My Friend Abuses His Wife! How Can I Help?

August 9, 2012 Kellie Jo Holly

Recently I received an email from a man who asked a very good question. He said,

"A friend's wife opened up to me about what I think is verbal abuse. She is talking about leaving him if things don't change, but she's afraid her kids will hate her for leaving their father and their million dollar home. His wife has such a big heart. She's really a wonderful person. I want her to be happy. I am very surprised to know that my friend, such a nice guy when he's with me, abuses his wife this way. What can I do to guide his wife down the right path?"

She put you in a tough spot, eh? The wife of a good friend opens up to you about her marriage. I'm sure you're glad that she reached out, but perhaps you wonder why she reached out to you of all people.

step up to stop abusePerhaps she thinks that you may be able to influence her husband to stop abusing her. Maybe she's asked you to keep the conversation private, but doing so makes it tough to bring up the subject to your friend. How the heck are you supposed to help her when her husband acts like such a great guy around you? There doesn't seem to be an in to the conversation with him.

You'll probably never see your friend aggressively abusing his wife, but you may see him ogle other women or perhaps his attitude will come out in jokes. If you see him doing something that shows a dominant attitude toward women or if he speaks disrespectfully about any woman, you could say something like, "Do you think that about your wife, too?"

Until that opportunity presents itself, look for examples of subtle abuse that occurs while you're in both of their company so you can mention it when he answers, "No!" and looks at you like you're crazy.

In reality, your friend and you both may make comments or tell stories that you didn't even think about until your recent contact with his wife. Before you pay attention to his attitudes, pay attention to yours. I say that with loving kindness, as a gentle reminder - not as an accusation.

This is a bad position to put you in, but keep in mind that although it may not look like it, she is isolated from speaking to her own family & friends (if she still has them). She could be severely limited in her ability to reach out by who comes to her house and is available when her husband isn't there.

However, there is another scenario that makes this situation more dangerous for you. It is highly likely that your friend's wife's emotional needs are unmet (verbal abusers use their words to emotionally abuse, too). She could sense a way to meet her emotional needs through you. It is important for you to avoid an emotional affair or any other type of affair with her.

I'm sorry if the idea of an affair insults you; I'm sure you have no intention to have an affair with her. But when you create an attachment to someone, unexpected things happen. If she emotionally attaches to you, it is likely that she will imagine you to be her knight in shining armor. As much as some men wish they could be this for women, the knight is a dream person, not a real one. The reality won't hit either of you until it's too late.

Keep your cool, remember she's vulnerable, and learn how to detach.

Three things you can do right away:

  1. Read the page How to Help An Abuse Victim to take steps that will help you and her.
  2. Tell her about the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The hotline helps anyone (you can call it too!), and it would be a great first call for her.
  3. I wrote a 6-part series of posts called How Do I Stop Verbal Abuse that she may find helpful. Send the link and let her decide what to do with it. It might help you, too.

This should get you off to a good start. Thank you for caring for her, but be careful!

Read part 2 of My Friend Abuses His Wife! Now She's Not Talking to Me

You can also find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2012, August 9). My Friend Abuses His Wife! How Can I Help?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

michael pearson
August, 14 2012 at 9:59 am

to see a doctor for help but ask for nurse to be in the room do not be trap just for children i would go with hir

Jo Fonda
October, 3 2012 at 3:36 pm

That is a VERY interesting scenario... It's a big step to reach out to someone who is a good friend of the abusive partner. As someone who has been the recipient in the abusive relationship (would I be the abusivee?) Depending on the circumstances and the timing, if I had done that, my motives could have been either to get support or to get some sort of camaraderie with that person and back door revenge of sorts on my abuser by trying to get a friend of his on my side.
Actually - I can't imagine that I would have had the confidence to do such a thing. The only time I reached out to a friend of my abuser was when I wanted to get support for him to deal with me wanting to end the relationship.

Erica Kuhanez
October, 29 2012 at 12:24 pm

This gentleman is asking how can he assist his mates partner who has approached him with her concerns of abuse. Rather than bombarding him with numerous senerios perhaps it would be wiser to assist this kind caring gentleman of objectively knowing his own boundries and subjectively suggest or even research options for this woman of places and phone numbers where by this woman can seek further advice and help herself. Self empowering this woman is of a far greater benifit and a necessary element for this woman to achieve the strength and knowledge of how to handle her situation herself.
It no doubt took a lot of strength for this woman to say anything to anyone however offering self protection of his own is very helpful so that his boundries are not jepardised and he is still supportively assisting this woman to seek personal help and support both legally and emotionally on a professional level.

Ronny Collins
April, 30 2017 at 2:40 pm

So I once had this best friend from all the way back in high school… (my ONLY friend from those days, it turns out)… and he is a Cassanova type. He is capable of picking women up off the streets, and damn near impregnating them that same night… which he does quite often with ME along as Third-Wheel.
The context here, is that he gets laid all the time, and I’m not even sure if I should even bother to speak to women at all.
By the time in which this story takes place, he’s had a girl-friend for a while… who it turns out cheated on him no-less than TWICE. He’s screamed at her over the phone in public, and somehow still refuses to just dump her and move on.
One day, I went to his place to hang-out with him. He tells me that his girlfriend is PREGNANT, and that there’s at least a Chance that the child is Not Even HIS. He also goes on-and-on about his… (sigh)… FEELINGS… and how he’s not even sure if he can trust her anymore. He also mentioned getting physically VIOLENT with her because of it.
I say, “You CAN’T trust her. SMART men would NOT trust her. Dump her, Find somebody else… it’s not like you CAN’T!” Most importantly, I also added, “Men who hurt women end up in JAIL… because they are the REAL B*****S.”
He Continued to go on and on. He even recognized that I was basically playing the world’s-smallest-violin for him.
Then his girlfriend comes over.
I tell her that it is NOT good to see her there, she mentioned leaving. My (former) friend started SCREAMING at her to stay and talk about the issue. I take that as my cue to up and leave.
Here’s the kicker: She Asked ME to STAY. Probably thinking that I would… PROTECT her.
I did NOT. I LEFT. I left her to her own fate.
Now this woman already has a damn CHILD… a DAUGHTER. I figured that if this woman was a real adult who ought to be raising children, she would have chosen to leave on her own, and went back home to take care of her kid… NOT stay there and decided to risk being his punching-bag.
Still… I write this because to this day… I still feel… GUILTY… like I SHOULD HAVE stayed to protect her. I am an ex-Marine, and a Muay-Thai kickboxer… it’s not like I COULDN’T, or that I haven’t WANTED to be a hero since childhood. I could have totally DESTROYED him. I damn near broke his arm once for touching me on the shoulder (I was raped as a child… I do NOT let MEN put their hands on me).
The next day, I decided to hang out with him ONE last time. I ask him how his girlfriend is… how things are with her.
His response: “Things with her are Great, and I CAN F**K ANY OTHER B***H ANYTIME I WANT!!”
Needless to say, this guy is no-longer my friend. Now I have absolutely NO reason to return to any high-school reunions, lol.
So, what do you guys think? Next time, I find myself in that situation… should I…
a)… stay to protect the woman, and put the guy willing to treat women like punching-bags
in his place?
b)… leave, like I did, and let the woman CHOOSE whether to be a self-sufficient adult who takes
care of herself, or stick around and risk being an his punching bag?
I ask this because I’m trying to improve myself as a person, grow up, and make sure I DO THE RIGHT THING.
Thank you.

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