Feb 242003
 
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

For those who have ever asked, “Why is she still with him?”

Nice guys always finish last.

I’ve heard the expression countless times. That somewhat bitter idiom always seems to be followed closely by, “Why am I always just the friend? ” “Why are you women so complicated?” and “Aaaaarrrgh! I give up.”

What can I say? Women are confusing and often two-sided at the best of times. (I know. I live with one). But of course, the question that always seems to generate the most heads-shaking-in-utter-disbelief goes something like “Why does she put up with that?”

This query is often spoken by friends and acquaintances of women who seem to continue in unhealthy relationships. And by ‘unhealthy’ I mean a downright black-and-blue physically/emotionally/mentally abusive co-dependency with a controlling despot whose parents were never married.

Maybe you’ve gotten the tearful phone call when things got so bad that she needed a support; the nice guy who is always there for her, but will always be just a friend. You wonder, “She seems like a smart girl, why does she keep going back to him? Doesn’t she know that he’s just going to do it again? He’s not going to change.”

It’s a difficult situation to grasp, and downright impossible to understand unless you have gone through it. So let me give an anecdote to help better illustrate the picture.

He was a Ph.D in Chemistry from Wayne State. A Dubliner. A playwright. And I fell hard and fast. My friends knew me as being insistently independent, so the fact that things were moving at light speed in the relationship was a surprise for them. And as certain events about ‘us’ came to light, it became even more shocking for them to understand why I was suddenly one of those smart-girls-doing-dumb-things.

It was November. He was living in Boulder and I stayed over on a regular basis. We had only been together for a few months, and were out at a pub that Thursday night. He was drinking, so I was the designated driver. On the way out to my car, he asked for the keys. After I refused, he stormed off, all the while shouting that my things and me had better be out of the house by the time he got home.

Somehow, amidst the total confusion and stunned heartache of how the night could end like this, I found my way back. He was not there, and as it was midnight, I decided it would be foolish to gather my odds and ends and leave, and I fell asleep waiting to make sure he got home all right. (Me and my tender heart…)

I awoke when I heard him in the kitchen, throwing things around. It was 1 am. Then he came upstairs, stood over me and spoke.

“I think there has been a miscommunication,” he said. I actually thought he was going to apologize for his outrageous theatrics earlier on. I was mistaken. He started to growl.

“Because you’re still here.”

And then the verbal thrashing ensued. Much more happened after that, but you get the point. Two hours and more tears than he was worth, and the storm was over. The knife he had threatened his own life with was safely out of site, and I was just glad that we had both made it through alive. We had made it through, together.

And therein lies the answer.

The reason women stay in abusive relationships is the same reason that soldiers often feel closer to their fighting companions than they do their own family. They survived ‘the trenches’ together. Fear can be more powerful than reason, and a traumatic ordeal bonds the ‘survivors’. When the battle is over, there exists a bond that is stronger than common sense. A kinship that feels close enough to love to count.

So maybe now you can understand why that friend keeps giving that jerk another chance. No matter how much she knows in her mind that it’s completely FUBAR, it will take more than reason to break through the trenches to get her out. But don’t give up on her, no matter how frustrating it gets.

After all, what are ‘just friends’ for?

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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