I came across a discussion last night on a verbally abusive marriage. Somebody commented that maybe the husband’s anger was partially caused by a friend, Grant, he was jealous of, that the wife could help the situation by re-evaluating her friendship with the guy her husband, Jodie, sees as a rival.
But the response to this was unanimous: Jodie’s abusive behavior was all his own fault, and ditching Grant would actually be a very bad idea. They said this would help make the wife believe his anger was actually her fault, that she can do anything at all about it. For one thing, they note that a functioning adult who’s jealous of a friend would talk to her about it, not engage in various soul-killing abusive behaviors. One person wrote,
I agree that Jamie .. er .. Jodie is probably modeling Grant as a threat. And you know what? Grant doesn’t sound like a hysterical abusive monster so I bet at some level Grant is a threat. The threat of a reasonable person it’s nice to spend time with, eat with, not pander to for 8 hour long tantrums on unrelated topics.
That potential cause doesn’t change much about the toxicity of the environment or Jodie’s total inability to be civilized and loving in response. Threats to a relationship happen! Here is how a healthy conversation on The Grant Matter might go:
“Huh, I sure got upset there. That’s odd.”
“Yes, you seem really mad about something. Surely not just some TV show.”
“Yeah. I felt particularly angry at Grant. Why does he have to spend so much time here?”
“I like him! Don’t you? Wait, is this about him?”
“Maybe I’m worried you feel more than just ‘like’ for him.”
(Aha light follows, insight, healthy exchange of insecurities and needs, box of tissues, attempts to adjust thoughts, feelings and behaviors, gestures of good faith, reconciliation, ending in “I love you and let’s try to work this out”, etc. etc.) —Comment
Another poster pointed out that giving up Grant would actually be a very bad idea, because it would cost her a connection to someone who can help her, and make her think that Jodie’s anger is somehow HER fault:
A couple of people up thread expressed concern that your relationship with Jodie may be losing you friends. This can happen in subtle ways, but it can also happen in extraordinarily straight-forward ways. Like, you can become isolated and friendless because you stop seeing a best friend because that best friend makes your husband feel threatened. Imagine how your husband would understand the problem, if you could get him to admit he’s jealous. I bet it would sound something like this: “I need you to stop hanging out with Grant so much, because he makes me jealous.” Or maybe like this: “Yeah, your friendship with Grant is what makes me so upset.” Or maybe like this: “I wouldn’t be so angry all the time if you weren’t such great friends with Grant.” No matter how it’s worded, however, the sentiment is the same. And, to spell it out, the sentiment is this: “My anger is actually your fault, and you can solve it by getting rid of your friend.”
That’s not a good attitude. If you stopped hanging around with Grant, or even just dialed your friendship back a bit, in order to help Jodie stop feeling so jealous, what you are doing is falling yet again into the trap of taking responsibility for Jodie’s emotions and bending backwards to assuage him. And you’d lose a friend. You’d lose something that matters to you, because he has a problem.
Is that fair?
…Please, if at any point you find yourself with this choice, “Either I give up a friendship/connection to another, or my husband will be angry,” don’t give up that connection. Because we need human contact, and being in contact with normal, healthy people is a good way to keep sane, yourself. Does that make sense? Let that be a defining point: whatever your husband’s anger issues, you don’t have to sacrifice friends. —Comment
The commenters also noted that isolating a spouse is how abusers cut them off from people who can help them.
My ex Phil tried to isolate me from my friends, because they saw him for what he was. I was also horribly abused by someone who saw me as a threat and tried to cut me off from friendship with her husband. She’s also extremely abusive.
This is a huge red-flag warning of abuse, so I’m glad to see people realizing this, instead of the typical “ditch the friend if your husband/wife is jealous” or blaming the friendship for the abuse. And yeah, Grant became very important when Jodie’s wife finally decided to leave, because he helped her get out. I saw nothing in there about a budding romance, just somebody who helped.