Escaping the Emotional Hostage
When loving and caring about someone is the weapon used against you and suddenly you’re down a rabbit hole of fear, guilt and helplessness.
There’s no blindfold. No duct tape. No rope binding your hands and feet. No ominous voice yelling instructions you must follow in order to stay alive. When we think of “hostages”, we typically think of these scenarios- but there’s more than one way to hold someone hostage. Ways that affect you just as negatively and have a major impact on your well-being. When loving and caring about someone is the weapon used against you and suddenly you’re down a rabbit hole of fear, guilt and helplessness. What kind of hostage am I talking about? The emotional hostage.
The situation that did it for me is as vivid as the night it occurred a few years ago. Late December. A normal Saturday shortly before midnight. *Maya needed a ride after another altercation with her “significant” other. We rallied. After a few minutes of frantic texts and messages, it appeared Maya would get home okay. Crisis averted. Again. I had no idea that asking for details about what happened that night would make me an enemy of the very friend I was expressing concern about.It was disheartening.
Maya’s involved in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship. We’ve seen pictures. Maya was with her abuser when she called fora ride. She always is. Maya became upset when her friends asked questions about what happened and because her family found out a snippet of what was going on in her personal life. Everything she said was a lie to cover for her dangerous relationship. This is an emotional hostage situation. Maya wants to be rescued from danger (and it is definitely that) but then turns around and runs right back to it. Every. Single. Time. I decided I could no longer be a part of the emotional chaos any longer.
How do you distance yourself from someone you have so much love and history with? How do you escape the hostage situation? For me, it was a matter of deciding that I couldn’t be calm and collected about what was happening in her life. Maya and I had a few talks about why she stayed and always went back. I would often ask what it would take for her to permanently leave and told her when friends were voicing concern, it was from a place of love no matter how she perceived it. Nothing I could say or do was going to change anything and that started to anger me. For the sake of our friendship and my mental health, I made the decision to back away from Maya until she was in a healthier state of mind. I don’t know that she’ll ever get there.
I wouldn’t ever want anyone in my life to be concerned with my well-being so much that it starts to affect their own.
I‘m not encouraging anyone to drop a friend who is in a bad situation. We’ve all been “that friend” at some point or another whether we realized it or not. The deal breaker for me is the worrying. My mother always told me, “Don’t ever make me worry. As long as I know you’re okay, we can deal with whatever else.” Those words have stuck with me all my life. I wouldn’t ever want anyone in my life to be concerned with my well-being so much that it starts to affect their own. It’s selfish. I am encouraging anyone who may be in a similar position to take a good, hard look at the situation and decide how much you’re willing to give for a friend. At the end of the day, only you can decide how much you can take.
Friendships and support are crucial for a healthy life. Don’t let anyone take advantage of the love and support you have to give. Yes, we all make mistakes and can get ourselves into precarious situations but when do you decide to remove yourself? When is it time to say “I’m important too and I don’t need this in my life.” That time for me is right now. I can love Maya from a distance and that’s what I’m doing. I’ve removed my emotional shackles and continue to want nothing but the best for her. I just wish she would do that for herself.
If you know someone who is in an unhealthy, abusive relationship, here’s a hotline for help.
*Names have been changed to protect identity*
Do you know someone in an abusive relationship? How did you deal with it? Sound off in the comments!