At the park with a friend, watching our children frolic, we talk about the hard stuff. It doesn't matter if there are other parents nearby; they'll either listen and learn... Or listen and judge. But it's not their conversation unless they ask to join, so we go on about things.
Her most recent partner has become abusive and so she has asked him to make his home elsewhere. Like most abusers, he did not appear to be such when they began their relationship. Also, like most abusers, he is not taking responsibility for his role in the dissolution of their relationship. She understands abusers; she doesn't blame him, but she does hold him responsible and she claims her own portion of that responsibility as well.
She blogs anonymously about it and is as brave as she is able to be, but I see it weighs on her. Her relationship history has few players in it, so it makes the contrast more stark. I can imagine that it's difficult for her to make confessions of having a failed relationship to someone whose relationship is solid and has been for over a decade. We share a moment of silence in the winter sunshine and memories flood my mind, overlapping scenes of long ago with scenes of now.
I've been there where she is. I've been with the control freak who was never satisfied, no matter the outcome. I've been with the abuser who acted like a victim... Then punched a hole in my wall. I've been with the addict who frightened me into a "yes" when my answer was really "no". I've been the screaming rage and regretted words I could not retract. The difference? I got to deal with each in stages, in bits and pieces, in the form of different relationships. Some with whom I lived, some who just passed through long enough for me to "get it" and go on.
It's important to me that she know that I've been there. That you don't have to stay there. That there are more pleasant, less imperfect places to exist. She smiles and I hope it's because I haven't offered any suggestions for how she can make it better. She'll find her own way when she discovers that path for herself. I've honored what she's told me about where she is and, perhaps most importantly, I've reminded her that she's not alone.