Content note: discussion of abusive relationships
What do you do with a friend who’s dealing with abuse? In my case, my loving and wonderful friends all tell me, “You have to walk away,” “He’s an asshole,” “You’re not doing anything wrong until you ignore what he’s doing to you,” etc.
In other words, they all want me to do what *they* think is right. They all – out of nothing but love – are trying to guilt me into leaving. Telling me I’m stupid for staying. Basically perpetuating the same emotionally abusive actions they want me to get away from in him.
To be fair, I don’t have to worry about the threat of violence from any of them. I don’t have to be scared that the next thing I say will set off a screaming and insult barrage of how I deserve it and how I’m evil and how he hopes I’ll die. I don’t have to shrink, hoping he won’t carry out his threat to shove me and my already sprained ankle off my bike.
Writing these words, I begin to understand where they’re coming from. I haven’t wanted, still don’t want, to see it, accept it, believe this is reality and I have to walk away. I want another answer, one where the man I love who also adds so much positivity to my life can remain in my life. But typing those words it becomes more black and white, and I can start to see what they’ve known all along.
But I wish – I wish there was a kinder way to show me. So I write this to ask you to show that kindness when you encounter a friend floundering in this same situation. To be supportive and show him or her the love they need and provide them a safer outlet than the abuser, instead of more guilt and insults, no matter how well intentioned.
I love my friends and I know they mean well – but they don’t understand what this is like. They don’t understand how lost I am. They don’t understand how he’s in my head, how I’m entrapped by his version of events, how he tells me I’m evil and how I fucked up and how I feel guilty that I must have done something wrong, otherwise why is he so angry at me? Nobody’s perfect, right, everybody fucks up, I must’ve contributed to the fight somehow, everything was so perfect until I said that thing….
But it wasn’t. And the best thing my friends can do is not tell me how I’m fucking up by staying, not lecture me over how I need to go to the police to protect the next girl, not beat me down *more* – but encourage me to leave, stress how important it is – but also that they understand how hard it is. That this is not my fault and staying still doesn’t make it my fault. Please be kind to that girl or boy when you find him/her in your life. That kindness is probably the one thing that will allow them to find strength again – and with that, the ability to actually walk away.
Help her recognize that this IS abuse – Signs of an abusive relationship:
Love her like the author of this letter – be there no matter what:
Some ways to help: