“My Friend Chose Her Abusive Ex Over Me”

“Julie” and I have been close friends for almost a decade; she’s hilarious and quick and normally I’d say she’s incredibly smart, but I’m not sure that’s accurate right now. She dated a horrible man, “Greg,” for two years. There was severe emotional abuse, hospital visits and golf clubs swung. Her mental health was at it’s lowest and helping her move out of his house was such a goddamn relief. That was last August.

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.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy​(AT)​dearwendy.com.


  1. Excellent advice, Wendy

    (just a note – you’ve got a Julie/Ashley swap in paragraph 2 – you can delete this comment if you wish!)

  2. Are “Michael” and Matthew the same person? Seems like maybe LW forgot to disguise the name at the end…

    1. Who is Matthew???? Don’t see that anywhere.

  3. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

    The paradox of abusive relationships is that when the non-abusive supporting people get frustrated they star thinking the same general statements that the abuser is using (and yes the victim can tell you’re judging this way). “Why aren’t you making the choices I want you to make? Are you dumb?” The abuser is literally saying the same things. Is the non-abusive support system 100% being concerned and rational rather than abusive? Is what you want the victim to do the extremely (and only) reasonable option? Hell yes. But the victim is not in a place to recognize the difference; it’s just going to sound like nobody trusts the victim to be autonomous, and that the abuser is right.

    So, if you want to stay friends with Julie, avoid telling her what to do about Greg. When she starts telling you about Greg being abusive, ask her what she intend to do about it (if you want to support her, tell her the ways you can support what she says she wants to do, even if you don’t think she’ll do it). After she responds tell her what you once knew was true: “You’re extremely smart Julie. I know you can figure this out.” That is contradicting what Greg is saying. That is supporting the friend you knew her to be. And here’s the most important thing: your friendship is not solely about Greg, so you cannot make the time you spend with her solely about Greg. When you’re together, do things you both like to do together! Talk about things you both like to talk about! Show her that Greg is not the only thing in her life. Also, make sure that you give her as much room to make her own choices as you can. “Where do you want to eat Julie? Vapiano’s! Great choice I love that place!” That said, you’re allowed to have boundaries and limits. Do not let Julie run roughshod over yours because she’s trying to appease Greg. Letting Julie have her own autonomy and making sure you guard yours is the BEST way you can support Julie.

    But Wendy is right that if this is too much for you, then you need to get some distance. There is no use in getting frustrated and resentful. That helps nobody.

    FYI, the average number of “leaving” before a victim is free: 7. The time when the abuser is most dangerous/escalates/the victim is most likely to end up dead: when the victim is leaving.

    1. Absolutely fantastic advice! I really like the point about maintaining your own boundaries Encouraging the person’s autonomy and emphasizing their worth is so important. I was previously in an abusive relationship, and my self-worth revolved around what he thought of me. I had no autonomy, and substituted his judgement for my own. It is super-important that the person also know that they are not alone, because abuse is so isolating. My friends and family stuck by me throughout, and they were essential to helping me finally get out.

    2. good advice. i am going to try and follow it

  4. Bittergaymark says:

    Michael need to not just let go, and MOA — He needs to vanish completely from her life. By even offering support and friendship from the sidelines, he could very much be putting himself at risk to violence

    1. Yeah, for real. If this guy is as abusive and controlling as he seems here, how would he feel about Julie being in an open relationship??

  5. LisforLeslie says:

    He shit on her lawn.

    I’m sorry – there is nothing you can do or say that will ever make that not have happened. One day, hopefully, you’ll be able to look back on this nonsense and laugh. For now, you need to set boundaries.

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      No! You missunderstand completely!! He was merely organically fertilizing her front lawn!! THAT’S why he sent a picture?! Duh… Everybody here REALLY hates men. A poor guy can’t catch a break! 😉

      1. LisforLeslie says:

        BGM – you’re right. For all I know the guy is considering organic farming and this is his start up.

        As an aside: A lawn shitter is a lawn shitter regardless of gender / sexuality. I don’t care if you’re a pansexual in process transitioning MTFTM – once you drop trou and poop in public… you shall forever be a lawn-shitter in my eyes.

  6. I am sorry, LW and Wendy, but I disagree with this very strongly. LW, you are in the throes of a friendship that isn’t working the way you hoped – but your friend, your FRIEND, is in the throes of taking back a man who sh*t on her lawn because it’s “easier.” Sometimes, a friendship can become about ignoring your own feelings and just focusing on how to help a friend in need. This isn’t about you, this isn’t about her choosing him over you, this is about a person in distress who needs someone who is there for her.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      How do you suggest she do that in a way that still honors her own boundaries when the friend has returned texts, calls, or invitations in the last month? She helped this friend in need for, it sounds like, two years already, including helping her move out of the abuser’s home. Is there any point in being friends with someone in need that you draw the line and put your own needs first? I think that there is. I think it’s ok to say, you know what, I’ve been the sole support for two years and this friend has ignored me for over a month now and I’m getting resentful, so I’m going to let her know that I love her and I care about her and I’m here when she wants to reach out, but I’m going to honor my own needs right now and not make checking in on her a daily obligation. I think this is especially important when said support person is at risk of burning out AND, frankly, putting her own safety in jeopardy.

    2. Northern Star says:

      DCLite, you can’t FORCE someone to make good choices. And this friendship has been about Julie for YEARS now. At some point, you give up because you realize a “friendship” isn’t about a relationship between two people anymore. It’s better to break things off while you can part amicably, in case Julie EVER gets her life together, rather than drag it out until you hate her.

      I think it was unwise to get Michael involved, and the LW needs to apologize to him/advise him to move on from Julie. Michael IS at risk if the loser boyfriend decides to get violent. And clearly Julie wasn’t/isn’t ready to be in a healthy relationship anyway.

  7. Julie is broken and whatever validation you get from trying to fix her is not the basis for any real friendship. There is a seductive quality to being a hero and rescuer, both within and outside of romantic relationships but it’s grossly unhealthy for all involved. Getting further enmeshed in this will poison your life and put you at risk of physical violence and lawn defilement.

  8. Someone should tell that kid who is all freaked out about his uncle going to town on his aunt in his bed to be grateful that no one pooped in it.

    1. That already happened…

  9. LW, I think you lost your credibility with your friend because Michael is also a close friend of yours. It makes the situation complicated: for her, you defend this relationship (“we, Michael and you and me…”) vs her relationship with this ex-new abusive boyfriend. Put Michael out of the equation regarding your friendship with her.
    Don’t do “ultimatums”, that is crazy too. You are not the first to see a friend go back to an abusive partner, alas… All you can do to be a good friend is to take some distance (you are not responsible for her choices), and let the door open for the friendship. Tell her when she wants to confide in you that you can’t approve or don’t even get this choice, given the history of violence, so you won’t hear complaints for hours, but that you will be there for her in case she needs your help. And you can give her the data of an association for abused women. Frankly, I would consider this friendship as done. Usually, when a friend feels unsupported in her love choice, she chooses the guy anyway, you can’t do anything about that… You have the right to be upset and angry, and to let her know if she contacts you about it, but at the end of the day, she is free to make her choices. During the whole post, I wondered how this is your business, except for the feelings you have for this friend. Keep the friendly feelings, distance yourself, let the door open for her just in case and protect yourself in the first place.

  10. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

    From the LW:

    “Hey Wendy!!

    Man, you give great advice.. Thank you for taking the time!!

    Unfortunately, it’s all a bit moot at this point… A few days after I wrote to you, I received this facebook message from “Greg”..

    “Stop meddling in affairs that do not concern you, you fucking ginger cunt. Only warning I am giving you. You don’t want to end up on the same list as that fat fuck “Michael”. Snitches are a dying breed.”

    Sooooo I filed a police report, sent Julie a ‘what the fuck’ message (she either told him that I asked her about her car being at his house or he looked through her phone and saw the messages) .. and then told her that I love her and that the moment he is not in her life I am right there beside her, but I cannot put myself in a position where I’m receiving death threats.
    I asked her to delete my number from her phone in case he gets it and starts calling me ten times a day (like he does to “michael”). She said she understood and we haven’t talked since.

    Last night, after some more harrasment and another visit to the police station, “Greg” went off the deep end.. When the constables called him, he threatened to shoot an officer, commit suicide and said other equally disturbing things… The police cant find him, Julie’s not returning our calls though we hear she is safe, Michael and I are on our way to get peace bonds and Ive been staying at my boyfriends house.

    This is some scary shit..

    What’s scariest is perhaps the system.. Despite multiple reports we’ve made to the police, ‘uttering threats’ isn’t perceived as a crime and so nothing has been done and now it’s come to this…

    A little note to all your readers to stay safe and take care.”

    1. How incredibly sad that there are women like Julie out there who are so damaged that they can’t leave their abuser, even after crazy shit like this waving in their face.

      1. I know Julie is damaged and can’t think of leaving his abuser and that is sad and scary at the same time.
        But can you imagine what would happen if she told him that she is never talking to him again/leaving/dumping him? This guy is a psycho and if she did something like that he would probably go ten times crazier than he is right now.
        Maybe Julie knows that and is trying to handle things at the moment, not in the right way though. What is sadder is that authorities can’t do anything to protect her right now.

  11. That must be the benighted philosophy of your local police. Around here, Greg would be charged with making terrorist threats. Threatening suicide would get him an involuntary psych commit. Threatening to kill a police officer would definitely have him arrested and jailed. Once the police find him he may well be arrested.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m the friend of a friend, let’s call her Mary. who is in an abusive relationship and I really related to your story. My friend has been in a relationship with this guy for the past seven months and her entire life revolves around him. He tells her what to wear, what to eat, when she should shower, etc. Every single time she has ever hung out with anybody without him there he gets extremely angry and texts her the entire time. Even when she hangs out with her mother. On nights when she wants to be alone in her own home, he will show up anyway. Anyway, things took a turn for the worse a few months ago when he physically assaulted one of our other friends, a girl, because she stood up Mary when he was degrading her in front of all of us. However, when he was arrested, Mary immediately took HIS side and has stayed in a relationship with him this entire time. The rest of our friends have left her, but I’m pretty much the only person who is still friends with and I am torn. Every time she says that she is done with him and that she understands he is “abusive” she ends up hanging out with him and makes comments about “not wanting him to get in trouble”. She has also blown me off a few times for him as well. There are times where she has me so convinced she is taking my advice or leaving him and it never happens. Am I a bad person for getting angry and ending the friendship?

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