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When do you stop trying to rescue a friend from EA relationship?(15 Posts)
Friend X has been in a relationship with DP for 4 or 5 years. In that time he has never met any of her friends, hasn’t met her parents, and has on various occasions tried to stop her from seeing certain friends because he has a mistrust of them. This includes some male friends and exes and some female friends whom he considers to be sexually loose or too feminist.
X has stood up to this behaviour and made him accept that he can’t do that over time but at the expense of negotiating ongoing long sulks, periods of silent stonewalling, and a complete separation of social space, so that none of her friends apart from Friend Y, once or twice, have been into her home during this period.
Y is the only person X will talk to in any detail about DP because she has been less critical about him in the past than everyone else: his behaviour as reported at the outset, plus the fact that he refused to meet any of us, made everyone in her life angry and she stopped talking about him.
In addition to this, for most of the time she has been the main breadwinner. He smokes loads of weed and has a bad relationship with his family and has at no point tried to either quit smoking or go to therapy to address his jealousy, insecurity and tendency to cut her off emotionally as punishment.
X nearly escaped last week - she moved out and is staying with Y - but is seeing DP weekly, texting and emailing daily, and becoming increasingly hostile to Y as Y expresses dismay about her deciding to go back.
DP has suggested via a curt email that didn't even bother with grammar or punctuation (he is well-educated, just can't be arsed) meeting up with Y in a very unapologetic and non-committal way, and to drive some of X's stuff to her parents.
Once again, X sees this as proof that he is prepared to fix the relationship and that she can give it yet another final chance. DP, having never made an effort to speak to her, is asking Y to bail him out, and she doesn’t want to do this because she can’t stand how he has behaved and sees it as a cynical last-ditch strategy to keep X when he never cared enough to try previously.
Now X is angry with Y for being honest about not wanting DP in her life and thinking that X should leave him. This is making Y miserable: she has offered a space to stay and consistent emotional support and now has a housemate who is angry with her in her space.
At what point do we just let her get on with it? She’s an intelligent person with a sense of responsibility for DP - and she also says that she does genuinely enjoy his company for much for the time. She's read Lundy Bancroft and the rest - I sent them at the very beginning to her work address so they reached her - and she doesn't see his behaviour as emotional abuse but as a damaged insecure person expressing his needs badly. Being with him and trying to be his rescuer is probably a terrible idea from a life strategy perspective, but it's starting to feel like we are trying to rescue her too and she doesn’t want us to. Everything that needs saying has been said and maybe she just needs to get on with it. And yet she is in her mid-thirties and thinking about long-term prospects including kids and it feels disastrous.
If you tell her what to do or that her decision is dumb, you will sound like her dp.
You just need to keep telling her that no matter what, you are there for her and she can come to you whenever she needs help. It's her decision and you want her to be happy and treated well.
Even if she goes back, leaving for a period will have shown her she has support and when she leaves for good, she will be more emotionally prepared. Try and see the break as progress if you can.
she doesn't see his behaviour as emotional abuse but as a damaged insecure person expressing his needs badly. Being with him and trying to be his rescuer is probably a terrible idea from a life strategy perspective, but it's starting to feel like we are trying to rescue her too and she doesn’t want us to.
This is the crux of it.
He is abusive. He is also damaged. She wants to help him. She's unable for the moment to accept that she can't. You want to help her. You are beginning to accept that in fact, you can't.
Thanks, Aussiemum. It's infuriating that she came to close to leaving but we're coming to that conclusion too.
This sounds so difficult. I would be frustrated in your situation. But I think you have to let her go and tell her you will be there for her if she needs you again (which she will). The only way I can think of to help which you haven't mentioned is to encourage her to get counselling. She might be more open to it as long as you stress that it will be a way for her to get support whatever she decides to do (ie leave or go back to him). A good counsellor may help her come to terms with the fact that it is emotional abuse. I don't think you can do it unfortunately.
Thanks, everyone, it's good to see what we suspected - that we need to stand back and let her do this - voiced here.
On the counselling front, Y recommended her therapist who X is now seeing because she really rates her and thought she's help unpack some of X's motivations for not leaving. An additional complication is that Y now can't talk to her therapist about how difficult she's finding the current tricky flatshare dynamic. Y is prepared to sacrifice this in order to see X right but it's all a bloody mess.
I'm not sure why you're switching between talking in the first person and referring to yourself as Y?!
Unfortunately I don't think having the same therapist is a good idea, but it's too late for that now. Could you change therapist?
I'm not Y, she's a mutual friend. I needed to write out what was happening and didn't want to get them confused. It looks like they will need to sort out the therapist situation but that's less important than the rest of it, probably.
Oh, I see, sorry. So are you one of the friends that X won't talk to because you criticised her partner? I was just wondering whether you're trying to support both X and Y? If so that's a tricky situation to be in.
Yes, exactly - I'm now talking to Y about X behind her back which I don't like, because she's putting up with a lot of hostility at home and is feeling miserable. I've been upfront with everyone about what I think about it. I think Y needs some time out from trying to deal with it all really.
Another one here saying that probably all you can do is listen, support, stand by, and perhaps remind her that she doesn't have to put up with things and that you're there for her if she does ever leave.
My best friend has come out of an EA which lasted 12 years, and I often wonder whether I could have done more to help her not spend so long with him. But she is very clear with me that there was nothing I could have said or done to get her to leave earlier - it was a very long process which she had to work through herself.
Is there any way that your own friendship with X might be salvageable? For example, could you invite her to meet up for dinner or a drink? You could even say that she doesn't have to talk about her partner if she doesn't want to (her fear of your opinion might put her off otherwise). I'm just thinking that it might help both X and Y by giving them a bit of a break from each other.
As for supporting Y, I don't think you should feel guilty - it's much better that she vents to you rather than venting to X. This is just a guess, but I suspect she has over-invested emotionally in Y's situation and that's why it's got so intense. Not only are they living together but they are now sharing a therapist as well. Maybe Y even feels that she has to fulfil a therapist type role herself. In your position I would advise Y to try and step back emotionally and only give what she can. She is not actually helping X if she gets upset about the situation. Easier said than done, I know!
You can't rescue somebody.
If there are DC involved you can decide enough is enough and inform children's services if it gets bad.
If there are no DC involved you just have to be on the sidelines, refuse to be pushed out by his games, don't criticise him directly but point out the uncomfortable truths like how his behaviour is making her feel, offer safe space. But do look after yourself first, because somebody who is trapped in an EA relationship is very draining - all of their energy is going to their partner, so they have none to spare and not much of their own and they will drain yours if you spend too much time with them. Then you can't support them. So don't be afraid (and tell your friend too) to take breaks and disappear for a bit. EA-victim friend will still be there when you feel strong again.
AnotherEmma, yes, all the friendships are salvageable. I've sort of had an unspoken agreement with her that if she doesn't want me to go on about my opinions on him that we just won't talk about it, but when things are bad and she needs to talk she has done, albeit in a limited fashion.
I think she's taking the piss with Y a bit now because she is being hostile in a pass-agg unpleasant atmosphere way, and it's a small flat and Y hasn't been giving her a relentless hard time about it, but has merely stated how she feels once in an email and one follow-up conversation and isn't exactly getting friendship and hospitality repaid - but then that's the nature of supporting people, I guess. If it were my home I would have it out with her about the sulking because it's a behaviour I can't stand - maybe she is learning from the master.
The overall thread of this is stand back, and it's very helpful to hear it in unison from people who've been there. Thanks.
Ah I'm glad you're still friends with X.
As for X's behaviour towards Y, I think you're probably right that she is "learning from the master"! If I was Y's friend I would probably be advising her to try and set some boundaries with X. Not by having a shouting match (if it can be avoided) but by calmly and gently explaining that she would like to have a pleasant atmosphere and asking her to talk to her if there is a problem so they can resolve it rather than being hostile to each other. But you probably know all that... And really, it's Y's problem if she isn't doing that.
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