From a LW:
“(Important note: all names, ages, and examples have been altered for anonymity)
I (34 she/they) have lifelong best friend Dante* (33 he/him) whose live-in partner of a little over 2 years Trevor* (34 he/him) has become physically abusive to him in the past few months. The abuse started with emotional abuse (ex: screaming slurs at him, constant cheating accusations, pressuring him into taking mystery party drugs) after 1.5 years of relative peace.
Trevor has always made a point of trying to get on my good side over the past 2 years (planning my baby shower with Dante, getting me and my husband holiday gifts etc.) but as someone who has survived a lot of emotional/physical male violence in both within family and in the form of past partners I’ve stayed cordially distant because my abuser radar was going off.
Dante and I still spend a lot of 1×1 time together at my house and in town away from Trevor. Since abusers try to gain control over their victims through isolation, I want to make sure Dante has a safe space with me.
I have two questions I need help with (more background information):
1. Dante makes a lot of concerning “jokes” about his relationship in our group chat that he wants me and our other two best friends Paula* (33 she/her) and Georgia* 33 (she/her) to laugh at. Examples include things like “hahaha, should I withhold *redacted sex act* from Trevor until he divorces his husband?”, and share memes like a gif of a sobbing Minion with the text, “Me When Hubby Gives Me The Silent Treatment “.
Me, Georgia, and Paula respond usually by saying something like “are you okay babe” and “that’s a really unkind thing of him to say to you, how do you feel about that”, as well as “we’re here for you” but that tends to make Dante sad for us not laughing with him or pouting because he feels miffed.
We don’t want him to feed bad and shut down but we also don’t want to yeasay Trevor’s mean behavior because Dante usually thinks that not showing disagreement means we agree. How do we support him when he comes to us with upsetting jokes and anecdotes he wants us to celebrate and validate?
2. I have a toddler aged son that both Dante and Trevor love. Frankly, I don’t want Trevor to come near him since I survived so much male violence and I don’t want him to be near violent people so he doesn’t get hurt or become like them. My past abusers within my family have been cut out or are in such poor health they can’t harm or influence my son.
Dante has been pushing for me to host events such as pumpkin carving and Christmas cookie decorating that Trevor used to also join for but I don’t want Trevor to come near my son or step foot into our home again. My husband also is strongly against Trevor being around our son or entering our home. I know there isn’t a script that will satisfy Dante but what is the best way to say “Trevor is not a safe person for us so he is not welcome” or should I just continue to forgo hosting small group events that include Dante? I don’t want to isolate or exclude Dante but also protecting my son is more important to me than any relationship be it friendship or even my marriage.
I hope you consider answering my letter and appreciate your work greatly. “AnonymousseOctober 23, 2023 at 3:34 pm #1126360
You shouldn’t be looking for a script that will “satisfy Dante,” what’ve that means. You have to protect your son, and unfortunately maybe that will come to ruffling some feathers with Dante and Trevor, or maybe not. I would just play it cool and try to keep your hangouts to adults only. If Dante presses, you will have to explain to save your friendship. Just tell him the truth, basically what you’ve said here. You don’t think Trevor is a safe person and don’t want him around your young son. And then just create that boundary, and maybe tell him you don’t like Trevor at all.
If he’s your best friend and he’s being abused, sure be that safe person, but ALSO you could try one time to be the person who tells your best friend that you love him, and it makes you really hurt and sad that he is with someone who treats him so terribly. And then offer him a couch to sleep on or a session with a therapist, if you can. It’s not even just about your son, which is the primary issue here- you have a child to protect, but being around Trevor also triggers you. That’s not fun. You don’t have to suffer because Dante is in an abusive relationship.LisforLeslieOctober 23, 2023 at 4:34 pm #1126361
Have you said to him that there is no circumstance in which you are going to downplay abuse and joke about it? I’m sure there is some sort of clinical term for what he’s doing: He knows that this is serious. He doesn’t want to leave Trevor. He’s scared, sad and not yet ready to admit that Trevor is an abuser and that he, Dante, is a victim of abuse. So he is trying to make it a joke so that he gets affirmation that this is not serious and will blow over. That’s what he’s begging you for right now. I don’t think I need to say it but for the sake of being clear DO NOT GIVE HIM THIS. Do not allow him to downplay this.
I recommend having a quiet moment with him to say this very clearly – it is not possible for you to make jokes about abuse and violence. That you recognize that he’s struggling, but that you will not lie to him and say that this is nothing. You can say that when he is ready to address this problem you’ll be there. Until then, jokes about emotional and physical violence are a boundary for you. Also Trevor is not welcome in your home or near your child. Until he has control of his emotions, you refuse to take that risk. He may separate himself – it’s easier to let you down. If so, do your best to check in on occasion and let Dante know you care and that you hope he’s ok.
DV resources are a little harder for men, but they are out there.
“Dante, I love you and greatly value our friendship and want you in my life as much as availability allows. Lately, I’ve not felt comfortable supporting your relationship with Trevor and while you are always welcome in our home and while I hope we can continue the one-on-one time I feel really lucky to get to have with you, I don’t want to spend time with Trevor. It hurts to see how he treats you, and his behavior isn’t something I want in front of my son. I want you to know that going forward, when I extend invitations to you for get-togethers I’m hosting, the invitation is for you only and I hope you will accept it and know that my not extending an invitation to Trevor isn’t a reflection of diminished love for or acceptance of you; it’s the opposite. You’re my best friend and I want what’s best for you and that includes a relationship where you are treated with respect and love and dignity.”
I wouldn’t even mention the jokes as I would hope this sample script would put a stop to them but if they don’t, then you can either continue ignoring them or ask him in a separate note or conversation to stop making jokes about how he’s being mistreated.