A couple who I am friends with are going through a bad breakup. Can I remain supportive, neutral, and also safe? How?
posted by thrasher to Human Relations (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies in advance for the wall of text....
About 3 years ago, two acquaintances of mine, we'll call them Elvis and Priscilla, began seeing each other seriously. The three of us are all involved in the same local community group. Priscilla and I had hung out together on a few occasions, and Elvis was/is my mechanic, but I wasn't particularly close to either of them. (I don't really get close to much of anyone.) In the meantime, I met and started living with my partner and spending a lot less time with the local community group, but in the past year the four of us have become closer friends, getting together at each others houses, etc. It is well known in the community that Elvis is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with a criminal past, clean and sober for I believe 7 or 8 years. He has been wonderful and kind to me every time I've dealt with him.
I knew Elvis and Priscilla's relationship was a bit stormy, but they seemed solid overall. A couple weeks ago Priscilla emailed and asked me to provide her with companionship and support as Elvis had just broken up with her - she knew I was friends with both of them and wouldn't take sides, and she was right. She and I have a great deal in common and I was happy to potentially make a real, close girlfriend, something I have been lacking for many years.
In spending time with her over the last couple weeks she has been very supportive of some of the things I've been going through lately (cancer, relationship issues, etc) and of course I've been there for her too. She tells me that through their relationship Elvis has been abusive and controlling, violent (destroying stuff, punching walls, etc) gaslighting, blowing up at her then claiming it never happened and telling her she's delusional, he's narcissistic, appears to possibly be having an inappropriate relationship with his adult stepdaughter, and is, as Priscilla describes it, "gun-happy." Having never seen any of this behavior in person, I remained neutral, giving him the benefit of the doubt when he started showing up at her house or at her work, sending her cards and flowers and letters and emails and texts trying to get back together with her, if only she would change *her* abusive ways. I had not actually spoken to Elvis about anything that's been going on.
They've been trying to work things out, so we hung out with them on Friday and again on Sunday. Sunday when she went to the bathroom and my partner was out of earshot he thanked me for being her friend and supporting her. I said she and I both needed a friend and it had been very mutually beneficial. He said he loves her and that she has a lot of issues to work out. He half grinned and said he didn't think it was *all* him. I was pretty noncommittal, letting him talk, so I could get some of his side of the story. That was pretty much the end of it, he didn't provide any further insight and I didn't ask any leading questions.
Last night we met Priscilla just after she and Elvis had been to couples therapy. In front of the therapist, she tells us, Elvis blew up at her, broke up with her again, called her names and screamed at her - enough that the therapist actually told her "just go, get out of here." She said that in his ranting, Elvis said that "even thrasher thinks you're mentally unbalanced." I never said any such thing and Priscilla knows it. She was and still is an absolute wreck. We tried to comfort her as much as we could - today she tells me Elvis left her a voicemail last night trying to patch things up yet again. I told her I will be there for her and that I think it best if she not try to pursue a relationship with him any longer.
At this point I still only really have Priscilla's side of the story, but I am inclined to believe all the things she is saying about Elvis are true. And if they are, I am concerned that my partner and I will be caught in the crossfire of all this. Hopefully not literally.
All I wanted was to be a friend and to have a friend, and maintain a friendship with my mechanic, but this is getting pretty deep. I kinda want to run away from the whole thing and never try to make friends again, but that seems pretty chickenshit. Should I try talking to Elvis privately? Any advice on how to proceed?