Dating Games: Words are weapons

It hurts and it’s hard to look down the road to see that the person is probably doing us a favor in the long run.

Dating Games 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Dating Games 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A friend with whom I’m not particularly close called me to seek out my advice and confidence. Her story is common and familiar, but she had never thought of my theory until speaking to me.
It all started on Friday when she received a text message from her live-in boyfriend while she was driving home from work to start preparing Shabbat dinner. The message simply said “we need to talk.”
Ugh! Why he couldn’t wait 20 minutes for her to walk in the door? Of course this meant she was nervous all the way home and on the defensive as soon as she arrived.
Her boyfriend sat her down and told her that he had never wanted her to move in, that he didn’t love her and never had, and he wanted her to move out of the house, which he owned. Needless to say, she was devastated. She became hysterical, crying and hyperventilating and begging him to change his mind. He said that her reaction only confirmed his decision. She left the house and went to a friend’s, where she has stayed for the last week.
She called me in tears the next day to relate the story. After comforting her, I told her that the reason he used such strong terms that were painful to hear is because he wanted to hurt her to the extent that she couldn’t and wouldn’t forgive him. He wanted her out of his life, period. I told her this as gently as possible, and I think she understood what I was trying to say without getting any more upset. He was using words as weapons and wanted to hurt her to the point of no return. I don’t believe that he never really loved her and never wanted her to move in, and I told her so, but, knowing her the way he did, he felt that he needed to go for the verbal jugular. He knew that he had to be clear and to the point for the utmost effect.
She was already trying to find excuses for him and trying to understand where he was coming from, so I told her she had the right to be mad and sad and that it was healthy to be furious with him. I cautioned her against contacting him and advised her not to accept his calls (if he were to call – I didn’t think he would) until she was in a better place, which was probably not going to be for at least a few more weeks. I told her that when she does contact him to get her belongings, she should keep it very cordial and not get emotional or try to ask questions about the break-up. He was a jerk at the end, even if he had his reasons, and she doesn’t owe him any niceties – even if it just about kills her to contain her emotions. No amount of explanation from him is going to change their situation, so there’s really no point in torturing each other. His mind is made up and it doesn’t matter why. Now she needs to start healing and moving forward. Nothing he can say will make her feel better.
The restrictions over communication are going to be the hardest for her with regard to self-control. Of course she will go through a few weeks of weakness in which she will want to call him and she will jump to answer his call on the first ring. I told her that every time she reaches for the phone she should call me instead, and that if he does call she should let it go to voicemail so she can hear what he has to say and be prepared before returning his call. I told her to bring someone with her when she goes back to their place so that she wouldn’t get caught up in herself or get sucked in by his posturing. A friend will be able to reassure her and symbolically hold her up as she gets her things, speaks politely and walks out the door with her head held high.
I don’t know her ex-boyfriend so I can’t tell her my opinion of him, but I think that made it better than if she had turned to someone who knew them intimately as a couple. I can’t talk badly about him to make her feel better, but I can’t defend him positively; I was impartial and that’s a good thing. I wanted what was best for her – which is also a good thing.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it for her or tell her he’s crazy or stressed at work or confused, because he was making it ultra-clear how he felt – even if he did it in a terrible way – and she needs to listen.
Many of us have a hard time hearing the truth, which is why people sometimes have to use harsh words to get through to us. It hurts and it’s hard to look down the road to see that the person is probably doing us a favor in the long run. That’s why hindsight is 20/20. Hopefully my friend will be strong, recover well and flourish under fire.