What do you do when you hate the way a partner’s partner treats them?
This is a tough one. On the one hand, you love your partner, and of course, you want everyone to treat your partner well, right?
On the other hand, your partner is a grown-ass adult* and needs to make their own choices on how to interact with people, when, and with whom.
I think in this case, your role as
You need to be specific, too.
“Jeffrey, when we were at that party last week, I heard Joffrey snarking the fact you were excited about the tickets you scored to the next Patriots game, rolling his eyes at you liking that ‘
See, the first thing is not to assume. It’s entirely possible, Jeffrey, who you know to be a lifelong Patriots fan and even has a room dedicated to memorabilia isn’t particularly bothered by Joffrey snarking his football interest.
Now if Jeffrey is bothered by the behavior, it is okay to say something. The important thing is to be supportive, but not to tell your partner how to act or what to do.
It is also important not to get involved unless asked. I know most people feel at least a little protective of the people they love. And goodness knows at least part of you wants to stomp up to Joffrey and tell him to lay off. Jeffrey is allowed to like football, for pity’s sake, even if Joffrey isn’t into it.
So, what about abuse?
This one is… woah, rough. What you want to do is just rescue that person. Of course, you do. And it doesn’t work.
The first thing is to outline the behavior specifically. Call it out for what it is. You are unlikely to be listened to immediately. The first reaction is going to be excuses for the abusive partner. It is so normal. Admitting you’re being abused can be a big ball of shame. It shouldn’t feel shameful, I know. To many people it simply does, so you need to expect that and deal with it.
If you get those excuses, do not double down on your point. As a full confession about knowing the right thing to do and not doing it, I did double down on social media recently where a person was being mistreated in a polyamorous relationship. While I had no real reason to expect physical abuse, the person was not being treated well, and I hammered at it a couple of times. I feel bad about this because instead of actually helping, I’ve just made the poor person resistant to feedback. I need to do better. Be better than me. Certainly, I’m trying to be better than me… *sighs*
A good way to help someone in this situation is to ask a great question, “What do you want to see happen?”
Yes, the answer is going to be something along the lines of, “I want them to stop hitting me/making me feel afraid and small all the time.” That might be unrealistic and yeah, what you really want the person to say is, “Leave their ass!”
In supporting someone you love, especially one who is being mistreated, making sure they have agency and choice is really one of the best things you can do. Showing that you support them in that agency and choice will strengthen their abilities to make choices that are best for them.
It is hard to watch someone you love being mistreated, even mildly. If you’re familiar with the Ring Theory of support, the basic idea is that if someone is closer to the difficulty, you offer comfort in. You reach OUT to get support. So while you’re comforting and supporting your partner, it’s fine to reach out to get support for yourself.
*Your partner better damn well be a grown-ass adult, just sayin’.