I had a telephone call from a very concerned friend tonight ... someone who thought I was being more than a little indiscreet writing about their relationship. The funny thing, from my point of view in any case, was that they had not even entered my mind when I was writing about the kinds of dysfunctional relationships others have in their lives.
It reminded me of a friend who asked me out to lunch when the relationship I was referring to with, let's call him W, was in its death-throes. I said I would see what W was doing (as one of a couple almost annoyingly does when you invite them to do something), and she said that the invitation to lunch was not actually being extended to him ... but to me and only me. My friend was not interested in having lunch with my boyfriend and I. He, I assumed, was to be the topic of conversation.
And I was right. My friend, let's call her B, had decided to cross the invisible line in the sand we all negotiate in our relationships with our friends. What right do we have to express an opinion about how healthy or otherwise we believe our loved ones' relationships to be? How can we be sure we know what we're talking about? After all, the only two people who 'live' a relationship are the ones who spend the majority of time together in it. Aren't they?
So what are we do with the uneasy feelings and observations we have about the lives of others who are dear to us? B decided it was time to tell me how uneasy she felt about my relationship. She felt that it was changing me in a negative way and that I had become unhealthily obsessed with keeping the relationship going, even though it was apparently obvious to everyone but me that it was doomed. The lunch was awkward and I remember defending my relationship, not only to her but to myself as well. The lunch achieved several things - one of which was for me to return to our home and reinvest ... in some kind of wonderfully noble attempt to prove her wrong. She wasn't 'wrong', of course. She was actually articulating something that I feared myself ... and for that reason, it changed our friendship forever.
Some years later I took the same risk with a very, very dear friend. I had information about her partner that made me feel incredibly uneasy. Our 'dinner' turned into her terrible, tearful flight from me. Years later, the honesty of my perception of the flaw in her relationship and the increased toll the dilemma was to take on her life were both acknowledged. It certainly didn't make me feel any better about having been the harbinger of doom ... but it did make me realise that we occasionally rely on our friends to tell us when we're dancing with the potential for great sadness and disillusionment. We also risk a significantly more sinister betrayal: that moment when a friend asks "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" or "Why didn't anyone warn me?" ... or "say something".
One of my friends who had actually fucked my boyfriend (with his partner ... yes, two of them at the same time) took it upon himself to confess their indiscretion to me. I was, strangely, extremely grateful for his honesty. I remember the wall building itself around my heart as he spoke.
Trust is loaded. Perhaps I don't trust easily. Perhaps I don't trust at all. Not even myself.
But that is another story.