Dear Margo: Trying To Rescue a Friend

How do I help a friend in an abusive relationship? Margo Howard’s advice

Trying To Rescue a Friend

Dear Margo: A good friend began dating a man whom I will call Albert. Recently, she admitted he hits her and constantly checks up on her. Last month, some other concerned friends and I held an intervention and learned the true extent of his actions. He is verbally abusive, restricts her choices and movements, tracks her phone and car, calls constantly, and has hit her twice in the face while arguing. She is afraid to be herself and enjoy her own interests for fear of getting yelled at. At other times, Albert (who’s a med student!) is completely charming. I believe he could clinically be defined as a psychopath. If you were to meet him casually, you would not suspect a thing.

It took six hours to convince her that the relationship is unhealthy. At this point, because we told her we would pursue legal action if he continues, she has not told us anything else because she fears she would ruin his reputation. I heard from one of her other friends that he still hits her, and I want to let him know that, unlike my friend, I have no qualms about ruining his reputation. Thoughts? — Protective of My Friend

Dear Pro: Your friend in the abusive relationship sounds like she’s at the Stockholm syndrome stage. She’s afraid she’d ruin his reputation? I think it deserves to be ruined. I do not know the procedure, which I suspect has jurisdictional differences, for reporting an abuser if you are not the victim. Do inquire, though, at your local police department.

And regarding his being a medical student: As the wife of a physician with ties to a medical school, I can tell you the dean of students would be grateful for this information. I hope you don’t wait for your friend to decide she’s had it with him, because that likely won’t happen. She’s already been sucked into this sick cycle, and I hope you and her other pals succeed in getting her out in one piece. — Margo, persistently

When Not Everyone Behaves the Same

Dear Margo: I have been sending my nieces and nephews birthday gifts for the past 20 years. They are now in their 20s and early 30s. I sent the gifts until they graduated college, and now I just send a card. The problem is that my children are young teens, and this practice is not reciprocated by one s-i-l. Money is not an issue for her. My children say, “Auntie forgot my birthday again,” and I tell them they should not expect people to send gifts, but it is nice when they do.

I am ticked and feel slighted for my children. I have sent the offending aunt’s kids presents for birthdays, high school and college graduations, showers, weddings, and new babies. I feel she is rude and thoughtless. Am I wrong to feel this way? I find myself upset and obsessing about this. Should she be confronted in some way? — Feeling Slighted

Dear Feel: I agree that Auntie is thoughtless, and she’s certainly making no friends in the family. You cannot, however, make anyone send cards or gifts, nor can you enforce thoughtfulness. I am sorry your kids feel slighted. You might make this situation a teachable moment, as it were. One lesson is that you don’t give gifts to get them. Another is that not everyone behaves as you do, but being thoughtful is a lovely trait to have.

You’re not wrong to feel as you do, but by being upset and obsessing about someone else’s actions, you are the one who suffers. Auntie has no idea you are ticked. If it would make you feel better, you could mention that your kids would really appreciate a card on their birthdays — but be prepared for a defensive frost. — Margo, positively

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at www.creators.com/dear-margo.html. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2012 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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57 comments so far.

  1. avatar bright eyes says:

    I wonder if Margo’s view would change if they’re both children? This happened all of the time to my son. (now 13) Notice I said happened as I have changed my ways. I’d send my nephew cards for everything – Valentine’s day, Easter, Birthdays, etc. And send presents early for Birthdays and Christmas. I’d even remind my parents to get him something for Christmas because they’re not very time minded (ie shopping for Christmas on Christmas Eve) but they live a bit far away, so things have to be mailed.
    My son really enjoys picking out presents for his nephew (8) and likes to pick up small items wherever we go to send at Christmas. Two years ago when there was a big thing at Christmas. My sister couldn’t get an item that my son wanted for Christmas because her husband said it was too expensive. Ok, no big deal – get something smaller (talking $20 here!) so she did. BUT she went out and bought the exact same thing for her husbands cousins’ kid. So ok, whatever – she blames hubby.
    This year I went and bought my son a Christmas present. Why? She forgot about him until the last minute and then asked me to pick it up and have it wrapped. I did – why? Because my sons feelings were more important than my anger at her because she always overlooks my son. Her son has at least 30 relatives around him, so Christmas is a big deal. My son has less than 10 relatives and only 4 live here, so it’s not such a big deal, but when your one Aunt doesn’t send you a present, it gets noticed.
    Our kids birthdays are in the same month – I’m supposssed to fly out for his party but she can’t even remember when my son’s birthday is. She can’t call or send a card and only remembers when I mention it to her.
    So yes I have greatly scaled back the items I send and have limited myself to what I do for her kids because I feel that she could at least make some effort to acknowledge mine. Yes it might be petty of me, but when your son asks why his Aunt doesn’t even think of him anymore – it gets to me. Yes I know I should grow up and not compare the two (as in Margo’s letter) but I can’t help compare that I’m a single parent and she’s married with a husband who has a good job.

    • avatar bright eyes says:

      Oh and yes – to me it’s totally the thought that counts. The problem is I think of my nephews all year long while she never thinks of mine. It’s more that than the presents. A card or a phone call would be good too.

      • avatar KL says:

        Why do you guys want to continue to nurture relationships where there isn’t much reciprocity?  I just don’t get that.  I understand when it’s family, you give them greater latitude than most other relationships in your life, hopefully because it makes up for it in other ways.  But it seems like your SILs (or whatever they are) are sending pretty clear messages that they don’t want a reciprocal relationship.  Why not just accept that and act accordingly?  Sure, it’s a bummer when someone doesn’t want as high level of a relationship with you as you’d like, but it seems way worse to me to be the person shouldering 70% of the burden and forever resentful of the other person.  You’re causing yourselves a lot of your own harm — stop trying to control others and just accept reality for what it is.

      • avatar bright eyes says:

        KL – I have given up. I wanted my nephews to know my son and I wanted to keep in touch with them. I gave up visiting about 6 years ago because I was always the one visiting. I have given up spending time picking out gifts that aren’t acknowledged last year. Why has it taken me so long to give up? My son enjoys picking out things for his cousins. But now it’s to the point that he’s gotten frustrated himself and he’s old enough to recognize that Aunt doesn’t seem to care, so he’s given up as well. So as of last year, I have given up. Actually as of a few years ago I stopped expecting any effort to be made on their part and kept up my part of the effort knowing that nothing would come of it until I got really annoyed last year.
        :-) And yes I was venting on here. 

      • avatar KL says:

        Bright eyes — I hear you.  If there really is greater imbalance all around, that sucks and I can totally understand why it’s hurtful.  My family has some of the same issues — I’ve got to do 90% of the visiting.  They just aren’t the types to drive 6 hours to see me even though I do it 3-5x per year.  The road is just as long coming as going.  And they totally don’t appreciate it when I do it (in fact, they act they’re entitled to it), and yet when they do it, they act like they had to walk the 450 miles over hot coals.

        It used to really upset me — that I was willing to put so much more effort into maintaining contact than they were.  And it hurt.  But then I realized that I also had the ability to just accept that reality for what it is, rather than be consistently disappointed.  Some things, I now accept I’ll have to make the greater amount of effort, and other things I’ve decided to just step away from and let the chips fall where they may.

        My Mom finally got it and realized if she wanted to see me more, she was going to have to put in more effort as I wasn’t always going to be the one that visits her.  But my siblings, that’s just not the case.  They like seeing me, but apparently not enough to make the drive consistently.  And instead of always being upset about it, I’ve just learned to accept that reality and live the rest of my life accordingly.  I have friends that fly across the country, or even the world, to visit — some members of my family just aren’t those same types of people.

      • avatar bright eyes says:

        Darn it – should have posted here! KL – that’s exactly how it is for me. I’ve traveled the 15 hours to visit (often with a young child) for years, every year. But when it came time for my sister and her family to visit, the excuses got lamer and lamer. I stopped visiting and now leave it up to them when I will see them again. I stopped telling my son they might come for Christmas years ago. I’m tired of him being disappointed and now he’s put up with it so long, he couldn’t care one way or another. I stopped expecting a visit and have stopped visiting. Last year I told my mother exactly what would happen – and it did.What upsets me the most is my son thinking that his Aunt and Uncle don’t care about him because they don’t remember his birthday (but the whole family calls and talks with her kids on their birthday) or remember him at any other time of the year. I stopped expecting anything from them a long time ago, but when you have a kid asking questions – that makes me upset all over again. Treat me like crap if you want to, but don’t treat my kid like that – which is why we haven’t visited in quite awhile and have no plans to anytime soon. 
        And, as you said, I do have friends who will fly across the country to see me and visit with me. I know they’re happy to see me and I’m happy to see them. I do accept the reality that if I ever want to see them again, then I will have to be the one to make all of the effort. These past few years I haven’t wanted to make the effort.

      • avatar independent says:

        So well said, @KL. It reminds me of the sentiment expressed in Reverend T.D. Jakes’ The Gift of Goodbye. Everyone who struggles with unfulfilling and/or one sided relationships might be able to draw some inspiration, strength or comfort from that sermon, which is short and worth the time to look it up. Even people who do not subscribe to Christianity could find it valuable. Though he obviously does mention God, his words are pragmatic and straightforward. It’s a personal favorite of mine. You just hit on such an important point about investing too much time in unsatisfying relationships!

  2. avatar bright eyes says:

    KL – that’s exactly how it is for me. I’ve traveled the 15 hours to visit (often with a young child) for years, every year. But when it came time for my sister and her family to visit, the excuses got lamer and lamer. I stopped visiting and now leave it up to them when I will see them again. I stopped telling my son they might come for Christmas years ago. I’m tired of him being disappointed and now he’s put up with it so long, he couldn’t care one way or another. I stopped expecting a visit and have stopped visiting. Last year I told my mother exactly what would happen – and it did.
    What upsets me the most is my son thinking that his Aunt and Uncle don’t care about him because they don’t remember his birthday (but the whole family calls and talks with her kids on their birthday) or remember him at any other time of the year. I stopped expecting anything from them a long time ago, but when you have a kid asking questions – that makes me upset all over again. Treat me like crap if you want to, but don’t treat my kid like that – which is why we haven’t visited in quite awhile and have no plans to anytime soon. 

    And, as you said, I do have friends who will fly across the country to see me and visit with me. I know they’re happy to see me and I’m happy to see them. I do accept the reality that if I ever want to see them again, then I will have to be the one to make all of the effort. These past few years I haven’t wanted to make the effort. 

  3. avatar independent says:

    Briana, You attacked me in Friday’s forun for expressing a benign opinion regarding a letter writer’s experience and made presumptions about my character and knowledge of psychology–referring to me as an ‘armchair diagnostician.’ Yet you find out today that I am formally educated in psychology and counseling. I call you out on the hypocrisy of making such grandiose and, btw, erroneous misperceptions while giving multiple diagnoses on this forum. I’m glad you print out your letters for your therapist. Please lay them side by side so you can note the erraticism of your own reactions as well as the inconsistent recall you evidence in your own comparative statements. You seem to have little self awareness in this regard.