How can I help a friend in an abusive relationship that she almost left?
February 15, 2014 10:36 PM Subscribe
My best friend has been seeing someone for about 7-8 months now. Initially, he seemed very nice and friendly. However, as the months have gone by he's turned out to not be right for her. To make things worse, she's being emotionally abused by him on a rather subtle level, to the point where several times she's been crying while talking to me about him. A couple of weeks ago almost broke up with him after talking with me about recent problem, where I got fed up with the crap she was dealing with and told her she should end it. Since I know she tends to listen to me and to trust my thoughts, should I make a bigger effort to convince her to leave this guy?
posted by hytrack to Human Relations (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
About my friend: Before she began dating this guy, she dealt with bad anxiety which brought on a lot of stress. She worked part time at her job because it was the only way she could function. At home her family abuses her constantly from almost all her family members and has been since she was young. She's seen a therapist to help her with her anxiety and she made a lot of headway without the need for medication. However, choices she made which were influenced by him caused her to leave her job and need to start taking medication.
As said, when they began dating he was very friendly. It took me a while to trust him, because I knew the kind of people she had dealt with, but eventually I did give him some trust. Shortly after I gave this, things began to get rough. A couple of incidents made her question why she was dating him given that he expected her to be very open with him and share everything with him but he refused to do the same. Any trouble he had he refused to let her try and help him cope, instead pushing her away. This began her feeling like she was nothing more than a thing for him to show off. This feeling continued when aspects of his introverted personality would have him push her away so he could be alone after he had a great deal of social interaction, something that bothered her further.
These feelings of being a trophy and him wanting alone time when she desperately wanted to be around him (a result of her abusive home) continued on, even after she had a talk with him about them (Though the first one was more of a problem. The latter was semi-solved by them hanging out together more often, but they don't talk with one another so it's not exactly fixed), and in some ways were made worse by things like how he wanted her to stay fit and keep going to the gym while he's refused to go to the gym himself. She's been torn on this because she likes going to the gym and keeping fit, but she feels this double standard is bullshit and as such hasn't really been keeping in shape.
I also don't feel like he's right for her because I've come to realize he's a lot like who I was a few years ago to an almost scary degree (I've been able to predict his reaction to things and guess parts of his personality that she's never told me about simply by using myself as a reference), complete with flaws that I've spent years working on wiping away, and personally I wouldn't consider a match for her as I am now let alone someone who has the problems he has (He shows signs of trust issues, he refuses to let people in when he's upset, he turns to alcohol as a coping drink).
Recently two things were said that were the catalyst for why she almost broke up with him. The first was him admitting he "used to be" racist towards Asian people (My friend is Asian) until shortly before they met. At the same time, he admitted that when they met he was surprised she "spoke proper English."), though from what I can tell nothing has really happened to cause such a sudden change (Given he was racist since he was a kid, from what she's told me he said, I don't believe it would just go away without something major happening). I personally don't think he's stopped being racist, because racism can be a lot more subtle.
The second thing he said to her was him basically saying that he would leave her if she stopped sleeping with him. He didn't use such direct words, but that was the message of it.
When she was going to break up with him, he began to say how that was a joke and that he didn't mean it, immediately trying to explain himself (Though at no point did my friend ever think it was a joke before he said this). She now feels like she overreacted even though virtually every female friend I know would've ended the relationship in her position (Which is one of the effect of gaslighting, to make someone think they overreacted to something).
With how her family is and all the obvious abuse she's taken, I'm worried she'll not notice this more subtle abuse. The way his personality is concerns me, because I see a lot of warning flags that he'll continue to hurt her mentally and emotionally and I'm worried that could one day turn physical. She claims she'll leave him if he ever does hit her, but then she also claimed she'd leave him if he kept hurting her the way he was and yet she's not done that. I don't believe any of this is intentional abuse (though I've not ruled out that possibility entirely given the fact that I know he has had racism towards Asian people), but regardless of it being intentional or not it's something she needs to get away from.
I've read other responses about helping people who are in abusive relationships and they amount to "You can't do anything." But given how close she came so very recently to ending it and knowing she actively listens to me and my thoughts, I'm unsure if I should keep silent about it or if I should talk with her. I know there's a risk that trying to talk to her could push her more to him, but at the same time her own family is doing that simply because of how abusive they are to her while he seems warm and inviting despite the crap she feels rather often.
Should I take the risk and rely on the fact that she actively listens to me to try and convince her to leave him (though obviously word it in a way where I admit I don't have control over the situation, that is really is her decision and this is just how I feel about it), or should I let it go in the hopes that either she realizes and just ends it or he gets it together and stops causing her this pain?