I've been friends with a girl, who I'll call Samantha, since high school. Four years ago, Samantha started a relationship with a lesbian, who I'll call Alex.

(Alex is a genderfluid person and prefers they pronouns, but identifies as a lesbian. This does not relate to the question itself, just a guide about how to talk about them.)

I've known for several years that Alex has been emotionally and financially abusive to Samantha. I have rescued her from situations before, and Alex knows, but I appeared to move on. I continued to talk to them and be around them.

After months of debate that I've supported her with, Samantha ended the relationship and gave Alex time to gather their things and leave. Alex even posted on Facebook that they'd hit Samantha and were being broken up with as a result. It was the most permanent break up I could imagine. I cut off all contact with Alex on social media afterwards and have not spoken to them since.

As the weeks passed, Samantha talked to me less and less, even though I checked up on her frequently. Alex continued to live there. I feared for the worst.

Then the worst happened: they're back together.

I love Samantha so much and want her out of this relationship. I know I can't do that, but I want to be as good a friend to her as I can. How do I hang out with her now? How do I still be her friend and around her? Alex knows that I want nothing to do with them, and I have not unblocked them. I hate them and have hated them, but I've been nice to them for Samantha's sake for all these years. Now, though, things are much different. Samantha believes/knows I cannot be around Alex any more.

tl;dr My friend got back with her abusive partner, who I've cut contact with. How do I hang out with her?

edit: extra context, Alex and Samantha are very poor, I live with my parents and can't host them often, we all identify as white, and we live in the southeaster United States.

  • Are you still able to contact your friend directly? – apaul Oct 3 at 20:13
  • @apaul Yes, I'm still in contact with her and message her on Facebook often. – Meat Houses Oct 3 at 20:14
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Hang out with Samantha without Alex

Just because they are in a relationship doesn't mean that they're joined at the hip. Your dislike of Alex is already known, so simply ask Samantha to hang out without Alex. While you're hanging out, discuss topics unrelated to their relationship.

Don't let Alex join the two of you on your hangouts if they try. You don't have authority over Samantha's life, but you do have authority over your own, and Alex is no longer allowed to take part in it.

Samantha will likely get pushback from Alex about this plan. Abusers typically try and isolate their victims from the victim's support networks. There is a very good chance that eventually Alex will force Samantha to choose between them and hanging out with you. When they do, abide by whatever choice Samantha makes (as much as you hate it, it's still her choice to make), but if she chooses Alex make it clear that you will support her if she ever changes her mind, and keep in contact with her through more remote means (phone calls, texting, Facebook, pen pals). Don't try and pressure her to change her decision, but always make sure she knows that you'll support her.

The hangouts you arrange don't have to be just you and Samantha. While Alex is very definitely excluded, that doesn't mean that you can't have other friends there with you. This has two added benefits - one is that by helping Samantha make friends (or stay close to her existing ones) you strengthen her support network. Secondly, it weakens Alex's ability to use a theoretical romantic entanglement between you and Samantha as a pretext for ending your hangouts.

  • Unfortunately, there is a lot of being joined at the hip. Samantha can't drive and therefore Alex drives her. Alex is underemployed and is in their apartment more often than Samantha is. Still, making more time for shorter-length hangouts for the times when Alex isn't there is definitely a good idea, and I could definitely push harder to find those times. – Meat Houses Oct 4 at 2:50
  • Can you drive? You could pick her up and take her places. – Arcanist Lupus Oct 4 at 3:08
  • Also, I've added a little bit more to my answer. – Arcanist Lupus Oct 4 at 3:12
  • I can drive, yes, and we've done a few things like going for walks. But adding more people is definitely a possibility I hadn't considered. Throwing more people into the mix is something we could both use, and those benefits are, I think, going to be increasingly necessary as time goes on. Thank you for that suggestion! – Meat Houses Oct 4 at 3:25
  • @FriendHelpYeah walks are great and cost effective :) – Matthew E Cornish Oct 4 at 7:37

I ran into a similar situation with a friend some years back. She was dating an angry, abusive man. He was the very definition of toxic masculinity, but "I didn't know him like she knew him, and he was different when it was just the two of them..."

I voiced my objections when I first met him. It wasn't hard to see what kind of man he was. When I had the chance to speak to her alone I warned her that he checked more than a few boxes for "potential abuser". Unfortunately she became pregnant shortly thereafter and then married him. Long story short, I ended up having to tell her something along the lines of:

You know I care about you and I'll always be here for you, but I think you're making a mistake. If you ever want to talk or hang out, I'll be around...

Of course the abusive partner didn't want her to have anything to do with anyone who questioned his role in her life, so we lost touch for a while. But I made the point to leave the door open and check in from time to time. So eventually when she finally had enough of the abuse, and divorced him, we managed to pick up where we left off.

You can't save people from making their mistakes. No matter how much you want to, or how good your intentions may be, they're going to do what they're going to do. Gods know I've been in my share of relationships that all my friends warned me about, and no matter of them telling me, kicking me, or screaming at me could keep me from falling in love with terrible people and having terrible relationships.

Good friends are still there when you eventually pull your head out of your ***, that's what friends do, and sometimes that's all they can do.

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