Greg started stalking her this winter, driving drunk around her neighborhood, harassing her new boyfriend. The guy even took a shit on her front lawn and sent her a picture of it. His harassment was daily and never-ending. Her new boyfriend, “Michael,” a close friend of mine, filed a police report, but despite our interventions and support, Julie wouldn’t file one herself; she was too afraid it would escalate the situation. Fine. We made sure she wasn’t alone and helped her through it as best we could.
Well, a few weeks ago she started distancing herself from Michael and me. She went from daily communication with us to not answering texts, not initiating hangouts, not responding to our invitations. I haven’t seen her in a month. But I walked by the Greg’s house the other day — it’s on my way to work — and her car was there (I should note that she and Michael have an open relationship). She’s been seeing him again.
When I called her out on it, her only comment on the subject is to “trust her.” She is convinced that the best way to get over him is to let him back in her life. “It’s easier this way,” she says.
I don’t know what to do. After years of being her (sometimes only) support, part of me is like, fuck this. If she’s going to ignore me and shut me out, choose that abusive dickwad instead of our decade-long friendship, then see ya. But the other part of me knows that this is what an abusive relationship is. She spent years being told by him that he was the best she could do, that she was worthless and a fat cow and now she believes it.
I just don’t know how to help her now… Give her an ultimatum!? Call her parents!?! Threaten to cut his balls off if he contacts her again!? Or actually trust her and pretend that this is fine.
Michael and I are both pretty hurt at being shut out and, frankly (and perhaps selfishly), find it insulting that this is what she chose! — Shut Out
This really isn’t about Julie “choosing” Greg over you. This is about the state of her emotional and mental well-being. Logic and reasoning don’t typically apply the same way to people who are in the throes of abuse. It sounds as though Julie is more far-gone than you originally thought, and it’s obvious that you can’t “save” her. You’ve supported her as best you know how. But saving her isn’t your responsibility and, frankly, it’s not a Girl Scout badge you get to claim. For your own sanity as well as Julie’s well-being, you need to distance yourself from her now and let her figure this out herself. You’re burned out on the friendship. You feel frustrated and rejected. Continuing in this vein will eliminate whatever good feelings you have for Julie that still remain, and that will ensure that the friendship, and any line of support Julie may have from you, will cease to exist.
Julie knows where and how to find you, she knows you care, she knows she can count on you. But if you continue pressing her — giving an ultimatum and making threats (like cutting off Greg’s balls) — you risk alienating yourself from her indefinitely. At this point, she may still reach out to you. Push her much more and that bridge is burned, and if she finds herself in serious danger and really needs help, she will be much less likely to contact you.
For his part, Michael needs to accept that whatever he had with Julie is over and he needs to MOA from the situation. That boat has sailed (or, rather, sunk). It should never have left the dock in the first place — not while Julie was still healing from her abusive relationship with Greg. Both you and Michael need to focus on your own lives and, if not “trust” that Julie is making wise, well-thought-out decisions (she isn’t, obviously), then trust that she knows how to find you if she wants your support. And if she doesn’t reach out to you, whatever happens to her is not your obligation to fix or to take responsibility for. I know that’s a tough pill to swallow when you believe someone may truly be in danger, but Julie has made clear that she is not open to the support you’re offering. She may not be open to any support at all. And that’s not on you. You need to feel no guilt at this point. You’ve done what you can.
As for your hurt feelings: I’d really try to let that go, too. Julie obviously isn’t in her right mind right now, and I hope you can be generous enough of spirit to forgive her for not being the friend you want or need her to be and for taking your friendship — and your support — for granted. Maybe one day, if she frees herself of Greg and gets her life back on track, you can explore a friendship with her again. But right now you need to let her go and focus on yourself and other friendships.
Oh, and choose another route to work.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.