Can't tell you how much I'd appreciate some input from anyone, everyone, esp. from women, on a situation that has me very depressed. You should know that I'm married, have young kids, and my marriage is fairly stable though my wife and I have grown distant emotionally. I won't point fingers, trying to keep this factual. Neither has had an affair (take it as fact please).
I work for an East Coast company and a little over a year ago, our firm moved a guy and his family here from Vancouver BC. I instantly bonded with the guy and in six months we became best buddies. Tragically, unbelievably, almost a year ago, he and his young son, and another two people, were killed in a car crash. It was the most horrific death imaginable as they all pretty much burned alive.
I'd met his wife only on occasion and after the tragedy sent her a card. We met for lunch once and I shared my thoughts on what a wonderful guy her late husband was and how much I enjoyed my short period of interaction. We emailed occasionally after that as she prepared to move her and her surviving young child back to Vancouver, which became a two-month process. In the emails I offered support and at times, somehow, some humor, and so did she. For whatever reason, I started enjoying my role in this and felt very rewarded when she'd say I was helping her, etc. This became overwhelming for me, becoming a key player in a uniquely horrible tragedy, and I sought the advice of a counselor over it. He offered that I needed to ensure that my wife had access to all emails (I told the widow this and she understood) and that I should never be alone with her. My wife has met her on a few occasions, including while she still lived in the area for those two months, and also during a visits the widow made to visit other friends in the area.
So yes, eventually she did move back to Vancouver but the email relationship has continued. We've also talked on the phone a few times. My wife still has access to the emails and despite this, they've become more intense as she and I have shared more and more deep thoughts and perspectives, not anything of the "I love you" variety but more about her saying how much I've helped and me saying how much I've enjoyed helping.
At this point she has tons of support locally, she's stronger than anyone could ever imagine, but obviously quite troubled by the horror. She tells me of the sore spots, I offer some insight, and she likes that. I also have shared some of my difficulties with various things life offers and she's helped me as well, but have never, EVER mentioned anything about the distance in my own marriage (that I feel would be completely wrong for many reasons!). In fact, I've on several occasions told her that my marriage is strong, very strong.
While tolerant at first, my wife has of late caught a few things in these emails that have upset her, and she sees me as emotionally but not physically cheating on her. I've tried on a few occasions to give it up but the widow will come back with some new crisis, I'll offer to help, and she'll respond with the "I don't know what I'd do without you" theme.
Here's where I am and where I'd appreciate your advice. I can't deny that I have some emotional attachment to her. I look forward to her emails and get upset and worried when she goes silent. But I know this is harmful to my family, my marriage, and is certainly becoming more of a stress for me.
Women, please don't shoot me, but I think there's a combination of nature and environmental upbringing/societal teachings that, corny and sexist as it sounds, makes men feel a duty to jump in and help women in despair. But experiencing this in the present situation teaches me that it's not the movie macho thing in isolation; there's a real emotional attachment that can develop for a guy, particularly the sensitive types like me, and it's happened here.
So, I know that I must get out of this friendship, this bond, this role, but I want to do it with minimal hurt. I don't know where she is as regards emotions with me, but I honestly hope she sees me in some sort of older brother role (I'm a few years older than her) and nothing else. She may well be clueless to what I'm going through.
One thought is for me to space out the emails, space out the replies, and gradually drift away. Would this be fair though? Wouldn't it leave her questioning whether she'd said something that upset me, or wondering if someone who seemed to care suddenly stopped, and become very fearful that this would repeat with others who are supporting her? Another thought is to tell her the truth -- to express that while I never expected it to happen, some difficult emotions have emerged on my end and I'm not sure how to handle them -- that they've honestly developed as a result of feeling a sense of responsibility and caring and that the months of mutual sharing of deep considerations have worked into my head and that this is causing me some discomfort. Then see what she has to offer as a reaction. It could well be that this would be enough to have her suggest that we both move on.
I invite your thoughts. Horrific as it is, please try to place yourself in her shoes. What would be best for you in such a situation.
One last thing: yes, I'm coming across as worrying more about her than about my wife. So about that: I'm trying with little luck to get my wife to agree to marriage counseling but she's thus far refused. She sees no problem in our marriage that's worth going to counseling over, even though I 've told her repeatedly that though I love her, I feel our marriage is almost a functional partnership and that I don't feel enough there's enough emotional sharing and love as is needed, at least not as much as I need.
So am I getting my unmet emotional needs fulfilled by this other woman? Is she there telling me that I'm valued and worthy while my wife isn't? Yeah, probably so.
First off, you seem like a very caring and concerned person. The emotional distance between you and your wife really needs to take priority if you're ever going to break this emotional bond you've developed with this widow. I can understand your wife's feeling that she's being emotinally cheated on. She pretty much is. You are sharing a deep connection with another woman when that deep connection is lacking in your relationship with your wife. Marriage counseling is a great idea because you've got to get to the heart of why you're not as close with your wife as you used to be. I can almost guarantee that's why you've grown attached to the widow... it's what your marriage was lacking and what you've been craving. But if there's a chance of bringing that back with your wife, then it's worth working on. And she has to know that she's taking priority.
As for the widow, does she have a lot of support from other friends and family members? I mean, you're not her only source right? I think that all of this stems from your problems in your marriage and that it will be much easier to let the widow go once you resolve them. Yes, it's going to be very hard on her since she's grown attached to your e-mails. But if you tell her the truth about how it's hurting your marriage, I'm sure she will be understanding and agree to maybe just cut down the frequency of the e-mails. Don't just stop e-mailing her without explanation, or lie to her about the reason. Be honest with her. If you two truly have this closeness, she will be understanding and will see just how much you've sacrificed to help her.
But you do have to give your marriage priority. Once you're working towards getting the closeness back with your wife, everything will work itself out.
Hope I helped a bit!
Wow that's a tough one huh? Since you've admitted there is an attachment with the widow it does seem that you are going to have to distance yourself. I would just let her know that your wife is uncomfortable with the frequent emails so you are going to have to limit them to once a month or less and take it from there. You do owe yourself and your wife time to figure out if you are meant to be without the disruption of the widow "needing" you. I can totallly understand you likeing the "helpful" role. Even though I am married also I like to get compliments from other men just to know I am still alive to others. Even though you seem to have a great pen pal that needs to be all there is to that. Sounds like she's holding on to a bit of her husband through you, you are one of the last links to him. So the only advice I really have is to give you and your wife time without any interuption.....in a few months or so to see where you stand. I'm sure the widow will ALWAYS be there. Good luck
Franco....Little Rose seems to have offered great advice. I must commend you on your ability and strong integrity in coming to the realization that you have a strong emotional bond with this woman. What you have done for her is wonderful and I don't doubt that your efforts were sincere. But like you have already sensed, when it has become something in the sense of filling a void that you see missing in your marrriage (as you so openly admit) then yes, it is something that you should definitely end. You have done your job in terms of helping your friends wife out in her time of need. And as you said she now has other forms of support. The only thing that saddens me is that your wife has denied you the need of emotionally reconnecting with her. I would definitely recommend that you discuss this with your counselor so that you can identify ways in which your emotional needs can be met within your marriage. I fear that if they are not that you may find yourself in a similar situation and hope that if you do that you will definitely give your wife another chance to reconsider counseling. It may not be necessary and I am confident that you love your wife enough to persuade her to do so if the need should arise. Good luck......Goody
Your wife needs your help and support during this time. She's already stated that she feels you are cheating emotionally, why help and nurture the widow when you have a beautiful wife that you married needing your attention? You said that this widow is a strong woman and has support systems, well who does your wife have? She is probably feeling like she's losing her husband just as the widow did, but her husband (you) are still alive and forming a deep connection with another woman. I really think marriage counseling is in order here. You and the widow are using each other as a means to fill a hole that has taken place in your lives. I just wish you could see what your wife is going through, even if she doesn't express it openly. It's probably tearing her apart inside. As for the widow, just be completely honest with her. She really doesn't sound that fragile to me, she's pursuing a deep relationship with a married man. In any case, that's just not right. With counseling or a break from this widow, you can hopefully get back that protective feeling towards your wife that you are giving to this widow. I'm sorry if I sound brash, but it seems as though you need to hear this from an unbiased outsider, and the best person to help you with this would be a marriage counseler. If your wife refuses to go, that's a completely different story, but I think if you really sit down with her and tell her what you are feeling towards this other woman she will agree. Be honest with all parties in this situation. I wish you luck.
Thanks for your help with this. I'm going to show my wife the thread -- trust me, we'll talk through it and work through it. We've been through counseling before with success and as I've reflected on the situation and your comments, I think she simply doesn't realize how much I'm hurting. Yes, my marriage is and should be my #1 priority, and will always be.
The key question: I guess I'm still not sure what to do with the widow. She's expressed some very difficult things going on for her in her home town and seems esp. fragile of late. I'm not sure if my throwing at her that our closeness is hurting me or my marriage, or even simply saying that it's doing some funny things to my head, is going to push her into a really bad place. I'm almost wondering if the phased drift-away approach might be a better idea.
But I just don't know.
Again, if you can try to put yourself in her shoes and let me know what you think, that'd be great.
Just a reminder for those tuning in late, she not only lost a husband, but also a young child, and they both burned to death in an accident along with two others who were friends of hers. More on it: her husband was at fault and she's now dealing with lawsuits.
It's the most horrific thing anyone can ever imagine, so that's why I'm walking carefully here.
hello franco, i just read your posts and i would like to offer my advise! I am a widow, i know some of the things that your friend has, is,and will be going thru. I know how a person in this situation is LOOKING for relief , support, memories, etc. We go in several different directions never getting away from the shock and the completely lost place we find our selves in. Anyone that can fill those empty feelings and places we reach out and want to pull in what little world we have left. I think your friend needs professional help, to start her steps in grievence. It is very hard and takes alot of work and time. Although writing about feelings and losses are really good for us. It needs to be in a journal for herself to help her heal. I know that friends of our lost ones can make us feel closer and memorize our past. But the only one that can really help her is HER and a professional. Sounds like you were a good friend and did what you needed to do for her and yourself. But you have allowed it to affect your own relationship. Maybe you and your wife should have been a good support group for her but it doesnt sound like you gave the oppertunity for your wife to help you. When you turn away from your relationship into another one, to help out the widow, you also in away made your wife one also. So who will come to her rescue?
The advise i have to you is: Be open and honest to the widow and tell her it is time for her to start her healing process and that there a grievence group available and councelors to help in the areas she needs help with. And if she has a problem she needs to discuss with you then it will be you and your wife like it should have been all along. I hope in time your wife can forgive you and that both of you can work on the real relationship. The one that should have been your 1st commentment on trying to help out a troubling life.
Altho all in all you must be a careing and giving man to have offered support, maybe next time it will be mr. and mrs. that is there to help . Life and love are very special when two people are on the same path, our journeys together can last a life time. Happiness Love Life Family are just some of the things that some of us had and then it was gone....Hold on to your wife and family and love then everyday with all your might bc one day it could be gone.....
sorry i just had to let you know from someone that has been in your friends shoes.. Dont leave your life to join in hers to help.. You arent helping her getting on in life. Only she can do that when she is ready for the next step. good luck on making up for your lost time in your life.
I can't say much more beyond all of the other wonderful replys you have gotten... but, I would like to stress that you need to tell the widow that the sheer volume & tone of the correspondence is beginning to cause problems in your marriage.
That you are sure she knows by now how much you want to be supportive of her - you love your wife and value your relationship with her above all others (it's in your marriage contract!)
Suggest that she look into a Hospice Grief Support Group. They are beyond truly wonderful and they are free...
Discuss with your wife a comfortable type of contact if you still would like some with the widow - cards by snail mail would be better than the immediacy of e-mail.