Why won’t she leave him…?


I have a friend who’s in an abusive relationship. She’s still with the guy.

I hope he’s not abusing her anymore, I wouldn’t know because she doesn’t talk to me about her relationship anymore.

It never started-out as an abusive relationship though.

My friend *Nothando is so kind hearted, so loving and seemed to be drawn to love and the ideals of it since I met her first year of varsity over 10 years ago. When I met her she was heartbroken about a particular guy she really loved. He didn’t treat her well, but she wanted him back still. She held onto that guy and the ideals of the love they could have – I guess I should have seen the warning signs back then. That guy, *Andile, never was physically abusive towards her, but he took advantage of her loyal love, knowing, whatever wrong he could do, she would always take him back.

Fast forward to years later, Nothando met *Jabu and he seemed to be a good guy from what she described. Nothando lost her job and Jabu invited her to move in with him. When I met Jabu, I was not too big on him, but my boyfriend really liked him so I warmed up to the idea of him – a little. Nothando started to tell me that Jabu would get mad at her and shout at her like she was a child. I didn’t like it. She would defend him. I would concede. Then it progressed to Jabu telling Nothando how stupid she was, insulting and belittling her. Nothando would still defend him, only now she would start blaming herself for causing him to be this mad. I wouldn’t concede.

I started seeing my best friend change right in front of me. The once bubbly, confident, happy go lucky friend I knew seemed to slip into this frightened, sad, self-blaming recluse.

I started to notice that I could no longer contact my friend as freely as I used to. She communicated less with me. She found a job and I thought once she’d be out of the house, interacting daily with other people that she’d see another life beyond him. It never worked. She saw this as a time to pay him back now that he had lost his job – he had looked after her when she was without.

One day she called me to tell me she had packed her bags. I was so happy. I thought this was it. I arrived outside his estate ready to take her home with me. She told me that in the short time it took me to drive there that they had reconciled. I asked her whether he had hit her, she said no “he spat on me”. I told her no. She needs to leave him now. He would hit her next. She told me he promised to change. She wanted to help him change. I remember crying when she left my car to go back to him. I knew that day I had lost my friend.

How did she not see what I saw? Why wouldn’t she leave him? Why did she feel he needed to be loved and helped more than he did for her? Why did he deserve more love than my friend, and for her to choose him over herself? Why could she not put herself first?

It hurt so much. We were in our early 30s now. It’s not like my friend wasn’t rational and sound of mind. It’s not like this was her first love – even if by some reason she thought this was true love, she can’t be this loyal to this kind of hurt? Why wouldn’t she leave him?

I could go on about how things have deteriorated. Many times she has called me out the blue to say that she’s seen the light and that she’s leaving him, only to find out a few weeks later she’s “happy” back with him. She’s lied to me many times. She never used to lie to me before Jabu. He’s beat her. A number of times. She only would tell me of this months later, and never to what extent. But she would always return. I don’t know why.

I don’t recognise my friend. This person is not the friend I met over 10 years ago. We had plans about who we’d want to be and where we’d like to be in the future. All seemed to have disappeared. Her life, plans and being revolves around Jabu. Jabu is her everything. It’s as though Jabu is God and she’s living for him and to make him happy. At this current moment I don’t think she sees her life nor future beyond Jabu.

I’ve reconciled myself that I need to be there for her. I can’t convince her to leave him – there are no forced interventions (trust me I’ve looked). But I need to be there for her. Not because I support her relationship, but more waiting for my friend to return, or moreover be accessible to her for the day she wishes to leave him.

Jabu has isolated her from her friends and family. And she feels the need to protect and defend him. So we at least still talk because I don’t bring up her boyfriend in our conversations. I have not seen her for over a year now. She always bails out on me and the plans we make. But I know truly that, it is not out of her own doing, it is Jabu.

I hate Jabu with a passion.

But I’m angrier with my friend.

Upset with her for staying with him. But I understand that it’s not really her anymore. It’s a girl who’s been conditioned by Jabu to stay. She won’t see it the way I do, no matter how many talks or “leave him” we have – she’s become immune. So I’ll be patient. And wait for her to decide to leave him and stick it out, beyond a month. I just hope she will find her happy.

I hope that day arrives.

— Mbali

*Not their real names (to protect their identity)


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