Ask Amy: Friend of abused woman steps away

Ask Amy: Friend of abused woman steps away

Dear Amy: “Christy” and I have been friends for more than 25 years.

Christy married an abusive monster, and after 15 years of her crying to me and then going back to him, I stepped away for a few years.

I told her that I believed he would kill her, and if I couldn’t convince her to leave, I had to leave because I couldn’t watch.

A few years ago, she told me about the horrible effects of his abuse, which led to hospitalizations and eventually brain surgery for an issue related to his abuse.

I brought her into my home for a month, nursed her through the miraculous, frightening surgery, and then she went BACK to him.

I stepped away for another three years.

She reached out a year ago and told me they had divorced.

I went for a visit, and she admitted she’d lied, saying that they had agreed not to divorce, “So, if he dies first, I’ll get his military retirement benefit.”

I told her she was nuts, but if she wasn’t sleeping with him, and if she never, ever again called me in tears over him, I’d leave the topic alone.

She said OK, then called me in tears a few weeks later over booty call drama with him, and I’ve ghosted her ever since.

Since she won’t help herself by not sleeping with him, I’ve turned my back “without explanation,” beyond that first 20 years of pleading with her to get away from him.

I know ghosting is cold-hearted, but I’m done. She leaves supportive comments on my Facebook posts, but I don’t respond.

So why do I still hope she’s OK? Why do I feel guilty?

– Tired

Dear Tired: You hope that your friend is OK because … at this point, hope is all you’ve got.

You have made a laudable emotional and personal investment in trying to protect “Christy.” This connection has been a lifeline for her over the years.

But let’s talk about you.

You have instructed Christy not to have sex with her abusive husband, leveraging your friendship on this choice.

Even though your intentions are protective, and anyone could see how you came to this point, this is also an example of the kind of external control you have urged her to flee from.

Yes, you must protect yourself by detaching from Christy’s choices. But detachment does not necessarily mean ghosting.

Detachment can also translate into acceptance: Christy will most likely remain in this abusive marriage. Leaving could put her in danger.

You could draw boundaries around your friendship, but you can’t draw boundaries around her life and expect her to respect them.

At the next report of violence, urge her to contact the police and The National Domestic Violence Hotline ( Counselors are available to talk/text 24/7.

Dear Amy: I have been to a few kids’ birthday parties recently and have noticed not just the birthday child, but also their siblings are getting gifts, “So they don’t feel left out.”

Isn’t a birthday party supposed to celebrate the person born on that day?

I have two children of my own, and my mother-in-law and my stepdaughters have both given sibling gifts on another sibling’s birthday.

Growing up, I never got gifts on my siblings’ birthdays.

When did this become a thing?

Is there a nice way to inform people to get gifts only for the birthday kid and to hold off on gifts for others until their birthday?

Should I just keep my mouth shut and let people spend their money the way they want?

Has Birthday Etiquette Changed?

– Annoyed

Dear Annoyed: Etiquette has not changed, but people have.

Extended family members do sometimes feel compelled to bring sibling gifts to birthday celebrations because they are desperate to be loved and “special” but – as usual – the adults are really soothing their own feelings and anxieties and are not mindful of the message this overabundance conveys.

Yes, you could ask people in advance to hold off on giving sibling gifts, but I wouldn’t make a big deal of it if they ignore your suggestion.

Dear Amy: Thank you for your finely tuned reflection on “sexist” or gender-based toys for children.

As the mother of a boy who longed for (and received) an Easy-Bake Oven, I appreciated your thoughts that toys should not be assigned to specific genders.

(My son, now an adult, is a baker, by the way.)

– Loving Mom

Dear Mom: How sweet! (I assume his current oven uses more than a 100-watt bulb.)

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2023 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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