My best friend’s recent relationship worries me. We're both mid 20s, but he's pushing 50, has a criminal record, and is jealous and possessive.
He lashes out at her and has trouble controlling his anger (saying "that's just how he is.") My friend accepts that excuse.
I've seen him display these traits, particularly his anger.
I have no right to tell my friend not to see him. I'm nice to him, and if this goes long-term, I’ll ultimately respect her decision.
However, she's now seeking my advice on how to deal with her parents. She says they don't understand and don't approve.
How can I support her in this struggle with her parents when I honestly think she should dump the guy?
She's very headstrong, as am I, so I need to know how to help her.
Time for a best friend to speak up honestly, but lovingly.
Tell her you care about her and that’s why you’re concerned for her future with this man.
If he can lash out at her now, during the early courting phase of a relationship, and they both excuse it as “just his way,” she’s giving permission for being treated badly, and putdown, even controlled, for all the years ahead.
He’s an angry man who takes no responsibility for it. Tell her you worry how that can affect their life when she wants to have kids, how they’ll be disciplined, how she and he will resolve conflicts.
Also, she needs to know the factual details of his criminal record, not just his “story.” That record will affect their freedom to travel outside the country, his ability to get jobs and be promoted, etc.
Tell her it’s not your place to try to persuade her parents of anything. But say you believe she needs to be a lot more aware of what she’s facing with this man, before she moves forward just to prove she can.
My very close friend is currently in a relationship that I perceive as controlling and emotionally abusive, and I have no idea how to address it (or even know if I should address it).
As a man, it never occurred to me that one of my male friends might wind up in this type of relationship.
I’ve asked friends and family for advice, and the overwhelming response has been that my friend’s an adult capable of making his own choices and I should simply support his decisions.
I don’t think I’d receive the same advice if my friend were a woman, nor do I think I’d struggle with broaching the topic with a female friend.
How should friends and family approach the victims of controlling and emotionally abusive relationships? How do I engage in this conversation without ending a meaningful friendship?
Different for a Man?
There’s no gender difference regarding the harm from abuse. It’s demeaning, disrespectful, and can be physically, emotionally, and mentally damaging.
As a very close friend, you must talk to him about this.
Just as the letter above, begin with your caring and concern for his well being. Tell him you’d be happy to be convinced that his new relationship is not emotionally abusive and controlling.
But describe what you’ve seen. Tell him you don’t need to hear all the details involved, you just want him to see what it looks like to you.
Tell him you’ll honour the friendship if he remains involved, but you hope he’ll first think through what’s really happening and why he’s accepting it.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman who wants to leave her husband (Feb. 10):
Reader – “Could not this woman’s partner have a physical or mental health problem, or both?
“Perhaps she should be told how to reach out to him, how to get him help, or find out what he’s feeling.
“Your advice to leave him buys into the throw-away society we’re becoming.
“If he’s depressed, he needs real help, not an ultimatum and more financial worry.”
Ellie – He’s the one “throwing away” the relationship through his daily excessive drinking, his coldness to her, and lack of affection, no appreciation of her, and no sex.
She wants out for her own sake and that of their child, age four. She’s depressed, and he’s detached.
I’m sticking with my same advice: upgrade towards another job (she’d lost hers) and get counselling to consider her options.
Also, warn him his alcoholism and coldness is what’s driving her away.
Tip of the day:
A best friend shares red-flag concerns for the other’s relationship, in a caring manner.