I’ve always been the kind of person who had trouble making friends. Not because I’m not friendly, but because I tend to be too independent and prefer my own company over that of others. I don’t know what scarred me in my past life, but “introvert” is usually the nicest way people tend to sum me up.
I’m working on it, though, I promise.
In the meantime, what this means is, the friends that I do have are my absolute world. They’re my friends for life. I would do anything for them and want nothing but to see them successful, thriving, and happy.
That’s why it kills me when I see them in bad relationships.
As a friend, you do what you can to support your friends. You’re there to cheer them on and tell them everything will be okay. It’s your job to build them up and find ways to let them see themselves the way you see them—kind, beautiful inside and out, funny, smart, or whatever else they may be to you.
But what if your friend is dating someone who’s doing the complete opposite? What if they’re crushing their spirits and putting them down? What if they’re doing it so subtlety that your friend barely even notices?
Worse yet, what if she merely pretends she doesn’t notice?
This is the boat I’m currently in.
For the longest time ever, my good friend Anna (fake name) really wanted a boyfriend. She had so much love to offer and was ready for a serious relationship in which she could invest her time and emotions. Anna is gorgeous—seriously. Not only that, but she’s probably the nicest person you would ever come across. She’s the kind of girl you’d never expect to have such a problem, but hey, life can be an ironic bitch sometimes.
For some reason, Anna never had luck with guys. Everyone wanted to be with her because again, she’s a ten by all standards, but no one wanted a relationship. No one wanted commitment.
Now, we could argue that she was looking for love in all the wrong places (ahem, ahem, clubs and lounges aren’t known to lead to many I dos), but I’ll be the first to admit that finding love in NYC is hard! You gotta do what you gotta do.
Soon enough, Anna ran into the guy of her dreams. He ticked off every one of Anna’s boxes: attractive, tall, graduate, employed, mature, etc. I’ll admit, he was cool on the surface, but I didn’t try to get to know him much beyond that.
It wasn’t long before Anna and Connor (fake name) started dating.
At first, things seemed to be going well. Anna spent every minute of her day with Connor. They would hang out after her classes, grab lunch on his break, and he was practically living in her apartment every day of the week. It was gross-yet-adorable puppy love. It got to the point where we actually missed Anna. We’d invite her to dinner or to movie night, but she was always hanging out with Connor.
Then came the night things began to unravel.
It was our close friend’s birthday party—one that Anna knew not to miss. When I texted her when she wanted to meet up so that we can get to the party together, she said she couldn’t make it. She said she was feeling “sick.”
There’s no way she would miss the party because she’s sick. That wasn’t like her. I knew something was up. So, instead of texting her back, I called. She didn’t answer.
I texted her I was coming over.
She called me.
Her voice was raspy and she was sniffling. Over the phone, it sounded like she really was sick. I told her I was going to buy her soup and bring it over with some oranges to help her feel better.
“No, don’t come!”
I stayed silent.
Call it an instinct, knowing your friend, or what you want—I knew something was up.
I asked her if Connor was home. He wasn’t, thankfully. So I visited her.
That’s when Anna revealed that they’d been fighting nonstop.
As she sat on her couch and cried out pain, she detailed the emotional abuse he was putting her through. Indirectly, she managed to reveal that he hated her friends (yes, us, even though I barely knew the guy), made her feel bad about her expensive taste (it was her hard-earned money, btw), and told her she needed to lose weight (she’s an x-small). Not only that, but even though all of Connor’s family speaks perfect English, he intentionally spoke their second language in front of Anna, so that she wouldn’t understand anything they talked about.
“Screw him!” I told her. “He clearly has no respect for himself or for you.”
Along came the excuses.
“He’s a nice guy deep down inside.”
“I know he means well.”
“He’s just under stress.”
“That’s not the real him.”
“He loves me.”
“I love him.”
She pointed to the flowers in a vase by the table and said those were an apology from a few weeks ago. She also showed me a few texts he’d sent her, all apologies.
It was clear that this was a cycle. He says or does something. She reacts. He gets angry. He apologizes.
In turn, she became isolated and was ripped of her self-esteem.
I wanted nothing more than to get my hands on Connor. I wanted to hurt him physically because he’d destroyed my friend emotionally. But I knew I was out of line. I knew if I gave away the slightest hint that Anna talked about him, I may put her in trouble.
The worst thing is, Anna can technically leave him. She had no reason to stay with Connor. She had her own place, was financially stable, and was on track to graduate with her Masters. She needed him for nothing.
Yet, in her mind, she needed him for everything.
Anna wanted a relationship. Most of our friends were in relationships and she had a hard time with the concept of being single. It made her feel inferior, like she was flawed or something (I blame that on society, but that’s another story).
So in her twisted mind, living with Connor’s outbursts was better than being single. So she stayed.
As her friend, I check up on her everyday. I call her more than often and do my best to get her out of her apartment and keep her socialized. I still hear about Connor. He’s still a jerk, but Anna claims he’s trying to be better.
I don’t know if she truly believes that or is saying so for her sake, but I don’t press her. At the end of the day, I can’t live her life for her. I can’t rip her away from her boyfriend because I don’t like him.
The day I hear he tries hurting her for real or ups the ante is the day that I either call an intervention or pretend that something happened at my place forcing me to long-term crash at hers (I will babysit him, if that’s what needs to be done). But until then, I will go along with Anna’s lies. I will pretend that Connor is not a horrible human being. I will make sure she focuses on all the good aspects in her life and continue to remind her of all the wonderful qualities she has to offer. I will secretly try to find her a guy who can make her forget the tears Connor made her cry. I will love her unconditionally and reassure her that she is worthy of all that love.
Because that’s what friends do.