Years ago, I dated a man I sincerely thought was going to be in my life forever. We’d hit it off immediately and got serious pretty quickly, but our fun, lighthearted banter quickly morphed into harsh words and nights full of regret. He was abusive mentally and even physically towards the end of our relationships. My friends were incredibly supportive at the time, but a few years later some of them welcomed my abuser back into their lives.
What he did was unforgivable. I won’t lie, I said some terrible things to my ex while we were together, but they were a direct response to his abusive actions. There is no excuse for the way things turned out and I’m not being stubborn for failing to forgive. I’m simply protecting myself. Men like that don’t change unless they seek out help, which he was never willing to do.
My friends were on my side… for a while. Of course, my friends were outraged when they first heard my ex had the audacity to put his hands on me after a particularly brutal argument. Both my guy and girl friends alike made it clear to him that he was out of their lives for good.
A few Facebook photos caught me by surprise. One night, I was scrolling through a friend’s timeline when I saw a few familiar faces. There was my ex with his arms casually resting on two of my friend’s shoulders. Clearly, all three of them were feeling no pain with cheap beer in their hands and crooked smiles on their faces. I felt betrayed but I kept it to myself.
I’m not sure if I should confront them. It’s been years since my ex and I broke up. I may not have forgiven him, but maybe my friends have. Maybe they just happened to be in the same place at the same time and felt weird turning down a photo with him. The fact is, I’m afraid to ask because I’m afraid of what the answer will be. It’s totally possible my friends have forgiven and forgotten.
Why don’t they know better? If I put myself in my friends’ shoes for just one moment, I can’t imagine forgiving a man that laid a finger on one of my close friends. Good people don’t hurt each other like that, and I choose not to surround myself with them. Why don’t my friends feel the same way?
I feel invalidated. After seeing those photos, I felt alone. I was immediately reminded of the night my ex pushed me around after he had one too many drinks and spewed vicious words at me. Was it really that big of a deal? Did my friends support me just to placate me in my time of need? Did they ever care at all?
It’s not my job to educate them on abuse. Some may say that since I went through an abusive situation, it’s my duty to speak out about it. I certainly have spoken on the topic, particularly to my friends. That being said, how much longer am I supposed to defend my actions and my feelings? Am I supposed to do a public speaking event every week to remind people that abuse exists, that it will continue to exist as long as we normalize the people that perform those actions?
I feel betrayed. Even though years have gone by, I still feel like the abuse happened yesterday. It still hurts. Seeing my friends who once supported me casually hanging around with my abuser feels like a twist of the knife. In a way, I feel abandoned.
Should I also forgive and forget? Seeing my friends hang out with my ex gave me an odd wave of nostalgia. I remember the good times we all used to have together and for a moment, I longed for those times. What would it mean for me if I dropped all the harbored resentment and gave my ex another chance to make things right? If I give myself a few minutes to think about it, I know that’s not the right path for me. I’m not going to put my dignity on the line, and more importantly my safety, just to crack open a beer with my ex.
With friends like these, who needs enemies? Maybe it’s time I re-evaluated the people I choose to surround myself with. Without a doubt, it’s time for an open and honest conversation with those people that feel my ex has “done his time” and deserves to hang out with them again. As I sit and look at these photos of my friends and my ex with their drunken smiles, I feel like everything they once said to me rings hollow. All the advice and late night crying sessions no longer feel real. There is no statute of limitations on the hurt he caused and I should surround myself with people that understand that.
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