Dear Smart Bitch Sarah:
My husband is madly supportive, affectionate, loving and constantly put me before himself. But he can also be an abrasive, opinionated person and likes a good heated discussion. I, of course, love this about him. But other people don’t. In fact, I have a friend who is encouraging me to leave him, to the point where she claims he’s sleeping around on me, that he’s holding me hostage (I’m a stay-at-home mom. It lets me take care of a special needs child and gives me time to write.) Last time I talked to her she called me a sucker for staying with him, and said that he knows I’ll put up with any kind of abuse and still stay with him.
Abuse?? What abuse??
Now she has her friends sending me emails and IMs urging me to leave him, telling me that I’m better than that, and even offering me a place to stay! I have to socialize with her because she runs in the same circles as me, so a nice “Fuck off” is a no-no if I want to keep my life peaceful. But what can I do to stop this?
Confused, Not Abused
Question: does your husband put you down, denigrate or mock you during arguments in front of other people? When he enjoys a heated discussion, is it at your expense? In your objective opinion, is there any room, any room at all, for your friends to think he’s emotionally abusing you? I will take at face value that you’re not being abused, but I would be remiss if I didn’t also ask you to stop for one objective-as-possible moment and really ask yourself if what you describe as “abrasiveness” is in fact hurting you.
I say this gently and with respect to your problem at hand: abuse, emotional and physical, moves in cycles, with kindness and compensation and care following each episode of abuse, and then preceding the next one. I am going to trust your judgment that your husband is not abusing you, however, and look at the problem as you’ve outlined.
That said, you are being abused. By her.
If your friend cannot respect your plainly put, “Please stop this now,” you may have to deliver a plainly put “Fuck off.” She is demonstrating the same thoughtless and careless behavior she’s accused your husband of displaying.
It may be time to say firmly and calmly, “Please do not contact me again about this matter, and please do not ask anyone else to do so on your behalf. I am hurt by your actions, and I don’t wish to speak to you again.”
Romance, unfortunately, has a LONG history of abusive behavior masquerading as devotion and true love, and the subtext that it’s ok for a guy to hurt you if he loves you because it’s for your own good can still sneak in when you least expect it (*koff koff* Twilight *koff koff sparkle*). It’s unfortunate, but it’s also important to examine it because it’s a pervasive message that influences much of the entertainment directed at women, from teens to adults. Being the heroine, in my mind, means taking care of yourself and always making sure you are safe and strong.
Just because you “run in the same circles” and have to socialize with her does not mean that her behavior has no consequences, nor that you cannot tell her to knock it off. Moreover, if she’s worried that you have no spine and are cowing under abuse, show her that you do in fact have a backbone. Stand up to her abuse and tell her off. In all things, always demonstrate that you can take care of yourself.