This post has nothing to do with my usual life learning topics and not much to do with my kids. Mostly it’s about me and one of my friends.
I’ve mentioned her before – she separated from her husband going on two years ago, and began dating almost immediately. The very first person she went out with turned into a boyfriend -a jealous one with whom she had little or nothing in common except for an intense physical connection. Whenever she spoke to me about him it was in terms of ‘I don’t think we have a future’, ‘we have nothing to talk about’ etc. Then last Fall when we were in London, she told me that it was over, and she was only staying with him till his custody battle with his ex-girlfriend over their not quite two year old son was ended. (The ex-girlfriend has a restraining order against him and he is only allowed to meet with her in a public place. He now has partial custody of their child.) The kids and I met him while in Wales, and after much thought I could only liken his presence to one of Harry Potter’s dementors, sucking the life out of the room and everyone in it. Maya’s observation was that “he has no personality”. Thank goodness the relationship was soon to end.
Cut to Christmas Day, when I get the news that my friend is pregnant and panicked. She has two grown girls and made the mistake of thinking that getting pregnant couldn’t happen. She tells the boyfriend she doesn’t want to keep the baby and he begins six weeks of intense emotional abuse and threatens her with physical abuse as well. Wishes her dead. Threatens her life if she goes through with the abortion. For that six weeks I spoke to her almost every day. She in England, me here in New York, desperately trying to keep her head above water.
For many of those weeks, when I spoke to her it was as though I was talking to someone who wasn’t really there – who was no longer in her body. At one point I thought that if we were living in medieval times, I’d swear this man was using sorcery to control her. Then one day I called and when she said hello my response was, “Oh, there you are!” She did not keep the baby and vowed not to see the abusive boyfriend again, even though he had given up the threats in lieu of crying and begging. We still spoke regularly, though not every day.
And then about a month ago I received an email in which my friend told me that she had ‘given up’ and at the boyfriends insistence was moving in with him. By the way, she also works for him. Her tone in the email was so defeatist that it angered me. I wrote back. I told her that if her boyfriend was willing to go to therapy both together and separately to work out their problems and to see if their relationship had a future, then I’d be able to support it. But she’s told me several times that he thinks therapy is a load of crap. I told her that if she sounded happy when she talked about him, instead of defeated and degraded, then I’d be happy. But as it stands, I cannot be happy about her decision (or rather her lack of one), because I fear it will mean the end of our friendship. There is no way I can be in the same room with a man who threatened her repeatedly, called her a murderer and other names I won’t write here. I won’t subject my children to a person who routinely gets drunk and picks fights at his local pub; a person who seems to have succeeded in creating a submissive partner to do his bidding.
I’ve gone over and over the conversations, the many, many conversations my friend and I had all through the winter and spring, trying to find a place where she sounded truly happy about the prospect of being with him. I’ve tried to excuse his behavior, but then I hear her crying again, telling me he wants her to burn in hell, and I find there is no excuse for that.
Sometimes I tell myself that I’m being a bad friend by not continuing to reach out, but nonetheless I can’t make myself do it. It breaks my heart to talk to her and know she is beyond my reach, taken to some dark place where she believes she does not deserve better. She admitted to me several months ago that if it was one of her daughters, it would kill her to see them with such a man. As it kills me to see her with him.
Part of me hopes she’ll leave him and start her life. Another part hopes maybe he’ll get help and strive to be worthy of her. But the largest part remains in despair for her and unable to watch her misery. And if truth be told, I also feel angry at her for believing him and not me; not me and not her other friends, all of whom reached out, offered safe haven, offered spiritual, physical and financial help and all of whom were ultimately turned down.
I miss my friend, but she is lost to me even when we do speak and that might be the hardest part of all.