I have a close friend who has been in an extremely destructive/abusive “relationship” for four years. He is verbally and mentally abusive to her. He will scream in her face saying horrible things to her, grabs her and has even kicked her out of cars. He does drugs and I’ve told her that I believe he is an addict. He has repeatedly told her that there is they have no future together, but at the same time will not let her go and move on.
He spends a lot of time at Fire Island. I’m sad to say that my friend has gotten into the habit of following him over to the island to spy on him, and has found him there flirting, kissing and whatever, with other women. In fact, he is constantly with other women.
When she gets to the point where she’s had enough of him, he will turn his game around and pay “loving” attention to her. Maybe spend a whole week with her (please!) and giving her false hope. I hate to say it, but she always falls for it!!
I have been by her side through all of it, but she has absolutely NO intention of leaving him and she is 31. I feel like a bad friend when I tell her that the situation is a waste of her time and energy, and in turn I become very frustrated when the situation is replayed over and over and she wants my “help.” (Usually she just says how shocked she is that he is behaving badly and how can she keep him happy and with only her!)
I don’t know how to help her out of this black hole and at times it has almost caused me to distance myself from her. How do I support this person when I completely disagree with her choices and behavior?
What Kind of Friend am I?
Dear What Kind of Friend …
I’d say you are a very caring friend, who is seeing quite clearly the destructive pattern going on between your friend and her boyfriend.
First off, there is abuse going on, on so many levels. He is mentally abusive, which tears down a persons worth and self-confidence. This is usually why mentally abused people stick around the abuser. They don’t feel good about themselves, or worth being treated kindly.
He grabs her? I’d worry that it’s only a matter of time before he actually hits her. (Which may have occurred and she doesn’t want to share that.) And I can only hope that the times he’s kicked her out of the car, you mean the car was not moving and he allowed her back in after he calmed down.
It’s sad to think that your friend’s love life revolves around spying on her boyfriend. The worst part is that he always seems to be doing something he shouldn’t. You didn’t say what she does when she follows him over to Fire Island and catches him with other women. Does she just get the confirmation she needed and get on the next ferry and go home? Does she make a scene?
I think it is only normal to distance yourself from a toxic situation. You say that you have told her how unhealthy this whole situation is. She has been told by him that there is no good ending here, yet she not only hangs on, but fights for this sick relationship.
In this case it seems the only thing you can do is what you are doing. Be her friend. Be honest. Share your concerns for her safety and mental health. Assure her that she is worth being treated well. I would also express concern over the possibility of this getting worse over time, with much more physical abuse.
In the end, being her friend is all that you can do. You can give people advice, but somewhere along the line they have to take ownership of the problem in order to help themselves.
As this is the last column of the season I thought I’d share a list of resolutions that I found.
“No one ever gets out of this world alive. Resolve therefore to maintain a sense of values.
Take care of yourself. Good health is everyone’s major source of wealth. Without it, happiness is virtually impossible.
Resolve to be cheerful and helpful. People will repay in kind.
Avoid zealots. They are generally humorless.
Resolve to listen more and talk less. No one ever learns anything by talking.
Be wary of giving advice. Wise men don’t need it, and fools won’t heed it.
Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the wrong. Sometimes in life you will have been all of these.
Do not equate money with success. The world abounds with big moneymakers who are miserable failures as human beings.
What counts most about success is how a person achieves it.”
I hope you have enjoyed this column as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful and warm autumn and winter. I will see you all again in the spring!