I recently found out that my partners girlfriend is acting abusive towards him. It’s the worst when she drinks and he avoids her in those situations, but he says things like it’s not her fault, and otherwise indicates to me that he thinks he deserves it and it’s not a big deal. He says it comes from lack of communication and they’re working on it. I don’t know how to handle the situation, I used to be sort of friendly w her but now I feel like I couldn’t even be in the same room as her. Helllppp

This is such a hard, hard situation, and you have my empathy. When you think a partner’s partner is behaving unacceptably, you have a very fine line to tread.

On the one hand, you cannot dictate who your partner dates, and you can’t demand that he leave her. That makes you part of the problem, putting demands on your partner and claiming you know better what’s right for him.

On the other hand, you are entitled to a healthy relationship and a healthy environment, and being so closely linked to an abuser is a problem. Also, we cannot stand idly by when our loved ones are in dangerous situations.

It is very difficult to convince someone to leave an abuser. Abusers are master manipulators, and I don’t doubt that he believes he deserves it, or that it’s no big deal, or that he’s obligated to work things out with her. You can gently explain that he deserves to be treated better, you can point out the toxicity of her behavior, but you can’t change his mind for him.

I’ll admit, I’ve been on all sides of this situation: I’ve been with a manipulative, emotionally abusive man, and when all my friends and other partners told me he was bad news, I deflected and defended him. I had to leave that relationship in my own time. And I’ve seen people I love date dangerous people, and despite knowing from my own experience that it doesn’t work, tried until I was blue in the face to argue them into seeing how unacceptable the behavior was and leaving.

The best thing you can do for someone in an abusive situation is to be there for them, to listen, to support - don’t push, or set ultimatums, or lay blame. Such patience is excruciating, and incredibly difficult. (I’ll admit I don’t often do a good job of this when talking to my friends who I feel are in bad situations). But if you can, walk that fine line and do your best to help him hold onto his sense of self while his mind is in the grip of this dangerous person. Remind him that he deserves to be treated well, and that no matter what she says, her actions and feelings are not his fault or responsibility.

But you’re not obligated to stay in a relationship that puts you within emotional shrapnel distance of an abuser. If things get too heavy for you, or you’re worried she’ll do you mental or physical harm, you have a right to back out. You’re not forcing him to choose between her and you; you’re removing yourself from a situation that’s unhealthy for you. Good luck.