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My friend hit his wife

(44 Posts)
littlebunnyfriend Fri 23-Aug-13 15:12:28

I'm really good friends with a man - we grew up together, went to school together and even went to the same uni tho different campuses. There's never been a romantic relationship between us as we're too close, he was like a brother to me growing up. As adults we live a few hours' drive from one another but still meet up from time to time and are/were both married with several children (I still am). He's now gone through a very ugly and messy divorce, and we've talked about it a lot. I liked his wife but thought they were very incompatible and (from hearing just his side of course) it sounded like she was hard work in many ways and a bit mad.

A few weeks ago we got together for dinner and during the course of rehashing the divorce, he admitted to me that he had hit her, and that's why she left and where the separation started. He described it as an end of his tether moment and that he was ashamed of it. He is a very big, muscular guy and she is short and like a twig, and this is horrifying. He's also told me the story of the 'final row' many times but never admitted to the violence - it was 2 years ago now.

I feel really shocked by it to be honest and don't know where to go with our friendship from here. I hate to think of how scared she must have been, and also don't feel like I know him at all. I'm not even sure that there weren't other times that he hit her, since he hid this one from me for so long.

I know it's none of my business. Should I just keep supporting him as a friend (as I have done all along - but now wonder if I've ignored domestic violence and not been there for HER) or do I now need to cut ties with this man, who is violent towards women apparently? I feel so shocked and disappointed, and although I love him so, SO dearly, I'm not sure I want to be friends with a man who could do such a thing. What would you do?

DumSpiroSpero Sat 24-Aug-13 17:16:49

You know him very well and I think you need to go with your gut feeling tbh.

That might mean taking a bit of time out before continuing the friendship, or it might mean you can't continue the friendship.

I'm trying to think of the couple of men I've been friend with since school, and if either of them admitted something like this to me I'd be pretty certain that it was a one-off terrible mistake. I'd probably give them an almighty ear-bashing and need a bit of space, but ultimately give them the benefit of the doubt.

I have another male friend (not since school days but 20 years or so) who I would feel more uneasy about in those circumstances, not for any reason other than instinct.

Biscuitsneeded Sat 24-Aug-13 16:55:48

I don't think you can assume he was 'hiding the truth' for 2 years. I expect he feels very deeply ashamed and found it very difficult to talk about, except to his very trusted friend. Hell, I'm a feminist, but even I am inclined to think the OP should give the guy a break. He didn't hit HER. He hit his wife once, at the end of their marriage when things were awful. Of course he shouldn't have hit her. He clearly feels terrible about it. But if really was a habitual abuser would he be admitting having hit his wife to his female friend?? She has known him for years and never had any reason to think he might be an abusive person. I think friendship should be able to weather this kind of thing and it's too easy to leap to judgment when we can never be in possession of all the facts. OP, do what your heart is telling you to do.

WafflyVersatile Sat 24-Aug-13 16:12:50

You know him better than we ever can from one thread.

How does he view women generally? does he encounter a lot of 'mad' women?

Unless he confesses more to you I don't know how you can ever know. He didn't have to tell you about hitting her at all of course and it's understandable that he didn't straight away with the shame of it.

It is possible that she was abusive for many years before he snapped. But equally it is possible he was abusive and bullshitting you.

Would the things she did that you know about look so bad in the context of him being abusive?

kalidanger Sat 24-Aug-13 15:42:26

Maybe get more to go on? Give him the opportunity to confess it happened more than once. if it did then you say "You don't get to be my friend anymore, sorry"

littlebunnyfriend Sat 24-Aug-13 15:29:33

Thank you for all the replies (apart from the person who got cross with me for not replying again quickly enough!)

As far as he's told me, it was this one time. As I said though, he has lied (by omission) by not telling me earlier, though.

I know he's not totally wrong about his ex, by the way, as I have tangible proof of her behaviour on a few occasions which has been extremely hurtful and horrible towards my friend (using the children). She also lied to him about something very serious in their lives (again, towards the end) I don't want to elaborate too much as this is their private lives - hers and his. What I'm saying is that although I'm aware I only hear his side of the story now, during the marriage I knew them both and know that he's not just slating her as 'the mad ex' - she was hard work. That doesn't excuse anything of course.

All I have to go on really is that I know there was bad behaviour from her, I know there was bad behaviour from him (general stuff during the marriage I mean - the marriage was ugly towards the end). I know that he hit her. I can't say with my hand on my heart that I'd never lash out in anger. He is a very big bloke and she is absolutely tiny - I know that shouldn't make a difference but it makes such a horrible picture. He described it as a slap - it was on her face. I never, ever thought he would be the kind of guy who would hit his wife.

He says he is deeply ashamed and did the wrong thing, but that it also shocked him into realising how bad things had got and was the moment he realised there was no way the marriage was ever going to get fixed. I don't think, from the way he talked, that he would consider that he has a problem and would never consider counselling I am fairly sure. He is still in contact with the ex-w as there are children involved.

I do love him and can support him through a mistake, but I fear finding out that I've actually been supporting a violent, abusive man.

slipperySlip000 Fri 23-Aug-13 23:08:57

I think if it was me, I would have to tell the friend about how shocked I was hearing this after two years. At least it's honest. Then I would be prepared to take it from there and explore how he sees it and what made him admit 2 years down the friendship. If there was no genuine insight, I woukd not hesitate to 'scale back' the friendship with him.

Bowlersarm Fri 23-Aug-13 22:40:53

BangOn lock him up and throw away the key?

Lazyjaney Fri 23-Aug-13 22:37:27

I think it is far more likely that he has been abusing her for years and this was a final straw moment for his XW, since abuse rarely takes place in a vacuum. It is unusual for abusers to graduate to violence without some form of psychological abuse gradually appearing first. That said, every one has their breaking point, and it is not impossible that he reached his under intense provocation. I still think it is unlikely though

In my friend's case the EA was her on him, when he found her in bed with someone else, the worm finally turned. I think that is also likely in real life, that the put upon person finally snaps and lashes out, very uncharacteristically

BangOn Fri 23-Aug-13 22:05:15

I think that by continuing this friendship you may well becone an inadvertant enabler of future domestic violence.

Any woman looking at possibly dating this man is going to do a quick stock-check of his friends & think "oh that's good, he has close female friends - he must be a decent guy" & feel comfortable & more likely to trust him. Which could be the last thing she ever does - the next time he loses his rag could concievably be fatal. Not trying to be overly dramatic, but these things do happen with saddening regularity.

Bowlersarm Fri 23-Aug-13 21:53:53

Yes I know wordy we can only go on info given,.

Which is why it's annoying OP hasn't been back,to,give more details.

How do we know she didn't hit him first? Or retaliate after? They may have been evenly matched. We don't know.

The cries of have no more contact! You've known him all,your life but cut him off now! Who cares about what went on! He's a bastard, end of!

Make me cross.

wordyBird Fri 23-Aug-13 21:48:59

..I was really referring to adult on adult violence there, especially the type that makes it to the media. Not really thinking about anything else when I posted.
And I do think it would help the OP to take time away to process her feelings.

Bowlersarm Fri 23-Aug-13 21:45:21

Why aren't you back OP?

I find it strange that you start a thread about domestic violence and don't comment once in almost 7 hours.

Very strange.

RubyrooUK Fri 23-Aug-13 21:44:12

I suppose I believe two things:

A) Domestic violence is wrong and indefensible.
B) Human beings have the capacity for redemption and change under the right circumstances.

If one of my friends told me they had been violent, there would be no acceptable excuse for it. But if he told me that he was having counselling/seeing a therapist/going to AA/doing something major to change his behaviour, I would try to support him through that. I would never think what he did was right, but I suppose I would think he had done something terrible but could be redeemed over a lifetime.

A good friend of mine was once a heroin addict who carried out robberies. He is now a happily married man with two kids who got the chance through the criminal justice system to detox, educate himself and find another way to channel his destructive tendencies (into music). He has been clean for 25 years. He is no longer defined in my eyes by his horrible acts of the past, although he can never erase them.

So I suppose in your position, I would only be able to support someone in his position if they were taking major steps to change their life and ensure it never happened again. I don't like writing human beings off entirely but I wouldn't be able to continue a friendship with someone who wasn't facing up to their very serious issues and had harmed someone else.

Lazyjaney Fri 23-Aug-13 21:27:48

I have a very old friend who did that. Caught his wife in bed with another guy. She was hard work. He was ashamed, I was shocked. But it was way out of character for him.

He is still a friend.

VelvetSpoon Fri 23-Aug-13 21:22:26

As a survivor of domestic violence, I couldn't be his friend.

I am the mad Ex. My ExP used to refer to me in those terms. He told people I was crazy and impossible to live with. What he didn't tell people was how he smashed up my belongings when I upset him, deliberately spat on me many times, hit me, shoved me, threw things at me, and constantly called me names. Not to mention physically attacking and threatening other men long after we eventually split up.

Funnily enough, his friends, and our former mutual friends, all think he's a lovely bloke. They have no idea.

I suspect if he ever admitted to hitting me (he makes out now it never happened), he'd say it was a one-off, and I provoked him. That it was my fault.

When in fact it was nothing of the sort.

EdieSedgwick Fri 23-Aug-13 21:22:20

I would have to end the friendship OP.

hardboiledpossum Fri 23-Aug-13 21:19:17

If i believed that this was the only time then i wouldn't end a friendship over one mistake. I have a friend who smacked her daughter one time, it was a mistake and i'm still her friend.

Bowlersarm Fri 23-Aug-13 21:10:27

wordyBird sorry but I disagree.

I slapped my Ds1. Once. Neither of my other children. I did it once. I learnt that wasn't me. Nor the way I wanted to conduct my life. I felt terrible for months. Years.

DS doesn't remember.

I have no previous. And haven't done it since.

Would you cut me out of your life?

wordyBird Fri 23-Aug-13 20:56:15

I'm afraid I've heard about the mad, hard work ex too many times to believe that particular story, especially in the context of violence.

And there is no such thing as a sudden snap, a one off violent act, much as the media like to pretend there is. There is always previous, and plenty of it.

So what now? All I will say is, I can relate to your story in a number of ways. We often think we know people, but sometimes we really don't. That can come as a real shock.

My experience is that you are likely to feel conflicted for a while.

There is not much you can do about this, but go through the process. You're unlikely to change your feelings overnight: you have to live with a kind of dissonance while get used to this new facet of your friend's personality. Take some space away from him to do this. Don't stay in contact while you do it. After that, you'll know what to do.

FairPhyllis Fri 23-Aug-13 18:54:48

No, he has been keeping it secret. He has deceived OP (and presumably everyone else, otherwise OP would have heard) for two whole years about the real circumstances of his wife leaving.

Do you think he's going to be upfront and honest with future partners? Of course not! Nobody in their right mind would date him. Do you think he will expect you not to mention it to anyone he gets involved with, OP?

Bowlersarm Fri 23-Aug-13 18:46:56

FairPhyllis he's told his friend so clearly he's not keeping it a secret.

FairPhyllis Fri 23-Aug-13 18:42:03

I wouldn't want to be friends with a violent person.

It is very unlikely that that was the only incident of abuse. He's been bullshitting you all along by telling you that she's crazy and 'hard work'.

Someone who thinks it's OK to abuse his partner deep down fundamentally hates women. Why would you even want to be friends with someone like that?

What will you do when he gets a new partner? Will you tell her he's been violent in the past? Or will you keep his secret for him?

WeAreSeven Fri 23-Aug-13 18:32:06

I know a couple whose marriage ended in DV. I knew her and she was mentally unstable which made her behave very badly at times but I still don't think there was any justification for hitting her. You should walk away before you hit someone. He's with someone else now and I wonder whether his new dp is safe as I think someone who hits one person in a fit of rage is probably capable of hitting someone else in a fit of rage.

Bowlersarm Fri 23-Aug-13 18:25:44

You say he's like a brother to you?

What would you do if he were your brother? Stand by him, or ditch him?

blueemerald Fri 23-Aug-13 18:13:31

I think for me his response to hitting his partner would be important. It has taken him two years to admit to what he has done. Not good, but perhaps he is deeply ashamed and embarrassed (as he should be). Now he has admitted it to you (and possibly himself) what does he plan to do about it now? Would he look into counselling or some kind of therapy (I'm not an expert on what is out there but anger management for example)? If he refused to take any steps to try and ensure it didn't happen again then I would probably end the friendship, however, I would like to think he has finally told you after all this time for a reason.

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