View Full Version : Highly charged situation: need advice!
12-03-2002, 05:35 PM
A very good friend of mine recently revealed to me that she is thinking of leaving her husband; he has been physically and emotionally abusing her for some time. I knew that their relationship was not strong, but I never even considered that he was battering her. In fact, DH and I rather liked her husband; we thought he was a good guy. Clearly we were mistaken.
I asked her what I could do to help her as she goes through this, and she said "I just need friends."
Fast forward to this evening....she left a message on our machine inviting us to dinner with her and her husband next week. It happens that we are busy that night, but I need to call her, and under no circumstances do I want to go out with her dirtbag husband, ever again. DH feels this even more strongly that I do.
Here is the catch: if I tell her we are busy, and weasle out of all future invitations, I feel like I am not being a friend, but instead isolating her even more than she already is. I don't think that they have a huge social circle...
My goal here is to support her. Period. And if that means an uncomfortable evening, so be it. However, it will be really hard to "act natural" around this guy. And I don't want her to think, by my choosing to spend time with her husband, that we think that his behavior is acceptable.
DH and I had a long talk about this and were unable to come up with a solution. I don't feel like there are a lot of people I can talk to about this, since she has not actually left yet, and is definitely still on the fence. I am sure she wouldn't appreciate my blabbing to our mutual friends about this. So, I turn to this quasi-anonomous board.
What should/can we do here?
12-03-2002, 05:49 PM
Why not sit down and tell your friend exactly what you've told us? Explain to her that it just so happens that you're busy that night, but that regardless, you and your DH have been struggling with how to deal with this because on the one hand, you want to be supportive of her and be her friend, but on the other hand, you don't want her to think you "approve" of her husband's behavior. Ask her how she'd like you to deal with it. Even though she's expressed her desire to leave her husband, there doesn't sound like there's been a firm commitment to do so, or any steps made towards that goal. It wouldn't be completely unexpected for her to decide to stay, or for them to try to work things out. If that's the case, I suspect that she will still want and expect you guys to be their friends, so I think it's better to have this discussion sooner rather than later.
12-03-2002, 05:58 PM
I agree with Eva's suggestion to tell your friend what you have told us. I am sorry that you are dealing with this and ever sorry for what your friend is going through. :(
I also agree with Eva's suggestion. But if you feel that you can't have that conversation with her, then please don't isolate her. Let her spend time with you and your DH. It will help open her eyes to what a loving relationship really is like. If you can't make it, then try rescheduling. Having friends around is an important life-line for her, literally.
I'm sorry that your friend is going through this. At least she has a caring friend like you.
12-03-2002, 07:14 PM
I agree with Laura and Eva: your friend needs the truth from you, and there are ways to convey it that won't be harsh.
What a situation!
12-03-2002, 08:25 PM
Call a Battered Womens Shelter in your area. Often they are listed in the front of the phone book with other emergency numbers. I interned at one and worked the hotline for awhile. Believe it or not, some of those "I have this friend..." caller's were really friends! Well meaning people like you looking for advice on supporting the friend. It's helpful to have that connection if needed for your friend in the future-she may want an experienced counselor, support group, lawyer, etc.
12-03-2002, 11:50 PM
Jen, that's a very good suggestion from Ellyn. Your friend may be doing a lot of rationalizing right now about whether to stay or go. They probably have an 'episode' and then the morning after he turns on the charm and gets her to change her mind about leaving, saying it will never happen again. It's a hard thing to uproot your whole existence and start over and I'm sure he's working a lot of psychological mojo on her to weaken her resolve. Getting informed about the nature of abusive relationships from sources that know the typical patterns of behavior would help you know what to say to your friend when she needs your advice and, if it ever comes to it, you would know exactly where to tell her to turn for help in an emergency.
I'm also in agreement that you should be as honest as possible about your reasons for not wanting to socialize with them as a couple. Helping her rationalize the relationship is not helping her. She may be mad at you but what's more important is her safety and the sooner she faces what's going on in her marriage the sooner she'll do something about it. It's a mark of her respect and trust for you that she told you what's going on. She may not like what she hears but she will think about it and she'll know you're right. Good luck, I hope she'll be ok and that she'll find some peace.
12-04-2002, 05:37 AM
I have a friend who is in your shoes. She and her husband would socialize with this couple (actually their landlords). They had lots of fun together and then my friend found out about the abuse. She didn't know what to do, how to be supportive. She really did try. Now, the woman is having another baby (number 4!) so she has no plans to leave. She also feels she can't support herself. My friend tried and tried to be a good friend to this woman, as she didn't seem to have many close friends. In the end, I'm sad to say, my friend had to simply distance herself from them. I think it became very frustrating for her to see this woman going through this, but not being assertive enough to help herself. She somehow thought that she deserved to be treated badly. Not to add more to a bad situation, but sometimes you have to realize that you simply cannot help someone until they decide on their own that they want help. Good luck. I really do hope your friend gets some help or leaves. That kind of treatment does horrible things to a woman's self esteem.
12-04-2002, 06:11 AM
Go to dinner, and be supportive in that way. She may be looking for the outward appearance of a normal life. I know it will be hard, but do it, please. It could be that if she sees only you, that she has to "pay for it" later at home.
Leaving is not always easy for the battered wife to do. There may be circumstances that have to be worked out in the background.
This was my personal circumstance -- I was abused physically, emotionally and verbally. My ex kept me isolated from other people. If I had girlfriends, and went out with them, I "paid for it" later when I came home. So, I just didn't go out. I begged him to go to counselling with me, but he would refuse.
I also lived far away from my family (6 hour drive). When I told my mother what was happening, she accused me of having an affair. At that time I hung up on her, and it was over a year before I spoke to her again.
My ex emotionally blackmailed me in many ways every time I tried to leave with the kids. It was very very difficult. I finally had "an edge" over him and was able to pressure him to leave, which he did. But he made my life hell during that time in many ways. I am thankful that I was never beaten enough to be sent to the hospital, and that I never killed him for the abuse.
I know that this is my specific experience, but I was so isolated and the only way I could see people was during the day when my ex was at work, or with him. Anything else was almost viewed as subversive activity against him.
This is definately a tough situation. The strongest piece of advice that I can give you is not to talk badly about the husband, especially to your friend. I know this sounds like odd advice, but often it takes many tries before a battered woman is able to completely leave the man behind. And, is she goes back to him, she most likely will tell him what you said, and he will forbid her to speak to you, which leaves her friendless again.
When you talk to her, encourage her to leave for herself. "You don't deserve to be hit." Rather then, "Leave that crazy bastard!" Focus on her rather than him.
IMHO, go to dinner. Your friend has reached out to you with this enormous (and incredibly embarassing) secret. Who knows how bad it really is. She cried out for help. Listen to her. Be supportive. A real friend is the one who walks toward you when everyone else is walking away.
I know that it will be hard and uncomfortable for you and your husband. But, think of how hard it has been for your friend. And,maybe seeing how happy you and your husband are, might encourage her to try to find a better situation for herself.
I used to volunteer for a domestic violence agency. It really was amazing to see how difficult it is to leave a partner, even though everyone thinks that they would leave immediately.
Your friend is lucky to have a friend like you who cares so much. You might be the support she needs to take this drastic step!
12-04-2002, 08:11 AM
I think you've gotten some great advice so far, but there is one other thing I want to add. Encourage her to pack a bag with a change of clothes, toothbrush, cash etc and leave it somewhere safe, work? your house? that way if she really needs to leave at the drop of a hat she's got a back up plan.
Unless you've been in the situation, it is really hard to see why people don't leave immediately. IMO it's because the abuser has stripped the person of all their self confidence, and just beaten down their spirit. I would really concentrate on pumping your friend up and helping her to feel empowered about her own life. Maybe it's encouraging career goals, or hobbies etc....Just helping her to realize that she is valuable.
12-04-2002, 10:33 AM
Adding to BeachBum's comments. Here is my experience with a plan.
I was with my ex-husband for 8 years. I was young and naive when we got together. Mine wasn't a physically abusive relationship, it was a mentally abusive one. The situation was volatile. I can't tell you how many things I cherished were broken. After I had my DD, I knew things were never going to change. He wouldn't hold a job and expected me to support us while he had his "dependencies". I left and went back more times than I care to admit.
When I finally came to my senses (and this took a long time), I decided that I had to have a plan. I started saving money and put it where he couldn't find it. I bought bedroom furniture and stored it at my mothers. I bought kitchen dishes and utensils and stored them at my best friends. I went apartment hunting when he wasn't around. Unfortunately, I brought my 3 yr old daughter with me to look at an apartment and she told her grandmother who in turn told my ex. He came home drunk one evening screaming with me. I left that night with DD in my arms and no shoes on my feet. I didn't want to argue any more. The next morning two of my friends helped me load their trucks with as many things as I could possibly take before he came home from work. I couldn't take any large objects or furniture, mostly clothes for DD and myself and some household goods. That was it. I left for the last time. I was mentally drained, but in the end it was the best thing I could do for myself and my daughter. I was glad I had some things at my moms and friends. I felt so guilty while I was buying stuff and looking for an apartment, but I knew I needed things in order to start over.
One last note, after our separation, my ex and I both realized that we cared about each other enough to know that we couldn't be married. We also managed to work out our divorce/child custody issues without lawyers. This is very rare these days. Most divorces are not pretty, financially taxing, and mentally draining. There are lots of threats and accusations made. Divorce and being a single parent is scary as heck.
12-04-2002, 11:13 AM
Some good books out there are The Marriage Mender, Safe People and Boundaries for Marriage (the latter two are by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.) I went to a seminar John Cloud gave on the Safe People book - very good. You might want to read this book for yourself since I think it gives some good ideas on helping a friend in trouble.
I agree with the others who suggested to keep spending time with them since you and your husband may be the only person this friend can spend time with, she needs to not be isolated and she needs encouragement on hobbies, career goals, etc. Another thing about encouraging her: if she believes in herself she may find the strength to tell her husband that he doesn't get to treat her like he is. That is one thing that is talked about in the boundaries series. A lot of people abuse others because the other person didn't set a clear boundary. Or, if she really should leave husband, right now she may not have the strength to do it if she doesn't believe that she can make it own due to identity or $$ issues.
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