We have a building aquaintance.

I always thought he was a little controlling of his girlfriend, but in the past, when I didn’t see him much, I didn’t have enough evidence, I guess is the only word I can think of.

As pandemic has gone on, and I’ve seen more of her, I really don’t like how he controls her. We were hanging out one night, and he told her it was time to go home…FYI we were playing cards. And this wasn’t a “you’re so sexy and I can’t wait to get alone with you”- this was almost like a Father telling his child that it was bedtime. (FYI- he’s about fifteen years older than her- you know how I feel about large age differences)

I’ve seen him ask her why she isn’t wearing things that he bought her.

I’ve seen him talk about how he picked out all the clothes that she had on on a particular day.

I’ve seen him put food on her plate, or not pass her things.

I’ve heard him blame her for things that have gone wrong that have nothing to do with her.

His manipulations are often so overt that my Husband noticed it.

Do you know how overt things have to be for him to notice something?

I mean, it literally has to be the only thing in his line of vision…

So here’s the thing: we are friendly with this couple via the guy: he and my husband became friends which is why we hang with them.

My issues are:

  1. I don’t know this woman that well. I don’t know anything about the situation really, I only know what I see. But I don’t like the way he treats her. Should it matter to me? Should I ask her how she is? Should I completely stay out of it?
  2. Should we stop hanging out with them? Do I want to witness manipulative, bullying behavior?

What would you do in this situation?

What sort of acquaintance boundaries do you have?

When is a situation worth speaking up?

I have no proof that he is hurting her, just inklings that he’s being emotionally and verbally abusive to some level. Is that enough info to say anything?

What say you?

81 thoughts on “Are There Lines

  1. Very delicate situation. If you say something, you may encounter a “kill the messenger” response. And if you were to say anything, why not to him, rather than her? I might go for something on the order of, “I’d put an ice pick under my husband’s ribs if he ever did/said that to me.”

    In all seriousness, staying out of it might be the wisest course. But that shouldn’t stop you from fixing the woman with a long, steady gaze the next time her partner asks her why she isn’t wearing something he bought her or commands her to go home.

    No eyebrows raised, no frown, just a look that inquires, “Are you OK with this sh**, sister?”

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    1. That’s actually not a bad idea. If I show that I’m on her side, maybe she might say something that can open a discussion. I hate situations like this. It’s like you’re in the middle

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  2. It’s a tough one. Somehow let her know you are there if she needs a safe place? Although how do you say that nonchalantly?? Maybe if you are together and he is there if there are decisions or choices to be made ask her opinion and boost her self worth? Again, this is a tough one. As a former ER nurse when we would ask these tough questions almost always cane the denial and they would become mad at us, although this is an entirely different situation as you are an acquaintance and not a stranger.

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  3. Hmm. That’s a tough call. I was in a relationship like that once, though not quite that extreme. Emotional abuse is really insidious and damaging to self-esteem. I doubt anyone’s disapproval would have brought me to the right conclusion, but maybe… I can be pretty stubborn about my choices!

    I think it can’t hurt to ask her if she’s okay. Alternatively, if you don’t care if the friendship ends (as couples), you could make a remark next time he does something like that in front of you. Perhaps it will get her thinking. Or maybe she really does like that sort of treatment (shudder).

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    1. That’s the other thing. Some people are totally happy being submissive. And I don’t know what goes on beyond closed doors at their house. Or actually houses because they don’t live together. There are so many unknowns, I don’t know what/if I should say/do anything

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  4. It’s an interesting topic to discuss because what are the parameters to interfere or to gently say that if you need a friend, here I am. I would hate to be in such a controlling relationship although my ex and his family were controlling but in different ways. I would go with whatever your gut is telling you to do – either stay out of it or just gently be kind. I’m thinking be kind and if she’s in a situation that she needs to extricate herself from, at least you’re a friend. Good luck and let us know what happens.

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  5. If he is with her all the time, and she has no access to a phone ( he probably monitors it closely or takes it when he leaves), and he even leaves the room with her when she goes out of the room, that’s control and likely she is trapped in an abusive relationship. If you can ever manage to sneak into the bathroom with her or get alone with her in any way, ASK HER if she needs help! My best running friend’s sister was in that situation and she could not ask for help because he was always watching. Finally one day he accidentally left a phone at home and she called her brother and she is out of that marriage now.

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    1. We aren’t going into one another’s apartments. It’s all outside for the time being. They don’t live together but her free time is totally spent with him. But I just don’t know.

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      1. They don’t live together, well that’s good, but he could still be controlling her every move. People are so evil. Ask hubby to divert the man while you get her alone for a moment.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, I know, ask her to lunch in front of him and see what happens. Watch both of their faces closely. Ask for her phone number. If she gives it , call her, don’t text. Ask if she can meet you somewhere. Do a little detective work. I know a dysfunctional couple but she is fully part of the dysfunction, she knows that she’s giving up her freedom for the benefits of a rich man.

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  6. My first, gut response, is that yes, this guy is probably bad news. The majority of people that act like this are. If there is some form of abuse going on, what can you do? Attempting to talk to her and get to know her enough that you encourage her to open up and trust you is a possibility. Even then, you can alienate someone that is being abused if you are too aggressive, so it is a very delicate thing. That said, there is a chance (though I’m certain a VERY slim one) that what is going on is something consensual and asking could make things really awkward. Maybe pay attention to her reactions in these situations to see if you can pick up on any cues that would let you know she is not taking what he is saying well. If you are still uncomfortable, then maybe you try and say something to her. I honestly don’t know for sure how I’d approach this because the potential for it turning ugly is so very high.

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    1. Exactly. I’m dealing with 80% unknown. I don’t have enough evidence to make a real good conclusion or come up with an action plan. I just don’t know. I have a gut instinct, but that’s about it. I’m going to giver her a meaningful look when the guy says something, as Tracey suggested, because at least she’ll get that I hear what’s going on

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  7. Yikes..I watch too many episodes of Forensic Files to be neutral. Give her a cupcake with a rolled up note inside asking her if she’s a sex slave. Make sure the message is written on one of those nasty roll-up fruit things the kids eat so she can swallow it… All joking aside, how terribly awkward. Maybe talk to her alone..girls night out? No wait, where can you go? (Damn Covid.) Truth is some women prefer these strange types of relationships..have you EVER seen Sister Wives??? I mean what the…

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      1. Love that show..I think it’s the narrator’s voice that I’m drawn to..have seen most episodes twice..moving onto 48 hours..feel like I’m developing relationships with the detectives in Miami and Cleveland.. it’s a sickness, I know..plus there isn’t ANYTHING worth watching on TV.

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  8. You have to pick your battles. I don’t think this is somethimg you can top toe in and tip toe out. Its all or nothing. Thos is a tough.one. I’d want to help but i wouldnt know when to.walk away.

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  9. Asking her to join you for a girls lunch or coffee might give you an in road and making a sarcastic comment about his actions might make her aware that others are noticing. It could help. It does sound like an emotionally abusive relationship.

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    1. They appear to spend all their free time together. It’s delicate. And what if she likes this? I don’t know. I like what Tracey said about looking at her meaningfully when he says something to gauge her reaction

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  10. Very tricky. But also consider how you will feel if you say nothing and something happens. Of course watch for bruises or other injury signals because sometimes it just starts with the verbal and progresses. I also might make some kind of remark the next time he says something that hits you wrong. You are entitled to your opinion too. If hubby noticed it, you can’t be too far off.

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  11. I usually make friends with people very quickly, so I’d probably say something to her; however, I also have a low tolerance for continued behaviors and I’m pretty picky about the level of other people’s trauma I want to endure, so if she keeps acting like it’s okay, then I’d probably not hang out with them. I’m also very triggered by oppressive behaviors, so watching someone pass/not pass food would be hard for me to sit , watch and say nothing about.

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    1. My initial thought is to spend as little time as possible with them. I don’t know how she feels about the situation and I don’t want to impose my feelings on her. So I’m stymied

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  12. I truly believe this is a mind your business situation.
    However much it rubs you wrong, and I assure you, you’re not alone here, the only thing you can do is decide whether or not to spend time with them.
    The question is, can you do that without opening a bigger can of worms?

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      1. Honestly, I suspected as much.
        But how can you maintain your comfort if you must spend time with them while still butting out? While you live in the same freaking building!?!
        Girl! This is above ALL our pay grades!

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  13. Since your husband finally noticed the situation, you might have him ask the guy what’s up with the situation. Kind of “poke, poke, wink,wink” – “how is she not killing you for saying that?” Pretty much, anything you say, even in jest, is going to be taken as an attack by the guy, if said directly to him, rather than about the situation in general – like ‘really, is it that late already?’

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  14. I don’t tend to get involved in a person’s business unless it is overtly evident that some bad stuff is going down. It’s a tough call but maybe nuance can get you in the door where you can find some answers. You could probably ‘confront’ him without him even knowing it.

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    1. We’ve only seen them once since I really caught a whiff of his behavior, so avoiding is key. She’s a renter and I know her lease is up soon (can’t rent more than a year if you’re renting from an owner) so I’m going to see how that plays out.

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  15. I’d definitely say something. Maybe in front of both of them like others have suggested. I’d probably go for a humorous approach to begin with but I’d have to say something. I know if I didn’t I’d eventually end up bluntly confronting him about his behaviour. I take the point that maybe she likes it but in all honesty I believe that women who actually like this are few and far between. Much more likely that she’s being controlled and doesn’t know how to deal with it.

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      1. That’s true. Maybe wiser to have a quiet word with her if possible then? I guess I just know what I’m like and one thing that enrages me is someone abusing another person like that. I have a friend whose husband quite often belittles her in front of others and I have said something to him in the past about it. I guess I was pretty confident that it wouldn’t make things any worse though.

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      2. We’ve managed not to see much of them lately, but I’m going to try what Tracey suggested and give her a meaningful look next time he acts that way. I figure at least she’ll know I’ve heard it

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  16. I think I’d try to spend some time alone with her, and see how she talks about him when he isn’t there. And you could bring up the subject, very, very tactfully, and see how she reacts. It’s possible she doesn’t mind being treated that way, but it’s also possible she needs a safe person to talk to.

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  17. I agree with Ann in that you might try and cultivate a gal pal friendship with her. Lunch? Coffee? If they don’t live together, perhaps there would be a time when she wasn’t with him. The more she gets to know you, the more comfortable she might be opening up about her relationship…especially if you share something with her about yours. You might not even have to ask or insinuate anything is suspect. If you think she is in danger, physically, emotionally or psychologically, would you really be able to walk away and say it’s none of your business? Some women are insecure to the point of staying with an abusive partner out of fear of the unknown. Sounds like she needs a friend of her own. But, it does sound like a complex situation.

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    1. Next time I see her I’m going to try the meaningful look if he says something. That way I can let her see, that I see what’s happening. Then I can figure out what she needs

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  18. I’d say that I’m sure your gut is sound. But, before you take any action, be certain how far you’re willing to provide support – both practical and emotional – or you may find yourself in the middle of something you’d not want to take on. I know that sounds lacking in empathy and good neighbourliness, but … it’s been a stressful year and it’s important to consider what resources you personally have available to offer someone who’s not even your friend, but the partner of your husband’s acquaintance. Good luck with whatever you decide – I’m grateful not to be in your position.

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  19. Maybe look for opportunities to be alone with her, if possible. Then start to build your own friendship, where trust is established. You might be in a better place to know what’s really going on. But they are surely all red flags. You never know how God might use you. It could be that you are just a safe place to be, or a source of encouragement. A listening ear, someone who might be the only person in her world to point out things that aren’t right. The flow of the relationship could be anything…but maybe at least give it a chance for one to be established and see where it takes you.

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    1. I’ve seen situations where one partner is just an idiot, but this seems different. I’m going to try to appear accessible in case she wants to talk

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