I found your blog after hearing you on the radio in Palm Springs over Spring Break. I tried to call in with my question but the phones weren’t working! Since then I thought my question had been resolved but then last week it popped up again so here I am.
My circle of friends is very small and dear to me. We are five women who have been close since grade school and even after going away to college we all landed back in our hometown and remained close. The group has been struggling with one woman, “Angela,” because she keeps going back to an abusive and unfaithful husband.
I am not exaggerating when I say this pattern has been repeated a half dozen times over the past few years: he cheats or verbally abuses her, she tells him she wants a divorce, he begs her forgiveness and she takes him back.
After Angela decides she’s done with him she comes to us for love and encouragement which we give her, then he’s back and she seems resentful for what we said about him when they were fighting. Meanwhile our group often has social outings with our husbands and none of us want to see this jerk anymore, who seems very nice and normal but of course we all know different.
How do we talk to Angela and finally make her understand that this pattern is destructive to her and her children, not to mention her social circle?
I think this fits here:
First I’ll answer your question and then I’ll make some pithy observations and armchair analysis that will surely land me in hot water with N.O.W. and anyone else who believes in equality between the sexes except when it comes to women being responsible for their own lives.
You asked me:
“How do we talk to Angela and make her finally understand that this pattern is destructive to her and her children, not to mention her social circle?”
I’m recovering from a bug and wish to go back to bed so I’ll be as brief as I can: you don’t.
This is a pattern that has repeated several times and each time one or more of you little busy-bodies takes poor Angela aside and begs her to get help and leave the relationship.
Come on, Quinn. Do you really think this is worthy of yet another sit-down? Angela knows her relationship is fucked, you know it, all your friends know it. Stating the obvious for the umpteenth time is not going to change anything.
My advice? Decide whether she is worth all the drama and come to terms with the fact you cannot change her.
For years she has remained mired in this mess and now your choice personally and as a group is to either ostracize her or learn to enjoy and be entertained by the periodic dramatic mini-series that is her life, even if you always have to watch a re-run. Watching people fuck up over and over again can provide hours of entertainment as well as free self-esteem building.
As for her husband, I’ll deal with him in a moment.
And now, the part that is sure to get me in trouble:
Let’s assume for a moment that everything Angela has told you about her husband is true: he cheats and he has a bad temper that occasionally flares up in the form of yelling and name-calling.
If Angela wants a happier relationship, she is free to divorce her husband and pursue one. However, it sounds like she is perfectly satisfied with what she has, as evidenced by the fact that they are still married.
Some people thrive on drama and the cycle of fighting, making up, and fighting again. You mentioned this was the same type of relationship she had with her college boyfriend and the man she lived with while she was in graduate school.
You see the common denominator here, don’t you? It’s Angela. She’s a drama queen and you and your friends are her audience. After all, a drama queen can’t exist if she doesn’t have an audience.
It’s not up to you and your friends to fix her, because in Angela’s world there is nothing that needs fixing. This pattern will continue until she decides she’s had enough of it and she uses the intellect she has to change her life for the better. Until then, she is a happy victim offering herself up to an irredeemable asshole so she can feast upon the chaos that ensues and the sympathy she receives when he acts exactly as she knows he will.
Angela has a graduate degree and a good career, which makes her even more unsympathetic in my eyes. There are many women who are trapped in truly abusive marriages due to poverty and the fear of being severely injured or killed if they leave.
Angela swears he has never laid a hand on her, though she has told your group “emotional abuse is just as bad as physical abuse.” I’m going to beg to differ on that one as it pertains to adults, although I believe the most abused people in this family are the children who are learning how to behave like fucked-up little tyrants and drama queens.
Lastly, I want you to consider the following: is it possible Angela is full of shit?
You told me everyone likes her husband and he has done very well at the same job for 20 years. You also told me that in your relatively small city, it’s pretty hard to hide chronic philandering, and the only whisper of impropriety about his behavior you’ve ever heard comes from Angela.
I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this…remember that I’m feeling awfully crappy today and my skills may be a bit off. I’d just like you to consider the possibility that Angela is using her husband in a weird game of Emotional Munchausen’s Syndrome ™ (I just totally made that up and hereby declare my intent to file a trademark). Everyone rallies around her when her husband acts up and perhaps she enjoys the love-bombing and all the expressions of concern.
Something just doesn’t add up here and I’m curious what Angela’s husband would make of all this if he were privy to some of the conversations between his wife and her friends.
In the end it doesn’t really matter because she is choosing this life time after time. You can ask her to stop sharing the same problems over and over again, but I doubt she will be able to help herself. Being the victim is her identity: Angela is the poor put-upon wife of a careless and heartless man and for this she gets attention.
I’d suggest you either stop giving it to her or begin making it interesting by taking bets on what will happen next. What’s the over/under on being called a fat cunt who can’t cook on the same day she discovers he’s fucking his sales rep again?