My roommate keeps letting her toxic ex into her life. I don’t dislike the guy personally, but I’m worried that she will be hurt by going back to him as often as she does — he is often verbally abusive and hurts her ability to be successful. How do I let her know that the way he treats her is so unacceptable that she shouldn’t keep him around? – Anonymous Friend
Dear Anonymous Friend,
John Green once wrote, “We accept the love that we think we deserve.” I didn’t understand this until I entered a relationship that completely turned my world upside down. My ex cheated on me, constantly ghosted me and gaslit me throughout our relationship. My friends and family would tell me that I deserved better, but I wouldn’t listen to them. I was broken and terrified — I would constantly tell myself I couldn’t do better than my ex.
When I broke up with him the first time, I remember thinking I’d never love anyone again. When I broke up with him a second time, I remember hoping that I’d cross paths with him again. It hurts to say, but I intentionally let him wreck my life over and over again because I didn’t think I could do any better than him. My self-esteem was so low that I’m sure that if he wasn’t dating the girl he cheated on me with I would have dated him a third time.
I’m not saying that your friend has low self-esteem. Or that she’s going through what I went through. But I can tell you that you have to be patient with your friend. She’s not stupid — she knows she isn’t being treated right. But she’s at war with herself and it’s likely that she will stay that way even after she dumps her ex.
If you want to help your friend, you have to remind her of her worth, not tell her how bad her beau is. Honey is sweeter than vinegar — you’ll get further trying to raise her up than tearing him down. Try to show how much you adore her; tell her how kind she is, how smart she is. Try to show her in little ways that she deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. You have to try to get her to realize her worth again — and be patient with her until she does.
Because the sad truth is that you can’t make your friend drop this guy. I know that my friends couldn’t convince me to let go of my ex. In fact, when I broke up with him, it wasn’t because I thought that I deserved better than him. It was because I realized I’d rather be single for the rest of my life (dramatic, I know) than be with him. I know you want to help your friend. And I know you want to do right by her. But your friend has to make the choice to save herself. She has to say enough is enough and really mean it.
So be patient. Be kind. But most of all, be there for her. Listen to her when she talks about him long after she breaks up with him. Because even though I broke up with my ex a year ago, I’m still a little broken. But I have to say that if this abusive relationship gets a little too sour for your taste, report him. Call the police. Do whatever you need to do to keep your friend safe.
It might be awhile to get your friend to a better place, but it’s worth it. After everything my ex put me through, I know I’ll never let someone treat me that way again. I’m sure your friend will learn this too. Good luck, my Anonymous Friend. I believe in you.
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