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I feel like my friend's new wife is being emotionally abusive towards him but I'm not sure if it's any of my business. What can/should I do?

(24 Posts)
madonnawhore Tue 02-Oct-12 22:51:15

He's one of my oldest, bestest friends. I always liked this woman before they were married. I guess I didn't really pay too much attention to their relationship as we mainly used to hang out in a big group so any weird dynamics would've been diluted.

They broke up for a couple of months a few years ago because she had aggression problems with drinking and actually pulled a knife on him during an argument.

But they patched things up and had a massive, balls-out wedding last year.

Since then my friend has confided in me a couple of times that all they do is row. Rows always started by her over nothing. He sounds exhausted by it all. I've also noticed that when we're all out together she subtly undermines him. One time she even blurted out to the whole table something quite sensitive that he'd obviously told her in confidence. I thought that was pretty shitty of her.

The thing is, she's not an evil person. Her family background is really tragic and messy and she obviously just hasn't dealt with a bunch of stuff. But I resent her for taking all that out on my friend.

I spoke to him today and he sounded so down. Said she'd been at him for three days straight and they hadn't spoken for a day.

What do I say to that? LTB? I don't know how to be supportive because I don't think it's a healthy relationship.

Elderflowergranita Wed 03-Oct-12 00:11:58

Well, if your friend is discussing his marriage with you at that level, then I don't think it's intrusive of you to offer advice, maybe suggest counselling?

Could be a first step to opening his eyes to the problems there. Maybe it's not all her, maybe the whole dynamic is wrong because of both of them.

An impartial adviser in the form of counselling is what's needed. You obviously care very much for your friend, so maybe point him in this direction.

Smeghead Wed 03-Oct-12 00:58:04

Whatever you do, dont call her down. He must love her otherwise he wouldnt have married her and wouldnt still be with her. If you do, and then he decides to try and work it out then he may stop confiding in you because he will think you hate her.

I agree with elderflower that suggesting counselling would be good. They clearly need it for their marriage and it may be the first step towards the therapy she seems to need.

But, all that said, make it clear to him that if she ever gets violent or he is frightened by her then he has a place to go and that you will support him whatever he chooses. Just because she has serious issues doesnt mean that her abuse is acceptable, and you should tell him that.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 03-Oct-12 09:47:20

Take any opportunities when your friend talks to you to express your concern. The 'trick' is to get him to agree that what's happening is unacceptable rather than you pointing it out directly.

"We've been rowing for three days straight and she hasn't spoken to me for a day"
"That really worries me. You must be very unhappy. Is there a reason why you tolerate that behaviour?"

Whatever her family background she is obviously a nasty person. He, like you, be making excuses for her on that basis. Never forget that she chooses to treat your friend that way.

madonnawhore Wed 03-Oct-12 10:06:44

Thanks all. I was actually going to suggest counselling but I wasn't sure if I'd be overstepping the mark.

It's weird because we all hang out together in our friendship group and his wife comes along and often she can be very pleasant and we get on okay. And there's a general feeling amongst all of us that she's a bit of a high maintenance pain in the bum but that he knew what he was getting himself into so they're both as abd as each other sort of thing.

But the more I talk to I'm, the more I realise that actually he's really unhappy and this isnt okay and it's not 'just the way they are together'.

I hate to do hypothetical gender reversals but if my best friend told me her OH was shouting at her constantly I'd be telling her to leave the bastard.

Cogito, I think you're right, the first step is to make him see that her behaviour is unacceptable and he doesn't have to and shouldn't put up with that sort of treatment. Then maybe talk about the options.

I think he's guilty of the same thing that a lot of women in EA relationships are: believing that being in a relationship with anyone is better than being on your own.

madonnawhore Wed 03-Oct-12 10:08:00

as bad as each other

the more I speak to him

Sorry for typos. iPad and big thumbs.

mrsconfuseddotcom Wed 03-Oct-12 10:12:43

Yes, definitely take him to one side. It's very difficult to see clearly when you in the situation. I was in a very bad relationship but no one knew. It would have helped if someone had told me what was going on wasn't normal and I shouldn't be putting up with it.

Try to be careful what you say about her. After all, they may stay together!

madonnawhore Wed 03-Oct-12 10:18:40

Yeah it's doubly tricky because I made that mistake before. When they broke up because she threatened him with a knife I told him I thought they shouldn't be together and he could do much better, etc. And then they got back together and got engaged!

But I think he feels like this is just his lot now. It's what he signed up for so he's just got to lump it. So the first thing is to get him to understand that what she's doing is abusive and not normal.

fuckadoodlepoopoo Wed 03-Oct-12 10:20:11

Yeah sounds emotionally abusive and bordering on becoming physically abusive as well, if it hasn't already.

OneMoreChap Wed 03-Oct-12 10:24:49

Remember this could well count as Domestic Violence against him...

foolonthehill Wed 03-Oct-12 10:27:00

You don't have to be a man to be an abuser and you don't have to be a woman to be abused. All you can do is support him and listen. If you think he would read something then the links on the thread below might help.

for a more male orientated link try here for a downloadable PDF booklet from canada about abuse of men by women (you could print it out and give it to him) but be prepared for denial!

foolonthehill Wed 03-Oct-12 10:28:16

and this is the support line for men

madonnawhore Wed 03-Oct-12 10:36:40

Thanks foolonthehill that's really useful.

Do you think I should call him and tell him that her behaviour's not on? The only reason he ended up offloading to me yesterday was because he called me about something else entirely, and then I asked him how he was and it all came out. But I was a bit off guard so I doubt I said anything all that useful.

I'm not sure whether I should just wait until he brings it up again. Or start a 'campaign' of making him see that it's not acceptable or normal.

fuckadoodlepoopoo Wed 03-Oct-12 10:45:08

I would tell him that you are concerned for him and that her behaviour is no different to that of an abusive man, that he doesn't have to put up with it. It probably hasn't even crossed his mind that its abusive because men often don't think that can apply to them. You do need to tread carefully though. Don't call her a bitch or anything as you'll just get his defenses up, as will "campaigning". You need to focus on the behaviour that is unacceptable rather than attacking her personally.

Cognito puts it well up thread.

I've seen on here before a link listing abusive behaviours in relationships which included undermining etc. My exs got very high scores! Does anyone know what it was?

foolonthehill Wed 03-Oct-12 10:45:38

I wouldn't have a campaign. Perhaps print the booklet and next time you see him say something along the lines of "what you said the other night made me a bit worried for you, hope you don't mind but I printed this off. " make sure the UK helpline is written on the front cover.

If you campaign he may run away into denial. We only see the abuse when we are ready, you run the risk of driving him back into denial.

When he talks never condone or excuse bad behaviour, tell him you think it is wrong/not acceptable/not reasonable. make sure he sees the boundaries of normal behaviour but don't criticise her yourself or he may feel he has to defend her. never excuse her behaviour, many people have shitty back stories, they don't have to end up abusing.

he may see it now, later or never, but is sounds like he is seeking input so he is lucky to have you at this time.

The Emotionally Abusive relationship is not gender focussed and may be of help in the future if he is a reader

foolonthehill Wed 03-Oct-12 10:47:50

this has a list of signs of abuse and control

or this one

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 03-Oct-12 10:57:45

"I'm not sure whether I should just wait until he brings it up again."

Call him. Ask if he's Ok, say you've been thinking about what he had to say and express your concern. Encourage him to admit it's not going well as I described above. It's not a 'campaign' exactly, you're just asking him about his life, saying you're worried and drawing him out a little.

There are lots of reasons why someone would stay with an abusive partner. Don't expect to convince him with logical arguments. Just keep talking to him long enough for him to realise it for himself.

BTW... there's no danger he's telling you all this as a 'feel sorry for me' chat up tactic is there? confused He's not looking for an emotional affair? That's happened to me before.

fuckadoodlepoopoo Wed 03-Oct-12 10:57:45

Do they have children?

madonnawhore Wed 03-Oct-12 11:02:14

Thanks all. I was in an EA relationship myself for years so I feel especially protective over him because I hate the thought of a good friend going through what I went through.

It sounds stupid but despite having been through it myself I'm still not sure of the best way to handle it! Your advice has been really helpful.

I think focusing on the behaviour, not her as a person is the right way to go.

madonnawhore Wed 03-Oct-12 11:04:38

No, no kids.

Cogito I know why that would cross your mind as a possibility but that's definitely not the case. It's something I'm hyper aware of though.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 03-Oct-12 11:54:43

That's OK... glad you're aware of the possibility. smile

Apocalypto Wed 03-Oct-12 12:50:03

It's worth pointing out to him that if he thinks he's made a mistake then the sooner he rectifies it the better for him.

Proudnscary Wed 03-Oct-12 13:28:41

In this instance, with him confiding in you and clearly expressing his unhappiness, I'd ask him directly 'Do you want to stay with her?'.

AnastasiaSteele Wed 03-Oct-12 14:34:06

I'm in an EA situation and my best friend has been the biggest source of support, I don't know what I'd have done without her. I think these have been her strengths:

- She has offered her perspective gently to the point that I can't remember when she started bandying about the terms 'emotional abuse'
- A while back, she very gently suggested that 'there's places you can go' for support
- She hasn't judged me at any time, especially if I've gone back on my vows to stay away
- She has retained her humour which has helped me - I talk about the situation, she says things like 'the charmer', 'what a catch'.
- We are very tempestous/on off and each time I say it's over for good this time/he won't come back, she says 'i know you think it is and you need to tell yourself that, but that might not be the case' - but she's not patronizing
- Crucially she is aware of many of the tactics of abusers and also has witnessed lots of the abuse - he's a mutual friend
- Finally - she hasnt let on to him what she knows or thinks. She acts on side because she knows if she does let on, he will isolate me from her.

Your friend is lucky to have you.

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