Dear Ms. Vicki,
I moved to my location about a year ago. At the time, my neighbor's husband was downrange. My husband soon joined the same unit. Since we lived in the same apartment building, had kids around the same age, and our husbands worked together, we started a friendship.
Every once in a while, she would confide how her husband rarely communicated with her at all, and never has. For example, he went from reserve to active duty without speaking with her about it. He also volunteered to move overseas without discussing it with her. I didn't think that all of this boded well for their marriage, but I said nothing and just listened.
She was quite shocked (in a wistful way) that my husband called or e-mailed almost every night and that we made most decisions jointly. Just before their unit redeployed, I found out that her husband had a long-term "deployment relationship." I was shocked and angry for her. I said nothing to her; she was so excited for his return. I simply hoped and prayed that he would become the husband and father he should have been all along.
After our block leave, my friend (and her children) didn't come back. They stayed at their home state. There were reasons offered from the husband ("They had to work some things out," etc.). It didn't sound to me like they should be separated (by miles and time zones) if they needed to work through things but (obviously) I wasn't there for their discussions. She hasn't opened up to me since she's been gone, but she doesn't have e-mail access anymore.
I did hear from a mutual friend of ours that the husband asked for a divorce. If that was all there was, believe me, I would mind my own business. However, I know for a fact (since his bedroom is above ours and I have ears and eyes), that he has been with at least three other women in the past five months.
I worry for my friend's physical health. If she catches an STD from her philandering husband, it would be so horrible for her -- and it could have been prevented. Her husband is also playing major emotional games with her, saying that it's all her fault that they're separated, that he stays away since she become suspicious and worries that he's being unfaithful.
I felt so guilty knowing and not saying anything that I broke down and cried. This mutual friend and I are the only ones who know about his infidelities -- other than the other families in our stairwell who see these girls come in and out. And her husband is a superior of my husband at their company. While the husband should get in trouble for "fraternization" with lower-ranked soldiers, my husband will be the one in hot water if it comes out that I was the one who told her. So, my dilemma is, do I continue to say nothing? It is breaking my heart to see her treated so badly."
-- A Friend in Idaho
I hear this story all the time. I know your heart is breaking because she's your friend and you have significant knowledge about his indiscretions. However, in my opinion, you have to stay out of it. You can't say anything to her. Many spouses and significant others, particularly women, always disagree with me on this, but let me give you an example of what happened to me when I was about 27 years old.
Similarly, I had a close friend who was married to a dog. He probably slept with everyone on base (except me, of course).
I was also concerned about her health -- STDs, HIV, and her children. I didn't want her to leave him, but have all the facts so could make her own decision. Well, I told her.
Long story short, they stayed together to this day and it affected our friendship forever. I was looked at as the one who stirred the pot and exaggerated the details. And I wasn’t the only one who told her. Other people also told her the same thing.
Since that time, I regard marriage differently. Marriage is on a different level where you're joined by a power that is stronger than us.
You may think I’m taking this overboard, but I’ve been in this situation many times since then. Believe me, I keep my mouth shut.
I think the only way I would say something about infidelity is if it were a close relative -- no one else. If you want to give her some good advice, just call to check on her and let her know you miss her company. If she opens up to you about an imminent divorce, tell her to get a good attorney to represent her. You can be a “sounding board,” but don’t reveal anything else. I know other people will probably say, “Ms. Vicki you are so wrong -- that’s her friend and she should tell her.” Well I say, mum’s the word, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Please let me know the outcome.
Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, is married to an active-duty Soldier and has three sons. She has a Master's of Science in Social Work from the University of Louisville, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and currently works as a therapist with military servicemembers and their families. She provides services for a wide array of concerns such as combat stress, PTSD, couples and marital problems, depression, grief and loss, stress and coping.
Ms. Vicki also writes an advice column "Dear Ms. Vicki" that appears in the Washington Times, the Fort Campbell Courier and the Heidelberg Herald Post. Ms. Vicki also hosts an internet radio show and blogs on her community site with the Washington Times. If you want to ask Ms. Vicki for advice about your military life, please email her at AskMsVicki@military-inc.com.
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