9.25.2006

Straight Talk

(Note: Some of the facts and all of the names in the following post
have been altered to protect the identities of the people involved.)

Adam, the older brother of Brian, one of my very closest high school
friends, recently ended his marriage after eleven years and two kids.
I had gotten to know Adam quite well through Brian. I liked him a
lot, and his wife Cathy too, and actually kind of looked up to them
and their marriage. Needless to say, the news of their divorce was a
total shock to me.

Even worse, it was a shock to my friend Brian, who was pretty close
with Adam despite their geographic distance. By all accounts, Adam
and Cathy were happy, according to Brian. It wasn't until right after
the divorce proceedings began that Brian found out Adam and Cathy had
been unhappy for quite some time.

When Brian broke the bad news to me over the phone earlier this month,
he concluded by saying, "So let's cut the BS here: I promise to tell
you if my marriage is ever in trouble, and I want you to promise me to
do the same." In fact, Brian and I had, over the years, shared a fair
amount about the bumps and bruises in our respective marriages, but I
appreciated his straight talk, because I knew that if either of our
marriges were ever in serious trouble, it might be those very times
we'd be most likely to want to hide that from each other. But Brian
cared too much about his wife and about me to see happen to either of
us what had happened to Adam.

And I care too much about my wife and about my friends to have things
deteriorate right underneath my nose. So this month, I have been
systematically reaching out to my close guy friends to have the same
conversation with them as Brian had with me. Marriage is hard, and
Adam's pain reminded me I need to find safety in numbers and be
accountable to my friends and hold them accountable, too.

All of my guy friends have responded commendably. They have
appreciated my concern, and have matched my commitment with theirs.
Even as I feel weaker -- if it could happen to Adam, I'm more
vulnerable than I thought -- because of my friends and their support,
I feel stronger.

One of the friends I reached out to responded with: "Well, actually."
When I urged him to tell me if there was ever anything wrong, he took
the opportunity to tell me that something was wrong. Apparently, he
knew he had a problem, and my straight talk was the opening he needed
to confide that problem with another person. We talked, we wept, we
prayed. And then we committed to reconnecting soon.

I left that conversation again feeling weaker but stronger. Forget
just marriage -- life is hard. But I am rich with friends who trust
me and who I trust, and together we can be good husbands and good
fathers and good Christians. I never was one for small talk, but I am
all the more convinced that life is too short, too precious, too hard
for us to do anything but sharpen one another, bear one another's
burdens, look out for one another.

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