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Worried about my friend

(16 Posts)
Yamima Sun 10-May-20 00:57:12

My friend (who lives abroad, this makes it a bit harder to judge, hence my question here) has been with a guy for 5 years now. The first two years they seemed ok, but since then she broke up with him (and got back together again) many times. According to her because “he just won’t let her go”. She would say repeatedly say that “for her it’s over, no matter how hard he tries”. That she calls him her ex, but he keeps calling her his girlfriend. Eventually they always slide back into the relationship, until the next ‘cycle’ or ‘episode’. She once even broke up and moved to a different city, alone, (after they had lived together for a while at her place in a smaller town).

But even then they would still end up being together eventually, she saying he ‘convinced himself the city could be ok’ and stay with her a few days a week (his job is still in the smaller town).

The keep going in the on/off cycle for another six months until at some point her complaints became a bit more worrying. She would say he doesn’t show her any physical affection anymore, despite saying that he still loves her. That this makes her feel insecure, unattractive and rejected. That she already has low self esteem and that this makes her even change the way she holds herself around other people. And that she feels she’s to blame for it. That they basically live like brother and sister and for her it’s over, but again “he won’t let her go”. She says it’s hard to rebuild anything new and it will take her some time to feel differently. She breaks up again and he ignores it and keeps acting as if they’re still together. And so they keep going.

At some point she says she really broke up this time and actually started dating some other guys. I was happy for her that she finally managed to cut it off. But after a month she started talking about her ex again: that he still has the keys to her house and sometimes comes inside her house when she's at work to 'check if there's still pictures of them hanging on the wall’ and he would leave notes for her. That he brought her flowers and gave her a ride to the airport which was “actually handy”. That his mother is very ill and she feels obliged to ask him about it. Because that she can't be rude to him after “all he did for her”. That she feels afraid to slip back into the relationship again, because like always he just keeps acting like they are still together. That he asked her if he could stay at her place for one month because of a new job close to her house, and that she feels like she can't refuse it because he still pays part of her rent. She also sent me a picture showing a big cut in her nose. Saying it was an “accident at the gym”. (?)

No surprise, a few weeks later she announces she’s back with him, saying she wants to give another chance to the person that has been there for her the past 5 years in all the good and bad times.

My question: Is this just two people who just can’t be without each other and are addicted to breaking up and making up? Or is this a slowly developing (emotionally) abusive relationship?

Doe she really love this guy and is she making up his “manipulation” as an excuse to go back to him? Or doesn’t she even realise his behaviour looks pretty toxic from outside?

I know she has been in a physically abusive relationship before, has abandonment issues, low self esteem etc.

Where do you start drawing the line between: “if she really wanted to break up she would have done so a long time ago” or “if she really wanted this guy out of her life she could just change the locks and call the police” and “she’s being emotionally abused and I as a friend have to take some kind of action?” And if so, what could I do from a distance?

What do you guys make of this? And what’s his and her role or motives and behaviours? Could they be abusing each other? Could she be abusing him?

I find it so difficult to tell. Hope to find some insight.

OP’s posts: |
category12 Sun 10-May-20 01:04:12

It sounds like it's an abusive relationship already and she hasn't managed to leave.

Yamima Thu 14-May-20 21:04:26

Hi category12, thanks for your reply.

would you mind to elaborate a bit more?

What are the things that make you say that?

Thanks in advance smile

OP’s posts: |
category12 Fri 15-May-20 09:16:43

You describe a lot of controlling, stalking, creepy behaviours by him and her trying to leave him repeatedly. You describe an injury you're dubious about her explanation for. Her mental health /self esteem has taken a dive.

It frequently takes several attempts for someone to leave an abusive relationship.

ThinkPink71 Fri 15-May-20 09:25:31

I am inclined to think its someone who likes the attention.

She keeps having conversations with him, got a lift to the airport and is generally allowing things to continue.

My sister is up and down like a Yoyo...in the morning she is leaving her partner....by the afternoon they are in a 'really good place'. I dont really get involved anymore...have just let her know im there for her should she need me.

Yamima Fri 15-May-20 13:25:06

Hi catergory12 and ThinkPink71,

your two 'opposite' answers are exactly my problem :D

It's so damn difficult sometimes to see where the thin line between 'romance' and 'stalking' is.

Thinkpink71, if I may ask, did you ever feel worried about your sister? Like thinking the behaviour of her boyfriend was a bit manipulative or hear your sister talk about how he makes her feel bad about herself?

Thanks in advance.

OP’s posts: |
longtimecomin Fri 15-May-20 13:29:40

This is coercive control

thethoughtfox Fri 15-May-20 13:33:19

Coercive control. Dangerous.

category12 Fri 15-May-20 13:34:22

Life isn't a rom-com. Going into an ex's house without permission to check they haven't taken your pictures down is creepy as fuck.

Yamima Fri 15-May-20 13:48:53

Hi longtimecomin and thethoughtfox, thanks for your contributions.

Would someone who is being controlled like that be able to move to a different city by herself and break up with them?

I'm really clueless if she is the one making 'power moves' and him coming after her like a puppy, or if she is being abused/stalked by him?

Some people would say if she really wants him out, she could just change the locks, block his number and call the police whenever he shows up.

What would be a reason for her not to do that? And where is the line between her 'her letting him continue to do that by choice' and 'being helpless against him'?

I'm really trying to understand.

Would there be any other signs I'm missing here that something isn't right?

Thanks in advance

OP’s posts: |
Yamima Fri 15-May-20 13:54:47

@category12 you're absolutely right about that. Yet she doesn't seem to think that it's creepy at all. She almost talks about it in a manner of 'look how sweet/cute of him that he does that'.

How is that possible? Or does that mean she's just making up that story (of him doing that) because in fact they are still together (never broke up even) and justify why he's still in her life?

Sometimes I wonder if her ex even knows about all the times she's telling me (or others) she considered herself single?

She tells me about his manipulative behaviour but doesn't seem to be freaked out or scared about it?

OP’s posts: |
category12 Fri 15-May-20 14:15:48

Because it's become normal to her and her boundaries are all over the place. Probably he gaslights her and tells her it's because he loves her etc. Because she's invested. And it's all very intense and like nothing else you experience, really. Living constantly on cortisol and adrenalin.

How do you respond to her when she relates these "cute" behaviours?

Yamima Fri 15-May-20 14:44:34

@category12 this could all be correct indeed.

How do I react? I tell her she's being naif that she allows these things to happen if she really wants to break up and ask if she doesn't see how he is weaselling himself back into her house/life. She doesn't really respond or says she can't just can't be b*tchy to him after all that he has done for her..

At the same time she describes him as a nice person and that he's quite sensitive and not possessive. A little spoiled but pretty down to earth. And that she is the one who is constantly mad with him. That they argue a lot about their future, where they would live, kids. That he claims he wants all that too but it's just all the opposite of how she sees it. That he sometimes sleeps in a hotel because they argue too much and she refuses to stay with him. And that she blames herself for this. Could all this also be part of the gaslighting?

It almost looks like they are having 'normal couple' fights, I never heard her say anything about him calling her names of threatening her (she would even once complain he always has this 'bring peace to the world'- mentality)

Each time I think that something fishy is going on, there's something to refute it. And the other way around.

When do you decide the red flags outweigh the green flags?

And also: what could I do to talk some sense into her? Or can I do nothing. Or perhaps talk to someone else who is close to her about it?

Thanks in advance.

OP’s posts: |
category12 Fri 15-May-20 16:57:36

Look, people are nuanced and do weird shit. There is seldom a "perfect victim" and toxicity begets toxicity.

Eg. the psychogical abuser who goads and goads his victim until she's screaming in his face and then he whips out his camera to prove his "victimhood".

We don't react in perfect ways. We don't leave when we should, we go back when we shouldn't. People with no ties except the hold the other person has on them and their own fears stay, when it's mind-boggling obvious they should leave from the outside.

I don't know what the truth of the situation is, but on your initial post I'd say it's coercive control.

As a friend, you can only reflect back what she says and signpost her to help if she needs it.

Yamima Fri 15-May-20 17:17:00

@categaory12

This makes a lot of sense yes. Thanks a lot for your effort replying to all this.

I've known her to have mood swings or even a bit of borderline behaviour sometimes, possibly also the reason she was in an abusive relationship before. (Meaning some borderline traits could have come from her childhood neglect (abandoned by her mother), and seeking 'wrong' partners in adult life).

It would just be so sad if she would be in one again, but it looks like she is I guess. sad

Thanks again for your insight.

OP’s posts: |
category12 Fri 15-May-20 19:49:20

That kind of background makes her quite vulnerable to further abusive relationships.

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