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Please help me understand re: violent relationship.

(24 Posts)
neverthebride Tue 18-Mar-14 17:19:32

My friend was in an extremely violent relationship several years ago. No violence is acceptable obviously but this went beyond that, broken bones and what I can only consider as actual torture on a couple of occasions.

She was subject to MARAC, spent time in a refuge, had panic alarms in her flat etc. Her partner eventually served a prison sentence for his violence towards her.

He has been out of prison for a while now and she recently told me that she looked him up on FB 'out of curiosity' and went on to 'friend request' him and they are now talking on FB.

He had numerous issues (obviously) and when they were together I know there was a part of her that wanted to 'rescue' him or love him enough to make him 'better' or whatever. He has had an appalling upbringing - not an excuse but I want to give background.

They have no children.

I've asked her why she's contacted him and she says they had a lot of good times and have a shared history. I've told her that I think it's a terrible move to contact him and that I understand people often think of the 'good times' but in their case, the 'bad times' nearly killed her.

Since they've been in contact again she seems so happy and excited. Happier than I've seen her in a long time if I'm honest though it makes me feel a bit sick.

I fear it will go from talking on FB to meeting up and that she'll be putting herself at risk.

I love her but to me; she was free and clear and I cannot understand why she has sought him out. I helped her pick up the pieces last time and she was a shell of a person. I don't want to see her go through it again.

Can anyone please help me understand what may be going through her mind?.

MistressDeeCee Tue 18-Mar-14 17:36:08

I don't think you can ever understand.

Some women will want a man even when they know he is no good for them. You as the concerned friend are just a sounding board for when things crash down around her ears. She's sought him out because she wants him. Mind you I do think some women suffer from 'Florence Nightingale Syndrome'. They're quick to believe a man when he says 'I've changed' especially when he uses the flattery of '& its all because of you, you've made me a better person'. She wants to believe that, and that she has the skills to make their future together wonderful

She's happy and excited, you've said. All you can do is be there for her as a friend when it goes spectacularly wrong again, as surely it will. 1 thing thats really hard is listening to glorious reports and anecdotes about a woman-hating violent idiot along the way. I had this with a friend and found it truly unbearable; almost as if, because she knew I was worried about her & couldnt find it in myself to approve and suddenly like him, she insisted on mentioning him every single time we saw and spoke to each other. I found that in itself quite aggressive 'you will agree he's good for me & a lovely man now, or else'. Awful. When they did finally get back together I didn't hear from her again. I do know they're still together but not happy at all. Sometimes I wonder if some women thrive on the drama of it all. But essentially, if a woman wants to be with a man then she will, its her choice. All you can do is be there for her when needed.

EirikurNoromaour Tue 18-Mar-14 18:55:59

Codependency, rescuer complex, Romeo and Juliet fantasy (external opposition just fuels this) or just plain old addiction to the highs and a kind of acceptance that the lows are part of the deal.

enlightenmequick Tue 18-Mar-14 18:59:43

I left a violent partner years ago. I have never wanted to rekindle any of it. I'm sometimes in contact, as we have a child, but rarely as she is now a teenager. So I cannot comment/understand it from her point of view.

I can see it from yours though. If I had been though for her through all that and seen her out the otherside, I would not be willing to go through it all again, if she had deliberately decided to start it all up again. I would be telling her quite politely, that it is her choice, but that I want no part in it.

I have a bf who has been with her DH for nearly 18 years, i've known her for 13. He's always treated her awful. I saw her this week for the 1st time in 2 years, as I have moved away and she is still telling me the same type of stories about him, except now he is treating the eldest dd the same.

I can listen, as it's been a while, but it does wear your patience thin when you perceive them to be doing nothing to change the situation.

Or maybe, i'm just a bad friend. confused

enlightenmequick Tue 18-Mar-14 19:02:12

#there not though

MistressDeeCee Tue 18-Mar-14 19:11:03

enlightenmequick you're not a bad friend. I found it really, really stressful listening to my friend's horror stories. She also called me regularly in the early hours, crying and wanting advice and a shoulder to lean on. Of course as a friend you make yourself available but there's only so much you can do/say..personally the only way I can describe it is, it made my head feel full. & I felt anxious for her which wasn't a nice feeling to land on me throughout the days at all. You do try not to judge..its a horrible situation for a woman..but I couldn't deal with later down the line hearing the stories of how wonderful this man 'suddenly' was.

The last straw was when she wanted us to go out for a drink together, one Friday night. Hadn't seen her for ages I thought, why not..she called me an hour or so before we were to meet, telling me that he was coming along. I chose not to go, and that was that. Whilst Im sorry for women who suffer violence from men (I am one - was married to a violent man who didnt show his true colours until after we married; you couldnt pay me a million to get back with him, & despite him weeping wailing wanting us back together Id have had zero interest if someone had told me he walked into the sea) my own wellbeing is just as important. I dont want to be on the end of a phone for years on end listening to the euphoria when its high & all good, and the despair of the lows when it comes crashing down. It doesnt make me feel good. Im better on the practical as well as the listening..finding out all the info re. where a woman can get help, advice, support to get out of a situation thats no good for her life. Thats just me. Im sorry for any woman going through a violent situation, its hell and you feel you'll never get away, as the man will stalk you forever if he so chooses.

neverthebride Tue 18-Mar-14 19:42:44

Thanks for the replies. I don't want to tell her that she's on her own if it all goes to shit but I kind of want to and that makes me feel like a shit friend!.

We had a few drinks at hers last week and she put on the dv anthem (I think it is anyway!) 'Many of horrors' a few times and I asked her wtf she was trying to say? she just smiled and said she likes the song.

I just want to shake her if I'm honest but am trying really, really hard to understand where she's coming from but I'm at a loss really.

Lweji Tue 18-Mar-14 19:49:39

I hope she doesn't have children.

MorrisZapp Tue 18-Mar-14 19:52:39

Maybe she thinks prison has 'cured' him? Or she finds herself drawn to some kind of romantic notion of prisoners. Does she have family? They could perhaps be more forthright where a friend has to tread cautiously.

neverthebride Tue 18-Mar-14 20:00:00

Lweji - no children. I could understand if they had children together that she may feel they have to have contact but they don't.

As he went to prison for violence towards her I do wonder if he's still under any legal obligation not to contact her but as she contacted him that can't be considered his fault?.

She is a genuinely stunningly beautiful girl and has men (a lot of them decent and kind!) falling over themselves to go out with her. I guess I have to think she's an adult, has all the information about him and can make her own choices.

I just can't understand it.

Dirtybadger Tue 18-Mar-14 20:01:28

When was he released? Could he be subject to license conditions (ahem I.e. Don't contact victim). You could report to probation trust. Might not win you any favours with her, though.

I hope she sees the light. I've no experience of this with a friend. But I'd be glad to have you as a friend and it sounds like you've been great so far.

wyrdyBird Tue 18-Mar-14 20:01:41

I would guess he has just pushed the same buttons he pushed when they first got together. Dangerous men know how to make themselves appealing, otherwise no-one would partner with them in the first place.

So whatever he did before - appealed to her rescuer fantasies, boosted her ego, told her she's different and there's no-one else like her, treated her like a princess - he will have tried this again: and sadly, your friend has learned nothing and been sucked in again. I don't think there is much more to understand.

Do you think you could distance yourself from their relationship. Perhaps tell your friend you're there for her, but don't want to meet him again; and that you won't support her relationship. Allow her to make her choices, but don't endorse this one, any more than you would encourage a decision to self harm.

I think MistressDeeCee makes a very good point about putting your own wellbeing first, whatever your friend does.

enlightenmequick Tue 18-Mar-14 20:04:14

Have you tried just asking her what is the attraction, why she still wants him, what will she do if he is violent again?

You sound so like in trying to be reasonable, and support her you aren't saying anything at all.

Apologises if I am wrong. And it's not a criticism, just an observation.

Lweji Tue 18-Mar-14 20:04:40

Maybe you could give her this book as a present Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Or give her the link to The Freedom Programme

whitesugar Tue 18-Mar-14 20:38:12

Never, your post makes me shudder. I was never in a violent relationship, my parents never laid a hand on me and yet I walked into a violent relationship when I was 24 years of age. It started so subtly. He had a troubled upbringing and I felt so sorry for him. Our realtionship was all about him and when he hit me for the first time he somehow managed to turn it around to make me feel sorry for him. I must have gone into Florence Nightingale mode because anytime he was abusive I felt sorry for him and tried to minimalise it. He told me he was depressed and felt suicidal and I tried to make it better. It ended up with me nearly being strangled and run over by a car driven by him. I consider myself lucky that I am here today rearing my DC and having a very nice life.

When it all came to light after a right beating that I could not hide I still tried to protect him. Now almost 25 years later I can see what led me to behave in such a way. My parents fought night noon and day and our house was a war zone at times, albeit without the physical violence. It was all verbal and really horrible. I was the eldest of 5 and tried to protect them. I spent a lot of my childhood pretending everything was fine and minimalising hugely in a very restrictive catholic country. When I was reared divorce was not legal. I managed to get through primary and secondary school not knowing that one of my closest, actually my best friend's parents, did not live together. At that time that was such a shame on a family.

I recommend that you suggest that she goes to Women's Aid for counselling and sticks with it. She will meet people there who know what she is going through and why she is minimalising it.

I am 17 years out of that situation and can say hand on heart that denial is a very real thing and I cannot believe that it happened to me. Keep telling her that her situation is not normal and that she needs professional help to see it.

neverthebride Tue 18-Mar-14 20:50:22

Thanks for the advice ladies. I have told her that I don't think anything will have changed and he'll be just as damaged as before.

Fwiw I know him well (knew him before they were a couple) and I could see what she saw in him initially. I know the Mother of his children and although he was a useless Father (had children VERY young) he wasn't violent in their relationship and did his best with the kids.

I've had him cry on my shoulder and have helped him access help for his issues but I know that help can only go so far. I went n/c with him because he kept repeating damaging behaviour and not seeming like he was really invested in trying to change.

I've considered that my history with him might be clouding my judgement but if anything; I think it makes me more 'understanding' (not excusing his behaviour!).

His emotional and drug problems got worse when he was dating my friend and although he behaved in an inexcusable manner I do understand where she's coming from if she's remembering the good times.

I was there for a lot of their relationship and they were so in love and even though I may get flamed for this - I liked him a lot and I do feel sorry for him. As with most of these cases; he isn't a terrible person, there's a lot of good things about him and as I know his history; I think it would be a miracle if he wasn't completely fucked up. He has done terrible things though and no amount of sympathy or understanding can excuse that.

I see all sides of this but because I know it all, I know it would be extremely unlikely for the violence not to happen again.

namechangesforthehardstuff Tue 18-Mar-14 21:24:22

Enlightenme do SS need to know about your friend's partner treating her DD in that way? Not sure how old she is but if he is being abusive to her...

ScarletStar Tue 18-Mar-14 21:30:15

I agree with other posters who say you need to protect yourself. Lay everything on the line for your friend one time, being completely honest and then say you need to distance yourself from it. Make it clear you're there for support whenever the shit hits the fan again (if that's what you want to do) but that you won't pretend you're okay with it. Someone needs to show her it's really not normal and okay.

Ludways Tue 18-Mar-14 21:50:33

I am fb friends with my abusive exp. I'm a nosey git and have an occasional stalk through his pics, lol. I genuinely liked the non-abusive him, he's funny, charming and generally a nice guy. We rarely comment but it's not unheard of and it's just friendly but fairly distant. There's just nothing there anymore and I know I'm safe on a screen (we don't live close). He's married with a dc and seems happy.

If he tried to instigate anything more, I defriend him instantly, I'm not interested in him at all. In fact he fair turns my stomach in that way.

Maybe your friend really loved him but lost all power in the relationship, flirting with him and getting him interested in her again is in a weird way regaining power over him. It's a dangerous game.

enlightenmequick Wed 19-Mar-14 07:37:16


When I say he treats my friend awfully, I don't mean violence. He's more of your controller/dictator and he seems to enjoy stonewalling for weeks on end, until my friend gives in.

Unfortunately for him dd1 doesn't give in, and they haven't spoken to each other for over a year. According to my friend she hates him.

I told her I feel sorry for her dd1 living in that atmosphere, but she is too frightened to leave in case he snatches the younger ones and returns to his home country. She needs his permission every time she visits to leave the country, so would have no chance of getting them back.

tribpot Wed 19-Mar-14 07:55:55

This TED talk might help - you at least, OP. She seems like she's already gone over the edge.

Did she do anything like Women's Aid's Freedom programme whilst he was banged up? It doesn't sound like she ever escaped from the destructive mindset of repeated abuse.

neverthebride Wed 19-Mar-14 09:10:02

tribpot - Thanks, I'll have a look at that. I've given her the freedom project 'good partner, bad partner' cards in the past because I went to a presentation of theirs through my work. You're right, I don't think she has got out of the destructive mindset and probably needs professional help with that.

I think posters are right that I need to lay it on the line for her and tell her I don't think it's healthy or 'normal' for her to want to be in contact with him.

Thanks for all the advice.

namechangesforthehardstuff Wed 19-Mar-14 23:00:02

That's really sad enlightenme - I feel very sorry for her and the other children in that household.

I'm not sure I wouldn't feel the need to let ss know about a situation like that but I'm not in your shoes and don't know the situation in the way you do. Perhaps worth thinking about? sad

Dahlen Wed 19-Mar-14 23:15:29

I'm afraid that you're going to have to resign yourself to watching this car crash develop, because it will.

Stockholm syndrome, traumatic bonding, a compulsion to try again but this time get it right, the inevitable result of years of abuse as a child, or just simple self-delusion - whatever the underlying reasons (and there are many possibilities) this has all the hallmarks of a woman prepared to put herself at grave risk for that occasional fleeting moment she'll have with this man where she feels more alive than at any other point in her life.

Truth is, your friend is a victim, no matter how complicit she appears to be. Truth is also that some victims cannot be helped.

For your own sanity, you have to be aware where your own boundaries are and how much you can watch without it affecting your own life.

Sorry. flowers

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