Is my friend being controlled or (emotionally) abused?

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    Dear Jason:

    “I’m curious where the tipping point is between ‘ooooh how sweet, she must enjoy so much desperate attention from him’ and ‘oooh that’s pretty creepy?”-

    – one tipping point is the law. If he is breaking the law, you may suggest to her that she involves the police. If you know her address or and you believe that she is in danger because of this man, you may want to call the police in her area and ask that they look into her situation.

    But why are you, a single man in your forties, focused on this woman whom you haven’t seen in person for eight years, a woman who is involved with another man. Wouldn’t it be more worthy of your time and mental resources to have a girlfriend of your own, a woman who you will spend time with in person?



    Hi Anita,

    you’re absolutely right, I’m seeing ghosts here. She’s indeed just seeking for attention and is playing a power game enjoying pushing and pulling an innocent guy for her own entertainment. And yes, you’re also right I should not be focused on her and spend my time and energy on someone nearby.

    Thanks for pointing that out, I feel much better now 🙂



    Dear Jason:

    You are welcome. Regarding her “pulling an innocent guy for her own entertainment”, I am not sure if you are referring to him or to you, being innocent and pulled by her. He may  be innocent in context of the relationship with her, or not. But what is certain is that she is not innocent in that context. Also evident in what you shared is that in her relationship with him, she is the one with the power (indeed doing the pulling), not him.

    In regard to you perhaps being innocent in the context of that friendship with her: well, not totally innocent because you know that you have been pursuing this woman- however covertly and passively- for quite some time. With you too, she had the power so far. I hope you free yourself from her power, that you will no longer allow her to pull you this way, that way, and yet again.



    Dear Jason

    Oh good grief. I can hardly believe what Anita has been telling you.

    Or a traumatised girl fallen victim to another manipulative / narcissistic abuser who can’t take no for an answer and beats her up and then love-bombs his way back over and over again?’ – THIS.

    This poor woman is traumatised beyond belief, probably by being raised by a very narcissistic parent. This has left her with, among other problems, an inability to assert boundaries, a fact that this creep is taking full advantage of.

    The reason he wants her to live in the village where his family all live is so that he can isolate her and surround her with people who are on his side, not hers. This would have been extremely damaging for her. She probably felt this instinctively and that is why she high-tailed it to the big city. She made a big leap for freedom but, sadly, weakened and lowered her defences again in the face of his love-bombing.

    He has total control over her. He knows how to manipulate her into feeling obliged to him. He knows how to make her feel unattractive and dependent on him. She cannot stand up to him in any way. He is slowly killing her spirit. She needs to change her attitude, the locks and her phone number. Period.

    She is very lucky to have such a great friend in you. Please help her to get this guy out of her life and get herself into therapy. If she can’t afford therapy, there is much useful information online about narcissism and re-building self-esteem. Help her to equip herself with the knowledge she needs to defend herself against this man and to build boundaries that she can maintain against him and any other guy of this type in the future. Otherwise, she will descend into mental chaos from which she might not return.

    I really hope this helps.

    all the best




    Hi Jan, thanks so much for taking the time to reply.

    I tend to see it this way as well. Although I never met this guy (her on/off ex), I think it looks a lot like emotional (and possibly physical) abuse.

    I also agree very much that he’d be more interesting in having her live alone on the country side surrounded by his family than having a more ‘independent’ life in the big city. Isolation is very typical for someone with unhealthy and toxic intentions indeed.

    Some other ‘red flags’ I noticed:

    Their relationship started fast and hard, he moved in with her very quickly.
    He was very quick in getting close to her family and friends and portrayed a bright future with marriage and family planning.
    Then things got confusing for her because he would constantly change how he sees things and she started doubting herself and the relationship a lot, resulting in breaking up and moving out.
    Then indeed came the phase of lowering her self esteem and making her feel insecure. She doesn’t understand why he’s even still with her and tries to break up again, but he won’t let her go. Always stalking and love-bombing his way back.

    As for more on her background: She has lost her father at a young age, and then was abandoned by her mother at age 12 to be raised by her grandmother, while her younger sister and older brother went to live with their mother. Later her older brother also dies. Then when she was finally reunited with her mother she ended up in a physically abusive relationship and had to move to a different country to get away from that guy. Then her mother also died unexpectedly.

    I have a feeling she’s in fact an easy ‘prey’ for an(other) emotional abuser?

    Still there are a lot of people who say ‘oh well if she really wanted him gone she would change the locks’. Or that she enjoys the drama and that her boyfriend is trauma bonded to her endless pull/push behaviour. That she is the one abusing him.


    You write ‘please help her get this guy out of her life’. Would you have any advice on how to do that? She really believes that he did a lot for her and he deserves another chance etc. I have heard about cases where voicing concerns about possible abuse will drive the person even more into the arms of the abuser and possibly cut off ties with the one that is trying to help.

    Would you suggest talking to people around her? Like her younger sister or a friend? Or would that have an opposite effect as well?

    Thanks in advance for any further elaboration!


    Dear Jason:

    The title of your thread is a question, and your two page thread includes more than 25 questions. The following are some of your questions that I am placing in groups (I will be referring to your friend as she, and her boyfriend as he):

    Group 1 are questions that indicate that you are suspecting that he is controlling and abusing her: “Is my friend being controlled or (emotionally) abused? what am I witnessing here?.. a traumatised girl fallen victim to another manipulative / narcissistic abuser who can’t take no for an answer and beats her up and then love-bombs his way back over and over again? I have a feeling she’s in fact an easy ‘prey’ for an(other) emotional abuser? he’s making her feel insecure and destroying her self esteem?

    Group 2 are questions that indicate that you are suspecting that either he is abusing her or  that they are abusing each other, or that she is abusing him: “is this a slowly developing (emotionally) abusive relationship? Could they be abusing each other? Could she be abusing him?

    Group 3 are questions that indicate that you are considering that there may be no abuse at all in the relationship: “When is what they do cute and romantic and when is it toxic and abusive? </span>Is this just two people who just can’t be without each other and are addicted to breaking up and making up?

    Group 4 are questions that indicate that you are considering that she may be dishonest and manipulative: “Doe she really love this guy and is she making up his ‘manipulation’ as an excuse to go back to him? what’s his and her role or motives and behaviours? And what would be her motivation to do so? what am I witnessing here? A cunning woman playing a minstrel in distress? Would she make up his manipulative actions so it would justify her going back (to the outside world), while in fact they were still together all the time?

    Group 5 are questions that indicate that you are considering that she may be mentally incompetent: “doesn’t she even realise his behaviour looks pretty toxic from outside? Did they ever actually really break up at all? Or did that only happen inside her head, was she just saying that to her friends, and for him they are still together all this time?

    My thoughts today: You spent a lot of time talking with this woman over the years but you don’t know basic things about her: you don’t know if she is honest or dishonest, a victim or an abuser, manipulative or mentally incompetent. You want to know, but you don’t know. So you started an online thread to ask anyone who.. doesn’t know her about her motivations, her state of mind, her relationship. You provided the facts, your suspicions and considerations and you expected someone out there to organize all the data and provide the answers. I am guessing that you asked these questions of people in other contexts, other forums perhaps, and people in real life.

    You are clearly an intelligent, rational man but unable to arrive at answers to your question even though you are the only person (of all the people you asked about her) who has been having contact with this woman. Any idea why an intelligent, rational man with lots of contact with a woman does not know the basics of who this woman is (abused and/ or abusive, and/ or  manipulative, or mentally incompetent)?

    I wonder if intimate relationships in general are not something you are engaged in personally and therefore, you are .. unfamiliar with the experience and clueless as to what happens in intimate relationships?

    (I ask these questions because I am looking for relevant information about you that may help me come up with some helpful suggestion to you).



    • This reply was modified 3 weeks, 5 days ago by anita.

    Hi Anita thanks again for taking the time to reply. I fully hear what you’re saying. I AM indeed trying to make sense of a lot of different signals that can all be interpreted in multiple ways. My motivation? I know how incredible hidden domestic abuse can be, and how easy it is to shift the focus away from obvious red flags by putting all the responsibility with the abused. (The ‘infamous’ if she doesn’t like it she can just leave; and if she doesn’t leave she probably likes it) This is a very dangerous mindset and the cause for many women (and men) to not be heard or helped when they’re in danger. I also notice that you’re first reflex is like this. It must be her, else she would have left long time ago. I also know that people who tend to gravitate towards abusive relationships once, are likely to repeat. But even then, the general first reaction seems to be: she would have left if she didn’t like what’s going on, or she might actually enjoy it.

    As for your thoughts: I did not spend a lot of time talking with this woman over the years. We once we more connected, over ten years ago, through mutual friends when we lived in the same country. From then on we’ve been friends in the sense we would give each other little updates about what’s going on in life.

    Knowing if someone is honest or dishonest, a victim or an abuser, manipulative or mentally incompetent, is incredibly difficult to tell. I am interested in what others think given what I have seen so far. Maybe someone recognises some behaviours and could shed some insight.  My motivation? She’s a friend, and I know the horrors she’s been through in a previous, very physically abuse relationship. It would be very sad if she’s in one again. If you think that someone who is being abused will tell the first person they see ‘oh hello, I am being abused, could you help me?’ then you’re probably wrong. A lot of people who have a history of abuse are sometimes not aware of them being abused, because it feels so familiar to them.

    Thanks for seeing me as someone intelligent and rational, I would like to return the compliment as I think you are also very rational, intelligent and eloquent But like I said: I don’t have LOTS of contact with her. It’s mostly through text every now and then and the occasional phone call. Haven’t seen her IRL face to face in years, let alone together with her partner and possibly observe their dynamic or body language..

    I am and have been in intimate relationships, and I am far from clueless what happens inside them 🙂 In fact I have a very healthy interest in interpersonal contact, human behaviour, relationship dynamics, why our relationships are the way they are etc. I think our relationships, the people we attract and the people who are attracted to us, teach us a lot about ourselves.

    As I wrote to Jan in my reply to him, yes I know her character and her background. Me, my girlfriend and my friends were all there when the person in question had to leave the country to escape from her abuser and start all over. When she eventually found someone new we were all happy for her, looked like her traumatic abusive relationship was a mishap and she now found someone nice and stable. Expecting her to get married and have some kids at some point.

    But as time goes by, we are wondering if history isn’t repeating. You might say why don’t you just ask her if she’s in another bad relationship again? Well as you may know, that’s the problem. If it were that simple nobody would ever be in a bad place ever right?

    I understand the temptation to start analysing me, and question why I am so invested in all this and if I even know anything about relationships in the first place. But that’s not what I’m asking. We don’t need to contra or meta analyse why the question is asked in the first place. That feels like you want to jump on a psychologists chair and start debating what all this is saying about me. I just like to double check with others how this looks like to them from the outside. I think you made it clear where you stand. I assume you’re in camp “if she wants to leave she would just go”? Is that correct?

    I don’t think it’s that strange to second guess possible red flags happening to someone with a certain background and history? If that’s a friend?



    Dear Jason:

    I understand now that you didn’t spend a lot of time communicating with her. I also understand that you are very curious regarding the complexity of some abusive relationships, regarding there not being clear and visible indications of abuse.

    As to your question: no, I don’t belong to a camp saying “if she wants to leave she would just go”. I think that it is possible that he abuses her, it is possible that she abuses him,  it is possible that they abuse each other, and it is possible that neither one abuses the other. I don’t know their reality and neither do you. Doesn’t read to me that they have a healthy relationship though.


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