Yesterday, we shared a story about a reader who's friend's husband is such a jerk, he even told her to "f*** off" in front of everyone. We have all been in sticky social settings with friends like this, and what to say or do can be confusing. Should you distance yourself from your friend? Should you tell her you think her husband treats her like garbage? Should you tell your own husband he treats you like garbage? What should you do?! We asked Dr. Sheila Forman, Clinical Psychologist to give us some more tips on how to handle these uncomfortable situations:
How do my husband and I distance ourselves from a couple who is fighting in public?
Dr. Sheila's advice: The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of the fight. If it is a couple you don't know, simply remove yourself from the situation. Just walk away. If the situation looks like it will escalate into physical violence you could choose to call the police (non-emergency number.) If it is a couple you know, I have two suggestions. The first is to approach the couple and ask them to take their "conversation" elsewhere. If they cooperate -great! Crisis averted. If they hesitate or resist your suggestion, then my recommendation is that you tell them you are leaving and leave. The next day (or a few days later) you could contact them to discuss what happened. Tell them how you felt as a result of their behavior and why you chose to leave. If they take responsibility for their actions, you may choose to remain friends. If they don't, you may want to let go of their friendship and find another couple to spend time with. If only one spouse is the issue you might consider having a separate relationship with the other.
How do I tell a friend (in fact should I even tell her?) that I think her husband is treating her badly?
Dr. Sheila's advice: My answer to this one is a resounding "Yes!" The key is how and when you tell her - not whether you tell her at all. It is important here to stress to your friend your concern for her welfare and happiness. Invite your friend out for coffee, tea, or a stroll in the park. Tell her there is something very important you want to talk to her about. Let her know how much you care about her and how important she is to you. Then tell her that you have "noticed" something. Tell her that you "noticed" that her husband doesn't treat her very well and that concerns you. Ask her if she agrees with your assessment. Give examples if possible. Be sure to NOT husband bash. Don't call him names, etc. Just stick to your concern for her. Decide in advance what support you can provide her and then offer it. It maybe that you give her a book to read ("The Emotionally Abused Wife" by Beverly Engel is particularly good) or the phone number of a good psychologist. You might offer to go with her to the first appointment. Make sure your friend knows how serious this is and how serious you are and that you are there for her. There is a caveat I must offer here: Sometime the truth hurts and your friend may not welcome your comments or believe them. That's okay. You were a good friend sharing your concern with her. If she can't hear it now, maybe she'll be able to hear it later.