Friday, March 20, 2009

Out of my depth

The other night I was invited to head out with some people from the town I'm living in. The woman (whom I'll call Lisa), who invited me very kindly offered to come and pick me up so I could ride to another nearby down where she, her boyfriend and some other locals were going for dinner and drinks.

While I'm always hesitant to turn down any offer that might result in some kind of actual social life here, I was reluctant to put myself in a position where I was in any way dependant on people I don't know for getting home. While I like this woman, from what she had told me, I really wasn't sure if the people she hangs out with are ones I would be able to tolerate completely sober.

So I took a rain check.

As it turns out, I couldn't have picked a better night to follow my instincts.

Apparently, the person who ended up driving was a friend of Lisa's boyfriend. Once upon a time, when this guy was over at Lisa's house, he hit her 5-year-old son. He has since not been welcome in her house, so don't ask me what she was doing double dating with this guy.

He had brought along his new girlfriend, who he was horrible and rude to all evening. They had just started to drive home, when Lisa decided to tell him he shouldn't be talking to his girlfriend like that. So naturally, he pulled over and made Lisa get out of the car, leaving her to walk the 20kms of midnight country highway, where drinking and driving seems to be a given, home.

Her boyfriend? Stayed in the car.

Lisa started hitching and was picked up by a car of high school boys who decided to take her on a tour of some backroads instead of driving her home until she insisted they let her out of the car. Fortunately they did let her out and she was free to walk the 10 or so kilometres home.

When she finally arrived what must have been close to three hours later, her boyfriend was asleep in bed. When she woke him up to confront him, he just held up her cel phone, which he broke recently when he was mad at her, and said "See, this is the kind of thing that happens when you act like that."

I heard all of this secondhand, but it falls completely in line with other stories she's told me about problems with her boyfriend. From what I can tell he's a real prize who sponges off her, lives in her house for practically nothing while she struggles to pay her mortgage and feed her kids. Oh, and of course, he frequently threatens to leave her and makes her feel stupid or crazy any time she gets up the courage to ask him for anything.

Every time she says his name it makes me feel ill. I'm at the point where the next time she brings up something horrible he has done, I'm ready to tell her that as much as I want to support her, unless she's ready to seek some counseling (in which case, i will happily drive her/watch her kids/pull her there in a little red wagon) or leave him, I just can't hear about it anymore. I can't know what a creep he is and then have to smile and act like I have no idea the next time I run into the two of them. There's a reason I didn't go to theatre school. I'm just not that good.

I don't know how it could be any clearer. If he leaves you to your fate alone on the side of the highway and goes home to sleep? He does not love you. Oh, and as a bonus? He has no idea how to treat a fellow human being.

20 comments:

Kyla Roma said...

I think this deserves a one on one conversation between the two of you, in person, within about 48 hours of now. While she's still feeling what happened that night, before she has had time to completely rationalize it away.

I would say approach the conversation with love, express your concern about his reaction, and recommend that they go into couples counseling immediately. If she has children I would ask her what would happen if he was left in charge of her children and something similar happened? Or what would she feel if someone was treating you like that?

It sounds like she has been in a few emotionally abusive relationships, and is still catering to that kind of behvaiour so tread lightly, in those situations people tend to be very protective of their partners out of shame and guilt. But I would say be firm and impress on her that you are really afraid for her and her children and what this could lead to. Breaking her cell phone and then lording it over her as a consequence of their fight is detached, uncaring, but more than that - it's taunting and implies that she deserves to be harmed or at the least in situations where she is frightened and nearly harmed.

The kind of detachment and attitude will almost certainly escalate eventually. I'm so sorry for your friend, good luck!

Elle Bee... said...

20kms home on dark country roads sans cell phone? Yikes.

Kyla is absolutely right in her advice, so I'm going to keep my mouth shut and be thankful that I can be confident that I'd never put up with what that poor girl has gone through.

Sarah said...

Thanks very much ladies. I really appreciate the input.

I have tried framing it in the: "What if your friend or daughter was being treated like this?" perspective and of course she was horrified at the prospect, but obviously, as you say, this is the kind of treatment she's learned to accept for herself.

I'm definitely trying to be really careful to focus on the fact that she does not deserve to be treated this way and that her partner, while he may have some good qualities, just clearly has no idea how to treat her, so that she doesn't feel like I'm criticizing her for her choice of boyfriend.

Sarah said...

Elle: I know, it made me really happy to know that if somehow my boyfriend and I wound up in a similar situation, he would damn well throw himself from the moving vehicle before he'd leave me like that.

Everyone should be secure in that kind of knowledge.

Molly said...

This is absolutely heartbreaking. Having friends in abusive relationships is terrifying in so many ways b/c the person in the relationship really needs to be the one to see how wrong it is and that's often the hardest part. And yes, it's touchy when people are brainwashed. It's good that she has you as a stable mind and friend. And really you being there to listen is a gift to her as long as she's not draining you as well.

I've known this to happen too often, and it breaks my heart every time. Good luck with you and your friend.

Muppet Soul said...

OH MY G-D.

WHAT a fucker! ( Pardon my language, I assure you, that is the correct diagnosis).

Why do women stay with men like that??

First of all that's a form of mental abuse.

Second of all, isn't it a BAD sign that he would be friends with that other guy?

She could've been raped, killed, mugged, etc. etc. etc.

I was in a similar situation once with a friend who had an ass for a boyfriend...

I think even though it probably won't do anything, and she may even get mad at you, it's important to sit her down and tell her EXACTLY what you see.

This way when she is close to hitting HER bottom, and is thinking about what to do, one of the things she'll think about is that hopefully a few of her friends have told her he's an ASS, and that maybe they weren't just saying that for their own entertainment.

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

My jaw is officially dropped.

It saddens me so deeply that so many women in our culture feel so worthless without the validation of men that it's worth putting themselves and their children at risk. I wish I could grab every woman in the world by the shoulders and say, "IT'S OK TO BE ALONE. IT'S OK."

Mr. Apron said...

That's a goddamn shame.

And, the biggest shame of it is, that's just the end of this one particular incident.

If she doesn't wise the hell up, the story is just going to go on and on, and it's not going to have a happy ending.

Mari said...

I have been in your position before. All you can do is tell your friend how you feel, let them know you are there for them and then explain that you might not be able to bear hearing about or being around this person. You can leave her information about getting help. Unfortunately, I have found that women who would put up with this foul treatment in the first place are most likely to go back to the creep many many times before seeking help, if they ever seek help. It's a heartbreaking situation. I would not hesitate to call protective services for children, though, if they witness or experience anything they shouldn't. That is the law, in the U.S. and more people need to be proactive. They say human beings are set by age 5, so if they see violence they are condemned to repeat it or be victimized by it.

notonlyneurons said...

You fucking hang on to those instincts and never let go!

It it rare that I feel bad simply for being a man, but this is one of those times. Best of luck dealing with whatever may come of this.

insomniaclolita said...

Why didnt she DUMP him?

That's such a crappy night. I cant imagine if it was me, heads gotta roll and in the end it would be nasty. I cant take craps like this. Why could she?

mieletcannelle said...

I don't know.. I mean.. I've been in her position before, and sometimes, people pushing in make it worse. The best "intervention" I ever had was a girlfriend who looked at me and was like "Hey,so if your boyfriend is hurting you, let me know. I'll help you, I have some numbers for you." And then went about her business. There was no moralizing, no , "how would you feel" - just an open, honest, availability. Yes, its horrible, yes, its despicable, but I think we need to remember that there are a set of circumstances in a persons life that make situations like this a viable choice ...For BOTH people in the relationship. While we can hope that one small conversation can change everything - it's a bit tougher than that. However, having the resources (the numbers of help lines etc etc) available, concrete and there - that's something that you can do. I'd have to say, if somebody had given me that, as opposed to giving me the "I'm there, he's not a good guy, what do you think you're doing" talk.. I think it would have been more helpful. As much as I love my friends, they couldn't offer the help I, or anyone else in my or her situation, needed.
My advice would be be - have these ready. Because I think your intuition that this will get worse is correct, and to have somebody like you watching this girls back - that is invaluable.

Power Up Love said...

I dare you both to do the love dare. Go to www.LoveDareBook.com

Love is Exemplifed in Jesus.

Just Playing Pretend said...

It's time. Time for her to dump his ass. Yikes.

LiLu said...

I agree with Kyla... you definitely need to talk to her before she finds a way to explain it and justify it to herself. Hopefully if you're gentle but firm, she will listen.

Sarah said...

Thanks so much to all of you for your comments and advice. Lisa actually came to me and had a little breakdown about the whole thing.

I think a big part of the problem is that she was formerly in a very physically abusive relationship, so by comparison, what she's going through now seems all right.

She also has the worst support network ever. Her friends are constantly telling her this guy is the best thing that ever happened to her and she's embarrassed to admit that she chose another jerk. So they apparently have no idea.

Anyway, I told her that of course she's not crazy and there is no reason good enough to justify treating anyone like that.

I told her that I understand that she's not ready to end things but that I'm really worried about her. I told her that as much as I'm happy to be here for her, I'm just not equipped to deal with all the issues she's facing and that if she wants to talk to someone who can really help her deal with all this, I'd be happy to let her come over and use my phone for privacy or cover for her if she needs to drive to the women's shelter to speak to someone there.

So, there you go. Maybe she'll stay with this guy forever, but at least if she ever decides to leave, she knows there's at least one person who will be 100% behind her.

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

Sarah, that response sounds perfect.

mieletcannelle said...

I wish I had you as a friend - what a good response. *hug*

lfar said...

Out of my depth as well. I get the feeling you're like me- that you NEED to help and fix. I don't know what advice to offer you though!

Erica said...

Wow. Just...wow. And there are kids in this situation? How awful.
At least she has you for a friend.