Here is the scene…
Two of your friends start dating. They fall in love, but instead of coming back to the surface they stay immersed.
In a weird way.
In a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, but you can’t quite put your finger on why.
Then you notice that she grows more silent, and he does all the talking. You see less of them. She seems nervous. She makes excuses for him. Her face is stressed. The energy does not feel happily in love, rather, it’s just…tense.
So, what do you do when you are sitting at dinner and he starts to belittle her?
You would think after 12 years of doing this work, I would have the answer. Instead, I fight with what I was socialized to do (nothing, none of my business) and what I want to do (support my friends to have a happy relationship).
Many research hours later, this is the best I could find:
- I talk about it when things are good and we are just talking naturally about his relationship.
- I am direct and clear about what I have seen and how it impacts ME as HIS friend.
- I’m not judging you, friend, but this is what happened and how I experienced it.
- So now that you know it’s not working for me, is it working for you?
- I don’t have all the answers, but I’m willing to be a friend and support you.
- Just know that I’m not willing to watch you be a bully.
If all of that is too much and I don’t know what to say, I default to the truth….I care and I am concerned.
And yes, I’ve seen my women friends using abusive behavior too. I’ve seen it in straight and queer relationships. And you know what? I’m not scared to call those women out on it. And when I do, they have always gone straight to critical reflection and apologies. So why is it that when I have tried to have this kind of conversation with men, they have become defensive or downright scary? The best I can come up with is the way we socialize men. The scary reaction may be why we avoid talking to men about their abusive behavior. And the cost of that is much too great. So, as scary as it seems to care and be concerned, we can’t afford the alternative.
-Summer Carrick, the coordinator of our Crossing Borders Project