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Angela, Counselor
Category: Relationship
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My friend got married to her 1st husband when she was 16, he

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My friend got married to her 1st husband when she was 16, he was 23. He attempted to control her, and psychologically and physically abused her. 2 years later she left him, but this left her emotionally scarred. It took her 6 months to be able to get out after this. This is when she met her second husband, and married him shortly after. He was careless and insensitive and she fell out of love with him. After 6 years she is getting out of this second bad marriage. I've known her for about 2 years, and in the past couple of months we have developed romantic feelings for each other, but she says that, even after the abuse and all these years, she still has very powerful feelings towards her first husband. She attributes this to "true love", and says she can’t control it, yet she says that it hurts her to think she cannot be with me because of this. Her first husband is moving here in a couple of weeks, and she feels very confused. I don't know what I could do to help her.
Hello J,
What your friend is going through is not uncommon for women who have been in domestic violence relationships. I previously worked as a full time domestic violence crisis counselor. Some women in domestic violence relationships become accustomed to it even though they do not like the abuse but at some point the abuser will be extra nice and extremely attentive to the victim and the victims look forward to this nice treatment (-what is called the honey moon phase). The relationship will be violatile and dangerous and usually at some point the abuser may feel bad for the abuse he caused his significant other and will then be extra nice to her and may even buy her gifts and take her out to nice restaurants etc. However, then the violence begins again until the abuser decides to repeat the cycle of treating her extra nice. This cycle typically repeats over and over again. Based upon what you have written, it sounds like your friend feels the way that she does because she misses this chaotic and unhealthy way of living with her 1st husband. Some women of abuse who have participated in documentaries have even stated that they did not want a "healthy relationship" because they would be bored with this type of relationship. As a result, of all of the above, this is why I believe your attempts to share with her how unhealthy the relationship was/is with her 1st husband falls on death ears. What I would recommend is for her to go in person to see a counselor at a domestic violence shelter or to go to a domestic violence support group. She could call the local phone number listed in the phone book under domestic violence and ask do they have a support group that she can attend and also ask about coming in for free counseling. The support groups and counseling were free at the shelter I worked at and when I was a domestic violence crisis counselor. We also had support groups for women staying in our shelter as well as a seperate support group for women to attend who were not in our shelter.
Customer: replied 7 years ago.
Thank you for your answer. I just don't know how to tell her she should go to counseling without sounding condescending or offending her. Do you have any advice on how to approach her about this? Thanks again.
Yes it could be a sensitive area and I would recommend setting aside a time with her that the two of you could talk and begin the conversation telling her how you feel about her. Also, tell her because you care about her you would like to talk to her about possibly going to counseling and begin the conversation. You could offer to go with her to counseling as long as you would not be utilizing the free counseling I discussed via the domestic violence shelter; if she goes to this counseling, she would have to go alone due to the counseling being at a domestic violence shelter. If you do it in a calm and loving tone then your sincerity should come through and not any hint of a condescending tone. Also, she may be offended, but remember that part of being a true friend, especially one who has romantic feelings for her, involves being honest with her. If you were not honest with her then you would not be doing your part as far as this matter is concerned. This is also why I recommend scheduling a time to talk to her where both of you will be undisturbed and free to talk face to face.
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P. S.
If she reacts badly (-yelling, saying nasty things to you, etc.) please know that this is part of the denial that domestic violence victims will go through because it is easier for them to act in this manner versus acceptance of the truth. It is easier for them to verbally attack and etc. a person who they know will not harm them and who truly cares about them especially since they could not do this with their abuser. Therefore, if she behaves in this manner, let her fully vent and go through her denial phase and when she becomes calm again you could resume talking to her. If behaves in the manner described above, it is usually best to simply let her finish and not try to talk to her when she's yelling, etc. because again she would be in denial and not really receptive.