With the recent numerous allegations against Marilyn Manson, it seems everyone is talking about what it means to be abusive to a romantic partner. What exactly did he do and where is the evidence? Another question that many are asking is if so many people knew about Manson’s toxic and abusive character, why has no one spoken out against it before? Why wait until now?
This story got me thinking about the time a few years back when I had a friend who, I believe, was in a toxic and abusive relationship.
Christina and I had been working together for a couple of years. We weren’t super close right away, but over time we grew to become good work friends. Her boyfriend, John, also worked at the same place. I didn’t work around him as much as I did with her, but I would see him in passing at least a few times a day and only occasionally would I engage with him. He was quiet and sometimes a bit standoffish to most of the team. I didn’t really think much about that because I am an introvert as well – nothing wrong with it. I think I knew more about him from what Christina had told me rather than speaking with him myself. They had been together for at least a few years and from first impressions, they seemed to have a normal relationship.
Father’s Day Night Out
I was working one afternoon with Christina when she acknowledged that Father’s Day was coming up soon. She was having a tough time with it this year because her father had just passed away a few months prior. I sympathized with her on this because I had lost my mom back in late 2014. Knowing full well how hard it is to go through these type of holidays without your respective parent, I said, “Hey if you need someone to talk to or hang out with on that day, just let me know.” I figured that maybe I could help take her mind off of being sad, even if just for a little while. She told me that she appreciated the thought, and we moved on to a different topic.
About a week later, we were working together in the same area when she said, “So I might actually want to take you up on that offer for Father’s Day. Wanna have a drink at the pier?” I said, “Sure of course!”
This would be the first time I’d actually go out at night with Christina. Before, she and I had gathered once or twice for either breakfast or lunch with other work friends during the day.
On the evening of Father’s Day, I was picked up by Christina and John. He dropped her and I off at the pier and agreed to pick us up in a couple hours and said, “Just text me when you’re ready.”
At the pier, she and I had a good time as we had a two margaritas each at a small table overlooking the beach. We listened to the band play and talked about a variety of things going on in our lives. After about an hour, we decided we wanted something to eat, so we go over to the food court section of the pier and I think we both got some chili cheese fries (drunk food). We are sitting there eating for about 5-10 minutes when I see her text notifications on her phone are blowing up. Christina opens up her phone and is like, “Omg are we really doing this right now?” I ask, “What’s going on?” She says that he’s already here and he’s freaking out because he can’t find us. I said, “Just tell him we’re at the little food spot in the corner.”
She answers a call from him and I remember immediately hearing some indistinct yelling and cursing. She’s trying her best to keep her cool and is telling him, “Calm down! We’re trying to eat over here!” She hangs up and brushes it off with a sigh and a “sheesh!” I noticed she was trying to make light of the situation so I joined in with a slightly intoxicated joke, “Uh oh, jealous boyfriend alert” as we prepared for him to find us.
When he finally approached, I could tell he was forcibly coming down from his temper tantrum. It was then I realized how early he was in picking us up as she said, “We weren’t expecting you for a while.” His excuse was simply that he was bored and wanted to come up here to join us. Fair enough. We sit there and finish our food and chat for about another 10 minutes when we decided we were ready to go. We got in the car and they dropped me off at my apartment.
About a week later, Christina and I were at work, closing on the same night. During our shift, I politely asked for a ride home and of course she agreed. When I got in her car, I noticed her pull out her phone to text him before we took off. I twisted over to my right side to grab my seat belt. As I turned back to click my belt in, she already had leaned over towards me with her front facing camera screen showing the both of us in a selfie. At first, I paused like, “Oh? A selfie. Ok.”
I suppose it was an instinct to pose and smile. She hit the button and I could clearly see her immediately texting that selfie to John. I asked, “You’re sending that to him?” As she put her car into drive, she just said, “This is just so he knows what’s going on. It makes us both feel better.” I kind of thought that was a little different, but then I guess I could understand that she wants him to know she’s safe.
Still, a suspicion left me wondering if he was the type to constantly have to keep tabs on his woman.
The Phone Call
A couple weeks go by, and I get a phone call from her cell early one Tuesday morning at about 7am.
It was Christina, and she was noticeably upset. She tells me that she’s calling from a hotel room in town. Her and John had a big fight late last night and he kicked her out. She confesses to me that he spent a good deal of time screaming and cursing at her, and that his mom called her names on her way out of the house as well.
I said, “Wait, so it’s his house you’ve been staying at?” She says, “Yeah, him and his mom.”
I asked her what happened and how this fight came about. She tells that John read some text messages between her and another friend that he didn’t like. I inquired about why he was reading her text messages to begin with and she responds with, “He regularly goes through my phone and reads my text conversations.” I paused. “Okaaay. Does he read mine and your conversations?” She says, “Yeah, he does. There have even been a few times he’s responded as me too.”
What?! Are you kidding me? I couldn’t help but to be kind of pissed upon hearing that. I had no idea that John was reading our texts, let alone responding to some of them. I immediately felt a little embarrassment come over me. It’s not that I had anything major to hide. However, I naturally shared some private things via texts that I assumed she was the only one reading. I really didn’t know this guy very well. He was just an acquaintance from work and here I learn that he’s reading our texts.
I mean, she could have at least given me a heads up earlier that we had an audience. Maybe to her this kind of dynamic was normal, but it wasn’t to me.
After a few minutes of trying to process this information, I had to bring myself back to the more important matter, and that was her well being. She was in a delicate situation and not feeling so great mentally and emotionally. As her friend, I wanted to be supportive and helpful.
She continues to say that she sent me a friend request on Facebook. “John never liked me to have a Facebook account, so I didn’t have one until just now. So that’s mine.” I continued to ask her questions.
“So I assume this is it and you two are done.” She says, “Yeah I’m pretty sure. I just don’t know what to do now.
She didn’t outright ask me, but I could tell she was in need of a place to stay. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a living situation where I could offer her much in that regard. My man and I were renting a small place from my grandma and there would be no additional space for a guest. She knew that and she completely understood. However, I did tell her I’d do whatever I could to help her look for a place or someone we knew who wouldn’t mind a roommate.
Later that day, another mutual work friend of ours, Nina, reaches out to me to see if I was also in the loop of what was going on. She was also invited to the pier that night but she couldn’t make it. Nina was about as close to Christina as I was but she lived with her mom so she couldn’t offer a room for Christina either. So her and I started to collaborate and gather apartment listings in the area.
Those plans, however, were cut short. The very next day, Christina confirmed that her and John had talked things over and he agreed to let her come back to the house. The Facebook profile she had just created was deleted.
The Phone And The Car
A few days later, I see Christina at work and I ask her if everything was okay.
“I think now it is, kind of.”
She tells me that there were a few more heated discussions after she came back home, but that she expected things to soon return to normal.
Then she said something that shocked and disturbed me.
“Oh by the way, I don’t have my phone anymore. It’s kind of…smashed.”
“Yeah. After I came home, he…kinda threw it around a couple times. The screen is all busted up.”
I asked, “Omg are you alright? He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
She says, “No, but ….he banged up my car too. You may have noticed that I didn’t drive it here today.”
I really didn’t even know how to respond. Now I was getting upset.
“Christina, you mean to tell me that he destroyed your phone AND your car?”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The mere thought of anyone thinking that this was excusable behavior was ridiculous to me. I don’t know all the details about why he was mad or what he thought she was doing wrong, but I don’t think it matters. There was literally NO excuse for him to damage her property like that.
At this point, I’m coming to the realization that he’s violent now too. Was he being violent with her physically? I wasn’t sure, but now it wouldn’t surprise me.
I remember asking her if she was okay. I reminded myself that her safety and well being was the most important thing. She insisted that she was fine, though I could sense some kind of anxiousness in her voice while telling me this news. She knew what he did was wrong, but still was trying to brush it off as him being “just the way he is.”
The Energy Change
As the next several days went on, I couldn’t shake the thoughts of the events that occurred. Everything she told me and the behavior from him that I personally witnessed started to consume my thoughts. I mean, it was really starting to bother me. I kept thinking about how there’s no way in hell I’d allow this type of control and retaliation from a partner, someone who claimed to love me.
It was during this time that I began to notice she was acting more distant with me at work whenever John was nearby. In fact, I noticed on a few different occasions that she’d completely ignore me. However, if she knew were were alone, she would be completely normal. I started to wonder if I was just seeing things. So I mentioned it our other friend Nina who confirmed that she noticed the same type of energy shift too, but only if John was around was that the case. I had no idea if this was her decision or if he had any influence in this change of behavior.
After a few more days of having this whole situation preoccupy my mind, I entertained the thought of trying to take a more proactive approach in my thoughts regarding her relationship with John. On one hand, I thought maybe this wasn’t any of my business. On the other hand, I wanted to have a real, no bs talk about what I saw going on.
I took some time, however, to consider whether or not it was actually a good idea. I considered the different ways I could go about speaking my mind as well as the different ways she might respond.
Normally, I don’t like to be the person to poke my nose where it doesn’t belong. But I thought, she was my friend and I really cared about her. Besides, I wasn’t totally sure about what else he might have been doing that no one knew about.
After my considerations, I felt pretty confident that she would understand where I am coming from.
Christina liked to consider herself a very “no bullshit” kind of woman when it came to her friendships, and I recall at least a few different times hearing her say that I could tell her anything. I think that’s part of the reason why her and I became friends – I felt comfortable telling her anything and I knew she wouldn’t judge or overreact. It was in that thought that I decided to come forward.
At work, I casually told her I wanted to speak with her in person about something whenever we both have some free time. I didn’t realize it the time, but we had conflicting schedules for the next few days, and there wouldn’t be any time to meet with her face to face. I decided I guess it could wait until later. I suppose curiosity got the best of her because she texted me from her cell saying that she got her phone to work (somehow) and asked if I could just text her what I wanted to say. At first, I insisted that it’s better said in person. But she was getting anxious about what this was regarding and asked me again to just text it to her instead.
I thought, “Ok screw it. I can text this to her and I don’t care if he reads it and knows I think he’s being a piece of shit!”
I have a tendency to be an overthinker. But I tried not to overthink this and I just let it come from the heart.
(This isn’t exactly word for word, but it’s the gist of what I sent.)
“I’m just really concerned about you lately. I know you and him have been together for years and you have your own ways of dealing with issues, but I’m seeing too many red flags here. I don’t think you deserve to be treated the way he’s treating you. It’s like he’s got you on a short leash and his anger is way over the top. I don’t think anything you’ve done is an excuse for him to destroy your property. That was bullshit!
I don’t mean to be nosy or or tell you what to do. I know you’re smart enough to know that I mean well here. I also know you are a grown ass woman and can take care of yourself, but as a friend, I’m just checking to see that you’re okay and that you’re happy. If you’re happy, then I won’t say anything else. But if you’re not happy, then I want to help you move forward in a way that will make you happier. “
I was relieved when she responded calmly and rationally. It seemed she completely understood what I was saying and why. She didn’t push back or get defensive at all. There were several texts back and forth about this matter and it went pretty well, in my opinion.
Christina confirmed that my concerns were legit. She basically told me that she gets it and she knows that he “has issues” and knows that his behavior crosses the line sometimes. She also admitted that she’s not perfect either and that they both have shit to work through. She again insisted that she was okay and has it under control. I then reassured her that I understand that there’s a lot about their relationship that I don’t know of, and that my intentions weren’t to meddle, but to reach out as a friend. She told me that she appreciates my concern.
The Leave Of Absence
I left it at that and took a step back to resume of own life as normal. I would see her at work the following week and I still continued to noticed how she limited her engagement with me and Nina when John was around but normal when he wasn’t around. When alone with her at one point, I did ask if he had read the last text conversation between her and I. She said that in fact he did read it and wasn’t a big fan of me at that moment. I said, “I’m sure he isn’t.” I figured he probably hated me for what I said, but the truth was the truth. I was totally prepared to stand if he wanted to have something to say about it. But he never did.
A couple of weeks later, I noticed that Christina wasn’t showing up for work. At first I thought she just calling in sick and stayed home. I texted her but no response. It was the same thing for the next two days. I mean, absolute silence. A coworker told me that she took a leave of absence. That was news to me – one I didn’t expect to hear. I asked Nina if she knew anything about this and she said, “Kind of but all she said was that she needed time away to work through some things.”
I didn’t try to contact her any more after that. I figured that maybe she just needed some space and I wanted to respect that.
However, she never came back to work. I silently wondered to myself if she decided to quit on her own or if John had something to do with it because of me.
It’s been over two years now and I never heard from her again. No one else knew much about what happened after that either.
Last thing I heard about Christina was about a year ago. Another coworker friend said she and John had split up, but I didn’t ask about details on how he knew. I think I muttered under my breath, “That’s probably not a bad thing.” Since then, I haven’t heard a thing.
I’m telling this story for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to illustrate what a toxic or abusive relationship might look like from the perspective of a friend. That way, if someone is ever in a similar role, then they know what kind of signs to look out for. Abuse doesn’t always mean someone beating the crap out of someone else. It can also be financial abuse, property damage, psychological and emotional abuse, coercion, manipulation, grooming, etc.
Your friend or loved one doesn’t have to get a black eye for you to step in and ask, “Hey are you okay? How can I help?”
The other reason I’m telling this story is because I wanted to continue a discussion on if you do decide to step in, how should you go about it? What should you do and not do?
I’m in the middle of writing another article for Evie Magazine that goes more into detail on that. I’ll update this piece with the link to that article once it is published.
I definitely don’t regret my decision to say something to Christina, but the way I did was risky. I’m lucky that she was such an understanding person. If I were in that same situation today, I probably would have approached it in a different way.
Sadly, Christina is no longer in my life. I have no idea where she is or what’s going on with her. I don’t take it personally. I’m assuming she ultimately had to do what was best for her, and I hope she’s doing well today. She knows where to find me if she ever wants to reconnect.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
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Until next time,
— Ash Pariseau