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Friend back with abusive ex


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What do you say to a friend who just told you they've been quarantining with their abusive ex? Truthfully, I'm done - but I feel selfish for saying that. We're in the same group of a circle of friends, so it's not like I won't talk to her again. She wants me to keep this between us - like last year when I gave her a safe space to open up during their inevitable on and off again - but I don't think I can do that again. I was the furthest removed from their first break up which ended because of a physical altercation which is how we confirmed it was abusive. Our other 2 friends helped her move out, gave her a place to stay while she got back on her feet. No doubt that's why she didn't want them to know and felt more comfortable opening up to me.

 

Last summer was the last time she mentioned her ex so I assumed they had been done. I suspected something was going on when last month she announced on our group thread that she moved into a new place without many details. A weird thing to keep secret from friends. She confirmed this a few days ago in a text saying she knew it was crazy but it's been going very well and thought I had "a right to know".

 

I've talked to the domestic violence hotlines before who all say that it takes on average 7 times for someone to leave their abuser for good (*if* they leave). She's on round 3 or 4. Of course it's going to blow up again, and I don't want her to feel isolated when it does. But honestly I feel used at this point. I'm there for her to listen when things go bad and I listen offering concern but not judgement (I know you can't say anything that'll "convince" them). Then she goes off the radar when she gets back together with the ex (typical abusive fashion - there's a lot of isolation when they're together). Repeat the cycle.

 

This time is way worse than last year because she signed a new lease with them. She always said she wouldn't do that unless she saw "an honest change" in her partner. She held that door open but luckily she'd hold off long enough for things blow up before any move happened. Since this person is a restaurant server, I'm sure they're out of work due to the shut down which is likely jump started her "savior complex" she has with them. Drastic times, drastic measures.

 

It's going to be harder for her to leave now that they're in a lease... and quarantined... and with her partner out of work (guilt complex). And I feel guilty because the fact that she's in a more complicated situation is precisely the reason why I don't want anything to do with it. I'm worried if I tell her "Honestly I have concerns but you know what's best for you" is too passive aggressive. Honestly what I really want is to be able to open up to another friend in our friend circle about it - someone who knows them and the situation. How do I do this without sounding like a "tattle-tale" and without risking breaking her trust (which I know can increase the risk of isolation)? It's just too much of a burden to keep it all in again. But if I tell someone else am I just putting a burden on them?

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You did the right thing. You were getting way too invested and burned out. You are not a social worker, therapist, abuse counselor, etc. Just pull way back from all this.

Truthfully, I'm done - but I feel selfish for saying that.

 

I've talked to the domestic violence hotlines before who all say that it takes on average 7 times for someone to leave their abuser for good

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I'm there for her to listen when things go bad and I listen offering concern but not judgement

 

I'd stop doing that. It doesn't help her with the problem, it embeds her in it.

 

You see the cycle where you act as a pressure valve for her to vent her complaints, then she feels better, you feels worse, and nothing changes. So quit your role in that. Say, "I adore you, and we can discuss anything in the world--except for abuser-guy. If you ever need my help to move out or a ride to a legal or health appointment, I'm there. Beyond that, I won't discuss this situation. And no, will NOT keep any secrets. If you don't want anyone else to know something, don't tell it to me--I won't accept responsibility for things that others can find out. I'm not going to repeat our conversation today, but it stops here."

 

Done. You can be kind whenever your paths cross, and you can step up to help if she asks you for help, but beyond that, stop playing social worker and then you won't be used as one.

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"Honestly I have concerns but you know what's best for you" - not passive aggressive at all. This is in fact the correct approach. Turning the mirror on her, so to speak, and pointing out that she is freely making the choices that she does.

 

You, as a friend, also need to accept the truth of that statement. Yes, she is doing what works for her. It might seem crazy, self destructive, etc, but....it works for her. If it ever stops working for her for real, she'll start making different choices.

 

Meanwhile, do not be her shoulder to cry on and vent to about her abusive relationship. Do not let her play victim to you because she is not. In fact, any time she starts with that, you very calmly put it back on her, "I'm sorry I guess you are doing what works for you."....because she is doing exactly that and change topics to pretty much anything else. Refuse to discuss her drama politely but firmly every single time. Simply leave it at "if she ever decides to leave him, you'll help her." and that's that.

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I'm worried if I tell her "Honestly I have concerns but you know what's best for you" is too passive aggressive. Honestly what I really want is to be able to open up to another friend in our friend circle about it - someone who knows them and the situation. How do I do this without sounding like a "tattle-tale" and without risking breaking her trust (which I know can increase the risk of isolation)? It's just too much of a burden to keep it all in again. But if I tell someone else am I just putting a burden on them?

 

I think the best thing for both of you is for you to remain non-judgmental and aloof with regard to the whole thing.

 

Judging the situation is causing you anxiety, and causing you to ruminate.

 

I think it's fine for you to tell your friend that you have concerns.

 

Notifying your other friends about the situation is probably ok, too.

 

But leave it at that and be done.

 

If your friend asks you for help, provide help. Be available.

 

Don't nurse your anxiety. It's not going to change anything or make anything better.

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Thanks everyone for the advice and support. I guess I was mainly struggling with how to reply to her in a way that didn't shoo her away but also firmly maintained my own boundaries, and these replies were very helpful in that.

 

I think I'm going to text something along the lines of "I have concerns given the history but you know what's best for you and I understand your decision. If things happen and you need help, let me know." (although I'm thinking of leaving out that last "if things happen" sentence).

 

If you ever need my help to move out or a ride to a legal or health appointment, I'm there. Beyond that, I won't discuss this situation.

 

I'm definitely going to use some variation of this is she starts venting when things start going downhill. Although I doubt I'll hear much from her while they're back together (again, the classic isolation tactics she gets manipulated into). I get the psychology of it, but I also can't put myself through that doormat situation again.

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Simply say "hope things work out" change the subject then pull way back from all of this and her.

I guess I was mainly struggling with how to reply to her in a way that didn't shoo her away but also firmly maintained my own boundaries
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For now it would be wise to step back for your own mental care. To get recharged emotionally. You can tell her that you still care about her, but you need some space....then just give her the number for an abuse hotline if you already haven't. Tell her she can talk to someone there if she needs to. Doing so at least dumps some of the burden off of you. They say you should never tell an abused person what to do...for that takes away their power/control over themselves. To empower them is to let them make their own decisions. So when she is ready to leave, that will be her decision to contact you ask for help.

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At work we call it "leading with a positive".

 

"I love you and I want you to be happy. But to be honest I can't pretend to support your decision to get back into this relationship. I think it would be best if we don't discuss your relationship or anything that happens between you and him (them?). If you want to talk about anything else I'd love to hear from you."

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They say you should never tell an abused person what to do...for that takes away their power/control over themselves. To empower them is to let them make their own decisions.

 

That's really interesting and it makes sense to me. They don't need to be controlled by someone else (even if the intention is completely benevolent), they need to be able to take control.

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To empower them is to let them make their own decisions. So when she is ready to leave, that will be her decision to contact you ask for help.

 

Most definitely. That's one thing I've learned after having another friend gone through the same thing a long time ago... that you have to say things in the context that they're in charge of their decisions. Phrase things in a way so that they're reminded they still have agency.

 

At work we call it "leading with a positive"

 

I feel good. I sent my text and took the "leading with a positive" advice in the wording. Kept it short and sweet. "Have concerns as a friend...want you to be happy...understand your decision...let me know if you need help." Something like that. It's a huge relief to just send that out and let it be that. I definitely feel more empowered this time around to maintain my own boundaries. If she needs help actually leaving the person (safety planning, moving, etc), I'll help (but not on my own). Beyond that, I'm just going to do me.

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Most definitely. That's one thing I've learned after having another friend gone through the same thing a long time ago... that you have to say things in the context that they're in charge of their decisions. Phrase things in a way so that they're reminded they still have agency.

 

 

 

I feel good. I sent my text and took the "leading with a positive" advice in the wording. Kept it short and sweet. "Have concerns as a friend...want you to be happy...understand your decision...let me know if you need help." Something like that. It's a huge relief to just send that out and let it be that. I definitely feel more empowered this time around to maintain my own boundaries. If she needs help actually leaving the person (safety planning, moving, etc), I'll help (but not on my own). Beyond that, I'm just going to do me.

 

Yay good post^^^

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