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Question #91177 posted on 05/03/2018 2:54 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

How would you react/what would you think if someone close to you (sibling, close friend, etc.) told you their marriage involved a lot of emotional abuse? What if you liked their spouse a lot? What if the person told you they had no intention of leaving the marriage at this point?

-My Name Here


Dear you,

I agree with everything Alta said. But I would also try really hard to stay close to that person. I would feel much better if I was with that person often enough to get a feel for how they are doing. Maybe they will talk to you about it, maybe they won't. But even just being a regular in their life will allow you to gauge what they need. Take them to breakfast every once and a while, offer to babysit, reach out to them when you think about them, keep up a Marco Polo convo. Whatever allows you to be there for them and also gauge how they're handling things. It's a good thing your friend is aware enough to call it emotional abuse but it's so easy to start believing the abuse and blaming yourself. You can help safeguard from that if you're an involved friend. You don't have to hover but be available. 

I don't mean to downplay emotional abuse. It is real and destructive and should be taken seriously. But the other very important aspect of staying close is so you can be alert to whether or not the abuse progresses into anything worse. Does it seem like severe depression is setting in? Most importantly, you're trying to be aware of anything physically dangerous; whether in the form of physical abuse, or depression to the point of self-harm. We are not licensed psychologists and the lines get fuzzy when we're dealing with the friend of a reader. But I don't think it's a bad idea to contact a mental health professional and ask them the same question you asked us. They will have a better idea of what your role is in the mental health of a friend. 



Dear Your Name,

First of all, believe them. It sounds like you do believe your friend, so this next part isn't directed so much at you as at anyone else who may read this answer: if someone tells you they are in an abusive relationship, BELIEVE THEM, no matter what you think about their abuser, or how nice and personable they may seem, or how good their relationship looks from the outside. You do not get to decide how an abused person should react, or what an abuser will always look like. At the same time, remember that people who abuse their partners may be awesome in every other aspect of their life, and rarely are they the sort of person who's obviously an absolute scumbag—people are rarely as black and white as we may wish.

After that, though, let them know that you're there for them and that you love and support them no matter what. Be constant and kind, because they probably could use more of that in their life.

You can share resources with them that may be of help (these websites all have good resources), but ultimately you have to respect their decision, even if they decide to stay with their abuser. One of my professors this past semester pointed out that for victims of emotional abuse, one of the hardest things is feeling like their decisions don't matter, and that other people don't care what they have to say. You can start rebuilding their confidence in themself by allowing them to make their own decisions and listening to their opinions without trying to pressure them into one decision or the other. You can definitely share your viewpoint, but respect their decision if they don't agree with you.

If the person is set on not leaving the marriage, you could at least suggest they get couples counseling. Someone left a comment on Board Question #91183 extolling the virtues of couples counselling, and you can remind them that this is not just for people in failed marriages, but for anyone who wants to improve their relationship with their spouse. Hopefully at the very least they can get into counselling with their spouse so the abusive aspects of their relationship can improve.

Thank you for wanting to help your friend. I don't know if there's some magical solution to that situation that would fix everything, but thank you for at least thinking about what you can do to help.


posted on 05/04/2018 6:15 p.m.
There's lots of good in these answers, but I'd like to point out that couples counseling is not recommended for abusive relationships. https://pro.psychcentral.com/why-couples-counseling-doesnt-work-in-abusive-relationships/

Individual counseling can be helpful, so that might be a good recommendation for the person close to you.