I look at you. I also want to apologise for any way I hurt your feelings. I feel terrible about it. It's not what I wanted to do. I feel like I piled one clumsy mistake on top of another. I don't know how to make it right anymore. But please know I want more than anything to be able to make it right. I really, really don't want to lose you as my friend, feel quite desolate at the idea."

I feel almost numb inside when I think of her. I feel that she betrayed my trust, got me to go there under false pretences (she promised to look after me and my broken heart), took advantage of my vulnerability in being a guest in her home, then abused that position. She also used as ammunition when verbally attacking me, some really intimate personal things I had shared with her in confidence. I cannot forgive her. Above all I feel she has betrayed me and breached my trust, and kicked me when I am down, making me feel even worse than I did. And yet she calls this "love".

Is she right in saying it's good and healthy to have screaming arguments with your closest and most beloved friends? Even if it is, should she have continued to initiate/pick such arguments once I have told her that I hate having rows, that they hurt and frighten me, that they tap into my childhood etc? I feel she was being really cruel in persisting in communicating in that manner when it clearly hurts and upsets me so much. I pleaded with her time and again that if she has any problem with me, could she just please, please, sit down and tell me calmly and in a friendly manner? I really cannot understand why an educated, graduate lady of 58 can't find a more civilised way to communicate with (what she calls) her best friend without resorting to shouting angrily.

Sorry this is so long but as well as wanting to put you completely in the picture, I suppose there is an element of "venting" my suppressed anger over this miserable visit, that turned out to be such a waste of my time and money. I could have had six full-body aromatherapy massages for the cost of the ticket to Holland - or six counselling sessions - and jolly well wish I had!

The question is, should I forgive her? Am I being oversensitive? Is a heated argument acceptable? Is she an acoholic? If she is, THEN should I forgive her - should that make a difference?

My gut feeling is that I most definitely NEVER want to meet her in person ever again, neither here nor there. The question then arises of whether I should boot her out of my life altogether (which means losing BOTH the people closest to me within a month!) or just remain email penfriends and keep her at a slight, formal distance rather than a bosom pal.

Opinions please? Thank you. xx
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Re: Should I forgive her?

Postby highlandcow » Fri Dec 09, 2011 11:39 am

Hi Helen,

That's terrible, you poor thing! To be honest when I'd finished reading this I just wanted to go to wherever you are and give you a hug!

I'm normally in favour of maintaining a friendship but the more I read of this the more I found I just couldn't keep that view I would normally have. She sounds like she's got her own problems that need addressing but there's no excuse (to me anyway) for her to treat you like this, especially when she knows your past experiences with abusive relationships. Yes she's apologetic, of course she is, but she'll end up doing it again and again. She might be doing it to her other friends too, and maybe if she loses contact with you over her behaviour she might make more effort with others.

To my mind, you don't need to have screaming matches to "clear the air" and you don't run off and leave someone alone in a foreign country (that one made my jaw drop)!
And I don't see what's wrong with chatting and catching ip looking at pictures of an evening either. That's what friends do isn't it!?

Let's face it, she's made you feel miserable, she's brought you down and crushed you. Give her another chance if you want but I honestly think that she will end up doing it again. I'd be tempted to keep it as a penpal relationship and not expect so much from her. You don't deserve to be made to feel like that by someone who is supposed to be your friend.
Go to Glasgow at least once in your life and have a roll and square sliced sausage and a cup of tea. When you feel the tea coursing over your spice-singed tongue, you'll know what I mean when I say:
'It's good to be alive!'"

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Re: Should I forgive her?

Postby HelenAshby » Fri Dec 09, 2011 12:01 pm

Aw thanks Highland (I won't call you cow LOL) -- the hug is a challenge, we are 500 miles apart (have you got long arms?)

I had no idea what members here would say to me, so have been waiting on tenterhooks, not knowing whether people would say, Aw, give her a break you are just too sensitive, or she's an alkie she can't help it, or get her outta your life ASAP... so, interesting to see your response.

I keep being reminded of the stereotypical abusive husband -- inflicts the cruelty, then apologises and is forgiven, "later-rinse-repeat" as they say, knowing he'll always be forgiven, so he can do whatever he likes. The huge irony is, she herself is always banging on about how abusive men are, and how women shouldn't stand for it etc (we actually met in an online feminist discussion group!) but what she did isn't a million miles away -- it can't be OK just cos she is female.

I just remembered something else .... while there we met up with the ex boyfriend from years ago who was in the holiday photos she refused to look at. (By sheer coincidence he happens to live a kilometre from her). She really liked him, they chatted away happily while I got chatting with his new girlfriend.

Later, alone with my friend, I told her about the time he had proposed to me... and I pondered, merrily, "Gosh, just think, if I had said yes, my entire life would have gone in a different direction... I wonder where I'd be living now?" She glared at me and replied, in a bitchy sort of tone of voice: "Ach, you'd be divorced by now."

OUCH!
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Re: Should I forgive her?

Postby snail » Fri Dec 09, 2011 7:00 pm

First of all, I'm so sorry to hear about your boyfriend. That must have been incredibly hard.

It seems clear from several things in your post that she has personal problems (the rather excessive affection coupled with the bullying, the drinking, the refusing to go out etc etc) and is a significantly angry and deeply unhappy woman. I agree with Highland that she's unlikely to change, unless something changes in her own life (counselling, a new relationship etc). I don't think I would want to see her again after what happened, but you need to do what's right for you really - if you want to keep her as a penpal, at least for a while, then try that and see what happens. Remember if visits are planned again, one of you can always stay in a hotel. Staying round each other's houses should definitely be out for the forseeable future.
These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.

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Re: Should I forgive her?

Postby HelenAshby » Fri Dec 09, 2011 7:33 pm

Thanks Snaily, I do miss him soo soo much, the house feels so empty and sad without him... that was what prompted me to go to Holland -- run to someone who says she loves me. Another weekend without him looms.. he used to arrive every Friday evening and stay till Monday - he was here 3.5 days a week -- so the loss is truly huge and I now hate Fridays.

Thanks for your thoughts on my (ex?) friend. I must say, I don't feel remotely inclined to spend any more fare money, let alone the additional money on a hotel (£100 a night there!) in order to spend any time with her whatsoever. Yes I am lonely now and feeling desperately in need of a friend, but a woman who can treat me like that, well, isn't really a friend at all. She won't ever come over here because of the dog - yeah she did once but that was before she had him.

I think you are right that (although she claims to be perfectly content with life) she is actually very angry and unhappy. Why else is she drinking one to one and a half litres of wine a day and smoking 30 roll ups a day? She also mentioned a while back that she was taking Prozac. It's ironic really: I am the one who says she is unhappy, yet I am teetotal and never smoke or take anything other than the odd aspirin!

I think a woman with a high IQ and a master's degree ought to have the self-awareness, if she wants/needs help, to ask for it rather than picking quarrels which include what amounts to a character assassination of me, her supposed best friend. (Or am I being too hard?) She won't seek counselling if she won't acknowledge there's anything wrong and she won't be in a new relationship because she hates men and has been celibate for decades.
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Re: Should I forgive her?

Postby highlandcow » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:59 pm

Sorry about the late reply, my Internet connection has been a little dodgy lately (probably the weather!) :roll:

I think it's a shame she behaves the way she does but if she's unwilling to do anything to help herself or if she can't acknowledge the problem then this situation isn't likely to change.

I'd be there if she needs help, but that's as far as it goes. I wouldn't go over there and if you do, stay somewhere you can escape to as Snail suggested. I'd be tempted to not be in much contact and certainly not spend money going over there until she's sorted herself out. To me, her behaviour is unforgivable and she needs to know how much it's affected you.

In the meantime, do you have close pals at home? Cab you rekindle some old friendships so you don't rely in her so much?
Or is there anything you've really wanted to do? Like a course or a class or something? It might help to take your mind off her and help you make some more friends. :)
Go to Glasgow at least once in your life and have a roll and square sliced sausage and a cup of tea. When you feel the tea coursing over your spice-singed tongue, you'll know what I mean when I say:
'It's good to be alive!'"

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Re: Should I forgive her?

Postby HelenAshby » Sun May 20, 2012 10:41 am

highlandcow wrote:Sorry about the late reply, my Internet connection has been a little dodgy lately (probably the weather!) :roll:

I think it's a shame she behaves the way she does but if she's unwilling to do anything to help herself or if she can't acknowledge the problem then this situation isn't likely to change.

I'd be there if she needs help, but that's as far as it goes. I wouldn't go over there and if you do, stay somewhere you can escape to as Snail suggested. I'd be tempted to not be in much contact and certainly not spend money going over there until she's sorted herself out. To me, her behaviour is unforgivable and she needs to know how much it's affected you.

In the meantime, do you have close pals at home? Cab you rekindle some old friendships so you don't rely in her so much?
Or is there anything you've really wanted to do? Like a course or a class or something? It might help to take your mind off her and help you make some more friends. :)


And I apologize, too, for MY late reply - five months LOL!

The friend has apologized profusely for the way she has treated me and the nasty things that she said. But here I am, 5 months on, and it still hurts me deep inside. I can never trust her again. I don't mean to be overdramatic but it reminds me of those men who beat their woman then say sorry afterwards. Once a man has hit you, I don't think you can ever feel 100% safe with him 100% of the time. I still feel that she could turn on me at any time. So my guard is up. All I have now is occasional email contact.

My problem now is, I have sunk lower and lower into loneliness and depression, having lost the two people that my life revolved around. But that is a different thread.

Helen
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