“Good” friends reopening old wounds
July 21, 2016 12:17 AM   Subscribe

How do you deal with people you consider to be close, good friends hurting you? *Trigger warning* Rape

I was raped by someone who put something in my drink, was supposed to give me a ride home but instead took me to his place where I was raped while unconscious. This happened about 3 years ago and while I don’t feel that I am completely over this, or ever will be, I do feel that I have made some good progress towards healing.

None of my family and few of my friends know about this. One of my friends who did know about the rape used to be my boyfriend, and was told about the rape while we were dating. When he was first told he was supportive and helpful. We dated for a few months after, until he broke up with me. I was very confused as to why we broke up although I had felt him acting very hot and cold in the weeks before the breakup. After some time we became friends and I’ve considered him to be a good friend who is supportive, kind and fun to hang out with. I trust him and consider him one of my closest friends.

The other day we were hanging out and talk turned to relationships. During the talk he mentioned that him finding out about my being raped (which had happened before I ever knew him) was the reason he had broken up with me- that he felt he couldn’t deal with it, and that as someone who works in caring/counselling services felt he could not date me. When he realized I was very upset at hearing this he tried to backtrack and said that maybe the timing between me telling him and him ending things was just a coincidence.

I’m so upset by this, I feel like I’m being judged by him and feel as if I was cast off by him as someone who is used, dirty, unworthy of being in a relationship. I haven’t spoken to him since the conversation. Is it worth trying to make him understand how his attitude is wrong and hurtful? I almost feel more upset about this than when I was raped. Bad people doing bad things is more understandable than good people showing a bad side of themselves. Is this friendship salvageable? Is it worth talking to him so he doesn’t treat other people like this in the future (either friends, partners or the youth he works with).

Has anyone had experience getting over something like this? For those that will advise therapy, I am calling tomorrow to make an appointment. If you have a story you wish to share privately or need more info throw away email is oldwounds22@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I should probably send this response to your anon email, but for others who may benefit I'll put it here...

Your friend/ex is some sort of counselor? Do I have that right?

Yeah. You know the stereotype that people who go into counseling are folks trying to heal themselves, right? Well you've experienced this up close. It's not uncommon.

You are right on every level. What do you want to do? What feels like the next step?

You've experienced some extreme shit. You have depth and awareness. I'm sorry these experiences were violent and criminal on one side, and extremely negative on the other. Your ex did not rape you, he's a person that should not have confessed his failings toward you about your horrible experience. He should have shared that shit with his own counselor.

May I? Actually, he should not have attempted a friendship with you after becoming your ex, given his confessed reasons for breaking up. He used you to work out his character failings. So fucking selfish. It's like your experience as someone who was raped only exists as a challenge for him to work through -- HE GIVES ZERO THOUGHT TO YOUR PERSONAL FEELINGS OR PROCESS AS THE ACTUAL EXPERIENCER OF THIS CRIME.

Sorry to bold that, but really. Where his empathy? It's for himself, not you. He has no skills as a caregiver.

I realize you have invested in a friendship with this person, Imma ask you to seriously rethink that investment. Reinvest in yourself. You've provided enough drama fuel for this non-hero in your process. Take back your power here and ignore this clown. Forever.
posted by jbenben at 12:38 AM on July 21, 2016 [46 favorites]

I...don't understand his reasoning at all. He's a counselor so he can't date you?
Wouldn't his self-involved, judgy reaction make him a really shitty counselor?

Anyway. I think if you want to remain friends you need to be honest over how that made you feel and how crappy his behaviour (at the time and now) was. Don't be friends if he doesn't wholeheartedly agree and apologize. No "sorry, but..." or lengthy self involved explanations or whatnot. He needs to show that he has improved his attitude and has learnt to think of your needs as the victim above his own as the "I need to share my feelings no matter how crappy they'll make anon feel because my world is centered on my own feelings" manbaby he was.

But I don't think you can change that he is a weak character. Nothing he says now is going to change how he thought and how he acted. And it doesn't sound like you have better behaviour to expect of him in the furure. So now that you recognize what a weak friend he is, do you really want to be his friend?
posted by Omnomnom at 12:59 AM on July 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

It's possible you left out some words he said which disprove what I'm going to say, but:

Him not being able to deal with it doesn't even mean he thinks there's anything "wrong" with you. He may have felt overwhelmed with wierd protective/angry/worry feelings, with any negativity being directed toward those who hurt you, not at you. He might just have felt that he couldn't meet some amorphous need he thought you'd have (rightly or wrongly).
posted by amtho at 2:19 AM on July 21, 2016 [10 favorites]

First of all, I agree that this is an awful thing for somebody to do and say, and I'm so sorry you're feeling re-victimized by this guy who said he broke up with you after finding out you were a rape victim (???!!!)

Maybe after you get some support from your therapist, if you feel up to it and think it's worth preserving the friendship, you could try talking to him about this statement. As amtho said, it's possible that it was more about him -- acknowledging that he is shitty at dealing with the trauma of people who are close to him and didn't feel that he could deal with that. Or at that moment, maybe he was going through something that made him feel unable to deal. To be clear, this wouldn't absolve him -- I mean, is he only going to be in a relationship with people who have led perfect happy lives? -- but it could give you an explanation that's focused on him, not you.
posted by chickenmagazine at 2:54 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I almost laughed out loud when I read the part about what your boyfriend said to you. NOT because he was hurtful to you (which you have every right to be of course), but because he seems like someone who is incredibly unaware of himself. He wouldn't be the first guy who was.

That is not what made him dump you, because a guy who truly wants to stay with you in a relationship WILL stay with you in it. They don't drop out of it as soon as they hear your life wasn't out of a perfect fairy tale book (like who's is?). The men who do WOULD HAVE DUMPED YOU ANYWAY for some other inconspicuous reason down the road. I think he knows this, but he probably tried to spare your feelings by making it more about him being faulty and weak (not being able to "deal" with your history) and it backfired on him.

If he's really a good friend to you I wouldn't let what he said get in the way of your friendship. It's kinda rare for an ex boyfriend to want to sincerely stay friends after the sex ends so he may really be a decent guy who just wasn't feeling as strongly about the relationship with you as he felt you deserved. Maybe he just knew that you weren't someone he'd want a serious relationship with, but due to your history he didn't feel right about simply using you "for now" until something "better" came along, so he decided to do the decent thing and just end it so that you could find someone more suited for you.
posted by manderin at 3:28 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Just to be clear on what I said above a little back story: I was never attacked by anyone, and yet I had a so called boyfriend for years and literally, and we never fought about anything and life was decent... until the inevitable happened and decent turned into a little tough as happens to everyone in life. I was in the hospital with a completely recoverable illness and asked him to come pick me up and do a few small things for me while I recovered. Getting him to do any of these tiny things (such as making a phone call here and there and picking me up from the hospital) was like pulling teeth. I only needed him to show up to pick me up at the hospital twice. THe first time it was a lot of work to get him to make the 15 minute drive over and the second time he stood me up! And I was just left there and had to order a car service. We started fighting because I couldn't believe how after eight years together all of a sudden as SOON as life got a little less perfect he started completely disengaging from the relationship and wouldn't do the smallest things for me. Then I had a heart to heart talk with him and asked him why in the world it had to take me days and days and days of asking him to please make a 5 second phone call to the bank to check on a balance for a medical payment I had to make (I couldn't do it myself because it was under his ss#) He LITERALLY said this to me: "I know you're not asking much from me, but I'm just so busy that I don't have the time to even do little things." As you can probably guess, when things were perfect in our lives he had hours and hours of time to stay overnight with me. On top of that he would sometimes drive over an hour from his dad's house to spend the night and watch a movie. But as soon as there was a little bump in life- suddenly he was "too busy" to make a five-second phone call or make a 15 minute drive to the hospital and pretty much stopped talking to me altogether. Some friend.

I didn't go through a huge trauma like you did. I was just temporarily ill and that was enough to make a very easy going, long-term relationship "too difficult" for him. I wish I could say I was the only woman who's gone through similar, but unfortunately it's all too common. I strongly feel your friend would've would've dumped you anyway eventually whether you told him or not. It wouldn't have made any real difference. When a man is willing and ready to be in a real relationship with someone he's willing to go through some of the inevitable, bumps and rough patches that make up what we call life to make it work. This is also true of a good friend. If you always have to be smiley and everything has to be hunky dorey for him to bother with you then that shows what his value would've been as a boyfriend.

Normally, I would say to keep such a person out of your life for good- but according to you, this man has seemed to put in the effort to remain friends with you. You say he's one of your closest friends. I'm assuming he's earned this title, by sincerely being there for you in some instances and listening to you. If so, I wouldn't write him off so easily. Good friends are hard to come by nowadays in a disposable society like ours and in my experience male ex's who claimed they wanted to stay friends after weren't doing it out of sincerity, but for other selfish reasons. When those reasons weren't met, they suddenly disappeared. If he's a sincere friend and he's stuck around, I would just give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn't mean to upset you. That he just wasn't feeling the romantic relationship and therefore it wasn't going to take much for him to call it quits in that regard. What you told him might be the excuse he gives you and to himself even- but it's not the reason why anymore than being "too busy" was my ex's real reason.
posted by manderin at 4:27 AM on July 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

Is this friendship salvageable?

Only at a cost to you, I think. I think you'd feel obliged to minimize your feelings (about the rape; about his response to it) in order to lessen his sense of whatever kind of threat (i.e. make things emotionally easier for him). Not a friendship I'd want, not really a friendship at all.

A possibility is that he started seeing you through counsellor goggles, and thinking he might have to be responsible to you in a professional sort of way; also, that that might be exclusive to and beyond boyfriend responsibilities, somehow confusing. I.e. maybe he started seeing you as a client type, vs. a girlfriend type. (Which, I agree with Omnomom - I bet he's a shitty counsellor. I wonder if he sees his clients as whole people... No one gets out without experiencing some kind of trauma. There's not some clean division between "healthy" and "unhealthy" people in the world, we all have scars, we're all more or less working on things one way or another, and have better and worse times.)

Is it worth talking to him so he doesn’t treat other people like this in the future (either friends, partners or the youth he works with).

I think so. It might not do anything to change his behaviour right away, but it might subtly ping him in a way he'll get in X years. I think it'd probably be good for you to vent any spleen, though.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:40 AM on July 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

He's not a good person, not in my eyes, and you're better off without him. Can you completely disengage? What good is coming of your association with him?
posted by RainyJay at 6:38 AM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Sometimes, as someone else said above, people say things, really hurtful and awful things, because of some perceived higher truth. It seems noble to them but is really just selfish.

Regardless of his reasons for breaking up with you, he was cruel to use your trauma to clear his conscience. He wanted to break up with you. This happens all the time. His reasons, whatever they were, are his to live with, not his to burden you with.

I'm sorry he did that to you, and I don't think he meant to hurt you in this, but he did, so tell him and give him a chance. If he stays like this, take some time away. People change, and he may come to regret his words someday.
posted by Ecgtheow at 6:38 AM on July 21, 2016

It's not a good idea to be friends with him right now, and possibly ever.

I've had friends and exes with various reactions to my story and experiences and while anyone can make a mistake, those who make the kinds of shitty decisions this guy did are just not empathic, sensitive people. It is no reflection on you or your experience (even though of course it is terrible that he focused on your trauma this way). If you had had a different life problem a few years down the road, and most of us do whether it's an illness or an accident or a devastating violation of trust and violence like you did, people like your friend just...don't show up in fundamental ways.

I would either disengage or distance. Please understand that this is absolutely not about you, about what people are willing to listen to from you, or a way that women should be treated. This is about his crappy personality, choices, and maybe a tiny bit about rape culture (although as a counsellor he should know better.)

I am so sorry he did this to you.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:58 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

A friend who does not treat you with compassion in your worst time is not a friend. Shitty friends damage your baseline self-esteem. He's a shitty friend. Cut him right out of your life. You are worth better.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:31 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

Wish him luck finding people to date who have never had bad things happen to them, and then kick him to the curb. If he was really your friend he would never say stuff like that to you, whether it's true or not. (it's not)
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 7:52 AM on July 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

On the one hand, I don't think that he's necessarily done anything terribly despicable. I have written on MetaFilter before about my childhood sexual abuse. Many years ago, I was in a relationship with someone who had also suffered sexual abuse in her childhood, and that turned out to be one of the many reasons why we were unhealthy for one another. We were at different points in our recoveries, and we had wildly different relationships with our abusers, and being around each other constantly dragged whoever was dealing with the situation better down to the recovery level of whoever was dealing with the situation in the more self-destructive manner.

In hindsight, I wish that one of us had been clear-eyed enough to immediately recognize the way that our histories made our relationship untenable. I don't know the specifics of why this guy couldn't handle your past, but he decided that he couldn't, and you're both better off with him stepping away than trying to take on a task that he's clearly not up to performing.

On the other hand, you are entirely entitled to your hurt over this, to your sadness, to your anger. Whether his decision justified or cowardly is not in any way relevant to the determination of whether or not you are hurt by it, and you are not obligated to remain friends with someone who has caused you pain. He decided that he couldn't be the boyfriend that he needed to be in light of your history, and that was his decision to make. You are equally due the right to decide (if you choose to do so) that you cannot remain his friend in light of his decision.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:06 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

He is not a friend. He used a major trauma of yours, a trauma that he doesn't share, against you to comfort himself about his own cowardly and unacceptable behavior. It's absolutely not your responsibility to educate him further for the benefit of his future therapy clients. Never speaking to him again should help him to get the message. I'm so sorry that this has happened to you. There are much better friends you can make out in the world. Friends who will be supportive and kind and won't betray you in this singularly gross way. Go find them.
posted by quince at 8:20 AM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I haven’t spoken to him since the conversation.

If it's not too uncomfortable to speak with him again, it might help you resolve this. I wouldn't assume anything about his motivations for what he told you, or what meaning went behind the words you heard, until you've asked him to give a deeper explanation. This statement is on his shoulders, and if the two of you want the friendship to continue it's clear you need him to take steps to resolve his meaning.

There's a comment above that mentions the possibility that the words he used carried a meaning distinct from what you understood. I identify with that greatly. My partner had a profound sexual trauma in his youth that -- more than once -- I inadvertently made him think about through my own sloppy, forgetful conversations. One time he thought I was mocking him and didn't speak to me for days. When I finally got him to communicate... I was horrified. So we did the very uncomfortable but helpful thing of having him tell me a few more details than what I'd known so we could talk openly and clearly about what boundaries I'd need to put on discussing situations like his.

The benefit of those conversations, beyond the obvious goal of not upsetting him with bungling talk, is that we both feel more comfortable talking about what used to be a big, looming, unmentionable event that is nevertheless a formative memory and part of his past. Over the last 8 or so years, he'll occasionally mention it in what feels like a process of getting adjusted to talking about it with me, and sometimes I'll ask him about it when something comes up in the news, and so on. It's been a good thing, talking about it.

I wish you well.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:05 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

So. Leaving someone because of their history, is a shitty impulse, but I'm of the opinion that any reason compelling you to break up with someone is probably worth listening too. So if he can't deal with your history, the compassionate thing to do is leave. Feelings suck and are messy and the worst sometimes.

However, telling you? That is a shit-heel move. Breaking up shielded you from his shitty feelings. Telling you literally undoes the only silver lining of that action. Shit-heel.
posted by French Fry at 11:34 AM on July 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

You were comfortable enough in your relationship to be open about trauma in your past, he wasn't comfortable with that level of openness and it made him reevaluate how he felt about the entire relationship. It has nothing to do with you or what was done to you, and everything to do with the level of commitment and support he was willing to provide in the long term -- this particular conversation was the straw that broke the camel's back, but it's nothing that should make you feel bad about yourself.

If you're going to look to him as a supportive friend, he should probably get a little better about framing his conversations.
posted by mikeh at 12:23 PM on July 21, 2016

I waded into territory like this with a very very dear friend who went through breast cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery two years ago. Through the treatment I was aware, caring, positive, listening etc. It was hell for her and, privately and away from her, also for me because my mother died at her age from cancer and I was torn up inside. I managed these feelings and was 100% present for my girlfriend.

But six months ago I had to have surgery which was linked to cancer, and every time I spent time with her I'd come away with ripped cuticles, bitten nails, chewed lip. I was tearing myself up with non-verbal distress. I got therapeutic help for these feelings. But I pulled inward and did not want to talk about it with her. I felt it was unfair, and I couldn't think how to talk about fears I had, that had manifested for her so recently. She sensed that I emotionally pulled back from her and got very wound up in trying to find out what she's done. When pressed I denied that there was even such a pulling back.

I didn't really recognise it myself for awhile - that it was about cancer - but she persevered, got very wound up and under pressure I finally owned up to having complicated feelings about her cancer and feeling an inability to really ask and receive support from her because her cancer had kicked off big anxiety in me around my own fate, on top of my mother's. She was REALLY hurt. What she heard was 'you're jinxed' and 'my cancer has made you not love me' and 'you're broken' which I get teary even contemplating and remembering now. It really was about me and my relationship with her experience which wasn't about *her* as a person.

A consequence of having answered her worries, I went through my surgery without her support. She withdrew, was absent and I guess self protective. The friendship is superficially back on track but both of us feel the other showed something we can't explain in words. I would say we feel abandoned.

I know this is not the same thing at all, but I guess I wanted to share an aspect of
Friendship that no matter the regard we have, we can trip up, lose our words and get things out in the open via blunder. I felt harassed into explanations I knew not how to give because of my complicated shit, not because cancer made her unloveable or dirty. I truly love her to bits and I have tried to make things right, whilst also feeling overlooked and abandoned when I also have had difficult feelings triggered around her illness.

There's stuff going on perhaps for your friend that has proved too awkward to express. It's not your job to manage two people's complex reactivations, but I'm hoping some aspect of my experience can mitigate th idea that this was a calculated insult.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:44 PM on July 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

What he said to you is absolutely disgusting and I'm so, so sorry he turned out not to be the supportive person you thought he was.

I have been hugely betrayed by a close friend I trusted, and my solution was to permanently cut off all contact from her. I blocked her on everything (phone, social media, etc) and deleted all my past communications with her from everything. This may sound extreme, but I feel it is completely 100% worth it to eradicate toxic people from your life.

This guy is toxic, and to me it sounds like he has a lot of his own issues he needs to work through with a lot of therapy. In any case, it doesn't matter why he did what he did — he hurt you and you have a right not to tolerate being hurt and betrayed by someone you trusted.

It's difficult to come to terms with this kind of betrayal from someone you trusted. It's very, very difficult. But you sound like a strong and intelligent person. You can get through this. ❤️❤️❤️
posted by a strong female character at 7:08 PM on July 21, 2016

You are the only one who really knows what to do here. You don't have to analyze this and ascribe any particular motives or character traits to him. Just trust you inner wisdom. Trust your heart. If you need to let this friendship go, you will know. If so, just let it go. There is no need to make it a huge drama.

From what you say, you knew at the time the reason he broke up with you was because of the rape, regardless of what was said or what you have told yourself.

I have been raped twice so I understand that part.
posted by Altomentis at 2:09 PM on July 22, 2016

« Older There is a young male feral cat stuck on the...   |   I was poached internally - how to mitigate the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.