Q: A good friend of mine is married to a completely disgusting misogynist. They have a 15 month old and she’s pregnant again even though she does not want to be with him. He is so verbally abusive. She’s 25 and he’s 35+. She normalizes his abuse and talks to me about it as if I shouldn’t be alarmed. It makes me so uncomfortable whenever she talks about him and I’ve taken year long breaks from her in the past. I don’t want to do that again because she really needs some support right now. What do I do?

 A: Firstly, Petty Betty commends you for reaching out for anonymous support and advice. So many times we throw our hands up and surrender our friends and family members to abusers or keep quiet and never draw lines in the sand out of fear of confrontation. I don’t suggest at all that you do something so drastic as to ultimatum your friendship right off the bat. The reality is tho…. besides what you been doing…..there isn’t much else you can do.

Their relationship may continue even as problematic and toxic as it is. If that is a deal breaker it may behoove you to discuss this with her, privately. While you are a dear friend, you are not required to foster relationships that cause you stress by proximity to abusive partners. That’s not what good friends and family do to one another anyway, so good on you for requiring reciprocal treatment.

If you are willing and able to support your friend, suggest she think long term. Encourage her to assess her needs and how they will be met if her partnership we’re to end. What type of financial planning does she practice, if any? Does she need family court intervention for child support purposes? Ending a relationship based on abusive power dynamics talks some serious plotting. IS SHE READY TO ADMIT SHE’S BEING ABUSED? You mention that she minimizes her abuse, but is that a silenced appeal for help and guidance? Support during transition from spousal abuse is the key factor in whether or not a victim will return to their partner.

The misogynist is unlikely to change or work towards resolution though the New Year may make people hopeful where they should be reasonable. A 35 year old dude with children needs to be a constantly improving figure in their family. The first 5 years are crucial to the development of the children and abuse and physical/verbal violence (with minimized resolution) is cause for real concern. Unfortunately relationships like these can last a while and the dissolution process can hit regressions real quick.  They may reach some agreement, work on things and see improvement and 8 weeks from now you will again deal with a fallout. This can happen several times so how you plan to respond to this will reinforce your boundaries. You may be the stable support she needs to get her and her babies out of harm’s way.

That does not mean by any means that you are responsible for bearing the brunt of the weight of this chick’s problems (and yes, she has problems. Personal problems….meaning she finna have some work ahead of her). As a support person you have many options in how you can graciously provide assistance.

If you don’t plan your support, you run the risk of being her little emotional mule some more and we know that shit isn’t cute. Friends who unload traumatizing and often triggering emotional baggage on their friends are toxic and don’t deserve the energy that they vampirically suck support persons of. This is part of their complicity in their abuse and it drags good friends down the rabbit hole too.

A. Set check in times. Once a week make sure to check in.

B. Set “office hours” otherwise. You are not a therapist or trained and PAID support person and your time is valuable. If every interaction has to do with abuse, it’s okay to be “busy” and put up that boundary. Her weekly check in and times in which you are free to engage need to be enough.

C. Encourage the reaching out to other support people including secret survivor groups and forums. There are also 501c non profits like World On My Shoulders that support and provide resources.

D. Have a resource link or two and share, sure, but never share or tag her in a post about them. Instead, share the info in “secret” private messages (Facebook has an encryption option). Never share abuse support information with a victim on public social media platforms. That is unsafe!

E. Relinquish any guilt you may encounter should she stay with this man. It’s not your fault. Even if you do nothing, she has to be ready to see her treatment for what it is.

 

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