Friends & Their Relationships

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Friend in abusive marriage stopped talking to me

March 2008

My best friend of almost 40 years has not spoken to me for almost 1 1/2 years. Her husband was being abusive. I made the mistake of saying something, because my friend asked me about her situation. Long story short is that I mentioned I thought some behavior was abusive. her husband is controlling and has an anger management problem.

Anyway, I am heartbroken. I have very few family members so this is a huge loss for me. My best friend and I were 4 when we first met and got along fine until the abusive situation with her husband got out of control. I've called, sent cards, apologized, but no calls or emails are returned. I hate the silent treatment. I've been a very good friend over the years and do not deserve this silent treatment.

I think her husband wants his wife to be cut off from the rest of the world. I was the last of her friends from before the marriage she was talking to. I blew it my mentioning I saw some red flags of abuse. Any advice on getting my friend to talk to me again is welcomed! Anon

Oh, I really do feel for you. I lost my best friend exactly the same way. We had been friends since the 7th grade until she got involved with an abuser. He hit her twice, complete with bruising and police reports. I begged her to get out, worried that the next call would be her next of kin saying it was too late. She stopped returning my calls. I emailed, sent messages through mutual friends, etc. She even ended the relationship on her own a year later. Never a word.

That was 9 years ago. I'm sorry I don't have a happy ending for you. I'm still confused and it still stings to talk about. I learned, however, that you've gotta let go at some point. Grieve the relationship, wish her well, and move on. This takes a long time to achieve and is easier said than done. I also have very few friends and it was a palpable loss. I hope your story ends better, but my advice is this: forgive yourself, forgive her, and let go. Holding on and waiting for an answer that may never come is too emotionally exhausting for anyone. The good news is you will make new friends, good friends even. Tincture of time. Good luck. jen

Ugh. I am so sorry. I had a very similar thing happen and it was (and still is) awful and heartbreaking. It was probably the most heartbreaking thing that has ever happened to me. About 8 years ago my best friend from age 5 (I am 37) cut me off completely after something much less serious than what you describe (I hooked up with her cousin). She stopped talking to me completely, told me not to contact her, made up stories about me stalking her (I only found this part out recently)... just totally nutso stuff. I cried for years about it and still am sad.

We had a few email back and forths over the past few years and what I realized was how different we were. Looking back, I am not that surprised she cut me off as I had seen her do it to others. I had been a wonderful, wonderful friend to her and never did anything to deserve it, but her own issues won over our friendship.

It is so hard and so heartbreaking and it is a lot like a death. It is a total betrayal and there is no way to make it better but with time.

It sounds like you did the exact right thing that a good friend would do... talk to her about something so upsetting as abuse. As with my friend, you can't fix your friend's flawed perspective or screwed up way of getting through the day. You can only accept that you can't change her and move on.

So, so sorry about your pain. Jenny

An abuser has more power over a woman with no friends. He may have threatened her, so that she no longer feels safe staying in touch with you. She probably needs a friend now more than ever, but you can't force her to talk to you. If you have any way to collect evidence of his abuse, that would probably be very helpful in the long run. anon
Sorry to hear your best friend stopped talking to you because you cared. This is a major loss for you. You did everything right. You did what a best friend of 40 years would do which was to look out for her. You've tried everything to get her to respond and she won't so there's nothing more you can do. It's sad that she let you down and pushed you out of her life. It wasn't right. But you have to get beyond this and move forward with your own life. Anon
Hi, The purpose of abuse is to make the recipient feel as wrong and bad as the one dishing it out. That is what your friend's husband may be doing to her if your observations were accurate - they seem to be. And that is what your friend is doing to you. The silent treatment is aggressive. You say she asked for your opinion. The only thing you could have done differently is lied, and you no doubt told her the truth because you cared about her. Apparently losing her last and best friend did not constitute ''bottom'' to her. She is an integral part of an entrenched, unhealthy system. This is sad and hard for you, but it had nothing to do with you. I don't think there's anything more you can do. Take it as evidence of how destructive that kind of dynamic is. In a way, she put you the position she is in in her marriage and it seems just as pointless and damaging for you to try to bend over backwards to keep the connection you used to have. I'm sorry you have to feel the loss. She may come back one day, and in any case it will dull in time. I was in an abusive marriage once, and in another incident I had a friend who totally cut me off, going on six years now. Good luck. Anon
Abusive spouses always isolate their victims to maintain control. You did not blow it by pointing out the abuse. While you don't deserve the silent treatment, it possible that your friend didn't receive any of the cards or phone messages. You can assume that all her mail, phone conversations and messages, and email are being monitored at all times. If she did receive your overtures, it's probable that the abuse escalated so that your friend was too afraid to contact you, or knowing that if she did, she would suffer more.

Pointing out abuse can increase fear in the victim, especially if she is still in the denial phase. Victims of domestic violence become traumatized to the point of incapacitating fear. They literally become petrified.

I would suggest that you try to keep in contact with your friend. Try to meet her alone. Speak about you love for her, not your hurt feelings. Let her know that she is not alone, that you want to help her in any way that she feels OK with. Keep it slow. If you come on too strong she will bolt in fear. been in your shoes

In my opinion, you were right to raise your concerns to your friend, especially if she asked you.

But now, it is her decision whether or not to reply to your communications to her. Respect her, even if you feel hurt and scared. It is up to you and, I believe okay, to send a nonjudgemental note now and then, but it is not your right to get a reply or have an active friendship. She is an adult. She can decide, even if you disagree with her decision. Respect your former freind. Mourne the friendship and move on. She'll know where to find you if and when she is ready. Anon

Keep trying. Be open. It's really the only thing you can do. Eventually you'll have to decide if it's worth it or whether you're ready to move on. Good friends are hard to find (but not impossible). Good luck
Give up. It has been a year and a half. You have done your best. She is not responding. It is only going to continue to hurt you if you persist. Pete
I see how heart-broken you must be. My take on it is this: you called her on behavior that she cannot or will not yet see (the abuse by her husband.) If she reconnects with you, she risks seeing the truth. I would write her a letter saying something like this: ''I know I hurt your feelings when I told you I thought you husband was abusive. Please know that if/ when you need me, I will be here for you.'' I would send the letter and not contact her again. You cannot help someone who does not want to see the truth. Get out and about and you will meet other women who can become your friends.... anon
Do you have a mutual friend who could ask her in confidence why she doesn't want you in her life anymore? Maybe she just didn't like you telling her what she should do about her husband. Or, maybe there's a reason other than what you said about her husband. She might talk to you if there's an urgent reason, for example, if you need her help finding classmates for an upcoming class reunion. Just don't mention her husband! Otherwise, all you can do is just send her a Holiday card every year so that she knows you're still thinking of her. Ex-friend of Bush supporters

Should I tell friend about her husband's affair?

Sept 2007

I have learned that a dear friend's husband is having an affair with a woman in another city. This is not hearsay but fact-- not the stuff of rumors. My friend, meanwhile, is oblivious. He gets away with this because he travels all the time. They have their share of issues but stay together for the kids. I think I would want to be told but I know people often say ''don't tell''. I feel uncomfortable knowing so feel painted into a corner either way. Anyone ever told a friend? Interested to know if you would do it again or not. If she would just pull his cell phone records it would be clear as day but I fear that she is not even suspicious and the travelling man will continue to play his games. -Ms. Reveal or Conceal

It seems to me it depends on your relationship with your friend. If it is a relationship with a close friend that is intimate, in which you share details about your spouses, etc, then I don't see how you can not tell. Otherwise you are being insincere every time you talk with her (and when she finds out, because she ultimately will, then you betrayed her trust by not saying anything and perpetuating the betrayal). If it is an acquaintance/friend whom you are not especially intimate with, then I would not be the one to break this intimate news. I might, though, talk with someone who is closest to her about how best to let her know. Sounds like many people know what her husband is doing, so its not a matter of ''if'' she finds out, but rather ''when'' and ''how'' she finds out. It would be great if the information could come to her in the most compassionate and supportive way possible. Hate to be in your shoes
I would say that it is better to remain silent. It is true that your friend might be very hurt if she were to find out and then realize that you knew all along. It might break your friendship. At the same time, you don't want to be the one standing in the middle of your friend's marriage crisis. Speaking from experience, I would add that your friend might not be oblivious. She may simply prefer to appear oblivious to her friends, in which case you would hurt her by exposing something that she wants to keep quiet. Because people in unhappy relationships sometimes end up blaming outsiders for their unhappiness, she could even question your motives for being honest with her. On the whole, the best thing would be to stand by her if and when she asks for your help. unfaithful once
Yeah, that's a dilemma alright. I'm really not sure what I'd do in your shoes. Your friend might blame the messenger in one way or another, but then again you must feel kinda strange with her knowing something so intimate. But how did you find out, and are your sure your friend's husband is having an affair? How do you know about hi phone bill? If you do say something and you're wrong, you'll probably lose the friend. How well do you know your friend's husband? Do you think it would help to talk to him directly and tell him that you know? Good luck with this. You're in a difficult place. hmmmmmm
ABSOLUTELY NOT! It is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! The person who she should hear it from is her husband. What would you accomplish by telling her? And do you know for certain that she really doesn't know about it? I mean, if they're staying together for the sake of the kids, then maybe they already have an ''arrangement'' that your friend just hasn't cared to tell you about, and so she is actually choosing to be oblivious. If not, all this would do is make her and likely the kids, unhappy. Who does that serve? Regardless, it's not your place to meddle. Leave it be. Minding My Own Business
Perhaps the solution to your dilema would be to tell the husband that you know, and wait to see his reaction. I would imagine that he does not think that anyone knows, but if he realizes that at least one other person knows, then it will only be a matter of time until others, his wife???, find out as well. The issue of infidelity is a very powerful one in relationships, and depending on the couple they may or may not be able to survive the issue. If you tell your friend, although you are doing so to help her it will , or could, cause her tremendous pain. Hopefully telling the husband will make him choose, and perhaps decide to save his marriage, or decide to at least be honest and to disolve their partnership. Good luck you are in a difficult position. Been there
I was in a similar place not so long ago. It was so hard to try to figure out what to do. In the end, I couldn't be myself around my friend because I felt so guilty concealing this secret from her. I felt like I was an accomplice for allowing his affair to continue without consequence. I knew that learning this would hurt her, but if I were in her position, I'd like to know. Not so long before I learned about her, I was on the other side; my partner cheated on me. I found out on my own, but I immediately felt angry with the people I had considered friends that knew and never even told me. I've tried to forgive them since, and it's still a continuing process.

I also remember thinking that if she allowed her pain to break our friendship, then that would be up to her. Regardless, your friend will also have to deal with the pain and heartache. Concealing information can get so complicated for everyone involved and she cannot begin to heal until she realizes what is going on. He is deceiving her and you cannot allow him and his mistakes to come between your friendship. If you do decide to tell her, make sure to reassure her that you are there for her. She is going to need all the love and support.

If you don't tell her, know that the truth will eventually come out about him and also about you and thus, her pain is unavoidable. -No Regrets

I think you should tell her. I am sure a lot of people will say you shouldn't as it's none of your business but actually it is. If i had a friend and she did not tell me, our friendship would be over when i find out. Think of it this way, eveyr time you see her, you will be basically lying to her by not sharing the info. Do it in a way that makes it possible for them to work it out, because obviously if they stay together and you said very judgmental things, it will be over. What would you do if she knew your husband wa shaving an affair and did not tell you? good luck
If it was me, I would call him (at work), tell him I know, and tell him he has to tell his wife. The fact that you know may mean he wants someone to find out, and get him out of telling his wife. He needs to tell her and seek some couples counseling for the two of them - assuming he wants to stay married. good luck
Please tell her. I am the very unfortunate victim of my husband's out-of-town-while-travelling affair that I discovered by accident, and now we are on our way to divorce. The whole thing has been absolutely devastating for me and my 2 young children. I wish that someone had known and could have told me, so that I could have at least taken some steps to protect myself. As women, as friends, we need to protect and support each other. Onward and upward
I would want to know, wouldn't you? I would approach her saying something like this ''I have some information that could be very upsetting to you. Do you want to hear it?'' there is a chance she DOES know and chooses to look the other way. You also have to be aware her response could be rage, disbelief, anger, etc and that your friendship could end because of this. The other part is that it may get ''out'' that you are the one who told and some people might treat you differently due to this. There are risks involved but I believe making the good moral decision is always worth the consequences. let us know what you decide and how it works out. albany mom
Oh dude. That is such a tough situation. From my experience, it seems like the wife always knows, but either goes into denial or just lives with it because of her own issues. (Then again, this is the Bay area -- it might be that they have an open marriage? I dunno, I keep meeting surprising numbers of people who do!)

The popular advice on this -- I mean in magazine articles and such, which I've written scads of -- is to tell the HUSBAND that you know what he's up to and that you're going to tell his wife by a particular date, or you'll tell her yourself. That's supposed to -- I don't know what it's frickin supposed to do, and I can't imagine having such a conversation. But that's what the experts seem to advise.

Either way, you're going to lose her as a friend, most likely. I mean, whether she knows or doesn't know, she's going to feel humiliated that YOU knew.

Oh jeez. I don't know. I would want to be told, I think! I mean, if he's away all the time, and he'll have to pay child support anyway, why stay with him? Ugh. Lifetime Television for Women

Stay out of it and forget you know. It's none of your business. -anon
There is a good chance she knows. Your friendship will be over if you tell her - if anything she needs a friend now. I wouldn't say anything. anon
How about confronting the husband and telling him that he has to come clean? Keeping a secret like this might destroy your friendship, as she is bound to find out sooner or later. If it were me, I would certainly want to know.. good luck anon
If she's a good friend, I think you've got to tell her. Otherwise you're hiding it from her and colluding with him. It's a sucky position to be in. Another alternative, if you have a relationship with the husband, is to say to him, ''I know about your affair, and you have to tell her about it, or else I will.'' Oy vey. Good luck.
There is no right or wrong answer. If your friend is not suspecting, you telling her won't help do anything except make her mad at you and then him. You can hint like, ''I just heard about a woman who found out her husband was cheating after checking his cell phone, credit card reciepts or calling him when he was away so much on business.'' I suggest just planting the seed and let her water it. Given today's issues with STD's though, if you think your friend's health is in danger, hint more strongly but don't tell her you have direct knowledge since you don't know how she'll take that and it may destroy your friendship. anon
Yes, if she is your friend, and you know, she needs to know, or your friendship will also fail. If you know her husband well enough, you can say that you are going to tell her tonight if he doesn't do it himself. -a victim of cheating whose ''friend'' knew, but didn't tell me.
Yes- you must must must Yes. I don't who these people are that are saying to just let it go. This is something that is happening that is wrong and you know about it and you can do something. You might try telling the man first that he needs to tell the woman, but if he doesn't you must. I was brought up in a family where my father had many affairs that everyone knew about except my mother and it was horrible. You must tell. YES you must.

How to help friend leave terrible relationship?

Feb 2006

I have a dear friend who really needs to get out of her terrible, destructive, and damaging relationship with the father of their children.

The thing is, she\x92s trapped in the pain and pessimistic outlook - her fears of the unknown, fear of poverty, turmoil, disruption, being alone, embarrassment, shame, things she should have done, could have done, etc, etc.

She needs to talk to someone who has REALLY been through it, someone who has left an emotionally abusive relationship with a jerk, took her children and survived and THRIVED. Someone who can listen and then tell her what to do.

I try all I can to offer support, to tell her how it\x92s going to be, but we both know deep down inside that I\x92m unlikely to ever really be in her shoes and I really don\x92t know what the hell I\x92m talking about sometimes. She does subscribe to this bulletin board, so I hope she reads the responses.

What IS the first step in leaving? The second? And the 100th??? What are some phone numbers, agencies, sources she can turn to? Thank you all very much. Want to Help SO Much I am one of the women who is in the slow process of learning how to support herself after years of being a stay at home mom, emotionally detatching from her terminally promiscuous husband, and planning a life without him to push me around. Could your friend please email me ? I have problems that I cannot discuss with anyone I know socially, I cant go to divorce support groups, and I can't initiate divorce for at least the next year. She should not simply up and leave him. Please pass along my email and I would love to make friends w her for a two person support group.

I once read something that made sense to me: you'll stay in a bad relationship until it's worse to stay than it is to leave. I was in an abusive relationship and it took outside intervention to get me out, because one of the things that happens to you in a situation like that is that you believe you can't do anything. You lose faith in others and yourself. You don't know what you're missing, you've forgotten what normal was, if you ever had it.

All your friend needs is the number for Cry Help or any domestic violence hotline. You can give her more info as far as resources, but in my experience, she has to be ready and it doesn't sound like she is. I think all you can do is reassure her that you will be there for her. And be patient, even ''bad'' habits are hard to break. anon

I would recommend her to a therapist who specializes in abuse and abuse patterns, and relationships. One I know of is Kathryn Hirt who has offices in SF and Oakland, and is a great therapist who I'd highly recommend. She helped me a lot and is very real, and down to earth, and warm/ compassionate without being syrup-y or saccharine. Her contact # is 510-220-3558. And her fees are reasonable. The thing about trying to convince her to do something as a friend is that she knows your view and a therapist can help her to see her own sense of power and arrive to probably the same conclusion as what you'd want for her, but from her own sense of center and wisdom. Good luck to you and her both!
Hi, I am responding to your friend. I was in a relationship, which wasn't overtly abusive, but felt I was living in a black hole with this very depressed man. We were in counseling together, and I was also going alone (I continued this after we stopped going to marriage counseling). One day it dawned on me that that we would ALL be happier apart. I thought of my little daughter and how she needed to see a happy mommy, and how much I wanted to be happy. I started by picturing how things could be and believed that it would be alright one day. That was what really triggered the first step in leaving. Our break up wasn't that hard at first because we both agreed that it would be for the best. There were some rocky times and I was plunged into poverty for a while. I got some help from my parents, got a shitty job to get something coming in. I was never sleeping in my car or eating cat food. I was in what I call survival mode for a few years, and had to really make a conscious eff! ort to get out of it after things category and she will need you lots. It's good you are there for her. happily divorced

Helping a friend in a bad relationship

June 2004

I need to know how to help my co-worker. She is in a very bad relationship (he is verbally abusive). She isn't married to this man, but he is the father of their 6 year old child. The relationship apparently was good and ''healthy'' for many years, but since the birth of their (unplanned) child, it's been rotting slowly but steadily. She is miserable, has gained a dangerous amount of weight, has zero self-esteem, and can't see the forest for the trees. I also suspect there is a money issue (as in not enough to make moving out easier). Since we have a good co-worker relationship, I have suspected there to be a problem for awhile, but only recently did she let some key details out, and then was very embarrassed and apologetic. I can't sit by and pretend she's not in pain, but I don't want her to shut me out if I insist she does something. How can I help and what should she do first? Thanks. Very Concerned Friend

Everyone has their own feelings about giving and receiving advice. Some people are very private. However, I've always felt great benefits from sharing life experiences, learning from other people's mistakes, and getting someone else's perspective. After leaving a long, dissatisfying, emotionally abusive relationship, I have to admit that I felt hurt that my best friend for all those years, who was pretty familiar with the situation, hadn't helped me to see that I was worthy of a better relationship (or at least that I would be better off single), or encouraged me to look at my options and help me figure out the road blocks that had me feeling trapped. When I finally decided to leave the relationship I asked for and received her help figuring out IN DETAIL how to pull it off. So, I encourage you to let your friend know that you see her suffering and that you are there to help her figure out how to make a major life transition. Let's remember to hold each others' hands through life. So Much Happier Now!
Don't insist on anything. That will just lose your friendship- obviously your friend chooses at some level (unconcious, unhealthy) to stay in this bad situation. Often women who stay in those situations feel that they don't deserve something better and have difficulty admitting that things could be better. I'd suggest you'd be honest but supportive, direct but not attacking or insisting. And acknowledge that she probably has some legitimate draw to the relationship, that she'll lose when it ends. Something more like, ''I'm really worried about you. You deserve so much better, and you just seem so unhappy lately. I would be too in that situation. It must be disappointing to realize you can't get what you need from this relationship, even though you've tried so hard. I don't want you to lose yourself, because you're so precious to me, and your son/daughter is so precious to me too, I don't want to see him/her hurt the way you've been hurt. I want you to have something better, and I really think this isn't working for you. I realize it must be scary financially / emotionally, but I'm sure I can help you (or help you find some help). It will likely be very difficult for a while, but I want you to know I'm there for you, and will be there to help you through it (if you can). And I promise you, there's light at the end of the tunnel.'' Even better if you can offer personal examples of those difficult times/ choices. But do not insist, and don't get yourself trapped into thinking that you can fix the relationship or fix her. You may have a friend who will break your heart by not being able to take care of herself adequately, but you can't do it for her. She has to do it herself... with support. It's really tough. I've lost really good but unhealthy friends who flat-out refused to admit that anything was wrong. anon