How to help a friend escape an abusive relationship...?
January 21, 2013 1:01 AM Subscribe
Friend stuck in abusive relationship and totally unable to break up.
posted by fishingforthewhale to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My friend (late twenties) is in a four-year relationship with a man who, for the last three years, has behaved in a consistently despicable way. He is highly manipulative, controlling and abusive emotionally - the threat (but never the act) of physical abuse has reared its head on a number of occasions. He is also an obnoxious human but it is his treatment of her that most concerns my friends and I. His actions are having a very damaging effect on her life.
This weekend things reached a head and, after several weeks of planning, a group of her friend from quite disparate parts of her life came together, presented her with a letter outlining our concerns and spoke to and supported her for the whole weekend to try to explain the severity of her situation.
After hours and hours of talk, we feel as though we've finally got to the bottom of why - unlike most other people in her situation - she cannot simply break it off with him: she's completely unable to inflict any pain on him whatsoever, and has said she'd rather live this way and put up with the pain he's inflicting on her that hurt him at all. She has always been on the receiving end of break-ups before.
She had a privileged but difficult upbringing (sometimes-volatile father, alcoholic mother) and is very bright (went to the best university in the country), but she is emotionally not up to task here unfortunately.
Has anyone else been in this situation? She has accepted that this is not a good relationship and that it cannot and must not last, which is a step in the right direction, but she finds the idea of causing him pain utterly unthinkable, and whenever she sees him she falls back into the same old patterns of justification.
How might we address this in a sensitive but firm (if necessary) manner? She is already in therapy (which helped her identify this problem) and besides, we really need action sooner rather than later to keep the whole thing from losing momentum.