Over a month ago, I wrote about how one of my best friend’s boyfriend completely unleashed on me, screaming at me and calling me a c*nt over and over again for, as far as I can tell, no real apparent reason. Your comments on that post were amazing. They were thoughtful, raw, honest, and they gave me a lot to think about. A lot. Here’s what happened next.
I told myself that even though Brent had been emotionally abusive, I had to try to give him another chance. After all, he did apologize and I knew that if I made a big deal out of it, somehow I would be the one in the cabin who was bringing the drama. Also, the last thing in the world I wanted was to lose my friendship with Jenna. In the five and a half years since I’d met her, she’d become one of my favorite people. She was loyal, reliable, honest, helpful, hard working, motivated. She was just a really, really good person. And she was my friend. I don’t have a ton of those, but even if I did, losing her friendship would hurt.
The problem was, I was both worried about Jenna and mad at her boyfriend. And I wasn’t just mad at him, I realized -- I was scared of him. I talked to my therapist about it and he expressed serious concern about Brent’s behavior.
“It’s not a matter of IF he will start talking to Jenna like that,” he said. “It’s a matter of when.” But we both agreed that if I could somehow make it work in the cabin, that was the best-case scenario.
Did I really want it to work? That’s hard to know. I believe that deep down I did. I didn’t want to lose the opportunity to hang out with Jenna on the weekends and I didn’t want to be the friend who came between her and her boyfriend. I pictured their wedding and realized that if I didn’t figure this out, I wouldn’t be invited. Did I support the relationship? No. But I supported my friend. Basically: It was complicated. Very complicated.
I did a horrible job, when I got to Tahoe that week, of keeping my mouth shut about the situation. The boys in my house didn’t want to talk about it and told me that maybe if I just stopped thinking about it, I’d be able to move on. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Jenna and Brent were scheduled to arrive soon and even though I’d promised to try, I was nervous. Worse? I was scared.
When Brent and Jenna walked into the living room that night, I felt my heart speed up and my mouth get dry. They sat on the couch and the group engaged in small talk, but I’m pretty sure everyone was aware of the extreme tension. When everyone decided to play “Cards Against Humanity” (best game ever -- you must buy it if you don’t own it already), I opted to go to bed.
I couldn’t trust myself to play a game with Brent in which arguing for your card was a part of it. It was barely after 10pm on a Friday, but I went downstairs and crawled under the covers. But not before I locked the bedroom door.
The next night was the same. We were watching playoff football when Brent and Jenna came into the room. I’d been successfully avoiding them, but when my friend went to get up and leave me alone with them, I realized I couldn't deal with it being just the three of us.
Unfortunately, it was also obvious to Brent and Jenna. They went out to dinner, and I went to bed before they came home. Again, way earlier than normal.
It was clear things weren’t just going back to normal, so I asked Jenna to come over for wine a few days later. I even opened up a bottle of red because that’s what she loves, when I’m mostly a Sauvignon Blanc drinker. Unfortunately, though she did show up, she didn’t touch a single drop.
I guess I can’t blame her.
I told her how I felt. That I was scared of her boyfriend. That I’d tried not to be, but that I couldn’t shake it. I told her that I was worried she was in an abusive relationship. That even if he was being nice to her now, that he wouldn’t always be this way. I told her that my past experiences with abusive men made it too difficult to share a house with him. I told her almost everything you guys said in the comments. But I didn’t tell her I’d written about it. In that respect, I was a total and complete coward.
Jenna promised me that Brent was nothing but great to her. That their relationship was amazing. That he was in no way abusive. I told her how I felt he was trying to get me out of the way, how he didn’t want us to be friends, but she assured me that wasn’t the case. She said she’d come over with the hopes that we were going to put this all behind us and move forward. But she realized now, that wasn’t going to be possible.
Which is when Jenna said she and Brent would vacate the house. She didn’t see a reason for me to be scared of him, she said, but since I was, what else could they do? I told her that maybe with time, things would get better and they could come back in a month. And then a few days later I followed up with an email.
I just wanted to check in and see how you're doing and reiterate how much I love you and value our friendship. I'm sorry that the Tahoe house has become such an issue and that I won't be able to hang out with you there this season. Holding out hope that maybe we'll find a resolution to this and you guys will be able to return in a month or two.
Unfortunately, by then, Jenna had been made aware of my article. Her reply to me was both curt and cold. Understandable. She made it clear that because “the whole Internet was now involved,” she did not want me in her life anymore. That it was best if she and Brent “moved forward on their own.”
I managed to find someone to take over Jenna’s spot and reimbursed her the prorated difference a few days later. That’s the last time we spoke.
My gut tells me it will likely be the last time we ever speak.
Once, in graduate school, my friends saw a dear friend’s wife cheating on him at a bar. Everyone was talking about it, but no one said anything to the friend. Finally, unable to stand all of the gossip, I told him what was being said. He lashed out at me, denied it all, and our friendship was over. I swore I’d never get involved in a friend’s relationship again. That it wasn't worth the risk.
I can’t help with happened with Jenna and Brent. And I don’t regret telling her that I’m worried about her. That I think she may be dating someone with abusive tendencies. Perhaps I shouldn’t have written about it, but in some sense, if Jenna took the time to read the comments you all left, then I think it was worth it.
Mostly, I just hope that Jenna knows I meant what I said. That I will always be there for her no matter what. I hope that Brent never treats her the way he’s treated me and some of her other friends. I hope her relationship is successful and happy and that it brings her nothing but joy. Does it break my heart to think of Jenna on her wedding day and me far away? Yes.
But I did what I had to do. And I can live with that. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss her though. Because I miss her every day.
You can follow me on Twitter: @daisy.