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Friendship with married woman

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I have been feeling guilty about a situation and I don’t know if I am in the wrong. I(28M) work with a woman(23F) and we have gotten closer recently. I also want to note that I was not attracted to her when we first met. I am happily single, and she has been in a marriage since I met her about a year ago. Her husband is abusive, and she doesn’t have many friends. She has told me that I’m the only person she feels like she can trust, and as someone who has been in a similar situation, I wanted to support her and let her confide in me. She started to share information about her marriage with me a while ago, and all of our coworkers know how horrible the situation is(she comes in with bruises), but I am the only one she will discuss details with. Since she trusts me, I always keep what she says a secret so that I don’t break that trust.

She is trying to get a divorce but is scared, and I’ve been trying to help her by just being someone she can rant  to. But recently I’ve started feeling like she may have romantic feelings towards me, and I fear I might feel the same, though I never express it and refuse to get involved with her like that. But since she calls me pretty often to cry about her husband, he is starting to get suspicious that she is cheating with me, and a couple weeks ago, he hit her again, she decided to tell him she wants a divorce. I have been scared that I may have influenced this decision, although ut was going to happen eventually. I don’t know if she is doing this in hopes that we will get together, or if her husband is going to hurt her because of me, and I carry a lot of guilt about the whole situation, even though we haven’t ever even discussed or hinted at any romantic feelings for each other, but I feel this way because of all the secret phone calls, and the seriousness of the situation, and my potential feelings for her.

I think I may be overthinking it all, and I do know that I went into this with the best intent to help out a friend, but I fear that I may have taken it too far or gotten myself involved in a situation I don’t want to be in the middle of. I don’t know how I should feel about all this, or if I should stop letting her talk to me about it, or if I’m doing a good thing or not. I know she is getting out of a bad situation but I still feel guilty about feelings for someone in a relationship and the whole thing and don’t have anyone I can share this with without judgement, so I need thoughts and advice.

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18 minutes ago, basketball74 said:

all of our coworkers know how horrible the situation is(she comes in with bruises), but I am the only one she will discuss details with , he is starting to get suspicious that she is cheating with me, and a couple weeks ago, he hit her again, 

Why is everyone just sitting around with their thumbs up their butts and refusing to help her?

Trying to have an emotional affair is predatory, not helpful. If anything he may beat her up even more because of your "secret phone calls".

Give her the information for appropriate domestic violence resources.

Stop preying on a vulnerable woman in a dangerous situation.

Leave her alone and stop the secret communication. Help her extricate herself. 

It's unbelievable that you know he beats her up yet you persist in putting her in danger.

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Wiseman2 thank you for your response. I want to say that I am not trying to get with her or prey on her. I do have feelings but do not want to act on them because I know it would be wrong and also do not want to be in a relationship with a divorced woman so soon after divorce. I will give her some resources for domestic violence, although I’ve done that in the past and she doesn’t want to get him “in trouble”. I will stop the secret phone calls, but I do fear that her no longer having someone to talk to or support her can also lead to her staying in the marriage and getting hurt more since she says I’m the only one she trusts enough with that, so I’m not sure how I can make her feel not alone or if I should try and get her to talk to someone else about it or how to deal with that. I am not trying to fight you, just looking for advice. 

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16 minutes ago, basketball74 said:

 I am not trying to get with her or prey on her.

But yes you are trying to get with her. You're pretending to be a domestic violence hotline, but you're not.

Why not explain that it's dangerous to carry on an emotional affair for your benefit at the expense of her being beaten up again?

Don't prey on women.

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Okay, I think you need to give her resources, but continue to be a good friend. If being a good friend is too much for you, tone it down. But at the same time, if she asked for divorce, then she will need your support more. It's a tricky situation.

Maybe limit talks and calls to be only at work? To limit risks. And continue to focus your perspective on being a good friend. You know she is not in the headspace to be with someone, and shouldn't do so. For now, she is stuck in an abusive cycle and is trauma bonded. You might want to share with her an article about that.

45 minutes ago, Wiseman2 said:

Why is everyone just sitting around with their thumbs up their butts and refusing to help her?

I think this is the saddest part. She clearly is emotionally and physically bruised, and no one seems to want to help. Where the hell is her manager??

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Ask her if she has friends or family she can move in with. Ask her if she needs to get an apartment. Offer to help her find a place and offer to get a truck and a few friends and move her out completely while he's at work.  Help her get a restraining order.

If she's not interested in any of this, then you need to stop talking to her. Do you really think this abuser won't find out about you? What if he puts her in the hospital or kills her because you want to chitchat?

If you are there to help, then actually try to help. If you're there to pretend to be a hero to get in her pants, you're doing more harm than good.

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The poor girl. Where are her parents? Any other relatives?

it’s easy to see why she would be leaning on you and even why she would be building an attachment to you …. but what you really want …. want anyone who cares about her should want … is to help her get out of this abusive marriage and to a safe place. Be a friend but, as DarkCh0c0 mentioned above, tone it down.  Put all romantic feelings aside. When she is able to leave this marriage, it will be friends she needs not another relationship. She will need therapy and time on her own to build up her emotional strength before heading into something else.

Have you discussed the options she has? She could be viewing you as her only means of escape. That could be dangerous because she is waiting for something that may not happen, we’ll shouldn’t happen …. yet she has other options. Discuss these with her. Let her know you’ll always be there as a friend.

As much as this girl wants to leave her husband, she will be afraid too. He would have made sure of that. She needs encouragement and help to make it on her own. If there is something real between you, that can happen further down the line. That isn’t the priority right now. Getting her out is. 

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well sometimes people also cook up stories about their state of marriage when in reality its just they are bored and want some fun to keep them entertained. You become a bait for them. Post all the fun activities they return back to their life and hunt again. You are the one who actually get hurt with the utter mess you get yourself involved with in the first place. You are not her saviour (read up on white knight syndrome)

Being a colleague,  keep things professional, help with details of domestic violence help line , tell her to speak with a lawyer for her options. Leave it at that and concentrate on work. You don't want her issues to take up your time in your work hours and after work too. 

Since you are single and you have time, enrol yourself in some good trainings or volunteer on some good cause, that would help enhance your prospects of personal growth and get more friends outside work.

Date singles, save on all the drama, costs, waste of personal time, health issues and super nonsense that comes as a added bonus when we get involved with people who are taken!




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Distance yourself and tell her that she needs to consult a lawyer privately and start getting her ducks in a row. Have the info needed for separation and divorce. Throwing around the word divorce is like throwing a toothpick at an elephant. It means nothing. She needs to get the legal advice and start getting emotional support from a domestic abuse support network in the community whether by phone call or in person. They may have a set of legal representatives willing to do pro bono work for individuals in desperate need.

You work together so remain professional. It’s not her company or organization’s business to help abused individuals leave abusive relationships. All of you including you may be giving out poor and inaccurate advice about how to dissolve the marriage or handle the situation. 

If she calls you expressing in detail her frustrations focus on the tangible: has she called the appropriate numbers? Does she have a lawyer? Be direct and tell her you can’t pick up every call and she needs to call the domestic abuse lines or seek support from the shelter to leave. 

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The problem with allowing an abused person to vent while they remain in the home is that you become a pressure valve that actually enables them to stay longer.

After a talk, she feels better, you feel worse, and nothing changes.

That's not 'helping,' it's embedding her in the situation.

I'd give her a list of local resources, such as a domestic violence hotline, legal aid, a women's shelter that can give her counseling and help her make a safe plan, a case worker from a local hospital--you get the idea.

Then I'd tell her that 'we' shouldn't have any more contact outside of work except for 3 instances:

1) she needs me to phone the police on the spot,

2) she needs me to come and pick her up. 

3) she's created a safe plan for leaving and tells me how I can help.

Make up a code to call police like, "Did you notice whether I left my umbrella at work?" or whatever, and another to pick her up.

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I have the same advice as Catfeeder. I helped a friend with her divorce where at the end there was I would say emotional abuse and a gambling addiction she uncovered (his) and infidelity (both sides ). Despite already being close to her I didn’t want to get too entangled especially since I didn’t want her husband getting mad at my family etc.  She appreciated all my help which was in the nature of what cat feeder suggests.
 And she also acted appropriately with me as far as boundaries- because even when a friend is in a crisis a true well meaning person and friend will not want to drag you into places you shouldn’t be dragged.  You can help her here while being mindful of boundaries. 

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Yes, you're in a full blown emotional affair, just as harmful as a physical affair--not that her marriage is worth salvaging. Even so, it doesn't mean that you should continue. She's still a married woman, so this bond you have with her is preventing you from opportunities to date single women. Because if I started dating a man and noticed how he kept getting calls from a damsel in distress, I'd be darting for the nearest exit. And you yourself have only a limited supply of time and energy to pour into someone, so if it's going to a dead end, that leaves you alone without a companion to enjoy all the niceties of life with.

She was in the wrong to make you her confidant, when there is chemistry between you two. Those are the co-workers, if one or both are taken, that you have to be very careful about keeping boundaries with--the very people you don't exchange numbers with, go to lunch with, and stop at each others desks for long chats.

Like others have said, and to add to that, you need to have one last heart-to-heart with her and give her those resources. Besides doing that, I'd tell her how you two being so involved with each other is negatively affecting you, and that you need to go back to being just co-workers for the good of both of you. I know it's embarrassing and hard, but necessary. 

Please be aware that I've heard of several criminal cases where the woman manipulates a love interest to kill a supposed abusive husband. This probably isn't the case, but one can't be too careful in these crazy times. And of course, her husband could come after you. She's a grown woman and if she has chosen not to confide in a gf or female relative instead of you, if she's chosen not to divorce, if she's chosen not to seek a woman's shelter, then that's her poor decisions and she will have to live with the consequences. When people start draining you emotionally, keeping you sucked inside their toxic swamp with them, it's time to leave for your own sanity. 

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A difficult situation really but you she needs to get a divorse asap or seek a woman’s shelter. You can’t save her from her husband. She wants to be saved at first and it’s up to her really. Ask her if she’s too scared to take actions but I don’t think so because it’s more risky for you and her now that she talks these stuff about you instead of seeking a real solution.

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