Abusive Relationships Through a Friends Eyes
This is an essay I wrote four years ago (Jan 2014), and wanted to post somewhere for anyone else that may have gone through or be going through the same thing. I’m leaving them unedited, because I’m sure if I go through it and change something it won’t be as accurate as time has most likely altered my memory.
How it Began
Last year, and even before last year (I believe it was December 2012), a friend of mine started seeing a man (I’ll call her Violet). He was ten years older than her, and a coworker. She kept him a secret from all her friends because she was so ashamed of what we might think of their age difference, so when she finally found the courage to tell us about him, we tried to be supportive. It was obvious he made her happy, and with her depression, we wanted her to keep anything that made her happy.
Now, we were worried because when Violet found herself a boyfriend, she completely vanished. Every group has one; that one person that just completely disappears when they find someone they “love” (and with Violet, she found people she loved quite often). So when she started to disappear, it was expected. None of her previous relationships lasted longer than a month anyway.
Fast forward a month, and I learned that her boyfriend was actually living with his ex, whom he claimed to still be in love with. I’m what one would call a pessimist. I hope for the best, but prepare for the worst (and when I say worst, I mean worst of the worst, zombie apocalypse, sharknado worst). And as soon as I heard of this man’s situation, I was immediately suspicious, and knew the relationship would end like a plane crash. Devastating, and probably on fire. Of course, Violet didn’t see it this way.
“He loves me too,” she’d say, “he’s just confused. He’s just saving some money until he can move out, and then he isn’t going to talk to her. She’s a total bitch; she shows up when we’re going to hang out too!” Violet told multiple stories of how she’d go on dates with him and his ex would just pop up, furious with him for dating someone.
I held my opinion for a while, since telling Violet the man she’s seeing is bad news would only make her stop talking to me. And I didn’t want that; who does? So I kept my mouth shut. It killed me, because I knew this man wasn’t actually broken up with his “ex”, and Violet was being duped.
Another month later, and after two “break-ups-but-we’re-still-friends” moments later, Violet was back with him. Now, keep in mind that we are in our early twenties and working through school at various retail jobs. This man is in his thirties, and working less than twenty hours a week at a dollar store. Whenever I asked if he was trying to get a full-time job Violet would look away and change the subject. Eventually she dropped another red-flag in the ground for me; “He does marijuana a lot, but he’s not a drug addict anymore.”
“Anymore?” I’d asked. Marijuana doesn’t but me, but the words ‘drug-addict’ set off high alarms.
“He used to do harder drugs, but he only does pot now, so it’s okay!” All the while she refused to look anyone in the eyes.
“That means he’s a drug addict,” another friend (Blue, we’ll call her) would say. “You can’t do drugs and be an ‘ex-drug addict’.”
I could only agree. But Violet swore she knew better. He was “the one”. It turned out he was still sleeping with his ex at the time, and after two more “break-ups-but-we’re-still-friends” moments due his total betrayal of her trust, she was back with him. Again.
I couldn’t believe it. I was in complete denial at the time too, because I refused to admit that my close friend would degrade herself by staying with such a horrid man. A man that wouldn’t stop doing drugs and playing video games long enough to get a full-time job, or stop sleeping with his ex.
And then it came out, that he wasn’t technically broken up with his “ex”. My friend was the other woman in the relationship! I put my foot down, and told her what I thought of him.
But Violet knew best, and didn’t talk to me for a month.
Blue and I would talk about this a lot, as we seemed to be the only people in the world that thought this man was terrible for Violet. Her own parents did nothing, and our other mutual friend refused to admit there was a problem. So Blue and I were alone on our journey to make Violet realize what a total jerk she was dating.
Violet didn’t talk to either of us for a while. Two months later, it pops up on Facebook that she’s moved in with him. By this time, my brain is about to explode with the insanity of it all. All I’ve heard of this man is how he’s cheated on her, betrayed her, and well, how bad he is. Yet there it was, her smiling face over how happy she is to have moved in with him.
Violet would post dozens of times a day on her blog and Facebook and Twitter. It was something I always looked forward to reading, because she was just so damn funny! Those posts began to dwindle to maybe one a day, and they were only ever about him. I hated this man, even though I’d never met him, because I swore he was bad for her. She swore if I’d met him that I’d change my mind.
A couple of weeks later, she announces on her blog after she had an anonymous question, that she’d slept with him. Now, this might not seem like a big deal to you, because if she’s old enough to move in with him, then who cares about sex? Well, it was her virginity. And she didn’t tell any of us. I thought things like sex and love were things you talked about with your friends…you confide in friends, tell them everything. Ask them if they think a person is good enough to be honoured with a person's first time. But she didn’t tell us this, she announced it online. I was disgusted and insulted, and absolutely hurt. So was Blue. We didn’t know what to say, so we said nothing about it. If Violet didn’t want to tell us these things…then so be it. It’s her choice, after all.
By this time, Violet refuses to leave the house without him by her side, and wherever he goes, she would follow. Obedient. Desperate. Blue and I tried to get together with her multiple times, but she would either not show up without a word as to why, or show up two hours late. And when she did show up, she’d be on the phone with him, telling him where she was going, and with who.
How it Escalated
That same month Violet moved in with this man she accidentally revealed that this man didn’t like us. He thought we were bad for Violet, and how she should stop talking to us completely. Honestly, if she had it wouldn’t have been much different than what was already happening. Every time we would get together for drinks he would call. And call. And call. We got together for two hours one night, and she turned her phone off because he was calling so much. When she turned it back on, she had twelve missed calls and thirty-eight new messages. Other times, as I mentioned before, she would either not show up, or show up hours late.
I could see where this was going. And I hated that I saw where it was going back in December. I hate myself for not saying something sooner, because I can’t help but think maybe if I had then by some miracle Violet would have taken my advice and ditched his sorry ass. But that didn’t matter anymore, and I warned her of his behaviour now.
“He’s getting abusive,” I’d said, probably too straight-forward. I wonder what might have happened had I taken a gentler approach. “You can’t leave the house without him now.”
“He would never hit me!” she would cry. “He’s so gentle, you don’t understand. Whenever I would leave him he would cry and beg me to stay.”
“That’s manipulative though,” I would argue, Blue at my side. “He cries because he knows it’ll make you stay. It’s abuse if he won’t let you even put a lock on your phone—“
“He just wants to play angry birds,” she’d argue. “That’s why I can’t lock it.”
My lips would just purse, because Violet wouldn’t listen. I’d tried on a couple occasions (usually through text since she wouldn’t leave the house without him) that abuse wasn’t always physical. Sometimes it’s mental, and he had her wrapped right around his finger.
Four months later, and she never replied to any of my text messages. The only contact I have to her is through her blog or Facebook, and even that is dwindling to a post a week. Maybe. Soon her Twitter account became strange; her tweets were set to private, and her only follower was him. The only person she was following…I’m sure you can guess who that was. I asked her about it, and she said that he would get into her account and change the settings.
“Don’t you think that’s strange?” Blue asked, hoping to help Violet come to terms with her abusive boyfriend on her own. “Don’t you want your privacy?”
“It’s okay,” Violet would say. That was it, no real reason.
On a rare day when I was with Violet I’d commented on how a nearby girl and how her boyfriend had ordered her to “Hurry her ass up!”. The girl had obeyed, and I stated that I would never let someone I was dating say something like that to me. It wasn’t said in an endearing or joking way; it was serious. Rude. Demeaning.
Violet turned to me and stated, “You’re just shallow and picky.”
I was taken aback. It came out of nowhere, and Violet was completely serious. I was pissed. “Just because I have standards doesn’t make me shallow; I want to date someone that’s at least nice to me.” She didn’t reply, and I just took her home, furious. I couldn’t believe she had the gall to call me shallow and picky because I wouldn’t date an abusive drug addict.
A couple months later, and I’d stopped bothering to contact Violet. If I did, she would only insult me more, if she replied at all. So I gave up. I hate that I did, but I was pulling my hair out over worrying for her, and my skin condition was so bad it was starting to bleed on my hands. Going with my parents’ advice, I tried to distance myself.
Blue still contacted her though, hoping to convince her that this man was bad. Through Blue, I’d learned that Violet had showed up one day at her parent’s house with a large bruise on her face, and in tears. She claimed she’d “walked into a door”. Yes, that’s what she’d said. Nobody believed it, but Violet refused to say differently, and admitted to her mother that her loving and gentle boyfriend had stolen two grand from her bank account.
But her reasoning for leaving him this time was that he’d started smoking again, and he’d lied to her. Blue had her hopes as high as they would go that Violet would be back with us again, and be our friend. Because a man that lies to you and steals most of your chequeing account is someone you want to leave, right?
Like many people in abusive relationships, she returned to him, as if nothing had happened. I’ve never heard another story of Violet being abused, so maybe that bruise really was from some accident—but I don’t think so. I will always believe that he hit her. That was the sixth time she’d left him, and returned.
By now I’m getting mixed messages from everyone around me. My parents, as much as I loved confiding in them, told me to leave Violet, to leave her alone because they had experience in this area, and abusive relationships rarely end well. Others told me I should try to stay in contact with her (one friend even went as far as to blame me for ending communication with Violet, despite my explanation that Violet never replied to my messages). It was hard, and confusing, and is still confusing me. Both arguments have valid points, but no solution I liked.
How I Failed Her
I wanted to cut Violet from my life as much as I wanted to keep her. I tried to look at it logically; her behaviour wasn’t normal, abusive men have a way of getting into your head, make you think you need them and nothing else. It wasn’t Violet’s fault. But as I started to look on her past relationships, I realized that it wasn’t just him. It was partly her. She was so desperate for love, for anyone to tell her she was beautiful and say those damn words “I love you”, she would do anything, be anything for a man. I still don’t understand that; I never will.
But Violet did. And she chose this man over her life-long friends. My logical sense also said to cut ties with the people that cause you pain, and for the past year, Violet had done nothing but cause me pain. I was hurt, and betrayed by her, and I was angry. I was mad that she was so willing to abandon her friends and family for this man. That she let him degrade her, and treat her as nothing more than an object, a slave to keep around the house.
“But I love him,” she’d say to Blue. “I just love him so much and he loves me.” That was all the reason she needed to stay.
I hated how much Violet affected Blue. Blue had it much worse than me, because she couldn’t leave people like I could. Cutting ties was something I was good at, but Blue? If she became your friend, she’s with you until the day she dies. The qualities that make her wonderful were also her downfall at times. And I hated that Violet took advantage of that. I hated who Violet had become.
But damn, I missed her. I missed texting her everyday about the stupid little problems I’d have, and I missed looking at her ridiculous tweets as she wrote about television shows and music and nothing in particular. I missed my friend. But it didn’t seem like my friend missed me.
It had been months since I’d seen her face to face, or even texted her. I’d started to move on, despite Blue’s updates of “she left him again! Things will be normal! Oh…she’s back.” Which were quite constant. Maybe that’s why I never fully moved on.
Now, understand that I’m not a forgiving person. If you wrong me, I tend to just get the hell away, one second chance and that’s it (depending on the wrong you’ve done). Blue and another mutual friend are forgiving, and they can easily forget when they’ve been wronged. I love them for it, because I can’t do it. That’s strength to me; that ability to forgive. I wish I had it in me. I’m trying. God, how I am trying to forgive Violet for hurting me.
At this point in time, January 2014, Violet has dumped her boyfriend. She’s quit her job and moved back in with her parents to get away from him.
“I doubt it’s real this time,” I’d told a very hopeful Blue. Though I thought it was strange she quit her job.
“No, no,” Blue argued, “it’s different. She moved out like three weeks ago, and she told me that she doesn’t love him anymore. She says all he does is play video games—“ not something new ”—and he makes her do everything. She said that she doesn’t love who he’s become.”
I could hear the eye roll in Blue’s voice, even through text on that one. This was exactly who he’d been a year and a half ago when they’d started dating; nothing changed. Except maybe Violet did, just a bit. If she was saying she doesn’t love him anymore, maybe I could hope again.
And it made me start thinking about how I should contact her. We hadn’t truly spoken in a year, not really. I don’t count arguments and uncomfortable silences as conversations. So I thought, “Maybe I should tell her how I feel.” Because maybe that would help show her that I still care about her (she’d told Blue that she knew she’d lost me as a friend).
I don’t know how to forgive people. It’s not what I do, but it is what a friend of mine is good at (though it was the same one that blamed me for not talking to Violet…we can call her White). I texted White, not long after hearing of Violet’s return home, and asked how she forgave people so easily. Was there some secret formula that I’d missed? White is very religious, and I’d always chalked her kindness to that; it was how she was raised. Not something that can be learned.
White replied, “For me, forgiving is easier when you try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Make it about them, not about yourself.”
That struck me. I’d tried putting myself in Violet’s shoes a hundred times, and it was the first piece of advice anyone ever gave when I told them the situation. It was the last part that hit a chord. “Make it about them, not about yourself”. This entire time, though I claimed I was thinking of Violet, I was focused on my own anger. On my anger at her, at me, and at her parents for being such sucky examples of what a relationship was supposed to be. I focused on my confusion at her feelings, and not on the fact that that was just what she felt.
So I said, “I think I can forgive her, but she’s lied so much…I don’t know if I can really trust her.” And after the numerous things she’d lied about with her relationship, or just about where she was (she’d say things like she was at an important dinner with her parents, when she’d be with him), I couldn’t just start trusting her again.
White told me, “That’s different. You can forgive her but still not trust her. Forgiveness does not equal trust. She needs to earn your trust back.”
Another chord. I’d been associating trust with forgiveness this entire time. Trust is important to me. I’d had friends in the past that blindsided me with disaster (at least high school level disaster, that is), so when Violet started lying all the time…it hurt and it hurt bad.
At this point in time, I’m still debating on how to start that first conversation with Violet. White really helped me though, as did Blue. At this time last year (hell, last month), I would have sworn I’d never talk to Violet again, that if she wanted her douchebag of a boyfriend she could have him. She certainly didn’t want my help. So I left (kind of a specialty of mine).
Leave and forget and pretend like the person never existed.
But I don’t want to forget Violet. I want to call her my friend. Maybe I will eventually, but I’m still waiting to see if she’s going to run back to him. If she does, then I’ll go back to waiting. I know I need to be the first to open communication, because Blue has told me many times how ashamed Violet is about her behaviour, and how horrible she feels over it all.
I just need to find the right words to say it. To explain how hurt I was over her behaviour, and how I don’t blame her for it. How I blame myself for it. How I can forgive her, but not trust her yet. How no matter what happens, I’m going to be there for her. It’s a long road ahead, and at this point in time she’s still trying to be friends with this abusive man. She still has him on her Facebook page, and is in contact with him. Blue hopes that if I contact Violet she’ll distance herself from him; Blue hopes my bluntness will solve things, I think. It never has in the past, so I’m not sure why she thinks that.
If you have a friend in a similar situation, all I can say is don’t do what I did and cut them out. If you love them, and you want them in your life, work for it.
I thought friendship was supposed to be effortless, but I’m learning it isn’t. It takes patience and forgiveness, two things I’m sorely lacking. But with growing up comes…growing.
As I said in the beginning, I wrote these four years ago, and decided to post them as they are. I still remember it all happening so clearly, but I have no idea why I did the things I did. Anger is so blinding, especially with youth (I was only 21/22 when these events unfolded). For those that wonder she’s cut that man out, and due to court order, he’s not allowed to contact her or their child (a story that isn’t mine to tell). Violet and I are friends again, and chat almost daily. We aren’t as close as we used to be, I’m not sure we ever will be, but it’s nice to have her back in my life. I will, however, always wonder if things could have been better if I’d done things differently, if I’d tried harder to get her away from him. I’m still learning how to no longer dwell on what could have been.