I Can’t Stand The Pity From My Friends After My Husband’s Affair

By: Katie Lerch:  One of the worst things about the time period after learning about an affair is the fact that the process can change the way that you see yourself.  If this isn’t bad enough, you can perceive that it can also change the way that others see you.  A wife might perceive that well-meaning friends and family members now make judgements about herself and her marriage.  For example, she might say: “I really regret that some of my friends know about my husband’s affair.  If I had a choice, they wouldn’t know and I would not have told them.  Unfortunately though, I was with them on a weekend getaway when I started to suspect my husband of cheating while I was gone.  So they have been with me during every step of this process.  I leaned on them too much in the beginning and I shared too much.  I was struggling a lot during those early weeks and I cried on everyone’s shoulder and went on and on about how unfair the situation was and how things would never be the same again.  They supported me during that time and words can not express how much I appreciate it.  I love them all.  At the same time, things have started to get better for me.  My husband and I are doing better, but more than that, I am doing better on a personal level.  I’ve started running again.  I’m taking a class that I’m excited about.  I’m starting to like life again.  But when I am with these particular group of friends, they bring me down because they want to harp on the affair.  And they still treat me as though I am breakable and pathetic.  We had lunch the other day and one actually gave me a sad face when she talked about my husband and asked about my marriage.  When I try to reassure them that things are better, they give me a look as though they think that I am just trying to save face.  It’s getting to the point where I almost can not stand to be around them.  I almost can not stand their pity anymore.”

I agree that people’s pity can almost feel condescending at times.  I used to feel like some of my friends were really smug about their stable marriages when I was going through this myself.  Honestly, it used to turn my stomach, but I was probably not thinking rationally.  Looking back now, I believe that some were smug and some were not.  That was a really hard time for me and I probably projected some of my own frustrations onto some of my friends, who truly cared about me, even if they didn’t know the best way to support me at the time.

Admittedly, I have a bit of hindsight behind me, but looking back, I can say that if someone is willing to support you in the hard times, it’s worth it to try to maintain that friendship, even if you have to set new boundaries.  I’d hate to see you start to avoid these ladies (who sound like decent, supportive people) when perhaps you could clear the air and start over.

The next time you are together and you start to get the “pity” vibe, you might try: “listen, I need to say something and I hope that you take this how I intend it.  I am so grateful of all of your support.  But I am moving on.  I want to leave that behind.  I don’t want or need for anyone to feel sorry for me.  I’m in a good place.  I am excited about life moving forward – wherever it may lead.  I want to look forward and not backward. So from now on, I’m going to ask that we talk about issues that look forward in a positive way.  I don’t want to dwell on the painful past.  I don’t want to feel like I’m always being pitied or that you’re constantly having to worry about me, although I’m touched at how much you care.  So can we please change the tone and be nothing but upbeat moving forward?”

Hopefully, they will easily get the message.  They likely know you very well and can read between the lines as to what you are trying to get across.  I can say from experience, though, that sometimes people do forget your request and you will have to change the subject at times and remind them not to “go there.”  But honestly, the more that they see you happy, thriving, and coping, the less likely they will be to continue on with the pity.  When you make it clear that you don’t need or want it, then hopefully they will follow your lead and just drop it.  No matter if it is coming from a place of love and concern, it does definitely get old – feeling as you are living under a dark cloud of pity all of the time. Statistically speaking, though, one of them will likely have an issue come up in the future where you can return the favor and support THEM – since you will hopefully have long moved on.

I regretted confiding in a few people after my own husband’s affair.  There were some that seemed to love misery and drama.  Long after I had moved on, they still wanted to talk about it.  For the most part, I was able to redirect them by being frank, although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I did move on from a few friendships because of this. Luckily, these were not particularly close friendships to begin with.  I looked at this as part of the recovery process.  Defining what I wanted and needed was really healthy and empowering for me,  although it was difficult at the time. There’s more  to read on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com.

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