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Dear Chump Lady, How do I save my friend?

bigmouthHi Chump Lady,

Please advise regarding my friend whom I think is making a mess of her life with a rebound relationship. 

My ex left 3 years ago for an OW, and his best friend followed suit 6 months later for his OW, leaving my friend with 3 small kids. A whole 3 months later she announced she was healed, ready to move on and started on-line dating. After several months dating many men, she found herself a creepy man-child who wooed her with soppy poetry and sob stories about how his wife cheated on him and left with his young son. Fast-forward to this year — he has moved across the country to move in with my friend, quit work, is paying minimal child support to his ex-wife, is pursuing a dream to study at university (with no foreseeable career prospects) while Chump-friend works full-time and fusses around to give him quiet study time and even helps with his assignments and Powerpoint presentations.

He is increasingly undermining of her parenting, mean to her kids, unbearably arrogant about topics he knows nothing about, and is clearly enjoying the biggest free ride of his life. Chump friend must have smelled a rat as she checked his phone and found he’s been checking out numerous online dating sites and also found out he had actually left his wife, and told various other lies about his former life and qualifications. After being lied to and cheated on by her ex, I assumed it would be “pack your bags and out by the weekend” and told her exactly what I thought of him — big mistake.

She thanked me for my “perspective” and after calling about 25 friends, found a few men who told her to give the cheater another chance. I told her she is grasping at straws, putting her kids’ welfare and finances at risk, and asked her to contemplate why she is so terrified of being alone. I suspect the fact that her ex is now engaged and expecting a baby is a big factor.

If it wasn’t for her kids I wouldn’t feel so worried by her appalling choice, but they have another odious man in their lives who is at best a parasite, looking for a new adventure at the expense of their emotionally vulnerable but financially secure and professionally well-connected mother. At worst… who knows what his motives might be.

Should I have said nothing or been more subtle? I have the urge to keep pointing out his numerous scary red flags until she either boots him out (unlikely ) or severs the friendship (which has already been strained due to my honesty). Maybe I need to stop trying to rescuing her, accept that people make crap choices to avoid being alone and back off?

Many thanks,

Vastra

Dear Vastra,

You’re a good friend. And you’ve got a big mouth. I like that in a person.

I know I should point out that you and your friend have codependency in common — she thinks she can change the idiot, you think you can change the idiot — but I still admire your spunk. Most people THINK these things, “Stop! You’re ruining your life!” You say them.

I mean, what else are friends for? It would be one thing if you were criticizing the drape of her new pantsuit. It’s quite another to express alarm about the man she inflicts on her children. It’s not a little thing. It’s a great big toxic elephant in the room.

That said, some people just love their toxic elephants. You can point it out, and they’re all like, “Dumbo and I have a bond. You wouldn’t understand.”

So… what to do. You can go two ways here. Path 1 is stay in her life. Tone down the bitchslaps and when she complains about the latest dating profile discovery, don’t shriek. Say, “Chumpy, this relationship doesn’t seem to be bringing out your best self. Does this feel acceptable to you?” Point out her choices and her agency.

She didn’t leave a cheater — she got left. I imagine she’s feeling quite powerless and rejected, and Dumbo’s kibbles feel very significant. Or his soppy poetry is that good. As her friend, you could point out her value outside of Dumbo — her mightiness raising three kids, how great she is at her job, her value to you as a friend. Give her validation that’s not Dumbo-centric.

Keep the lines of communication open. Do NOT apologize for telling her the truth. If it comes up, you simply say “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” And every single time she wants to bitch about him, or tell you her sad sausage tale, you STOP her and point out that agency. “Is this relationship ACCEPTABLE TO YOU?” We only control ourselves. Then change the subject to growing peonies, or pine cone elves, or whatever else it is you have in common.

Path 2 is detach. It is really, really painful to watch someone drive their life over a cliff. It’s even worse if you’ve yelled out “HEY! CLIFF AHEAD!” and they do it anyway. It may be that your friend just needs a few more kicks in the teeth to get it. She clearly hasn’t suffered through enough PowerPoint yet. Maybe you should go invest your time in friends who aren’t being such colossal fuck ups.

Ooh, was that harsh? Consider our Dr. Simon axiom, “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.” It applies to chumps too. It’s not that your friend doesn’t SEE that Dumbo is a dumpster fire of dysfunction. It’s that she DISAGREES she should save herself. She values the appearance of togetherness and “winning” a partner over her own and her children’s well-being. That’s who she is.

Many of us have been her. And we got past it — painfully. I hope your friend will too. For now, I vote for Path 1. She hasn’t done anything horrible to you for calling her out (except staying with the bastard). See if you can keep channels open. If she persists in being tied to Dumbo, detach. You can’t save everyone.

This column ran previously. Hopefully Friend came to her senses.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I was always under the impression that friendships don’t require you to judge the other person or try to control how they live their lives. I guess my understanding of friendships are being there for each other even though the times either one of you may make poor choices and enjoying the fun times together. Maybe I missed the boat on what being a friend means?

      • A lot of people think we shouldn’t judge, including those who cheat. My answer would be – It’s our ability to categorise (and judge) which according to an influential theoretical stream is common to all humans (actually, it’s supposed to be common because it a function of our brain function). Also, are we not supposed to have moral and legal systems?

        The call not to judge is often a requirement not to call people on some behaviour, or not to impose consequences.

      • I think the word JUDGEMENT today is misused or misunderstood. Today it seems as though the friend in this case is implying she is BETTER than her friend in trouble. That’s not the case. Like CL said, CLIFF AHEAD!! What? Do you think youre better meeeeeee! Off the cliff.

      • I think I have a good example of being discerning about friendships.
        My ex-best friend and I exchanged numerous emails, texts and photos for 3 years.
        We shared the same daily issues about husbands, in general, and my new dog, her new grandchild, etc.
        Talked all the time and travelled around the country in r/v’s showing our dogs.

        One day when I was confused, I mentioned that my husband was acting strange and suddenly being very mean to me, which was unusual. Also, all his actions and words seemed apparent to everybody that he was involved in an affair. I told my friend this. Her answer was, God, all men are so selfish and difficult to live with. blah blah.

        Well, turned out, she was having a 3 yr affair with my husband and was using me for information about our life. What a raving bitch. I trusted her so much!

        So, obviously, my discernment of her was totally out of line and I failed to judge her properly. It’s very hard now to make close friends again. Not sure if this relates to the thread but I always wanted to point out how deceiving a ‘friend’ can be.

        • Oh wow shechump my first Dday was totally your story! Almost word for word. I even went to my great friend and asked her advice because I thought my now X was cheating! With a concerned look she told me he wouldn’t do that to me and to stick with him things would settle down.
          I smelled a rat a while later and caught them out, kissing at a function we were all attending. They both tried to tell me she was sad and he was comforting her. “insert eye roll” ….. seriously ?

          Her husband forgave her but ranted to me later that, he was so angry my then husband and his oldest best friend had never apologized ! Never occurred to him his wife had never apologized to me.
          She still comes into my workplace and and attempts to smile and make nice! …who does that?

        • I agree with SheChump and a couple of others here – difference between “judging” something – typically negatively with our opinion of it AND “discernment” – making an evidence based objective observation of behaviours and then deciding if those behaviours are acceptable to you and you will have them around you or not.

      • Your true friend is the one who will tell you when you have gunk in your teeth.

        I’m grateful for the people in my life who love me enough to call me out on my crap–they ‘discern’ that I’m headed down the wrong path and are willing to stand between me and destruction. I’m even more grateful if those friends will stick with me until I get it together.

        Heaven help us if we ignore our friends when they put a spotlight the red flags we ought to already have heeded.

        • Agree! In addition to listening to loved ones when they see red flags that I do not see, I also judge myself consistently. It’s an important step in advancement – to take a step back and assess actions and outcomes, making sure things are on track. If yes, great, keep going. If not, take proper action and realign.

          Anyone who has worked in a company has likely been thru annual or biannual evaluations which break down all of our skills and actions and even personal behaviors within the office. It is healthy, IMO. Actually, I don’t even think of that as judgement. More like being wise in this game of life.

    • As a friend, you also are in the position of pointing out the red flags. You may choose only to do it once, but it comes down to “if you see something, say something!”

      Once anyway.

      Endlessly listening to someone complaining about the SAME problem and doing NOTHING to change the problem isn’t being a friend. It’s being a doormat. You do get to stop that line of conversation with a comment like “This isn’t new. Is it working any better now than it was last time you brought it up? Let’s talk about something else.”

      Judgment is what keeps us from walking down a badly lit alley, in a bad part of town, wearing glittery clothing and clutching a clear plastic bag stuffed with 100 dollar bills. Don’t knock it.

    • I wish my friends told me what an idiot they thought my husband was. But no. They saved that for after i dumped him and his lying cheating perverted boundary breaking arse. TBH id have preferred they told me earlier. Im pretty easily influenced. I would have trusted my intuition more. Thankfully they know what i expect now if i end up with a toxic elephant again (real elephants arent toxic so no offence to elephants)

      • Real friends tell you the truth even if it pisses you off. False friends watch you screwing up and say nothing. A friend who watches you march to your doom is no friend.

        True friends accept the truth of their friends words instead of cutting those friends off. True friends will respectfully accept their friends views even if they don’t agree.

        This idea of not judging is taken out of context. We will always make judgements otherwise known as discerning, assessing or making a decision.
        Why people are so offended? I can only imagine.

        • I have lost those I thought were good friends because I dared to point out how their choices were emotionally, and in one case physically dangerous. They wanted a Yes-man friend. And as a friend I feel its my duty to say something when I see them blindly stumbling towards a cliff. As someone who had been off the edge of that cliff myself, I can’t pretend an attitude of acceptance of a shit sandwich and say “Yummy for you!”

          I lost a few “friends” that way, one dropped me because I pointed it out, and another I had to walk away from because I couldn’t stand to watch the abuse and her denial of it.

          I now try to be very careful who I have any kind of relationship with.

        • I am grateful to the few friends who spoke truth to me about my ex when I wanted to stay with him. I was angry at the friend, but now appreciate their truth speaking about my ex and his behaviors. It changed me, how I view friendship – what a real friend looks like – all for the good.

          • I have friends who stood by me (sadly shaking their heads) while I did the 2 year “pick me!” dance, who helped me pick up the pieces when all was said and done. I am so very grateful for them.

            I had other “friends” drop me like a hot potato when they found out, like infidelity was contagious, and that, somehow, it must have been my fault.

            And still other “friends” who knew all along what he was doing, and didn’t bother to clue me in. I get that they were placed in an uncomfortable situation, when he felt the need to unburden his sordid behavior and double life on them. But I wish they would have had the courtesy to somehow clue me in. It might have spared me an HPV diagnosis.

        • I don’t give advice anymore. Whoever thinks they can “judge” a friend or counsel a friend into doing something is foolish. You can speak your mind but don’t wait for results. A Good Friend doesn’t mean save everyone around you or you’re being a BAD Friend.

    • Amy,

      If your friend were in car and heading for a cliff, would you not point out the cliff and tell them to change direction?

      If the answer is no, you’d let them fall off the cliff, then read no further.

      If the answer is yes, then understand there are cliffs that aren’t actual cliffs, but could ruin your life. A good friend attempts to steer that person away from the cliff.

    • I spent 10 years helping a best friend get divorced from her awful ex. This type of scenario applied. She ended up having an affair with my now-ex…. A friend isn’t someone you meet and connected with and then you’re bound together forever notwithstanding terrible choices and changed values. You don’t drop people during difficult times. You drop people when their poor choices conflict with your morals or your physical or emotional well being.

    • Amy, to me you are describing an acquaintance in your post. With an acquaintance I keep it all happy and surface level.

      For true friends that I love like family, I care about them beyond having a fun time. I want to invest in them, I want to see them becoming their best selves. This means having candid conversations when you see them heading into harm, OR causing harm to themselves or others.

    • Being judgmental as a personality trait is a bad thing because I think it stems from either a bit of self-hatred being projected onto the world, or a feeling of being superior to everyone else. End of my armchair psychology.

      What I don’t understand or agree with is this notion that we shouldn’t judge anybody. It does seem to be more prevalent in young people, and maybe that’s normal, but I don’t know that for sure. Undeniably what got me in the mess I am now in is my poor judgment about the person I paired up with years ago. My picker was and is probably still defective. I haven’t tried it out because I’m far from healed

      The way I see it, there are levels of judging other people. You can judge a specific action, and come to the conclusion that they’ve made a good or poor choice based on your own biases or experiences. You may even make a quick assessment about their character. You can observe a pattern of poor choices and conclude they are a toxic person (abusive behavior is what I’m talking about here) or a pattern of good choices, and make your best JUDGMENT about their character being good, and worthy of being in your life.

      Nobody is perfect, and we all do things we wish we hadn’t, but being judged for that is perfectly fair. Other people have an obligation to determine if we are someone with whom they can spend time. Not everyone who judges us gets the big picture of whether it’s an isolated incident or a pattern, but someone who is really a friend knows us well enough to make that call – in general, at least.

      I still remember a time in the grocery store when my son was a toddler and he was being a little tyrant. I was beyond fed up with him, and snatched his hand angrily to lead him to the bathroom as I scolded him. I’ll never forget the look on another shopper’s face as she observed my behavior. It had she’s a BAD MOM written all over it. I caught her eye and she glared at me hard. She judged me for sure, and I still remember it because she really didn’t have the whole picture, and it annoyed me, but it’s a good example of the first kind of judgment I was talking about. I doubt very much she would ever have wanted to get to know me. But that’s the thing, you can’t decide if someone deserves to be in your life unless you make a judgment about them. If they are a friend and you love them, you have likely scrutinized them under the second scenario I described, you have seen their pattern of behavior. Friends don’t want to see their friends harmed, so it is a loving act to point out destructive behavior. And as Tracy said, if that behavior continues and doesn’t mesh with your values, then you get decide, based on your judgment, whether you want to be a part of it anymore. You have more information about them with which to make a judgment.

      My head knows all of this, but I spackled as I found out new information about my ex, rather than contemplating whether I really wanted him in my life for healthy reasons. I’m 51 years old and still learning about life and how to judge people. If I don’t judge them, I’ll just be in an endless cycle of letting shitty people into my life. No thanks.

      • Sure there is judgement and then there is giving advice. Don’tgive advice unless you want to be responsible for the results. If they looked to you for help and you prescribe some actions you better be around for the results. Judgement is different. To me that is speaking your mind and seeing if it has any effect.

    • If your fly is unzipped do you want your friend to tell you or let you keep walking around with your fly unzipped?

    • I stuck by a friend and did my best not to “judge” in all.of her shitty relationships. Well because of her shitty choices in men, one of her children was murdered. You better believe I open my big mouth now to anyone I care about. When so.eone has shady character, and kids are involved, it’s just not worth the risk. Not every cheater is a pedophile or murderer, but why risk it with young children. At best, you teach your kids that dysfunction is acceptable. At worst…well you already know. If you stick around in dysfunction youcan only drag me into your drama. That’s not being a good friend to me.
      If I could do it over, I would have told her, “Look, I live you to pieces. But it hurts ME to see you choosing to be with someone abusive (because cheating is abusive). Until you can get out of the path of this trainwreck, I cannot continue to watch your mess. Whenever you learn to value yourself more and stop choosing to be a volunteer to abuse, I will be here.”
      It’s NOT judging to detach when someone’s values dobt align with your own it’s the kindest thing you can do for yourself

      • I definitely judge women (or men) that bring dysfunctional derelicts around their kids or are so obsessed with a person their kids take a backseat. These idiots are so desperate for someone in their life they are willing to subject their own children to abuse or neglect.

    • I’ve heard the “friends don”t judge” line before and I vehemently disagree.

      Okay, just imagine your friend is the one with the mean, parasitic boyfriend and you don’t know if you should tell her how you really feel.
      You already made a judgement when you chose her as a friend. We constantly make judgements about everything and everyone. We couldn’t survive without doing so. If you are a true friend, it is your duty to care about this person. You judged your friend worthy of caring about, right? Then you judged her boyfriend as a mean, parasitic asshole. Trying to prevent her from fucking up her life is an act of caring. That is friendship. Idly standing by while she ruins her life is not. Would you really do that just to avoid being “judgy” and pissing her off enough to sever the friendship? If so, I call that selfish, because you’re more worried about you losing the benefits of having her in your life than you are about her life being ruined. Put her and her children’s well-being ahead of your desire to stay in her good graces. As the song goes, sometimes you gotta be cruel to be kind. If she cuts you off, there are other friends out there for you, and you don’t have to watch them self-destruct.

      I had a friend who was going back to her ex-husband who had violently abused both her and her son. He had even threatened to kill her. I couldn’t watch her go off that cliff and she wouldn’t listen to reason, so we parted ways. I never saw her again and I’m actually not sorry. I don’t want anything to do with her shitshow of a life.

      I think perhaps what’s confusing you is you’re thinking along the lines of not judging friends for *harmless* choices, like bad taste in clothes, a different parenting style to yours, or a different point of view. That is legit. If your friend wants to wear acid washed denim, has hideous tatoos, and thinks the moon landing was a hoax, you have no need to judge her for it because it’s not harming her or anyone else. If she wants to subject herself and her kids to a disgusting creep boyfriend, that’s not a situation in which to reserve judgement.

    • I have a few wonderful people in my life who are always on my team. If I make a mistake, they are kind. If I’m in a difficult situation they might tell me they think I should make a different choice. They don’t judge as such, they don’t expect me to be perfect, but they wouldn’t stand by while I did something harmful to myself. I think that’s what you’re looking for in a friend.

    • Your ideas about friendship seem overall correct. And they don’t conflict with CL’s advice. She’s advocating giving sage advice when asked and taking self-protectionary measures (as in, I CANNOT stomach watching this accident waiting to happen); she’s NOT advocating controlling a friend or even judging her. You don’t need to “judge” a lot of these actions in any real way–they’re messy on their face.

      Although, I agree with several comments here that this idea that we shouldn’t “judge” each other is silly. We literally judge almost everything we see every day in one form or another based on our experience and values. So, why not our friend’s actions? It’s ok to say “hey, your actions don’t align with any value system I know to be good.” Is that judgment or just observation? Either way, I think it’s a kindness to our friends to do this.

      I coulda written some version of this letter about a friend of mine. At the end of the day, I was concerned for her daughter. My friend heard similar concerns for a couple of her other friends, and despite this continued exposing her daughter to some dirtbag boyfriend. I couldn’t watch it, gave her daughter my phone number and said “call anytime, I’m here for you” and walked away from that friendship. There is not code anywhere that says we need to stand by and watch someone we care about destroy themselves.

  • This describes me “You’re a good friend. And you’ve got a big mouth.”

    I love the things you say!

    I’ve been in this same situation many times so thanks for the advise. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone go over a cliff.

  • I vote #1, too. I made the mistake your friend is making and having my friends still around as I came to my senses was crucial. They were my light at the end of the tunnel and my reminder that I was still a person worthy of respect. Be that for your friend.

  • All that comes to my mind is how glad I am that I am not like Vastra’s friend. Or my STBX, in a big hurry to Find My “Sole Mate”. I am on my own with my daughter, going on 19 months now, with no end in sight, and I have no idea when I will ever date again, nor do I care.

    She said “”hardly anyone ever does this”. Well, I am doing it. I am not an ingenue anymore. I am a traumatized woman who has a child and is divorcing, and my re-entry into another relationship (if I ever do!) has to proceed according to those new facts. That means

    1) do not date anyone until I am legally divorced and
    1b) fully healed and processed that relationship
    and
    2) do not bring anyone around my daughter until a year after the divorce.

    When I find a good therapist and pay her good money and she gives me good advice, I will
    likely get good results if I follow it.

    Unfortunately we all continue to run on our programming, cheaters and chumps alike, unless we intervene on ourselves and get some new programming.

    And as for friends, Al Anon is a great place for anyone to learn the How To’s of situations like Vastra’s. The best place anyone can go. And it’s free.

    You get to say something ONCE, and then you have to let go. And that includes not continuing to listen. Most of the time people have to find out for themselves.

    • I like your plan.
      I’ve been separated 8 months, signing divorce papers tomorrow.

      I have no interest in dating. I’m enjoying life on my terms with my 2 teenagers.

      I’m 47. I was married for 20 years. I am revelling in the freedom of being single.

    • I just had my 4 year divorce anniversary and I have not dated and have no real desire to date. I am not against it, but just have enjoyed this time to heal and get to know me and understand how I got where I was after 20 years of marriage to a serial cheater.

      I do not think there is anything wrong with dating right after divorce, but I hate that it is looked upon as strange when you do not feel that need. I get a lot of pressure from my family and friends to get back out there. I have been able to launch my boys and enjoy these last few years with them as they become wonderful young men.

      I have a girlfriend who has started dating after a very abusive end to her 15 year marriage 9 years ago and she is with a man from work that is “sleeping in the basement because his wife knows he wants a divorce but he can not get divorce right now because of the kids, his father and of course he is too busy at work to divorce” I have stated my Bull S@$! detector is beeping like crazy but she just gets mad. I have decided to be there when she needs me but I will not discuss him with her without voicing my opinion. So we do not discuss him. It is hard to watch that train wreck.

      • I was in the same non-dating boat for about 5 years. I focused my life around my children and in my free time I thought of it as dating myself. I planned some pretty awesome dates and had a blast doing things I wanted to do. There came a time when I was ready to expand my circle to include someone else and I found that my picker had become much more discerning. I don’t regret the choice at all and I’m that much more close to my children because of it.

      • When someone you care about is making choices that resonate with you and your struggles, that’s empathy. When you feel pain and difficulty detaching from it with love, that’s human. But when you go along for the rollercoaster ride instead of bowing out to take care of yourself, that’s codependent. I have a hard time being around people that make these bad choices because it triggers me with bad memories, and all the frustration, anger, and pain I experienced. I suppose the best way I can handle it is to be honest that these are my feelings, tell my friend that I can’t be as supportive or objective a listener as my friend might like because of this, and let them know that I’m there for them in all other ways but that. Be specific about what support you can provide and demonstrate it. (for example, “if you ever want me to watch the kids while you are working things out with your partner, I can come get them.”) If they don’t like you speaking that truth, then let them know you want a friendship with them where you not only respect one another’s choices, but also each other’s boundaries and the experiences that made them necessary. You will likely part ways during this time because your friend will seek sympathy or acceptance elsewhere, but hopefully you either turn out to be wrong about their relationship and you can apologize later, or you can be the friend they come to for advice and support when they decide to leave that situation. I can feel guilty and sad about it, but no matter how much I love or miss that friend, at the end of the day, I’m not doing anybody any favors wasting energy helping someone who is not respecting their own professed boundaries, let alone mine.

      • My narc left 3-1/2 years ago to move in with 23 y.o coworker. I am over the hump. Free and content. Divorce was final one year ago. I love my peace and quiet. I look at my mostly ex friends, and their spouses don’t want to work or drink too much or are abusive or lazy or all of the above and I am free. I say ex friends because I see how I pick narc friends, too. I’m repeating what I grew up with. I am used to accepting unacceptable treatment. I was perfect for my narc ex. I ask little and give too much. Took me to be almost 60 years old to see it so clearly. But it’s ok. I am at peace. I am ok by myself. It’s nice. No more friends/boyfriends/spouses full of drama and victim mentality.

        Saw this on a you tube video today: It’s a blessing when they discard you because they see you are not fooled by them anymore. 🙂

    • This is really nice to read because I’m the same way and I’ve also been looked at strangely for opting to not date right away. It’s been 3 years for me and I don’t really have an urge to date. I think it has to do with the trauma I went through as well. The desire to be in another relationship developed into ZERO after several months of realizing how nice life was just focusing on my son and securing our future. People always want to assure me I’ll find someone and it drives me INSANE! It’s like…not everyone has to have a man in their life to be happy; I am one of those people. And, in fact, I’ve found I’m a happier woman on my own, which if you would have told me I’d feel this way 10 years ago…I would have told you that you were absolutely nuts. Healing is different for everyone. For me, being on my own was just what I needed 🙂

      • Same here. I’ve had a few men indicate interest and since I can’t think of any reason to have them in my life I declined to waste their time.
        I’m very content. Very at peace and I like it how it is.
        I don’t know if it will change but I don’t see myself being convinced to give up this life anytime soon.

    • Here, fucking here.
      Agree. Say it once and back off. Sometimes “helpful” people are just narcissists with their own agenda! Someone once said, “a wise man learns from his mistakes. It’s a genius who learns from yours.

  • I was that girl once who stayed with and then married someone with a billion red flags. One of my close friends called it out and she was right but I was unwilling to see it or accept it. It caused some tension but in the end she stayed my friend and just accepted it wasn’t her life. Had she been insistent I might have ended the friendship. I was convinced she didn’t understand! I was in denial. We agreed to disagree on him.

    The thing that was most embarrassing during the final breakdown was having to go back to this friend and tell her what happened. I felt so ashamed. I waited for the “I told you so.”

    And you know what? She was so kind and empathetic. I’m really grateful for that.

    • Emily, you have described the best solution to the “what do I do about my friend?” dilemma. You don’t get overly invested in their problems (too much suffering and hand-wringing over one’s inability to change someone else’s life is a red flag in itself), you keep healthy emotional boundaries, you accept it’s not your life, and you remain kind and empathetic. As CL says, it’s really painful to watch someone drive their life off a cliff. You may have to detach with love for awhile, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

      • I agree. This does mean, however, that you do have to detach somewhat, need to draw new boundaries, and distance yourself. After having lived years in my trans-identified husband’s closet, honesty is even more important to me now that I’m out, and for me, that distance and detachment, necessary as it may be, strikes me as diminishing the friendship; you’re just not as close as you once were when you could speak honestly and freely. I’ve had to do this with both friends and family, and although it’s been necessary, it makes me somewhat sad that my relationships with them cannot be as honest as they used to be. That said, a friendship in which there’s continual tension because one person is offering a perspective the other rejects is also unsatisfying for both.
        So I try to remember: we don’t control others, we can’t change others, and we can’t save others from their own decisions or action.

    • Same here. That friend of mine met the demise of my marriage with grace and compassion and fierce loyalty. I’ll be forever grateful to her. But, I also would not have faulted her for walking away during the worst of it when I was refusing to see the truth.

  • I posted before editing by accident!

    Confusion clear-up….above when I said “she said hardly anyone does this, I meant:

    My daughter’s therapist said

    1) Do not date anyone until you are legally divorced (at the earliest) and
    2) Do not being anyone around your kids until a year after you are legally divorced and
    3) hardly anyone does this.

    PS….good friends point out red flags. Once.

    • BRING anyone around your kids, not BEING!

      For Pete’s sake! (Can’t wait for the new format where we can edit comments!!)

      • 😂hate it when autocorrect takes over. I’m learning that part of healing is leaving a couple friends and finding new ones. my “codependency” or whatever made me choose fuckwit was also raging in my choice of friends. users like my squishy no boundaries generous side and i used to like “saving” those people. look where that thinking got me. discernment is the gift of recovery from betrayal. one of my healthy friends told me i am generous to a fault. the fault piece is my challenge to modulate until i can trust myself to make better choices. hugs to my fellow chumps.

  • This circumstance is typical for all us chumps. Can’t see the flags before us, don’t feel those dissonant vibes wafting off them like stink off a skunk. But boy we see how terrible our next door neighbour treats her husband and how awful the BIL is to his wife. We can suspect somebody’s else’s POS but ignore the person we married because we stood up and made vows and your partner would never do that to us! Probably the boiling frog syndrome. Can’t see the disrespect because it builds slowly over years. Sometimes a friend or family member can see it more clearly but is afraid to upset you by voicing their misgivings. My viewpoint now is to open your yap let somebody know that they are being treated unfairly, let them know you will stand by them but agree to disagree about some things. Unless a friend decides to terminate your friendship it’s important to let them know that somebody has their back. Because when the manure hits the fan wouldn’t you want some backup.
    For the friend with Dumbo, watch what he does around her kids and what he does recreationally. Any sign of abuse or addiction issues you stand up like a Mama bear for those kids. Because if she can’t see how unwell he treats her she might miss how badly he treats her babies.

      • Not implying that Dumbo is a child abuser. I just think he could be a thoughtless mope who might do stupid things like locking them out, leaving dangerous shit out on the counter, creeping them out by wandering around shirtless, using profane language etc…. If he’s living with this woman he should be treating the house as their house and dress and act like he would if visiting one of his married relatives with small kids.

    • So true. It’s easy to see what a pos the people you aren’t close to are, but it is hard to see it when it’s someone you love or think you love and your brain just doesn’t want to go there.

      • My brain sure didn’t want to go there. I observed shitty behavior and prided myself on being able to accept him, warts and all. That’s fine if those warts are things like leaving dirty clothes on the floor instead of taking them to the hamper, but him getting shit faced drunk in front of me and my kid and saying he didn’t love me while in that state should have given me tinnitus from alarm bells going off in my head! I thought he really didn’t mean it because he was drunk and accepted his apology. (facepalm)

  • The first thing that came to my mind when reading this was the movie Dirty John.

    Maybe a girls movie night on your sofa with the above as the feature film. .

  • I had a friend who left the abusive jackass completely, then went back to him. I told her that I won’t be able to have anything to do with him anymore because he doesn’t get to be in my life, that I don’t want to talk about him or hear about him as long as she is with him. I said I realized that would dramatically change our friendship, but it’s what I need to do for my own peace of mind, and that I can’t stop him from hurting her, but I CAN stop him from hurting me.

    We are not friends anymore, her choice. I get why she made that choice. I don’t support her marriage and I don’t accept her husband. It makes sense that she would choose to let me go. I told her as much.

    But if she ever DOES awaken to his BS, there’s still a door cracked open.

    Abusers isolate the abused. Alienating friends is one way they do this. I was looking for a way to abandon him without abandoning her.

    I hope I found one.

    • well done amisfree. good boundary setting! i just did a similar thing with a friend. she doesn’t understand. i just can’t be party to the craziness anymore. i am tired of doing crazy. hugs

      • I hope I’m never in that situation Amiisfree and thrive, but if I am, I will remember your examples and hopefully be able to follow them! Hugs to both of you ❤️

    • Did something similar with my ex SIL. After her abusive husband (they’re still married) threw her against a wall in front of the kids then took off with the babies while threatening suicide…and she STILL refused to kick him out, I couldn’t stomach it. I gave her information on domestic abuse, voiced my concerns one last time to her and her parents, then bowed out.

      And actually, they seem to be ok now. He got intensive therapy, they all “found god” and became ardent church goers, and every year they attend multiple marriage retreats. In the end, she stood up for herself and forced his had and getting help. But yea, in that interim period it was just too much…I got worn out through panicked midnight phone calls.

  • Can’t save your friend.

    But you can save yourself and be a stable person with boundaries who is available to your friend.

  • Once the dust settled from my marriage and I started doing the work to heal I began to realize not only how damaged I was, but also how damaged the people
    I chose to surround myself were.

    I totally get why your friend is attracted to him. She wants someone who is not in a position to leave her, someone she can feel good about herself for taking care of. All the things that make him a horrible choice are the very reasons she picked him. Telling her over and over what a mistake she is making is only going to make her cling on to him harder to prove she’s not the worthless loser she feels she is after her husband left her for another woman. I know you mean well but this isn’t helpful to her.

    Her behavior and yours is both very codependent. I had friendships like that where I so desperately wanted to rescue people, show the the right way to live. It wasn’t my place. It’s one thing to let someone know how you feel and to offer advice, but when you get to the point where you are writing to strangers to find better ways to control your friend’s life you need to take a step back and look at what you are getting out of this. Why you are so invested in someone else’s drama.

    I read a recovery forum for friends and family of addicts. When someone new comes on saying their spouse has a drinking problem people point out that their spouse doesn’t have a drinking problem, they do. Your friend is an adult and is free to make her own decisions. If you wish to keep her in your life you need to accept that.

    For me I realized that I was so invested in fixing (controlling) others because it distracted me from fixing myself.

    You sound like a lovely, caring person anyone would be lucky to have in their lives. Turn than inward. Heal yourself, it will be what helps your friend most on the long run.

    • It’s not that their spouse doesn’t have a drinking problem. Their spouse DOES have a drinking problem. They don’t. They been affected by someone who is a drinker.

      Like, e.g., their spouse has a cheating problem.
      They don’t have a cheating problem. They have been affected by someone who is a cheater.

      Big difference.

      The similarity lies in the fact that they have no control or power over the drinker or the cheater.

  • I am most grateful to my two friends who told me up front that they did not like him. I thanked them both and asked what exactly it was. One said I was too good for him. The other said that he thought he was full of himself.
    I loved them even more for speaking their mind even though I married the fool in the end . But it helped me to keep my eyes open and gave validation in the end. I was too good for him and he was in fact full of himself but would act fake humble.
    Don’t be a full fool for love.

  • My friend would tell me:
    “The definition of insanity is repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results.

    She helped me realize that I was expecting the impossible. I finally woke up. But sometimes it takes a long time for chumps to wake up. We give too many chances. We all have to learn in our own time.
    My friend didn’t give up on me. She was always there for me. Comforted & supported me. Eventually I learned. Some of us have to learn the lesson multiple times to understand it completely.
    Others get it right away.
    There’s no right or wrong way.
    There’s just living life that seems right for you.
    You can look back in hindsight & see clearly but when you’re in the s**t it’s sometimes hard to see. Thank God for friends who anchor you to reality.

  • It was around 2 years before D-Day for me when my mother (who lives on the other side of the country from me) pointed out how twitchy and weird my STBXH had gotten. I look at that as my friend with the biggest mouth saying something she needed to say. She saw the flags just as they were starting up and spoke up. Option 1 from this article is exactly the route she took for her own daughter and I’m glad that she did! Since then we have gotten even closer in our friendship (only discovered after I became an adult and pulled my head out of all the stupid angst of being a rough teenager). She is my biggest support in all of this and the loudest on top of that.
    It also gave me the perspective to realize that I need friends with a better bullshit detector around me locally. Outspoken, loving and caring people are a treasure!

    • Hey Mom!!

      I love Chumplady’s article on the mom who slams the cheating son-in-law’s face into a frozen Hot Pocket (? don’t remember what the frozen food item was). This mom was Brunhilda, “I’ll teach you not to mess with my daughter”, and kicked him in the balls. This mom would not look the other way or spackle for the son-in-law’s low character.

      • It’s a good thing my Mom doesn’t live in the same region of me or her reaction would have been a lot worse! Lol she is a badass on a whole other level than me! But it just goes to show the love and care she took in raising me to be strong and fearless like her. And it paid off in the adult friendship we got to develop. No one else will ever have my back like her!

  • Yep. I’ve been trying to save my mom from a pervert since I was a little kid. Praying for her, listening to her, allowing her to intrude on my work site, allowing her anxiety to jump into my head/heart so I could carry it for her, never mind my need to study, I am a good daughter, and will not abandon my mom when she needs me. What kind of a Christian do you think I am? I know to respect my parents! Goodness.

    Yah. We don’t talk about it, but Pervert molested my sister. She’s now on husband #3, drinks, hasn’t seen her nieces for 3 decades. Also, not just my sister, he was trying to get to my daughters: and I’m supposed to deliver to Mom her unchanged relationship to her granddaughters, since Mom had the nobility to tell me that her husband is a molester. That was a real mindfuck. I hung up the phone shaking. My therapist told me, “Most women would leave a man they thought would molest their grandchildren.”

    I made the mistake of telling Mom I would send her Tabitha’s address. There’s no way I can do that and still enjoy a relationship with my daughter. They do not want Pervert showing up at their house. Will mom even hear that sentient truth? Not without daughter-shaming me. . . . . somedays I have perfect clarity on how I was ensnared in “marriage” with James Bond.

    • I don’t even know what to say. You are a strong person, and I hope that your sister can find the help to process the trauma. We’re all here for you, as you know. ❤️

    • I can’t tell if you’re being factious about abandoning your mom…but you’re describing a dangerous and toxic relationship that no one (especially not God) would advocate you stay in

  • Serial monogamy with a series of cheaters is not an improvement. I know this from bitter experience.

    I’m not dating anyone until I’ve had some serious therapy for several years. Yes, I’ll be older. So what? My priority is not finding any man I can get at any cost. It’s staying out of destructive relationships.

    • I’m right there with you, Madge

      I did that for longer than I’d like to admit. I’ve now been single for 2 and a half years (with the exception of one stupid night a year ago with sparkledick). I’ve been in bimonthly therapy for 4 years now and it’s helped so much (along with reading CL for the past 6 months) (thank you, CL and CN). Although I’ve been at meh for a few months now I’m still not ready to date. I just turned 50 but I’m not letting that number scare me. I’d rather be “old” and alone than with another fuckwit. I’ve finally learned to enjoy my own company. Turns out I’m pretty alright.

  • After many years of dealing with this situation over and over again with friends, I found this is what works for me.

    I tell my friend that I am seriously concerned for their future and mental and/or physical well-being. This usually leads to friend wanting to argue, but I won’t. I just say, “Promise me you’ll step outside of the situation and look at it as if I was in your position, what advice would you give me?” If you are determined to stay on this path, I think it’ll be best for our friendship that you don’t talk to me about your relationship at all. No more complaining about your partner or calling me to talk about how poorly they treat you. It takes too much of my emotional energy. I am here for you if you decided to to move on with your life and escape the abuse. I’ll do whatever it takes. But I will no longer be part of this cycle of abuse.

    What usually happens is friend makes the decision not to continue the relationship with me. But I know that I did the best that I could.

  • I had a friend whose husband was told her she just go ahead and kill herself. He kicked her out and she had no place to go so she came to my house. She had no money (he cut her off) and her parents lived in another state, so I gave her what little money I had to get her and her kids there safely. I called periodically to check up on her and her kids and two days later she tells me she was going back to him. I wasn’t surprised honestly, from what she told me it was a vicious cycle between the two of them and he treats them that way when he gets drinks . I told her it’s abusive and she needs to think of herself and her kids. She said he was going to get help and that her kids needed to finish the school yet first and then she would decide what to do. Another incident happened again a few weeks later and I told her I would find a shelter she could go to but that I would not help her again financially. She eventually went back to him again. I care about her but I have to do it from a distance. Sometimes you have to let go and allow a person to learn and figure it out for themselves.

    • Sometimes you have to accept what seems unthinkable – that some people just DON’T get it, ever. They don’t learn, they don’t grow, they don’t figure it out. Their lives lurch from one crisis to another until journey’s end. I know people who have lived and died like this. It’s a huge tragedy of course. The only thing to do is send love from a distance and wish them well. Extremely hard for the “fixers” among us who believe all problems can be fixed (and we’re the ones who can do it for others).

  • Very good advice, I think, and I agree that real friends are there to tell you the truth, not what you want to hear. My best friends always do. In my own case I don’t see how in 3 months or even a year or more I’ll have healed and gotten my head back on straight. (Maybe that’s a sad commentary on me, alas! lol) I get that Vastra’s friend might be lonely after 3 months and wish for the company and attention, but when I get that way, I try to remember that quote (attributed to poet Marianne Moore? not sure if that’s correct…): the cure for loneliness is solitude.

    Please note, though, I am NOT advocating for isolation! Instead, quiet time listening carefully to your longing–and then quiet time considering the possibility that what you seek in others you might be capable of giving yourself.

    • This is great Estellao, thank you for sharing that quote! I’m 6 months out from my divorce, and I just went on 2 first dates, and that’s all it took for me to realize that I’m not ready to date anyone. It will probably be a while before I am, and that is fine. Just with 2 first dates I felt way too overwhelmed and too much anxiety. Solitude here I come… haha, at least every other weekend and Tuesday nights!

      • I hear you! And I, too, get lonely, so I totally understand the impulse to date, etc. But I think listening to what feels safe and sane makes perfect sense, for as long as it takes. Take good care of yourself, Waiting for Tuesday!

  • A life long friend, divorced many years from a horrible cheater, raised two good kids on her own…asked my opinion of a guy she had “met through church” and was considering dating. To cut a long story short, the guy was a perennial loser with enough flaws to construct a big flashing red light over his head. I carefully listed the risks she might face (the term “seeking a nurse or a purse” comes to mind).

    All I advised her was, don’t let him move in or you will be stuck with him. I didn’t criticise anything else, despite the fact he had few redeeming qualities and I could not see what was in it for her.

    Fast forward 3 years and now she’s back asking why I didn’t warn her. Apparently she has been footing all the travel and living expenses and he has a constant stream of excuses why he can’t pay her this month. Some people are just plain thick.

  • Look. I know I have an unreliable picker. I was raised on fairy tales. I have alcoholism running through both sides of my family. I’m still naive. I believe in happily ever after. I’m such an immature ass. But if I had gone back to my ex – and I was at a low enough point at times – I do think my friends would have disowned me. And my ex had it set up that way that if it didn’t work out he could mosey on back with plausible deniability. So I’ve been real careful with dating. And the experience of being alone has been wonderful. I never even realized how oppressed I was on a daily basis. This taste of freedom is something you best not give to someone like me because I like it. Yeah. I revel in it. Stay on your friend’s back but even I’ve walked away from the doormats. Like on airplanes. Put your air mask on first.

    • “And the experience of being alone has been wonderful. I never even realized how oppressed I was on a daily basis. This taste of freedom is something you best not give to someone like me because I like it. Yeah. I revel in it. ” LOVE THIS… oppressed on a daily basis, never realized… YUP. thank you Trudy

  • IMO the same things that keep us stuck with cheaters carries over to friendships.

    Ive learned a hard lesson in keeping quiet, Secrets make YOU SiCK! I know my friends well but already know if they are going to listen to wisdom or not. My advice is always … don’t be so desperate! Love yourself first for a long time before you jump back into the fire.

    • “Secrets make YOU SiCK.” So very true for any one with a conscience. I was describing to my cousin the difference between being secretive and being private, and it really came down to the fact that secrets involve lies that slowly eat away at your soul. Not worth it.

  • This is exactly what is happening with a friend of mine. I have been through hell, and she watched. She saw the pain and agony, the weight loss, the four year debacle in court . . . but she also sees the new, cheater free life that I have gained, and how much healthier the kids and I are and how well we are doing!! We are so much happier without the abusive cheater in our lives.
    She finally found proof that her husband is a cheater, went off the rails for months trying to dig for more, trying to get him to admit he actually had sex with her (hahaha, they RARELY admit it!!), he’s abusive and her children have begged her to divorce him, but she seems to be content living in hell and trying to torture him (while torturing herself). It’s heartbreaking to see. I hung in for weeks while she did digging and sent me every scrap of information she found, then while she spouted anger and disgust and met with attorneys, spent a week or two discussing her exit, filing for divorce, all the necessary steps, supporting her, empowering her to do it . . . and then the cheater begged her to go to counseling becuase – IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT. I gave her some space and sure as shit, she’s caught up in RIC and they are “working it out”. Periodically I get messages that he’s being abusive again, she can’t stay with him, it’s killing her . . . but I think the end game is DRAMA. I think that’s what it is, they are addicted to making eachother miserable and she wants him to pay. Because she won’t leave him, and she’s lashed out at me for pointing out the cycle of abuse. I have directed her to CL, sent her various articles that deal with her situation EXACTLY, and yet . . . she won’t leave. I am working on detachment because it makes me sick to my stomach that she is staying in such a horrible situation, and I cannot support that. I can support her, but cannot hear about the cheater or how hard it is to stay with him. Honestly, it’s a trigger for the abuse and PTSD that I have after my own experience. I hope some day she can get the courage to leave him and regain a life. But I agree with Tracy – detachment is the best option because you will get dragged down with them.

    • Toxic bonds are the same brain circuitry as heroin addition. They can take down everyone around. You’re right to save yourself.

  • My very best girlfriend was my voice of reason and so supportive throughout my 2 year pick me dance. I did not always take her advice although she always gave me sound advice.

    I wanted my happy life back so I took him back each and every time he came back to me stating he ended it with that whore.

    I don’t regret the time it took me to realize I’m better off without him in my life. If I had ended it, and stuck with it, sooner I know I would have regretted that decision and felt I gave up too soon. Everyone has their own journey, their own breaking point. I gave it my all and have no regrets.

    My best girlfriend is still my best girlfriend and I am so grateful she hung in there with me.

  • 4 years ago I rushed into an ill advised 2nd marriage . my mother and sister felt the man was an embarrassment because he was uneducated. I listened to them and asked if they had concerns about his character or history. They didn’t really. But when I did go ahead with it they got really angry and :

    – mother told everyone I was mentally unstable. she tried to get me involuntarily committed
    -started stalking me through people and tried a lot of tactics to break us up.
    – sister wrote me nasty emails accusing me of being an ungrateful daughter and threatening to report me missing if I didn’t return ‘home’

    ps: they’re married to an alcoholic and cheater themselves. mother is a textbook narc who groomed us into accepting abuse. sister has gradually morphed into this sneaky manipulative player, but I feel bad for her as her own marriage is ending terribly.

    in any case my brief marriage ended. that wasn’t too bad, but sadly so did my relationship with my entire FOO. There was no respect or support, just condemnation and public humiliation.

    • You are very mighty. I’m working through similar issues. Thank you for sharing your strength

  • I agree with SheChump and a couple of others here – difference between “judging” something – typically negatively with our opinion of it AND “discernment” – making an evidence based objective observation of behaviours and then deciding if those behaviours are acceptable to you and you will have them around you or not.

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