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Good friend with a horrible husband

(32 Posts)
EllaEllaE Wed 23-Nov-16 15:32:08

I have a lovely friend, who has a really nasty husband. I keep trying to find a way to meet up with her (or her plus her kid) without her partner, but she always wants to include him. But her husband is just horrible. He has a nasty violent temper, he sulks, he is sarcastic and he shouts at her and calls her names. This has been going on for as long as I've known them -- she tends to brush it off or ignore him when we are all out together. Now their child is about 3 years old, the husband has started to shout at the kid as well.

She used to live in the same town as me and we were really close; we hung out a couple of times a week just the two of us, before we had kids. But a few years ago she moved away, then moved back but to a place that is about an hour's drive away from where I live. As a result, we now see each other only once every 3-5 months, so it's become almost impossible to just hang out without it being a big deal and without our partners. I've tried suggesting the two of us get together for a 'girls night' on our own. Or that we hang out with just our kids (I have a 1 year old). But she always wants to do couples+kids things with both our families.

The problem is that a) I would really like to find a way to talk to my friend about her relationship and the way her husband treats their child, but it's become impossible to meet up with her alone.
b) The times when we have all met up together have been very difficult because my dh finds it incredibly hard to be around her husband, and to witness the way he shouts at their child. My dh's own father was violent and abusive, and seeing it in my friend's family is intensely triggering for him. The last time we all spent an afternoon together sent my dh into a spiral of anxiety and depression. Since then I've made excuses for why my dh can't come along, but that hasn't translated into her also leaving her partner at home when we meet.

I want to keep seeing my friend. I also want to help her, but I don't know how to broach the subject with her when we see each other so rarely. I guess I could be blunt and say "I want to hang out with you and your kid, but I don't want you to bring your husband", but that will probably offend her so much we don't ever speak again. (I love my friend, but I also recognise she has a bit of a temper herself and a tendency to hold grudges! I have seen her fall out with people for far smaller things in the past.) Any advice?

hesterton Wed 23-Nov-16 15:37:12

I think you either have to keep shtum and leave it as it is, letting visits taper off a bit, or gram the bull by the hosts and email her, explaining exactly what you feel but as tactfully and kindly as possible. She may be angry and ignore you as a result but you can't really go on like this, she does need to know the truth about how others feel she is allowing her child to be treated and you can make it clear you will always be there for her should she make the break from her abusive husband.

hesterton Wed 23-Nov-16 15:37:45

Grab the bull by the horn!!

bibliomania Wed 23-Nov-16 15:42:24

It's quite likely that this is not about you finding the right formula to ask her without her H - it's her knowing he'll kick off if she does something without him. This is really, really hard - if you're blunt, you'll push her into defending him/cutting you off, or else he finds out and makes her cut you off. Abusive men work hard to isolate their victims.

If you go along with it and say nothing, it feels like you're somehow condoning it, and when a child is involved, that's worse.

I don't know. I'm torn between wondering if you should take some action on behalf of the child (ring Childline for advice?) and the other strategy of just holding grimly on as a friend so he doesn't succeed in his isolation tactics.

EllaEllaE Wed 23-Nov-16 15:45:31

It's tough. Sometimes I wonder about what the tapering off would feel like from her perspective. If I just stop hanging out with her so much, being reluctant to meet up, is that worse because she might think that it was because I don't like her? Or do I just tell her I can't deal with being around her husband anymore, knowing that will probably be the end of our friendship?

EllaEllaE Wed 23-Nov-16 15:48:25

cross posted. Thanks bibliomania, that's what I wonder about too. I wonder if a middle ground of emailing to say "hey it would be great to see you and [kids name] this week!". It's not even like I can suggest meeting up at times he isn't around, because they both work freelancer hours.

(We are not in the UK and there is no childline equivalent here.)

Bee182814 Wed 23-Nov-16 15:49:33

She probably knows that you're trying to get her on her own to discuss it bit isn't ready to face up to it and so keeps bringing him along so you cant mention it. Also he is possibly controlling her and won't let her go out by herself.

Mysterycat23 Wed 23-Nov-16 15:50:05

OP I feel your frustration. It's a tough one. If you confront her about his behaviour she will probably end the friendship. I have a friend whose husband is similar not as extreme but it has got worse over the last few years while I've known her. I've come to realise that ultimately my friend is an adult who chooses to stay in the relationship and actually is getting something out of being a martyr/victim. I had to give it a lot of thought before I figured out what that meant for me - I see it as there now being a time limit on my friendship with her because I won't be able to witness much more abuse from him neither continue to make supportive noises when she whinges about him not letting her buy new shoes or turn the heating on.

You have probably already tried dropping hints and suggestions about his behaviour being out of order but to no avail, you just end up watching it all spiral downwards. Ultimately she's an adult and there's nothing you can do. People go on their separate paths through life and that's it really. If you're prepared to lose the friendship then by all means confront her, if you'd rather let it peter out then just keep saying you're busy. A good phrase to bear in mind is "no good deed goes unpunished" which I take to mean although I can try to help people there's no guarantee it will actually be helpful and sometimes trying to help can make a situation worse. You have to give it some thought and work out what would be least painful for you.

EllaEllaE Wed 23-Nov-16 15:51:48

I've also been talking with my dh a lot about the bystander effect, after the last time we saw him yanking his kid by the arm and shouting because the kid 'wasn't sitting properly in the push chair', and we both basically froze in horror and then felt terrible because we didn't do/say anything at the time. I have often wondered if I ought to be more vocal in calling out her husband when we are all out together. But I'm scared of him taking that out on my friend (and tbh, of the dude turning on me and shouting at me in public the way he shouts at his wife). ergh.

hollyisalovelyname Wed 23-Nov-16 15:54:14

Perhaps he is so controlling that she can't 'get away' to meet you on her own.
Do not email her as somebody suggested as he might read her emails and it will be an excuse for him to kick off. If you are to broach the subject do it in person.
The ladies cloakroom next time you are all out together ?

FilledSoda Wed 23-Nov-16 15:55:02

Don't email her anything sensitive, you never know whose hands it will end up in and you could cause her major problems.
You need to talk to her face to face or as that seems impossible over the phone and tell her that neither you or your DH can be in his company as he is so aggressive.

2kids2dogsnosense Wed 23-Nov-16 16:02:03

It's quite likely that this is not about you finding the right formula to ask her without her H - it's her knowing he'll kick off if she does something without him

^^^ This - I also suspect that this friend is not allowed to do anything without her DH policing her behaviour.

Benedikte2 Wed 23-Nov-16 16:13:32

Yes, that's my initial impression -- that she knows her husband will take it out on her or even forbid her to go out if he isn't included.
What about a shopping trip for clothes? Maybe you'd like her opinion about a new outfit?

jeaux90 Wed 23-Nov-16 16:14:35

This is frightening. I also believe it's not her taking him along it's him making sure she is with him all the time. Please keep contact and please try and find a way of grabbing 5 minutes and telling her you are worried. If she brushes it off it's fine at least she knows you know and can be trusted if she decides to exit etc

ToastDemon Wed 23-Nov-16 16:14:44

The husband's name doesn't start with L does it? Don't worry OP I don't recognise you at all but it sounds all too similar to a friend I've not seen for a few years.

shovetheholly Wed 23-Nov-16 16:17:54

It sounds as though she needs you now, more than ever. So I wouldn't taper off the friendship. To be honest, you already know something dodgy is happening here, so I while exiting from the situation might help you and your DH, it won't do anything for your friend of her child.

Can you contact her privately, via email or Facebook, and say that you are worried about her? I realise it's a very awkward thing to raise, and requires huge amounts of tact and care. If her DH is as controlling and explosive as you say, it may also require discretion in terms of ensuring that she is safe, should she wish to discuss things in any depth, e.g. a secret email address or social media account. It may be worth phoning a charity like Womens' Aid and getting some advice about how to speak to her privately without putting her at risk.

I would let her decide how she wants to proceed. If she decides she wants to end the friendship over your concerns about her husband, that is her call - and it's not that different in its effect from the tapering you are considering. My hunch is that, done right, she will want to talk to you.

Also, don't blame yourself as a 'bystander'. It is extraordinarily difficult to come up with the perfect gesture or action in the moment where you witness something unacceptable. But you have time on your side now, in terms of writing some kind of message that can reach out to her.

good luck.

Qwirkle Wed 23-Nov-16 16:18:44

Can you invent a very personal issues that you need to be able to speak to her about, tell her you don't feel comfortable talking about it with her husband there.

tempester28 Wed 23-Nov-16 16:18:47

you say you are not in the Uk so I am not sure of the type of culture/environment you live in. I mean to say I am not sure if it is the norm to do the couples thing or if there are the sort of venues where it would be the norm for a group of mums to go with their children but not necesarily take DP's/DH's. It sounds terribly sexist but what I am trying to say is there something like legoland where you could go together for the day with the kids (or some other venue where it is normal for DP's/DH's to be happy to get out of going to!)

jeaux90 Wed 23-Nov-16 16:21:49

Qwirkle had a great idea

EmzDisco Wed 23-Nov-16 16:23:47

To talk to her alone could you feign an issue you want to talk to her about? Your own relationship or "lady problems"? Something so she could tell her H "Ella wants to talk to me about her H/Sister problems/gynaecology prob/fall out with her mum/MIL/boss"?

EmzDisco Wed 23-Nov-16 16:24:22

Cross post - I type too slow!

Underthemoonlight Wed 23-Nov-16 16:25:14

I have a friend with an arsehole of a husband, he doesn't shout at the kids but in general is a miserable get who takes pleasure in spoiling things for people. I found out he as rather rude to one of my family members at my wedding but this was after some time had passed, i know totally disengaged from him when he is present with is normally someones event, I polity declined his 30th as my friendship is with my friend not him, when we meet its with the kids.

Reading your op if in my situation he was all there , i would end the friendship unless i felt she would listen to the voice of reason but if hes being abusive to their child the likelyhood of her listening is pretty slim.

EllaEllaE Wed 23-Nov-16 16:39:16

thanks for all the advice (I'm at work so sorry if I'm sometimes slow at replying).

We are in the US and her husband does a lot of the childcare, so the legoland excuse would unfortunately not work! I might try again to suggest something super-girly (we are not the most girly women, but it can't hurt!) The sad thing is that her little boy loves playing with our baby, which is a big part of why we always want to get the kiddies together.

I think I have to leave my partner at home, go ahead and meet with them, then just be more assertive about not dealing with her husband's crap. I wonder if calling him out in public might actually make it easier to open up a conversation with her later in private. I.e., "Hey I'm sorry it caused a scene when I told your husband to stop being so rude to you. But it isn't ok for him to do that, and actually I've been worried about you for some time."

EllaEllaE Wed 23-Nov-16 16:43:49

Should say -- I doubt he actively stops her from going out on her own. He never used to, and he's just as horrible now as he ever was when we all lived in the same town. She and I used to hang out all the time, and she sometimes travels for work on her own too. So I don't think he is actively cutting her off from her friends.

It's more that he doesn't have any friends of his own (because he's such a dick...), so he hangs out with her social circle. And now they live out in the sticks, going out to the city for a day is a bigger deal that requires planning, so I think it's more the case that if one of them is going to get time off to have a 'fun' day out, then they think they both should.

user1475501383 Wed 23-Nov-16 16:51:09

He seems a textbook case of 'controlling and coercive behaviour' which is now illegal in the UK.

You are doing the right and noble thing of thinking how you might be able to help the situation instead of taking the easy way out and cutting your friend off. She is clearly under the thumb of her H and perhaps you're one of the last straws of a support network that she still has left to a small degree at least. Obviously H is doing everything to stop that too.

I hope you will come up with a way to talk with her alone. It really doesn't seem good for her or their child. I mean, if he does all this stuff out in the open, one can only speculate how much worse things do get behind closed doors.

I hope you keep trying for your friend's and their child's sake. It really sounds like she is in a horribly controlling relationship. I know it won't be easy and it would be so much easier to just cut her off or turn a blind eye. I admire you sticking up for her and her child's welfare. flowers

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