Written By Johan Hanson.
So I have this friend. No really. I know that’s how people like to start stories when they’re actually trying to dance around the fact that they’re talking about themselves, but really I have this friend and her relationship worries me a bit.
When I first met her boyfriend he seemed pretty nice. A bit reserved, but courteous to me. As he was a bit quiet, he didn’t really talk to me a ton, but I just chalked this up to him being a bit awkward and nervous. My friend had been dating her boyfriend for about a year before I met her, and they live a few states apart, so we knew each other for a good year before I met her boyfriend, who she always speaks lovingly about.
I didn’t put much stock into our first encounter, but then I spoke with some mutual friends who knew the boyfriend a bit more than me, and that’s when red flags started popping up. Tidbits my friend had mentioned about her boyfriend that I easily overlooked now started to be a bit concerning, but to some degree I didn’t feel like I had the right to judge this relationship that she was in before I even met her.
All of a sudden I started analyzing our conversations about him. My friend’s throwaway comment about how her boyfriend liked her to dress a certain way, when put into this new perspective, no longer seemed to be “Oh you look beautiful in that” but instead more “I know this isn’t your preferred style of dress, but I think you should wear what I want you to, not what you want to.”
The comments I originally thought made her boyfriend sound like a big worrier now in retrospect seemed super possessive. Not “you may want to cut back on your liquor” and more like “I’ve told you before, if you go against my wishes and engage in this behavior then I’m breaking up with you. I don’t want to have this conversation again.”
I think the biggest red flag came when he started banning her from hanging out with friends he didn’t approve of. This is when I started understanding just how abusive her relationship was. I’m kind of embarrassed that it took me as long as it did, but when a person doesn’t have visible bruises and clear trauma then this type of abuse can be hard to notice. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself when I’m not kicking myself for trying to support her relationship because she’s my friend and a lot of her other family and friends disapprove of her boyfriend. And now I know why. Instead of being supportive I was just enabling this abusive relationship.
After speaking with mutual friends about her situation and realizing the laundry lists of possessive, controlling, and just plain creepy behavior, I decided that I needed to at least try to bring up the topic, but I knew it had to be delicate so that I didn’t appear controlling and because I didn’t want to alienate her. I didn’t want to tell her how to live her life, but I did hope maybe by casually talking with her I could get her to see the abusive situation on her own.
I finally got up the nerve to talk with her when I realized that her health seemed to be deteriorating. She distanced herself from us (at her boyfriend’s request I assume), started drinking a lot more, and was quickly losing weight.
Unfortunately, as I had feared, our conversation didn’t go that well. She somehow twisted all of their issues to make it seem like it was her fault and not his. I don’t hold this against her at all because I know that is often a symptom of abuse. She said relationships are about making your partner happy, but I can’t yet get her to see how that should be a two way street.
Instead, it seems to have done major damage to our friendship. This is all guess work, but given what I know about them and their relationship, I’m pretty sure she told him about our conversation and he either directly told her she shouldn’t hang out with me or somehow twisted my concerns to make me in the wrong.
As a result, I’ve felt a weird mix of emotions that range from being hurt, offended, worried, apathetic. But overall it’s mainly concern for her well-being. I know she’s going through shit, so I’m definitely not mad, but I just find myself hoping that she’ll realize how abusive her relationship is before she wastes too many more years on this asshole, and I hope she knows that when she does figure it out, I’ll still be here and happy to be friends again.