by KATE WALTHER
About 10 years ago I set my best friend Emma up with a guy named Thomas I knew from school. He’s a really sweet and gentle man that I am particularly fond of – someone that I thought would make her happy. It worked. Emma was happier than I’d ever seen her. They dated, fell in love, bought a house and four years later I was standing next to her in a sparkly purple dress as they said their ‘I do’s’.
Life was good. We had a standing Saturday night double date with two old friends with whom we had mutual interests. The boys loved beer and Em and I…well we got to gossip. We were one couple and a few oversized coffee mugs away from a trendy 90s sitcom.
And then one Sunday last year, in the middle of the night, I got the strangest phone call I’ve ever had. It still feels unreal.
“Tom’s left me. I don’t know what to do.” At first I thought it was a joke. They were married. They had a home and pets together. They were talking about having kids. I had seen them the day before. They were happy, or so I thought.
Turned out Emma had thought the same thing. She hadn’t seen it coming – she honestly thought they were in a good place. His leaving has destroyed her. She’s lost her husband, her future family and more recently her home. She is completely unable to trust people and struggling to get herself ‘out there’ again. My heart absolutely breaks for her, and we’ve had many discussions about why he would do this and how she is going to pick up the pieces. In 12 months she’s gone from being on the brink of having everything she’s ever wanted to feeling completely alone and hopeless.
Tom pretty much fell off the earth after he left Em. I have barely seen or heard from him, save the odd response to Facebook messages and texts I send to check in on him. I hadn’t really had a conflict of interest, and was free to commiserate with her, which is pretty much the role of a best friend. And in a sense he had left me too, although I think his sudden absence may have been his way of protecting me from having to remain neutral.
Until one night my husband and I ran into Tom at our local pub. We had dinner. We chatted. It was just like it had been, and I was relieved. I have known this man more than half my life. I wasn’t ready to let go of such an old and trusted friend. I may not like what he did to Em, but he felt it was right, and he had his reasons. After all, it is really between them and short of being there for them both there’s nothing more I can do.
Unfortunately my best friend does not see it that way. She was angry I had dinner with him. She felt betrayed and hurt when I told her, and said to me “This is not going to be amicable. You will have to pick a side.” That was just before she stormed out of my house angrily and slammed the door.
In some ways I don’t blame her. She feels alone as it is and his presence in my life has left her feeling like one of her few lifelines is being slowly eroded. He hurt her so badly, and I’m not sure she’ll ever fully recover. But on the other hand, it was a year ago. Life does go on. And I’m not sure always blindly taking her side is the best thing I can do for her.
He had some valid reasons for leaving, there were no kids and no third party involved. He simply fell out of love. He may not have done things the way I would, but can I blame him for his feelings, any more than I could change my own? And does it help Emma to keep reliving the past, rather than encouraging her to focus on her future?
I love them both. Neither are perfect, (who is?), but unlike our family we choose our friends. We choose them, and love them, not despite their faults but because of them. Without all the nuances that make up their person they wouldn’t be…well, them. I want to choose them both. I want to invite them both to dinner parties and kids birthdays. On the odd occasion I have the opportunity to go out without the kids I want to enjoy both their company, although I don’t expect them to be friends with each other. Perhaps it’s naïve, but I don’t want to lose either of them. I want to have my cake and eat it too.
I know Emma and Tom will both be okay. I know both friendships are strong enough to survive and I hope with all my heart they do. In the meantime all I can do is be there for them in whichever way they need me. As for Emma’s assertion that I need to choose, I am hoping she will have a change of heart as she heals from this terrible loss and I won’t be forced to choose between two of my very favourite people. Now about that cake…
Kate Walther is a business owner, personal trainer, and now a stay at home mum to two cheeky monkeys, who just loves to write. You can usually find her building train tracks, playing fairies or eating chocolate ice cream.