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My Married Life: How to Deal When Friends are in Crisis

This article in The New York Times really got me thinking about how Jack and I react when our friends are in crisis. The article mentions "pseudo-care" -- when people vaguely offer to help. Example: "Let us know if you need anything...k?"

It also talks about "stiff-arming," which is when people attempt to distance themselves from crises that hit too close to home. A few years back, when some good friends of ours had a baby with severe heart problems, we noticed that other couples who were expecting or had new babies basically fled. It was just too much for them to see their fears realized by a couple they so strongly ID'd with.

Though I've never been one to flat-out disappear, I have been guilty of leaving wishy-washy, "We’re here if you need us,” messages. I was just clueless and afraid of saying the wrong thing. But over time, I've learned from my mistakes. I now know that offers like that put all the work back into the hands of the person who needs the help. I no longer offer; I just show up.

Moving to a smaller community helped make that easier and clearer. When an upstate friend has a new baby, the women in my circle organize at least two weeks of dinner drop-offs at her home. Last year, when Jack got terribly ill, people all over town did the same for us. Every day, I'd come home from the hospital to find another surprise lasagna in the fridge. But at the same time, other friends completely vamoosed. Since then, I've come to realize that they weren't personally rejecting us. It was just too scary for them to think that my seemingly fit, strong spouse could be so near death in the blink of an eye. So I forgive them. But I won't lie -- we will never be close again.

What about you? What's been your experience with friends in crisis -- how did you react?

-- Holly

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